|DaViD’s coveted musings about Disney's PR Department...|
The marketing people at Buena Vista are surprisingly cool. The first package I got...which looked like the normal mailer they send me for DVD marketing material...had a letter stating “Here is the DVD to some movie that I can’t remember!”. There was no DVD. The message was printed on a color printer on “Finding Nemo” letterhead and was signed “Dory”. Ok so Dory is forgetful...so I figured she’d just forgotten to include the DVD.
The next day I get the typical bubble-mailer (the way BV sends me all their DVDs) with a DVD case with a note “Oops! Forgot to send the DVD the first time! here it is!”...signed... “Dory”. Opening the DVD case revealed...there were no discs inside. Ok...at this point the folks at Disney *had* me. I placed a call to their PR department just to make sure that they were aware of the mistake. I left a message on their answering machine which had the voice of...you guessed it...Dory. Dory was kind enough to return my call and when I got home she assured me that she had discovered that she had sent out all the DVD packages but had forgotten to include the actual discs and that they would be sent forth shortly.
The next day a third package arrives with yet another letter on Nemo stationary apologizing for the previous mistakes and *this* time containing 2 Nemo DVDs (Discs 1 and 2) in a shnazy little custom Nemo 2-disc plastic holder. All in all I'm impressed with Dory's promptness in discovering her mistakes, her self-awareness of her memory problem and her ability to make it all come out right in the end.
The next day I received a very cool Finding Nemo mouse-pad which is filled with clear fluid (looks like an underwater scene with the Great White Shark “Bruce” in the background) and when you apply gentle pressure to it (like when moving your mouse around) the fluid squishes slightly and causes the little fish characters (Nemo, Dory, Marlin etc.) to move around like they are swimming.
Totally Cool. Yes, these are the perks/thrills that make reviewing so worthwhile...
What a great movie. The folks at Pixar just keep’em comin’. The first time I saw this movie (in the theater) I felt the beginning was a bit of a downer and it seemed to restrain me just a bit from engaging quite as fully with the story and characters as I would have liked...at least for the first third of the movie. Watching Nemo a second and third time (on DVD) I’m amazed at how different...and how much better...the whole story composition seems to work. After my third viewing I remarked to myself that Nemo seems to be one of those “Perfect” films...like Willy Wonka or Wizard of Oz. Oh...you find faults in those movies? What I mean by the word “Perfect” is that Nemo is what it is...and I wouldn’t change a thing to make it any better. It’s destined to be an Icon and for good reason.
As usual for Pixar (almost mundane to talk about how good their movies are because they are so consistently excellent...could they make a bad movie even if they tried??), Nemo is a great story. It’s got a dark side (the beginning), a light side, an action side, a laugh-till-it-hurts side, and a heart-felt touching side that manages to get at your emotions without being overly cheesy or negating the film's other strengths in the process. Some movies seem to force their directives to “take turns” like light-switches turning on and off: “ok, now we’re funny. Funny now over, now we’re sad...” While Nemo is fun filled entertainment at its best, it doesn’t get there by simplifying the formula in such a way. On the contrary, it gets there by intelligence, wit and movie-making craft. The great artistic team behind this film have the talent to make Finding Nemo fun, touching, laughable and adventuresome all at the same time. They shift the balance of these tones to suit the moment...but none of them ever need to be turned on or off to make way for any other.
After my third viewing I was amazed at just how much new material and connections I kept uncovering. Nemo is decidedly complex...don’t be fooled your first or second time ‘round. This is a good movie and by that I mean that it keeps getting better each time you watch it. Yes it’s eye-candy to be sure. But this beauty has the brains to keep you entertained time after time.
Oh and I need to mention how great the character acting is in this film. From Marlin to Nemo to Bruce the shark...just a great cast. And special thanks goes to Ellen Degeneres who plays the voice of Dory...possibly one of the funniest characters in any film...animated or otherwise.
Nice cardboard outer-sleeve with a double-amaray case (the terminology of which was explained to me by another HTF member in this thread) that holds two discs (assuming Dory didn’t forget to include them in your copy). Paper insert-booklet with the usual like chapter stops etc. Disc 1 holds the widescreen version and a host of extras; Disc 2 holds the 4x3 version with a host of *different* extras. Lovely silk-screening on each disc (Disney considers this a priority and will not manufacture double-sided discs). Menus are easily navigable and each menu has a fish icon you can click which strips away the menu listing leaving only the animated background as a “virtual aquarium”. Very cute but no fish are to be seen. One of the intro shorts by the directors reveals that there are some easter-eggs hidden on the DVD and I’ll bet that one of them activates some fish for these virtual aquariums. If you discover it, let us know!!!
I didn’t notice any sneak-peaks (forced trailers) on disc one. Glory be!!! Oh how sweet it is to put in that widescreen DVD and head straight to the main menu....Aaaahhhhhh.... There are trailers that go into auto-play on disc two, however they can be easily bypassed by pressing the “next” or “menu” button on your remote. You'll read about my surprising reaction to one of the sneak-peak previews father down in the special-features section...
