In a history-making development, as Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory swims into theaters this week, low-vision and blind fans can enjoy the film alongside family members in theaters, thanks to a breakthrough in independent moviegoing. Smart-syncing audio description, a new feature introduced to in-home audiences four months ago on the Disney Movies Anywhere app, heads to theaters nationwide for the first time with the release of Finding Dory.
Accessed via one’s own iPhone or iPad and a set of ear buds, the feature provides users with free audio description that elegantly narrates important on-screen action for those who can’t always follow along visually.
More than 21 million people in the United States are blind or visually impaired. While all feature films include a track for the blindness community, until now, these tracks have been accessible only by utilizing special gear provided by a limited number of individual theaters.
The DMA app, downloaded via iTunes onto an iPhone or iPad running iOS 7 or above, accesses the mobile device’s microphone to “listen” to the big-screen presentation and syncs the audio descriptions accordingly so users can hear both the descriptive narrative and the film’s original audio. Pixar has invited members of the visually impaired community to focus group screenings for more than eight years in an effort to craft the narration in the most effective and enjoyable manner possible.
Earlier this week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler included Disney Movies Anywhere among five winners of its Advancement in Accessibility Award, which recognizes achievements in communications technology for those with disabilities.
Finding Dory is the 17th Disney•Pixar film to feature the complimentary audio accessibility via the DMA app, which is currently only available in the U.S. Audio synchronization technology is provided by Audible Magic.
Finding Dory welcomes back to the big screen everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), who’s living happily in the reef with Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) and Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence). When Dory suddenly remembers that she has a family out there who may be looking for her, the trio takes off on a life-changing adventure across the ocean to California’s prestigious Marine Life Institute, a rehabilitation center and aquarium. In an effort to find her mom (voice of Diane Keaton) and dad (voice of Eugene Levy), Dory enlists the help of three of the MLI’s most intriguing residents: Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill), a cantankerous octopus who frequently gives employees the slip; Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who is convinced his biological sonar skills are on the fritz; and Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark. Deftly navigating the complex inner workings of the MLI, Dory and her friends discover the magic within their flaws, friendships and family.
Directed was by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E), co-directed by Angus MacLane (Toy Story of Terror!), and produced by Lindsey Collins (co-producer WALL•E).