|Year:||1959 (year of my favorite Cadillac)|
|Film Length:||75 minutes |
|Aspect Ratio:||16X9 encoded 2.35:1 (4x3 encoded 1.33:1 P/S on same disc)|
|Audio:||5.1 DD English|
|Extras:||Feature Commentary on Disc 1, and a 2nd disc overflowing with SE content|
|Release Date:||Sept. 9, 2003|
Here it is folks. The DVD that you’ve met once upon a dream. No one’s collection should be without this gem. Besides garnering all the coveted glory that any usual Classic animated Disney title deserves, this DVD really delivers folks—in every regard. Prepared to be blown away. I’m still recovering the morning after from what has been one of my most rewarding DVD experiences...EVER.
From the very moment I encountered this disc when I got home from work yesterday evening, I knew it was something special. Whereas the usual DVDs come sent to me in little bubble-wrap-lined mailer, imagine my surprise when UPS delivers a 18” x 8” x 12” box to my door. Opening up the box revealed a DVD tied with a cream-colored-ribbon to a crimson-colored, satin-looking pillow with the words “Sleeping Beauty” printed on one side and “Coming to you on DVD September 9th” on the other. Quite the extraordinary screener-DVD debut I must say. And let me assure you that the deluxe package treatment for this screener was just a hint of the quality that the DVD was to deliver...
The story of Sleeping Beauty. Any questions?
|Film / Animation Style...|
Sleeping Beauty was the first full-length animated film to utilize Technirama 70mm. Walt wanted to differentiate this film from the look and feel of other titles like Snow White and Cinderella which had preceded it and give it the majesty of a real-life drama. Six years and six million dollars later, Sleeping Beauty graced the big-screen.
The artists pulled heavily from early Renaissance, gothic, and pre-Raphaelite painting, art, and architecture to inspire their animation. The result was a heavily stylized animation that distinguished itself easily from Disney’s former animated classics and provided the animators with a strong visual “language” that makes Sleeping Beauty one-of-a-kind. Strong vertical and horizontal lines govern the composition and bold colors and crisp details, both in fore and background images, create a dramatic and intentional visual experience that causes the viewer to react; a certain sign that ART is taking place.
Some Disney devotees may find the animation style to be initially harsh and off-putting (my father reacts that way—he finds the softness and more traditional animation style of other Disney classics more pleasing). However, if you find yourself in this group I encourage you to spend some time with the excellent feature commentary and production documentaries on this DVD. I promise you that it will better acquaint you with the depth and insight behind the artwork and quite possibly change your opinion of it altogether. At one time I felt somewhat critical of the “severe” look of Sleeping Beauty’s animation myself until after having seen the film repeatedly over many years, I’ve come to appreciate the artistic beauty and brilliance of this masterpiece and now revere it as one of the top examples of Disney genius at its best.
That’s the word that kept coming to my lips throughout the entire feature. ASTOUNDING.
If you need an excuse to upgrade to that larger 16x9 HDTV or front-projection screen here it is. Watching this title last night on my 16x9 direct-view 34” monitor was a veritable feast for the eyes...but it’s left me positively *aching* to see this baby on the big-screen (so rest assured that just as soon as I can make that happen I’ll update my comments with some big-screen commentary).
I haven’t had a chance to critically compare side-by-side with my former laserdisc (and the minute I can do *that* I’ll update my review with the comparison), but for those of worried if the DVD would have the same murky, hazy quality and obscured detail of the laserdisc, cast your worries to the wind. Disney has utilized the same process used for the restoration of Snow White and the results are jaw-droppingly beautiful (more on this in a moment).
The image on this DVD is nothing short of REFERENCE. Details are absolutely crystal clear--the finest textures in the painted backgrounds come through with astonishing clarity. Even the smallest image details are rendered steadily and smoothly with no noise or shifting grain pattern to obscure. No “electronic” signature or digital haze/artifacts in sight. You feel like you’re staring right through a window at the animation cells lying in front of you. The image looks near-Hi-Definition and it’s hard to imagine what improvements the native HD image would bring (though intellectually one knows that it should)...that’s how overwhelming the detail and image purity is on this disc.