Another demo disc comes to you November 4th. Colors are rich and saturated and may overpower your display if it isn’t properly calibrated or up to the task (my Proscan direct view “bloomed” a bit with the orange of the clown fish but the same colors were rendered perfectly on my friend’s Sony 10HT projector). Blacks are solid and the image...being a direct-digital downconversion for DVD...is naturally free from any film-related artifacts like grain or blemishes. All the subtle hues and tones of the colors of fish and underwater (and above water) scenery are preserved on this disc. This is of special importance because the gradations of various lighting and tones were of the utmost important to the animators of this feature and their skill as artists has been given the proper respect it deserves in the image on this DVD.
Overall this DVD comes very close to the mark of perfection, except for a few small quibbles. The first is some apparent mosquito noise from time to time. Blocking and “color banding” are apparent in a few scenes...one of which is when Dory and Marlin discover the “light” in the depths of the ocean trench....you see clearly defined rows or “bands” of tonal gradations around the light when what you *should* see is a smooth continuous gradation. The other thing that may separate me from some of my other Nemo-reviewing brethren is that I’ll go on record saying that I find the image on this DVD at times a bit softer and lacking in detail than feels right. Now, apples/oranges to try to compare a 35mm film-print of the HD image files to the digital-domain downresed DVD...but still I can’t shake the feeling that some of the images (in the coral reef for instance) seemed “sharper” on the big-screen. Yes I’m aware that there will be less resolution on my DVD than the “high def” image I saw on film. But I have other DVDs that still seem to contain more image detail/sharpness (Toy Story) and so I’m just puttin’ it out there. Those of you familiar with the film (or digital) projection presentation who have large-screen displays please share your thoughts. Oh...and I noticed the *tiniest* bit of Edge Enhancement (vertical-domain HF boosting affecting horizontal lines) in one or two scenes but only standing about 5 feet from a 100” screen so hardly room to complain. Why mention it at all then? Well... because my job is to look as critically as I can at the image to help give everyone out there an idea how this disc may look on their own system...and the fact that there *is* a bit of edge-enhancement (however minimal) leads me to believe that the image on this disc may, in fact, have been slightly filtered to help ease MPEG artifacting as a little electronic “sharpening” (EE) is often used by mastering houses to try to counter-balance the effect (Shrek).
I know that bit-rate isn’t everything, but watching the meter while the DVD was playing I found myself curious at how low the numbers dipped from time to time when it seemed that lots of entropy was taking place on the screen. We’ve got some great extras on this DVD to be sure, and certainly compression is “good” overall and comparable with many other modern DVD releases (which may or may not impress you )...but I think that a “super bit” approach may have resulted in less MPEG noise and may have also allowed the image to retain a little more detail.
Ok, to put this in perspective I just spent a long time talking about some very minor image quality flaws. Most of you will get this disc and say “WOW! It’s breathtaking...what the heck was he complaining about?” Honestly, that’s what I’d say if I had read my own comments first and then saw the disc (on either system...direct-view or projection). So take heart Nemo fans...the image on this disc *is* breathtaking to be sure. You know me...just got to be thorough so that the most critical viewing conditions (to the best of my ability) are reflected in my review. Besides, even a “perfect” Nemo DVD wouldn’t stop us all from buying the HD-DVD version when it finally comes out so let's not loose too much sleep over it!
Because of how beautiful this disc looks in overall balance...
Picture: 4.75/ 5
Amazing how different (better) the soundtrack sounds on my friend’s Lexicon processor/amp/7.1 system than on my own “decent” 5.1 system. I thought it sounded "great" on my system...but on my buddy's system it sounds *superb*. The first word that comes to mind to describe the overall presentation of the 5.1 (DD EX) English soundtrack on this disc is “balanced”. The soundtrack sounds bold, strong, refined, and atmospheric. Bass is solid but not boomy. Surrounds are utilized to good degree but don’t draw attention to themselves in any distracting way (unless appropriate given what’s happening on-screen...but then you’re not really distracted). Vocals are clearly rendered without coming across too brightly. The music and effects convey a good sense of dynamics (especially on the Lex) without drowning out dialog. I don’t have EX decoding at my own home but the Lexicon at my friend’s house applies its own 7.1 decoding logic which presumably takes advantage of the EX center mix in some way. I can definitely tell you that the audio of this disc through the Lexicon 7.1 system really had this disc shining head-and-shoulders above most other discs. Just like the saturated colors and textured details form a feast for the eyes that is transfixing...so the audio on this disc just makes you want to park it on that couch and not move until the credits have rolled. Just marvelous. This is one of those rare discs that will impress your friends and show off your system's capabilities without eliciting (or minimizing the risk of) that dreaded “Can you turn it down?” phrase from your girlfriend/wife/partner (miss anyone?). That’s what I mean by “balanced”...strong without being *too* strong. Bold without being *too* bold. The only thing I would have liked that I didn’t get (you knew I was going to say it) would have been a DTS option. I’ll bet you Region 2 folks get DTS—if so please post your impressions!
