The Lost Art of DVD Menu Design

…or how I learned to appreciate delightful UX before I even knew what it was

The Godfather Trilogy

The award for ingenious subtlety goes to The Godfather Trilogy, (2008 Coppola Restoration). This box set’s design echoes a Bible format, and is a lovely presentation. Each menu is simple, like animated GIFs, looping “quiet” moments from the stories. These moments are intriguing if you haven’t seen the movies, and gut-wrenching if you have.

Part One

A dead Sonny’s foot is covered by the Play Film text, but a bullet-ridden car door tells the story of a horrific scene, akin to the deaths of Bonnie & Clyde. Both were the definition of “overkill”, overdone to prove a point.

Part Two

Vito, the orphan boy, sings alone in his room at Ellis Island quarantine, an innocent, hopeful new American. Part Two spends much of its time on Vito’s early years in New York, as a young Italian, played by Robert DeNiro. DeNiro’s performance is not just brilliant, but defines great acting. In my opinion, it’s one of the high points of his career.

Part Three

Dead bodies are strewn on the floor of a swanky dining room — mass demise is the only outcome. This is validated throughout Part Three, leading up to the family’s painful tragedy at the film’s conclusion.

X-Men and X-Men 3: The Last Stand

X-Men

Who doesn’t wish they could play with Cerebro? Now’s your chance. You’re greeted with an elegant entry into the stunning portal of Professor Xavier’s custom telepathic connection tool. A clever, fake FBI warning blips away to simulate a retinal scan, and you are given special permission to enter. The menu itself overlays the control panel, a metaphor through the other pages like special features with humble elegance. Looking back now, I know it’s a pretty simple design, but when I first saw it I was excited to engage with something very special. Isn’t that what delight and UX is all about?

X-Men 3

Pick a side. Upon loading the disc, before being allowed to watch the movie, you must pledge your allegiance to either Professor X and his X-Men, or Magneto and his brotherhood. Of course, any kid is going to wonder what happens if I pick Magneto? One day, you take the plunge and pick it! It’s red and fiery, fearsome and dark. Of course the movie you ultimately see is no different than the one on the Prof. X side, but for a brief moment, you chose evil and survived.

Se7en

I’d say for overall DVD experience, few are more immersive than Se7en. Not only is the menu haunting, but the packaging is evidence of a cruel and frightening mind. Again, for a brief moment, you’re closer to evil than you possibly ever have been before. Dense, tiny writing seems to endlessly loop around itself and you always want to escape it. But you can’t. You have to hit Play Movie and see for yourself just how deep the evil goes.

Terminator 2

Catch Me If You Can

Men in Black

How we got here

Source: WSJ

Netflix

I’d argue there’s a missed opportunity for entertainment houses to present special features with Netflix and other streaming sites. Have they already tried? Possibly. Has Netflix blocked the feature? I have no idea. We’ve see plenty of web sites filled with special content, why not transport that to the page on Netflix devoted to the movie or TV show? Gag reels, behind the scenes, etc. It would keep you on the streaming service, it’s evergreen advertising — what’s the hold-up?

Apple TV

Same goes for Apple TV. Where are the special experiences? The games? Where’s the richness of the movie experience we could recreate with this incredible device? I’ve got a remote control with an accelerometer on it. Why can’t I pretend to fly a jet after watching Top Gun?

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