The images are sharp and perfectly defined without any distracting haloing or ringing from EE. I did notice some very minor halos on a few hard animations lines getting close-up to my screen, but I think that even folks viewing on front-projection systems from a 1.5 screen-width distance will have nothing to distract them in this glorious picture. Also, my display has a non-defeatable SVM and so it’s sometimes easy to mistake low-level EE for my display's own deficiencies: I’ll certainly confirm once I get to see this projected. Colors are vibrant, saturated, and sumptuously rendered without any trace of bleeding or chroma noise. Think Moulin Rouge or Fifth Element people. That’s what watching the colors on this DVD are like. It’s a feast for the eyes and those of you who respond the way I do to visual-films like this are in for one exciting ride.
Black level is solid and gray-scale tracking seems perfect. Color gradations are rendered smoothly with a film-like grace and the 2.35:1 16x9 image is free from any distracting compression artifacting (no mosquito noise, blocking, or color banding). Even background details are rendered vividly with no trace of shifting pattern noise or “crawlie” digital artifacts. Rock solid.
Well, besides a *possible* slight bit of EE (I'll report back later on that once I see this projected), the one thing I know folks will point out once they get the disc is how at times the film seems to “pulse” slightly with dark/light contrast. This is because the film medium is a chemical substance that changes with age, and some of the film-frames have faded at slightly different rates. Every care was taken by the restoration team to adjust each frame contrast to match it to those close by to give the film a consistent look, but there are still times when some “pulsing” will be visible. This is an unavoidable consequence of watching a 50 year old film and should not be cause for alarm or criticism of the “transfer”.
“Fullscreen” is the term that most major studios now routinely (mis-)apply to Pan-and-scan DVD box labeling. However, I must commend the folks at Disney for doing their job right on this disc regarding the inclusion of a 4x3 “fullscreen” viewing option (in addition, of course, to the *mandatory* original theatrical aspect ratio presentation).
BRAVO Disney for including both the original theatrical widescreen film and a fullscreen viewing option for consumers on the same DVD purchase!
Personally, I’m very much against the idea of studios offering separate WS and PS versions of DVD titles—it leads to frustration when a consumer buys the wrong one by mistake, cannot find the version he/she prefers on the store shelf, and does not allow fullscreen folks the chance to “upgrade” to WS with their existing DVD library once they become educated to and appreciative of the benefits of widescreen. For all of these reasons, I fully support Disney and any other studios who provide the consumer with a choice on a single DVD purchase. And besides, what better way to help educate “I hate the black bars” consumers to the concept and advantages of widescreen than to let them compare both side-by-side for themselves?
The picture quality of the 1.33:1 version? I have no idea. I have never watched and will never watch a Pan-and-Scan DVD on my television...
Digital Restoration? What about that “film-grain is good” thing?
Let the debates begin.
First of all you all should know by now (if you’ve read any my rantings in other threads or comments in other reviews) that I’m one of those “film grain is good...DVDs should like like the *movies* that they are supposed to replicate” type people.
Why then am I giving such a glowing and unreserved praise for this Sleeping Beauty DVD which has been digitally restored frame-by-frame removing all noise and film-related artifacts to render a “perfect” picture that looks much cleaner and clearer than any exhibition print would ever have looked? I know it may look on the surface like a contradiction, but there’s a rationale here that makes sense and I hope those of you who, like me, don’t want your DVDs all digitally air-brushed to look like computer animation, take just a moment and hear me out. Take heart and have no fear...
Sleeping beauty was designed by its artists to convey an astonishing amount of detail. Background scenes were painstakingly painted to communicate as much texture and visual information as they could in their 70mm frame. Just watching the “making of” featurette will make it abundantly clear just how intent the artists were that the cells and backgrounds they were assembling were a very deliberate, devoted, and detailed work of art.
What that says to me is that if digital restoration is going to get me closer to those hand-painted backgrounds and animated cells, then it’s a good thing. Unlike many films where the grain of the master print is used as an artistic tool or “canvas” to help convey a visual style or help to conceal defects in the source elements, in the case of Sleeping Beauty any film-grain incurred during the photographic process and subsequent duplication for release prints constituted a visual artifact that was not serving a desire on the part of the artists. It’s not to say that such film-grain necessarily *should* be removed—after all it’s part of the film’s history and technical legacy. However, considering film-grain, dust, and other production-related imperfections as not intended by the artists to serve the look of the film in this case, I believe that the image resulting from the digital restoration process on this DVD faithfully conveys the beauty of the animation as the artists would have wished for you to see it.