Another reference-setting soundtrack. Fine work Pixar/Disney!
Sound: 5/ 5
This is always the part of the review that I dread. While I *love* the incredible wealth of extras on DVD special editions like this I just get so tired typing about it. The better the extras the more exhausting the typing! Still...I must be strong and carry on (hand to forhead and dramatic sigh). Then again...this is *exactly* the kind of problem we should be thankful for in life...right? Maybe next time I’ll *start* with the extras while my energy level is fresh. Yeah...I’ll try that.
First up is a really *great* documentary on the “making of” Finding Nemo. Really well done: interesting, informative, fun, and creative. If you don’t want to quit your job and move to CA to work for Pixar after watching it you’re in the minority. The Pixar folks are a bunch of cool dudes and dude-esses my friends. I’m racking my brain but I can’t remember if the documentary is 4x3 or 16x9. I’ll update later when I can double check. Picture quality of the documentary is horribly poor. But that’s ok because whatever bits it *didn’t* use were bits that went to the feature film.
Equally cool and a bit non-standard is the audio/visual commentary. I assume that this is achieved via branching and you cannot select the audio portion of the commentary by itself or via switching audio channels on your remote. You must enter via the menu selection. The audio commentary is generous and spans virtually every moment of the film. However, sporadically throughout the movie the commentary introduces a visual side-scene and then pauses (along with the movie) while a featurtte short cues up germane to the discussion or that point in the film. It might be a short about how the artists generated the animation for that scene or it might be a deleted or alternate scene or storyboard that would have taken place at that point in the film. The result is effective and engaging and presents this “bonus material” to great effect by branching it into the actual film during playback/commentary. You can also have direct-access to each of these bonus shorts so don’t worry that you have to watch the entire movie in order to see the deleted scenes. Here's an interesting tidbit about these video clips...All of these shorts appear to be 16x9 encoded 1.33:1 (pillarboxed) and so keep the consistent "16x9" framing of the feature film even though they are 1.33:1 in terms of image content. This way your TV (or you) doesn't have to bother switching aspect ratio modes back and forth to keep everything properly proportioned. I'll bet that the image is flagged for P/S on the fly so that 4x3 viewers get a full-frame image. My only complaint...Disney/Pixar...couldn’t you have made these visual commentary inserts 1.78:1 to fill a 16x9 screen? Minus that one minor caveat, this is a great feature and I can’t wait to see more titles make use of an “audio/visual commentary” like this.
Sneak peeks. Gasp...he actually considers those things “special features”?? The Disney Marketers will run *wild* now that they’ve been given the official sanctioning by a HTF reviewer! Ok, in my dreams my reviews have that kind of weight with the Disney staff. Seriously...there’s a reason why in this one case I’m actually appreciative of the sneak peaks...and (double gasp!) don’t even mind their auto-play: We have a reference-quality 16x9 encoded WS trailer for Pixar’s forthcoming “The Incredibles” with 5.1 DD audio to-boot. The result is a theater-quality (better?) trailer that is worth watching. Part of the fun for me of going to the theater is watching professional quality trailers for upcoming films...and I’ve heard the same from others. Most sneak peaks on DVD border on VHS in quality...even those that are “clean” are often 4x3 P/S and when they *are* WS they are never 16x9 and usually improperly flagged as “video” so progressive-scan players introduce excessive combing artifacts etc. Doesn’t that just add insult to injury?
Disney...take heed: if you can manage to include trailers/sneak-peaks on your DVDs that are 16x9 OAR, well compressed (no scan-line aliasing, combing on progressive-players or video/MPEG noise) with full-presentation reference picture quality and with full 5.1 sound...you can slap those advertisements on us and even the audio/videophile crowd won’t mind—just as long as you always give us the option to skip to the main menu as you always have. Consider this a formal request. Your DVD buying public will thank you.
Remember that Pixar short with the snowman in the snow-globe who falls in love with the beach-babe doll? Well it’s here on this DVD in glorious 16x9 OAR with wonderful 5.1 DD sound. Super.
And here’s a little bonus feature that I found I enjoyed much more than I thought that I would: “Exploring the reef with Jean Michel Cousteau”. It starts out looking and sounding like the usual “serious” undersea Jacques Cousteau nature documentary and then things get muddled when Dory and Marlin show up (Ellen is acting Dory’s part even here) to help out. Ok...I know it *sounds* cheesy and at first I thought this little gimmick was just too watered down for the kiddies to suit my taste. Then I found myself *howling* with laughter and was glued to the tube through the whole thing. Hilarious.
Yes there’s more stuff but that’s all the typing you’ll get out of me...get the DVD and discover the rest!
Finding Nemo is an all-around great movie. It’s got something for everyone regardless of your age or demographic and the movie just gets better each time you watch it. Disney and Pixar have delivered a DVD that packs respectable image and sound quality along with a load of genuinely worthwhile bonus materials. I’ve typed enough already, now I just need to say that the Finding Nemo DVD comes to you...