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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. Todd Mattraw

    Todd Mattraw Agent

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    That will be news to my boss and my co-worker since we sell records for a living.


    Seriously, I understand that a lot of people don't realize just how vibrant the vinyl industry has become in the last few years, but if you do a quick online search, I think you'll be surprised when you see just how much vinyl is being released these days and how much is being sold (check eBay). Do a search for "Record Store Day" --- the vinyl market is a niche market, sure, but it's becoming a pretty solid niche market. Are the particulars the same as the DVD and Blu-Ray markets? No, there are significant differences, but I still think the underlying basis is the same, that most people will be happy with video streaming but there will be a large enough group willing to pay Criterion prices for a hard copy of a good movie in a nice package.


    Todd
     
  2. Guest

    I contacted Disney a couple of days ago and asked them what could be done since I had to buy it twice....I haven't heard back yet.
     
  3. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    I've definitely noticed in the past few years that vinyl is making a comeback. But, as you say, it's still more of a niche market than Blu-Ray. In a world where most people choose the convenience of MP3 over the quality of CD, it's doubtful that vinyl will ever truly return to the mainstream.


    If things get to the point where "Criterion prices" become the norm for movie media, then unfortunately I will not be purchasing very many movies anymore. Lord help me if the music choice ever narrows to vinyl or lossy data. . .
     
  4. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    Well, that tears it. Since apparently one can take what you say about classic Disney animation to the bank, it appears Disney has royally effed up both ALICE and PINOCCHIO, despite all the glowing reviews on this site and others. Manipulated colors, replaced optical effects, ad nauseam. It breaks my heart that this is happening, and especially that respected people in film restoration are giving these reprehensible practices their blessing, as long as the originals are restored and locked up safe and tight where nobody can see them. Thanks Stephen, you just saved me some money, and no thanks to the people at Disney responsible for these disastrously wrongheaded decisions. They preserved their classic animation, but apparently they don't want the public to see it.
     
  5. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    I watched Bambi tonight, and although it's heavily smoothed, the color balance is retrievable by turning down the saturation, brightness and contrast. All of the ripple glass and double exposed effects are intact. It's actually pretty good., except for the odd scene where they appear to have smeared Crayola green into the trees in scenes that weren't originally keyed that way. The 7:1 soundtrack is weirdly chopped up and badly balanced, but the mono original soundtrack is excellent. I only got a few minutes into the moronic supplements. Badly acted recreated story meetings, a dreadful twitterpated song, scary looking talking heads and deleted scenes that are 90% fake. No thank you. I'll just watch the film and leave it at that.
     
  6. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    I remember when the old DVD came out, they actually held back on some of the noise reduction effects.


    As for the extras, why can't they use some of the myriad of archival interviews with actual animators and others who worked on the film(s)? There are scores and scores of these over the decades, and I would love to see those in more than just bite-sized clips.
     
  7. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    The people you see in the interviews on the Bambi disk are all employees of Disney in one way or another. That's why they're the only ones being interviewed. Personally, I don't pay a lot of attention to supplements any more, especially on Disney blurays. The audience they are making these recreated deleted scenes and talking head sound bites for is the plush and refrigerator magnet crowd, not people interested in the history of film. I recently did an interview with Bob Givens, the last surviving member of the Snow White crew. It's up as a podcast (episode 11 & 12) at http://www.ahaapodcast.org Listen to Bob's account of the wrap party orgy at the Norconian and his memories of "just call me Walt" and the heavy drinking that was going on in those days and it will give you an idea of why the old guys aren't interviewed more for official Disney histories. The real history of animation is real. The "warts and all" realityt doesn't always fit the sanitized format of video supplements.
     
  8. Greg_D_R

    Greg_D_R Stunt Coordinator

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    Mr. Worth, do you have any comments on the color accuracy of the Sleeping Beauty blu ray?
     
  9. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    Sleeping Beauty has great sound and shockingly inaccurate color. The color of the orange fairy shifts from cut to cut and the balance is so jiggered that there is no way to tweak your monitor to get anywhere close to the way the film originally looked. It's shocking because Disney has tons of reference on this particular film. No excuse.
     
