Date: 27th November 2009

Disney's 'A Christmas Carol' breaks new ground as the first ever fully 'accessible' 3D movie

This weekend marks a milestone in UK cinema - the release of the first ever 3D movie that is accessible to people with hearing or sight loss. Disney’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been on release with subtitles on the 2D version and with audio description (narration) since early November, when the premiere set a new Guinness world record as the largest ever 3D screening. Now, as part of The Walt Disney Company’s ongoing commitment to provide entertainment to as broad an audience as possible, and thanks to new technology which enables subtitles to sit on a 3D film, ‘A Christmas Carol’ becomes the first movie in the UK to become truly accessible in 3D to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Disney’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ has taken £9.5m at the UK box office, with 79% of takings coming from the 3D screens. Clearly there is huge audience demand for the 3D experience. Only now has the technology developed to a stage where subtitles can be overlaid on a 3D image, so that people with hearing loss can enjoy the experience of a 3D film. The problem previously has always been where to place subtitles in the 3D space - in front? the middle? the back? Placed incorrectly, subtitles can cause nausea or headache.

Disney Studio’s Technical Executive Director, Saul Mahoney, said: "Dickens’ story was an innovative, socially responsible tale - a celebration of traditional Christmas-time values - family, sharing and charity. The Walt Disney Company believes in the same values, and has worked with the UK film industry and charities representing people with hearing or sight loss, to ensure that the 3D cinema experience can be enjoyed by as many people as possible."

Mahoney continues, "Disney recognises the fact that as we age, loss of some hearing or sight is inevitable. Access to film via subtitles and audio description is something that we all may appreciate, eventually. So we are working to ensure that every future Disney film is accessible to people with hearing or sight loss."

According to RNID, there are 9 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK. Roger Wicks, Director of Research and Policy, RNID, commented: “RNID welcomes Disney’s announcement that ‘A Christmas Carol’ will be shown with 3D subtitles for the first time in UK cinema history. This latest news is a positive development for the nine million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK, and will provide real choice for cinema goers.”

Ian Noon from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) goes on to say “The National Deaf Children’s Society believes that every deaf child has the right to the same opportunities as their hearing friends, and this includes being able to enjoy films at the cinema with subtitles. It is great news that deaf children and young people will now be able to enjoy 3D films with subtitles and we thank all those involved for this achievement.”

The Walt Disney Company UK is a member of the UK film industry's 'Disability Working Group'. The group aims to ensure that people with hearing or sight loss can enjoy the cinema experience. Since 2000 it has worked to ensure that the UK leads the world in 'accessible' cinema. Most major cinemas now have facilities to screen the latest films with subtitles and audio description (narration) for people with hearing or sight loss. Most popular films are available with these 'access' features and ‘accessible’ shows are now a regular feature in cinemas nationwide.

Phil Clapp, CEO of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association and Chair of the Disability Working Group, commented: “I am absolutely delighted by the news that hearing-impaired cinema-goers across the UK will soon have the opportunity to experience ’A Christmas Carol’ in 3D with subtitles. The UK cinema has, I think, a justifiable reputation as the world-leader in the provision of accessible cinema to those with hearing or sight difficulties. Given the importance we all attach to digital 3D cinema going forward, this new development could not be more timely or welcome. I would like to thank all at Disney for their hard work in making this happen. “

Quotes from the public applauding subtitling of films (source

I served in Iraq, came home last year with permanent damage to my hearing ... I can still enjoy films with a little assistance ... subtitles. I only go to the cinema now if the film is subtitled.

My daughter and I are both deaf, subtitled cinema has been fantastic for us both and we are now able to enjoy going to the cinema, before we always waited for the film to come out on DVD. We both really look forward to going to the cinema. We find subtitled cinema a fantastic opportunity which we both really enjoy and we are now able to experience going to the cinema with other family members as well which is something that we have never done before.

I gave up attending films because I was so, so frustrated not being able to understand what the stories were about. Now I can now enjoy films on an equal par with hearing people. I am able to share my passionate conversation with my work colleagues and I even recommend films they should go and see.

Source: Press Release