Is this my opinion? Of course it is. And if you have a different perspective you’re entitled to it as well. I encourage any of you who care to discuss this topic to do so in this thread *respectfully*.
UPDATE - Projected-image analysis: 9-7-03
Ok, just got back from watching Two Towers on my friend's Sharp 9000 DLP projector (All I can say is WOOOOWWW) and so I brought my S.B. DVD with me to test-drive a few scenes on the big-screen. Note...this is not the same Sony 10HT projector I normally screen-on when commenting on "big screen" performance. My friend John has a Sharp 9000 projecting on a 100" diagonal Firehawk screen. My viewing distance was about 1.5 screen widths back.
Sharp 9000 Results: STUNNING. Marketly superior and more film-like than what I'm seeing on my 34" direct-view. I hope he upgrades his PJ soon so I can put that projector in my car and take it home with me . The 100" image was drop-dead gorgeous; it was beautiful--it looked like a real/pristine projected animated film. ABSOLUTELY NO MPEG ARTIFACTING that I could see (screened about 10 minutes of various scenes that I thought might be troublesome). Image looked detailed, clear, and clean and did not seem softened or over-filtered to my eyes. EE? Ok, if you *looked* for it there was the *slightest* bit of vertically applied EE (shows up on strong horizontal lines) in just a handful of shots. Not only was it utterly unobtrusive and not distracting, but it only seemed to appear (again, if you really looked for it) for a moment or two and was not present consistently throughout the feature film. Postively nothing to be concerned with and again this was viewing from about 11 feet back from a 100" screen which is about as close scale-wise as you can get to DVD source material IMO. I hope I've made it clear...according the results I've seen with the image projected on the Sharp 9000 (panny RP91 DVD player) haloing from "EE" is not an issue...one may see it in just a few select scenes if one is looking specifically to find it, but it does not affect the majority of the movie and does not cause a distracting artifact even when it might be visible to critical viewers.
UPDATE - Laserdisc/DVD Framing Comparison: 9-7-03
Ok, while my fancy-shmancy Pioneer Elite CLD99 is off at my friend's house I hooked up my trusy CLD-52 to do some DVD/LD framing comparisons (my CLD53 doesn't have the 3-D comb-filter or AC-3 capability, but puts out a nice image just the same).
Firstly, let's just get it out of the way that in overall picture qualitiy the DVD UTTERLY, TOTALLY *SMOKES* the laserdisc to all H*LL. I mean *really*, if you want a poster-child DVD that just STOMPS all over a laserdisc you've got it. That poor LD is still whimpering with its tail between its legs after having its *ss kicked!
Ok, aspect ratio.
Comparing the DVD to the LD, the LD seems to have a *slight* bit of more information to the left/right (probably less than you lose in overscan on your set anyway). Now after I made this same proclaimation about the Hello Dolly DVD/LD comparison someone with a Bravo DVD player using the DVI (digital video) connection to his plasma responded and told me he saw the missing L/R information that I wasn't seeing on my DVD. This leads me to believe that my Panny RP91 might be doing a bit of overscanning for me on its analog video outputs...many DVD players do this so it's not unusual. Point: Who knows...maybe the S.B. DVD also has the full horizontal info but I'm not seeing it cuz my DVD player overscans for me (like with Dolly).
And certainly running DVD video via DVI to a digital display calibrated for minimal overscan should be our reference point...so I'm trusing that other HTFer's experience over mine in this case.
So what about vertical cropping? That wouldn't be affected by overscan on the DVD player or display bcs of the 2.35:1 letterboxed image hard-coded into the 16x9 frame. Bottom line...the DVD and LD are basically about the same as far as vertical information goes. In one scene they look identical. Then in the next the LD has a sliver more at the bottom. But then in the next scene the DVD has a sliver more at the bottom...then the LD has a sliver more at the top, then they look the same in the next scene you get the idea. Basically they're almost identical and when they do differ they differ only very slightly and with no consitency from DVD to LD in terms of who's got more.
