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HTF REVIEW: Disney Rarities - RECOMMENDED with Mixed Feelings...



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#1 of 38 DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 11 2005 - 01:12 PM

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Disney Rarities

Treasures Wave Five

Studio:Buena Vista
Year:1923 - 1962
RunTime:Over 30 shorts with additional bonus material
Aspect Ratio:4x3 encoded 1.33:1 for all program material, including a few 4x3 lbxed items
Audio:2.0 DD English (mono)
SpecialFeatures:Alice’s Cartoon World (interview with Virginia Davis), From Kansas City to Hollywood: Disney’s Silent Era, Richard Sherman’s commentary for “A Symposium On Popular Songs”, Art Galleries
ReleaseDate:December 6, 2005




Note: I only recieved my Treasures Wave Five discs in the mail this past Friday...already several days after street date! Please forgive the tardy review...






The Contents...




Disney Rarities is a indeed a “treasure” of shorts not neatly fitted in to one of the usual Disney-character or series categories. This set contains well-loved gems like Ferdinand the Bull, Lambert the Sheepish Lion, The Little House and Paul Bunyan. This set also presents some of Disney’s lesser-known but masterfully done experimental work like Noah’s Ark and reference-setting educational works like The Truth About Mother Goose. Many of you may recognize some of the animation from Goliath II that you’ve seen appear in the animated Jungle Book. To top it off, Walt’s personally-directed silent “Alice” shorts are presented here. Without a doubt, Disney Rarities is a set that appeals to any self-respecting Disney or animation collector. For me personally, it’s the collection I’ve been waiting for since the Disney Treasure sets first appeared.

In keeping with a working design, the 2 discs allow viewers to view menus arranged by alphabetically or by chronology. The booklet is comprehensive and lists all program items including bonus material on each disc (saving you a disc loading session to figure out which DVD has that feature you’re looking for). The double-disc case comes packed in a handsome tin (sans serial-stamping), the discs are nicely silk-screened (like all B.V. DVDs if you’ve noticed), and the cover design is consistent with the other treasures sets so it all blends nicely on the shelf.



Picture...



I’m a bit dismayed. It looks to my eyes that nearly all (if not every) of the features appear sourced from composite-video media. I say this because “NTSC decoding artifacts” can be seen in almost every short. My first surprise came with the opening title/credits with 1923’s Alice’s Wonderland…The stair-stepping on the title text was not the kind of artifact I was expecting to find in a 1923 silent film! Dot crawl can be found during the credit scenes for many of the other features though to be fair rarely intrudes into the running program material (however, I did see a bit of dot crawl on the flamingos in Noah’s Ark which I found distracting). The worst NTSC artifact to plague the animation is color moiré which appears as a twittering rainbow-like effect on fine detail especially in white-colored areas. This became quite distracting at times for me especially in some of the more geometrically-drawn features like Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. There is also a general softness to the animated features that falls visibly below the detail threshold of which the DVD medium is capable of delivering. Shoddy.

Note dot crawl and NTSC "hell" going on with Noah:

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More atrocious NTSC decoding artifacts:

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To add insult to injury, the “widescreen” animated features are presented in 4x3 lbx and appear blurry and artifact-laden when zoomed to fill the 16x9 screen. Edge Enhancement was also a problem with the widescreen presentations, though it thankfully didn’t intrude into the native 1.33:1 shorts. Rapheal (a fellow HTF member) and I compared the Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom on this DVD set to its presentation on the Fantasia 2000 DVD and we both found that the color saturation and sharpness appeared slightly better on the Fantasia version of the same title (I’m sure someone was wondering about that comparison). I won’t begin to debate the accuracy of the aspect ratio of the widescreen 4x3 lbx presentations on this set, but I can assure you that none of them look 2.35:1 to my eyes (Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom looks more like 2:1).

On the plus side, color is generally outstanding, and perhaps viewers with smaller screens (who view from a relatively father distance given their screen-width/distance ratio) might not find the occasional NTSC decoding artifact and image softness objectionable.

I’m of two minds about this, however neither justifies the below-bar image presentation on this set.

Mind Set Number One: You do it right and produce a new (HD or 4K) film-to-digital transfer and derive the DVD from these state-of-the-art digital sources to provide a more transparent image reproduction.

Mind Set Number Two: For whatever reason you can’t do a new film-to-digital transfer (maybe money…maybe the elements are destroyed etc.). Well then you get a DECENT comb-filter and color decoder to derive the component master for the DVD. I just don’t get it folks…I’ve got a comb-filter in my laserdisc player that avoids dot-crawl. Faroudja makes some very nice professional NTSC decoding equipment that minimizes artifacting. Yet Disney Studios was forced to use off-the-shelf crappo-NTSC gear to produce a DVD with dot crawl and color moiré hard-coded into the digital image?