  10. Greg_D_R

    Greg_D_R Stunt Coordinator

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    So here's our dilemma as consumers: Do we avoid purchasing these films, knowing they do not reflect the creators' intent, or do we give in, knowing that reissues are highly unlikely?

    On the other hand, discussions such as this really can make a difference, as they did with the recent corrective reissue of Gladiator.

    I had not seen Sleeping Beauty since I was a child in the late 70s, so with the blu ray I was basically viewing it for the first time, and I enjoyed it immensely, especially the artistry of the backgrounds.
     
  11. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    Color accuracy isn't something you would necessarily notice if you aren't looking for it, or if you have a reference to know how it should look. But at Disney, the use of color was very sophisticated. They were able to direct your eye around the frame and give attention to areas of focus by the skillful choice of colors. When the balances are shifted towards screaming primaries, like Sleeping Beauty, shots that once were ordered and organized become a cacophony of jumbled glowing shapes. With the hyper-detailed backgrounds of Earle, neutral colors like gray and tan are super important. They're what keep the textures and highlight colors from turning into chaos. A good analogy is Little Golden Books. If you have any old ones from the 50s, look at the colors. There will be large neutral colors setting off small areas of pure color. The neutrals make the bright colors look brighter. Many of the same artists who designed color for animation designed Golden Books as well. Here is one by Mary Blair, the stylist who set the colors for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan... http://www.animationarchive.org/?p=2162 She uses areas of bright color to lead the eye through the image, like the picture with the yellow road leading from top to bottom. The underground bug family has very muted pinks in the tree and sharper contrasts in the room under the roots. This directs your eye to the center of interest. If the tree was electric screaming pink, you would bounce back and forth around the picture without any center of interest. It's a subtle thing that operates below the conscious level for most people. But artists work very hard to master it, and Disney had the best artists of any studio for this sort of thing.
     
  12. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    Another analogy is sound.... Car stereo salesmen love to try to trick customers by cranking up the bass and treble to exaggerated levels to make the sound more full spectrum. This works for electronic music which has no baseline in normal reality. But if you play classical music with acoustic instruments this way, it sounds horribly unbalanced. The reason is that there is a natural overall balance to acoustic music that we all recognize.
     
  13. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    That's your own choice. But as a great man once said, as a consumer, you don't get quality by settling for mediocrity. A case in point is Bambi. This was the first film in which Disney used the intrusive recreation processes that are messing up their video releases. The last DVD release of Bambi was awful, with goosed colors, smoothed over textures and weird looking video freezes all over the place. If Bambi's body was a hold, the grain on it would freeze and then start up again when it moved again. It looked like fleas crawling in the fur. Disney got a lot of flak for that. Within the studio, people were ashamed of how bad it looked. Now we get a new release of Bambi and it looks better than any of the bluray animated features to date. Shame works. I may sound like a broken record on this, but the Disney animated features are right up there with the most important live action films. If we want Citizen Kane to be restored in a non-intrusive way, and we want it to have a nice grain structure and a filmic look, we should want the exact same thing for Pinocchio. If the color balance of Technicolor films like The Red Shoes or American in Paris is important, then it's important in Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty too. It does these films a disservice to review their restorations using a different standard of excellence than other types of films. Animation is an art form. It isn't just mindless entertainment that should be dumbed down for kids. Walt Disney himself was competing on the same level as Chaplin and Welles and Ford. The company that bears his name should be the first to acknowledge that, not the one to slaughter his vision to create a more salable product. I could go on and on about the supplements on Disney DVDs too. The bonus material on Bambi is an embarrassment. If they're going to stoop that low, they shouldn't even bother. The movie speaks for itself. We don't need to explain it using wide eyed baby talk sound bites and phony recreated voice overs. Whoever produced that two leaves clip should be fired immediately.
     
  14. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Stephen, I have enjoyed reading your posts very much, your combination of expertise and passion are both commendable and admirable. I've learned a lot in this thread and, for what it's worth, stand by your side as a fellow warrior in wanting these films done right for what is essentially all of our "poor man's archives."