Now, until RAH or someone else can chime in (screen pics???) with some samples of what the "real" film-frame is *supposed* to look like we can't say much more...and indeed any cropping criticm of the DVD will apply to the LD as well. But at least we don't have a situation where the LD had marvelous framing which has been dramatically "zoomed" on the DVD. Nope...aspect-ratio/framing wise DVD and LD are basically on par.
Once you catch your breath and wipe your eyes to make sure you’re really seeing what you think you are, I think you’ll agree: Disney has delivered the collector a Sleeping Beauty DVD with picture quality that is simply ASTOUNDING.
Picture: 5 / 5
The 5.1 DD soundtrack is fantastic. Indeed, the original stereo (multi-channel?) mix has been well served on this disc. Frequency response is limited in that there’s not much deep bass, but the midrange is smooth and vocals (singing) are clear and non-fatiguing and the top-end sounds open and airy. Some of the symphonic recording sounds dated, but this is a limitation of the master stems and not the audio encoding of this disc.
Stereo separation creates a wide spread across the front soundstage...I was rather surprised by how well the soundstage was presented. There’s plenty of decay and “air” preserving the most subtle aural cues...no nasty noise-reduction to destroy musical textures here. A bit of directional dialogue comes through at times when action or actors drift off-screen, and surround use is surprisingly plentiful and blends with the front mains to form a very seamless and encompassing soundfield (the sound of thunder when the evil witch appears at the baby’s celebration ceremony makes effective use of the surround channel if you want a particular scene to compare). Musical ambience is conveyed nicely through the surrounds.
Yes, all in all given the sometime dated sound of the source recordings, I was equally impressed with the audio of this disc as I was with the picture. Once I’m able to do a DVD-LD comparison I’ll post back my impressions of the DD on the DVD to the 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM on the laserdisc, but even without such comparisons clearly there is nothing to worry about with the audio on this disc.
It sounds marvelous and the folks at Disney deserve even more praise for their fantastic work restoring and delivering the audio on this DVD. I’m only going to shave of a fraction of a point for the lack of bass response which keeps it from objectively sounding like a “perfect” soundtrack though I’m certain the DVD is faithful to the sound of the source recording (so don’t take it as criticism of the audio transfer).
Sound: 4.5/ 5
Where do I begin? There’s honestly too much here to discuss and it would take me days to spend time thoroughly examining each and every special feature. I’ve tried to check out those items I think most consumers will immediately want to know something about to give you a good idea...but rest assured, no matter how you slice it, there’s a wealth of special feature content on this 2-Disc set to satisfy the most ardent fans.
Sleeping Beauty is a 2-disc set in single-disc style clamshell style case with a "flip out" holder for the first disc. There is a multi-page booklet that identifies most of the SE content to help folks navigate the web of menus to find the particular feature they're looking for. BRAVO! And the DVD comes in a cardboard slip-case that has a fold-out cover (held shut with a velcro tab). Really, Really nicely done.
Disc 1: The first thing I want to comment on is something that’s barely mentioned on the disc features listing but happens to be something I found extremely valuable: the feature length commentary (widescreen viewing option only). This is not your usual commentary. Indeed some of the artists and talent who provide it aren’t even with us anymore. Disney has done something really, really wonderful and I think it’s enormously successful. They have a lead “narrator” who “hosts” the commentary and bridges a variety audio recordings from many different artists and talents together into a composite whole that works very well and comes accross surprisingly natural. Most of these audio recordings were not recorded specifically for the feature commentary...they’re excerpts from other documentaries or interviews but have been brilliantly coordinated with the visuals of the motion picture so that the discussion you’re hearing is germane to what you’re seeing at that given moment. The insights and information provided is fascinating and even after having watched the making-of documentary and other historic featurettes on the disc I *still* found myself interested and engaged with the commentary and found it frustrating when I had to end it prematurely to go to bed. For me personally, commentary isn’t my bag and so for me to actually *want* to watch the whole movie twice in a row (listening to the commentary the 2nd time around) should tell you something.
