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HD Talk
Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Goes Blu

Jack regrets inviting his extended family to the party.

Right now, the world is waiting for the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The promotional ads have finally started flooding the televisions, and billboards are everywhere. But Monday night's Pirates event at the Highlands Nightclub at the Hollywood and Highland shopping center was not at all about At World's End. No, Disney invited us there not to talk about a new movie, but to talk about seeing old movies in an entirely new light.

That's right, we were there to celebrate the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray disc. They come out May 22nd, and Disney was determined to make sure we understood exactly what sort of experience we could expect.

For those of you who have been keeping track, Disney is the one company that's been really blazing trails in the Blu-ray format. They've been using advanced video codecs to give stellar picture while supplying uncompressed PCM audio for the best sound quality possible. Also, out of all of the studios releasing on Blu-ray, Disney is the only one who has consistently ported over all of the extra features from the DVD version, while also trying to include BD-exclusive extras. So my hopes for the two Pirates movies were understandably high.

Outside of the Highlands Club, I finally met everyone's favorite DVD Talker, Geoffrey Kleinman. That's right, Mr. Kleinman himself came down just for this event, and we immediately hit it off, chatting about the site, and life, and movies. At seven they opened the doors, and we immediately found ourselves confronted by...The Chronicles of Narnia? In the first room, we found pictures from Disney's answer to The Lord of the Rings, and a bartender serving some blue concoction in martini glasses (get it, blue drinks, Blu-ray?). Moving on, we came to a more suitably furnished lounge with plenty of Pirate-themed decorations.

At the far end of the room stood a TV that was at least 80 inches, and eventually the whole place went dark as the TV lit up and a CGI skull (the one who adorns the various Pirates logos) gave a short speech filled with puns and pirate talk. Eventually, he introduced Robert Chapek, head of Disney's home video division.

Chapek Announces Pirates of the Caribbean on Blu-ray.

Chapek took the stage and declared Disney's intention to bring The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to Blu-ray (hence the Narnia themed room we encountered on the way in). With that out of the way, Chapek introduced the Pirates movies, showing clips from the Blu-ray and discussing how each disc has Blu-ray exclusive interactive features, which we'll get to in a bit.

Upon completion of his speech, a whole new set of rooms opened up, and these ones blissfully featured a buffet. All the food was caribbean style, which apparently revolves around bananas. There was a fried banana entree and a wrapped banana dessert that looked like exactly the same dish. But everything I tried was quite tasty and enjoyable. As we ate, we noticed banks of televisions hooked up to Sony Playstation 3's featuring the two movies.

A Blu-ray rep shows off the interactive features of the Blu-ray disc.

After finishing the food, I couldn't wait to jump out of my seat and try out the discs on display. The first thing I noticed was that Disney once again used AVC to encode these releases--and they look outstanding. What's even better is that under such close scrutiny, the CGI still holds up, especially on Dead Man's Chest. Both Davy Jones and The Kraken seemed alive with detail. I was extremely impressed with the images on both discs and cannot wait to try them out in my home theater.

One distressing item that caught my attention was the seeming lack of any kind of lossless audio. I searched and searched and only found Dolby Digital 5.1. However, my fears were laid to rest when Geoff introduced me to Annie Chang, who was in charge of the entire production of the discs for Disney. She quickly found the uncompressed PCM audio on the menu (it had a tricky rotating selection screen that I had missed in my initial search), and confirmed that both movies had a second disc with every feature from the DVDs, as well as some promotional items that were not included on the standard 2-disc DVD versions. Thanks Annie!

I also got to take a look at the interactive features made using BD-Java. On The Curse of the Black Pearl, there's a customizable documentary feature that looks like a combination of Universal's U-Control feature on HD DVDs and VH1's Pop-Up Video. Unfortunately, as there were less TVs displaying Pearl, I didn't get a chance to really dig in to this feature as much as I would have liked, but I will definitely test it out thoroughly when I review the Blu-ray.

Dead Man's Chest features a game called "Liar's Dice." This appears to be the game that Will Turner plays against Davy Jones on "The Flying Dutchman" to win his freedom in the movie. The game pits you against Pintel (Lee Arenberg) from the movies, accompanied by Marty (Martin Klebba), one of the crew members of The Black Pearl. They teach you the rules and then you actually play Liar's Dice. You roll the dice, make your bid, and then Pintel responds. In a way, Liar's Dice is like a more evolved version of Dragon's Lair, which also utilized BD-Java on its Blu-ray release. It's a fun, if simple game with a lot of humor in the videos and it made quite a splash at the event.

Martin Klebba kicks some butt at Liar's Dice.

As the night wore down, I found myself filled with Pirates fever. Disney is making a really smart move by releasing these Blu-rays right before At World's End. These discs are damn impressive and they're going to turn heads. And they're going to help promote the new movie in a way a thousand TV ads could not. They'll make people remember why they love the series so much in the first place, by showing them the first two films in the best possible presentation. Thanks for the good time, Disney, and be sure to keep an eye out for our reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray disc.

Read DVD Talk's Review of Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest Blu-Ray Edition and Pirates of the Caribbean - Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-Ray Edition

- Daniel Hirshleifer

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