    My question to you is: Short of not watching these films currently in a home format, is there a lesser evil choice, any versions out there for the titles so far released that are preferable to these Blu editions?
     
  15. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    Well, I've never been a technology worshipper, and I'm certainly not a slave to numbers when it comes to measuring resolution. My personal opinion is that a proper balance is more important than numerical resolution. In general, the laserdisc versions of the Disney features up to and not including Snow White, are much more faithful to the films than most of the recent transfers, regardless of format. From Snow White on, it varies. Some are good, others bad. There are so many different ways a film can be messed up... from color imbalances to grain smoothing to DVNR to remixed audio to compression artifacting to censorship to irritating disk authoring to improper aspect ratios.... Perfection is rare. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you've got. The shame of it all is that it is EASY to do a good and faithful transfer. All you have to do is get good people and turn them loose to do a good job. The studios are actually working hard and spending a lot of money trying to make unnaturally processed and reworked tripe. At the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, I'm gathering together whatever transfers I can and I'm trying to cobble the different versions together to correct some of the flaws, but it isn't easy. My advice to video fans is to support independent companies like Thunderbean and Criterion who do things the right way. And resist upgrading older transfers with the new and unimproved versions.Stick with lower resolution placeholder transfers until a really improved version is released. It may not make much of a difference to a big company like Disney to keep your DVD of Alice instead of buying the bluray, but support of well done smaller releases will encourage independent video producers to put out more videos that are done properly. Also it helps to not be afraid to point out the emperor's nakedness, even if doing so does get you in trouble. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
     
  16. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    One more quick bit of advice... Always work on widening your tastes and frame of reference. A lot of people believe the lie that Disney is the only "good" animation. It isn't true. I discover amazing cartoons all the time that I never knew existed. And the history of film and art and music overflows with under-appreciated treasures. There's more worthwhile stuff to immerse yourself in than you can possibly process in a dozen lifetimes. We are living in the immediate wake of one of the most creatively fertile centuries in the history of mankind, yet most of us are culturally illiterate. Why? Because we expect the media to spoon feed us. If we take what they give us, we only get what they give us. The treasures and rewards are there just below the surface for those willing to dig a bit. But you have to be open to music before the Beatles and movies before Star Wars. Go past the Netflix suggestions and iTunes hit of the week. It's well worth the effort. There are plenty of people like me who are happy to drop a few breadcrumbs for you to follow. Just ask.
     
  17. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Thanks for your response and advice, Stephen.


    As to the latter, as a writer and film historian I have always had that inherent curiosity in discovering what I don't know and, especially, what I didn't know I didn't know.


    For instance, whilst shopping at the 99 cents store here in LA a few years ago, I came across 99 cent (natch!) DVDs of TOM AND JERRY (not the cat & mouse) and a collection of VAN BEUREN cartoons, neither of which I had ever heard of before. I loved them, the funky quality of the transfers notwithstanding.


    There is so much great, virtually unknown, stuff out there waiting to be savored or spat, one need ever let their imagination stagnate and starve.
     
  18. invisible fence

    invisible fence Auditioning

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    I found i am doing most of those things now, Thanks for sharing. invisible fence
     
  19. bigshot

    bigshot Screenwriter

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    I love the early Van Beuren cartoons too. They're hard to find, but if you get the opportunity to see them, check out Fleischer's Screen Song Bouncing Ball cartoons. Jerry Beck has a couple of disks of them on his garage sale page. Between 1930 and 1933, the Fleischers produced some of the most revolutionary and entertaining animation of all time. Mr Bug Goes to Town is a really good animated feature by the Fleischers too. It's totally different, but Netflix has some real treasures if you dig deep. A set of amazing Russian animation, Starevich, complete Norman McLaren and the fantastic time warping films of Zbigniew Rybchinsky. Bakshi's first three features are must-sees too, but the best, Coonskin hasn't been released on DVD yet. The more I learn about animation, the more I realize that we've only scratched the surface of what the medium is capable of. Disney's great, but it's only a part of the entire picture.
     

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