Disc 2: This is where the special-feature extravaganza begins. HOURS of special-feature content and most of it has re-watch appeal. There is an slew of production-related special features: A making-of that is really worth-while (much of the footage is historic with Walt and artists talking about the film when it was a contemporary work), shorts on the music (interview with the opera singer who recorded the vocals for Aurora when she was just a teenager), featurettes about the stylized design of the animation, about how the artists studied real-live models to capture the dance and fighting sequences more fluidly, a short about the digital restoration process, story-reels of alternate story-lines and more. It goes on and on folks and it never gets boring. We have historic trailers (4x3 lbxed 2.35:1) that are wonderful to have (though I wish Disney would have at least transferred them to 16x9 from the film-elements rather than use out-dated video masters but that’s a small grievance so don’t even let it be a bump in your road).
We’ve also got the 1959 feature “The Peter Tchaikovsky Story” which aired on the “Disneyland” TV show. This 4x3 1.33:1 (OAR) feature is about 20 minutes long (didn’t time it so that’s an estimate), is quite interesting (basically a short drama about Tchaikovsky's life), and has remarkable picture quality considering its vintage. Colors are a bit faded with time and there’s some print damage, but overall a wonderful transfer preserved here for fans to enjoy (the ballet scenes in the feature are clearly a bit inferior to the rest of the show probably because they were filmed separately, so bear that in mind when you see the image quality shift during viewing).
Also got a 4x3 lbxed 2.35:1 presenation of “Grand Canyon” that was a 1958 live-action short shwon in theaters. Picture quality is not a strong point with this short and I would have preferred a new film-tape 16x9 (HD) transfer but hey, the folks at Disney were doing what they could given the budget that it must have taken to pull all these resources together as well as digital restoration costs for the feature film so I’m not complaining...just letting you know.
And many of you are wondering about that “widescreen-to-fullscreen comparison”. It’s good. There’s a brief intro explaining how the movie was a “rectangle” and your TV is a “square” (not *my* TV ) and how there are basically 2 ways to fit the movie on a square TV (black bars vs. cropping). Then we get a great split-screen sequence of the “Once Upon a Dream” dance number where viewers can see with their own eyes the very difference between the two. You know, it was seeing a similar split-screen sequence from Ben-Hur when I was in high-school that first acclimated me favorably to the concept of “letterboxing” and so I hold the inclusion of this “widescreen-to-fullscreen comparison” among the special features of this Sleeping Beauty DVD in the highest regard.
Applause to Disney for helping to educate consumers about the value of widescreen-video presentation.
BTW. When one chooses to play the feature film on disc-one, a menu is presented prompting the viewer to select between widescreen and fullscreen with screen-shots from the film demonstrating the difference between the two. So even in a subtle way, consumers just wanting to watch the movie are passively educated as to the concept behind those “black bars” on their TV screens (another moment to compliment Disney for this menu/selection design).
There are some cute games that I think kids between 4 and 10 will find entertaining on disc 2. There’s a “save the princess” game where you answer a series of riddles to advance your valiant steed on towards the castle, a coloring exercise where you can paint the fairy’s by clicking your mouse between the lines (like a coloring book) and a “what type of princess are you most like” game where you answer a series of questions and the DVD tells you what Disney princess you are most like (possibilities range from Snow White to Ariel from the Little Mermaid). You’ll all be happy to know I’m most like Cinderella (ok, I cheated because that’s my favorite character ). There’s also a very cheesy (IMO) but well-recorded 5.1 DD music video with a bunch of adolescent teen rock singers I know nothing about setting my beloved “Once Upon a Dream” score to a pop-rock synthesized beat and that stylized teen-girl singing sound that’s all the rage. Oh well. Presented in 4x3 full-frame with outstanding 5.1 audio that makes a very effective use of the center and surround channels, it’s there to be enjoyed by those appreciative of the effort.
And there’s more. Buy the DVD and check it out for yourself! All in all the SE content on this disc is on par with the quality of the feature film picture and sound. Reference-setting in every way.
Can you guess? Astounding picture and a Marvelous 5.1 soundtrack, along with a wealth of SE material that can cause you to go through a set of batteries on your remote control, present this masterpiece of Disney genius in the best way possible on the DVD format. In my humble opinion, every DVD enthusiast needs to add this DVD to his or her collection and take the time to really enjoy everything this fantastic 2-Disc SE presentation has to offer.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED