What Happened To DVD "Easter Eggs"?

by Justin Sevakis,

Jerome asks:

What happened to Easter Eggs -- those little suprises that was on some old school DVD's? For example, on Phantom Quest Corp., you could press in a special code while in menu of DVD you see behind the scenes. On the old Irresponsible Captain Tylor DVDs, at the main menu you see ships flying around, and if you can move cursor to aim at ship and you shoot, you will then be shown a photo gallery. I miss these things. Would it be difficult to have Easter eggs on Blu-ray Disk? Looking through the net you can find Easter Eggs for live action movies on blu-ray, but I have not noticed any on Anime Blu-Ray. Is having Easter Eggs more trouble than it is worth?

Pretty much.

Back in the early days of DVD, disc publishers did a lot of experimenting with menus and DVD extras. One of the things that got the nerds online excited was "easter eggs" -- basically, taking a special feature and making it hidden somewhere in the menus. Some easter eggs were easy to find (go to this menu item, press left, the cursor disappears, hit enter). Some easter eggs were pretty much impossible unless you stumbled across instructions on a forum post somewhere.

Easter eggs can be quite a bit of trouble to program. You not only have to program the logic for the easter egg to be triggered, but all of the ways for the trigger to fail. For example, if an easter egg requires you to enter a button sequence, you have to program what happens when the user gets the sequence wrong at every step. All of these scenarios are difficult to test, and can add a lot of time and expense to QC stage of production.

Then, once the disc is released, only a small fraction of the audience ever even figures out that feature is there. If it's something you put any amount of work into, it feels like a total waste. When people add it to their collection and it sits on a shelf for years between viewings, many viewers completely forget about the easter eggs.

DVD and Blu-ray are mature formats now, so nobody is all that excited about their potential anymore. Publishers have long discovered that, while extras are nice to have and add value to a film or TV series, there aren't many scenarios where people will buy a disc because of them. And so if you're going to go to the trouble of making an extra feature, you'd want it to be substantial, and you'd want to be able to bring attention to it, so that people know all of the good stuff that's on the disc so they can make an informed buying decision.

Easter eggs are rare enough now that nobody even bothers looking for them. Many of the resources online that cataloged easter eggs on DVDs are now either gone, or haven't been updated in years. It was a fun thing, but the time for easter eggs on discs is over, I'm afraid.

I don't know if anyone else has ever programmed an easter egg into an anime Blu-ray, but I know I did with one disc: the Time of Eve movie. Somewhere in that disc are the original trailers for the short films Aquatic Language and Pale Cocoon. We didn't really have room for those little extras in the menu layout, and we did want to include them somewhere, so I hid them -- and didn't make them particularly hard to find. After the disc came out I poured over the forums, Twitter and the Kickstarter thread, looking for someone who found them. Nobody ever did. (Although at least one person did notice them... when they were ripping the disc. Grrrrr.)

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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