Years ago, I watched Quadrophenia on DVD. I was poking around for closed captioning, because I like closed captioning. Especially in the years where I’ve had children in the house and don’t want to just turn up the TV. I never did find it, though, because what I found instead was a trivia track that was controlled by the closed caption options. And if it wasn’t there, that’s a Bad Thing—I actually have a rant about how a lack of captioning should, in the US, count as an Americans with Disabilities Act violation—but there’s a reason my search ended at the trivia.
Similarly, every once in a while I watch the assorted “look, pretty scenery” shows on Disney+. I like them. They’re great. I wrote about Zenimation for Disney Byways. And with Zenimation, you know, it’s all Disney animation, so it’s kind of limited as to where it could be from. But Earth Moods is . . . places on Earth. Are those lovely glaciers in Iceland or Antarctica or on a mountain somewhere? No idea. Probably the most frustrating thing is that the IMDb page merely says, “North America” for a filming location. And even if that’s the only place any of the clips are from, you know, that still covers a lot of ground. And I know they’re not, because that’s Angel Falls at one point.
Now, it is entirely possible that, for a lot of people, information about the location would be distracting, even if it were merely a tasteful “downtown Los Angeles” or “Matterhorn” in the corner of the screen. Or at least for some people. But the thing is, streaming technology has come a long way over the years. You can watch shows with different language tracks or different caption options. And let’s be real—Zenimation and Earth Moods don’t need captions anyway; I’m sure people with hearing problems can assume we’re hearing waves or whatever without captions.
It’s even more irritating to me that this is not a technique more commonly used on DVDs. I cherish my copy of Airplane! I have the “Don’t Call Me Shirley” edition, which comes with a pop-up trivia track. The information is, much of it, fascinating, and I’ve learned quite a lot of things from it, some of which I even reliably remember. Admittedly I liked the trivia of Quadrophenia more than I liked the movie, but it’s not their fault I didn’t really like the movie. Still, why doesn’t Criterion include this as a possibility? Or Disney? Why isn’t it on my copy of How the West Was Won?
And if you’re horrified by the very thought of desecrating a classic work of film that way, consider the commentary track. When Roger Ebert was still alive, I was part of a small group of readers on his blog trying to convince him to do pop-up style commentary tracks, to share his information after he could no longer speak. I’m sure there are people who disapprove of the concept of the commentary track as well, but that’s how I see what I’m talking about here. A possibility.
Honestly I think this would be a great selling point. When I was in college, in the days of Pop-Up Video, they also popped up episodes of The Brady Bunch. I don’t like The Brady Bunch. I watched it anyway, because I do like trivia. (No one who knows me is surprised by this information.) A lot of people are surly about the lack of availability of popped up content—I have one DVD of it, and I think it’s the only one they ever made. Other than that, I’m limited to low-quality YouTube like everyone else. I won’t say there’s no reason for that; I’m sure there are rights issues involved. But there’s got to be a way. And in the meanwhile, pop up other things!