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I’m sure some folks will continue the railing to encompass the condition of some of the film elements in regards to dust, scratches, and print-damage and demand that Disney “do better” in restoring their films prior to DVD. I’ll go on record by saying that I’m perfectly fine with the modicum of film-print anomalies visible here. These are movies. They have history. They’re perfectly watchable without any “film restoration” at all. What ticks me off isn’t seeing the occasional print-scratch or spec of cell dust when watching a DVD derived from film elements…what bothers me as a videophile is having to watch it through an added layer of electronic noise that never would have been seen on the big screen.


Picture Quality: 2.5 / 5

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Rating Rationale...

In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):

Rating Key:

SCORE Description
1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid.
2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain.
3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos.
4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE) or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.




Viewing Equipment:
Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.






[b]Sound...



Audio is perfectly fine. Thankfully the audio engineers seemed to have exercised good taste and left a bit of audible hiss in tact to preserve the full-frequency response and low-level-detail of the original sound recordings. The audio is generally quite listenable and doesn’t appear too brassy or shrill. Not much else to say…the audio sounds just like it should.


[b] Sound Quality: 4 / 5

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[b]Special Features...



There are a few very worthwhile bonus items spread over these two discs.

On disc one there is a marvelous documentary about how Walt got his start in animation which covers the features he produced during his “silent era” which includes the Alice shorts. Fascinating information and if you’re a “wanna be” Disney-phile like me who loves Walt’s work but isn’t that well informed about the history behind it, you should find this feature very engaging.

Also on Disc one is a great Interview of Virginia Davis who is the live-action “Alice” in Walt’s first features. Leonard Maltin does an outstanding job as usual and it’s difficult to leave this interview not feeling a heart-tugging sentimentality for Walt’s achievements and the lives that have been touched along the way.

Disc two offers up run-time commentary from Richard Sherman for the short A symposium on Popular songs which is a wonderful journey to take with a man who has touched so many lives through his work. There are also some very nice still-frame galleries on Disc two that fall victim to my usual pet peeve of “wasted bordering image area” but are marvelous to look at nonetheless.

Sorry to disappoint you, but try as I might, I just wasn’t able to find any Raven music video, pre-school game, or ESPN sports segment. Posted Image





[b]All Together...




What’s a collector to do? On the one hand, how can you live without this incredible Disney Treasure set? On the other hand, how can you make a purchase that ignores the shoddy video mastering by a studio who ought to know better? It’s hard to disagree that it’s better to have these works in this better-than-laserdisc format than not at all. But DVD, and Disney, are capable of so much more than a recycled decades-old composite video master-tape is able to deliver. I certainly hope Disney knows that they can and should do better. And I hope that this awareness translates into action when these treasures sets begin to emerge in hi-def media.




[b]RECOMMENDED with mixed feelings









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#2 of 38 TedD

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Posted December 11 2005 - 01:35 PM

I don't even think the video on this set deserved a 2.5. More like a 1.5. D****d lousy interlaced composite video transfers almost all the way. Non anamorphic, non - OAR on the CinemaScope transfers.

Ted

#3 of 38 Adam_S

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Posted December 11 2005 - 02:00 PM

It's a shame as I'm really looking forward to going through this set, Little House is an old old favorite of mine.

Too bad Disney can't maintain a consistent quality level like WB from year to year.

I've seen a short from the Goofy set and a short from the second Looney Tunes set projected to 20 feet tall on the best digital projection equipment George Lucas can afford (which he donated to USC's main theatre) and while it was clear the Looney Tunes looked phenomenal with stunning color it was also clearly video, the Disney short looked a hell of a lot like film. I bet that's not true anymore for the latest release though, and that's a damn shame.
 

#4 of 38 ChristopherDAC

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Posted December 11 2005 - 02:25 PM

Speaking as a person who is very fond of LaserDisc, using a composite video master for a DVD when there is any other choice [neglecting, say, 1970s network television shows] is very high on my list of sins. Improper aspect-ratio and framing, especially on CinemaScope titles, is another. Neglect of anamorphic encoding on widescreen titles has gone, with the proliferation of widescreen DVDs, from an unfortunate oversight, through an insult, to an actual injury. The combination of all three strikes me as remarkably shabby.
Nobody can tell me that Disny/Buena Vista lack the money to do the best possible by their prestige -- and not exactly bargain-basement -- product.


#5 of 38 MarcoBiscotti

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Posted December 11 2005 - 02:27 PM

Excellent review David, I agree wholeheartedly!


I sent an email to Mr. Maltin inquiring as to this significant decline in quality over the past releases, and I really hope he's able to respond. This series has always been among my most anticipated and treasured (no pun intended) of any DVD releases. I was really dissapointed to find that the set standards were not upheld with these latest issues. I do have to disagree with you in regards to film restoration... this should be a given! Granted these films are over 60 years old, but the technology is available and has been applied suitably in the past (and with even more dated entires) to clean up the overall image and restore colors to their original vibrancy and rich saturation as well lessent the ammount of excessive film grain and artifacts, print scratches, etc. There's no reason why this shouldn't have been applied to these latest releases, other than just a complete lack of thought or effort on Disney's behalf. Sourcing decade old video transfers for a newly issued, limited collector's market DVD release, is simply not acceptable!

#6 of 38 MatthewA

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Posted December 11 2005 - 03:06 PM

I doubt Disney would destroy the negatives to any of their films. Not even that one based on the Joel Chandler Harris stories. They may have lost some of the pre-Mickey Mouse material, however.

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#7 of 38 Reagan

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Posted December 12 2005 - 01:40 AM

Not good.

After such high quality, why drop the ball now?

-Reagan
The truth doesn't care whether you believe it.

#8 of 38 Lars Vermundsberget

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Posted December 12 2005 - 02:07 AM

I ordered this (and the other Treasures) a while ago and will receive it soon. This review (and other comments that tell about the same problems) would not have made me change my mind about ordering. But this is still sad. Whoever was in charge of dropping the quality level of the Treasures shows little respect for the fans AND the material.

Screenshots I've seen of Wave 5 cartoon material reminded me of laserdiscs from 1985. Which isn't that bad, but it isn't that good either...

Why? WHY?

#9 of 38 DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 12 2005 - 02:12 AM

Lars,

"reminded me of laserdiscs from 1985" is a perfect way to put it. Do you have access to any of these screen shots? Can we link to them to post them in the thread?
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#10 of 38 Lars Vermundsberget

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Posted December 12 2005 - 02:21 AM

On ultimatedisney there are a few from the Donald Duck set (which is why I wrote "Wave 5 cartoon material"). You can check about the linking.

I haven't done any serious comparisons, but they DID remind me of 1985 LDs.

#11 of 38 Mike Frezon

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Posted December 12 2005 - 02:28 AM

Quote:
Disc two offers up run-time commentary from Richard Sherman for the short A symposium on Popular songs which is a wonderful journey to take with a man who has touched so many lives through his work.


Very much looking forward to this feature. It wouldn't be a bad idea for a future Treasures volume to devote the entire set to the Sherman Brothers and their legacy at the Disney studio/theme parks.

"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.
It's a world of hope and a world of fears.
There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware
it's a small world, after all."

EDIT** Or...maybe a set on "Disney Songwriters" and have one disc devoted entirely to the Shermans...and another for the other talented men & women who have penned some of the most memorable music of all time.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#12 of 38 DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 12 2005 - 02:52 AM

Thanks Lars. When I get that review up I may link to those images. Cheers!

Mike,

great idea for a treasture-set theme!
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#13 of 38 Neal K

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Posted December 12 2005 - 09:37 AM

non-OAR transfers in a set designed for collectors of "rarities". Yeah, that really makes sense....

#14 of 38 Kevin Martinez

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Posted December 12 2005 - 09:54 AM

Quote:
I sent an email to Mr. Maltin inquiring as to this significant decline in quality over the past releases, and I really hope he's able to respond. This series has always been among my most anticipated and treasured (no pun intended) of any DVD releases. I was really dissapointed to find that the set standards were not upheld with these latest issues. I do have to disagree with you in regards to film restoration... this should be a given! Granted these films are over 60 years old, but the technology is available and has been applied suitably in the past (and with even more dated entires) to clean up the overall image and restore colors to their original vibrancy and rich saturation as well lessent the ammount of excessive film grain and artifacts, print scratches, etc. There's no reason why this shouldn't have been applied to these latest releases, other than just a complete lack of thought or effort on Disney's behalf. Sourcing decade old video transfers for a newly issued, limited collector's market DVD release, is simply not acceptable!


Well Said Marcos, Could'nt have said it better myslef.

I thoguht that Disney's habit of completely ruining their non-Pixar, non-Studio Ghibli DVD's would not extend to the treasures, but...

This is completely inexcusable. A Torrent of Complaints lodged against Disney is in order.

#15 of 38 Robert Harris

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Posted December 12 2005 - 03:10 PM

This particular set creates what I hope will not be precedent setting quality from Disney. I went immediately to Ben & Me, a personal favorite from my formative years, and found the transfer to be lacking. It appears to be something created for the VHS or laser days, and wholly inadequate for DVD viewing.

Wonderful titles which cannot go recommended as a set at this time. One is best to wait for a high definition transfer.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#16 of 38 Mike Frezon

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Posted December 12 2005 - 04:51 PM

Who's got the graphic of the "RAH Disapproved" seal?!

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I will be calling the Disney toll-free number to register my complaint.

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#17 of 38 CraigF

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Posted December 12 2005 - 05:27 PM

Quote:
Who's got the graphic of the "RAH Disapproved" seal?!


I'm sure Peter THX can whip it up pretty quickly...

#18 of 38 DavidBL

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Posted December 13 2005 - 02:58 AM

Anyone think it's a coincidence that the screeners for this round of Treasures seemed to come late for all of the online review sites? It seems like reviews for past sets were available a week or so before street date. Is this Disney's way of copying the film industry's practice of not releasing a crappy film for preview until it's too late to get a review in Friday's paper (think "Aeon Flux" for a recent example)?

Just thinking out loud...

#19 of 38 Robert Harris

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Posted December 13 2005 - 04:57 AM

I doubt that this is the case, as The Chronological Donald - Volume Two is of high[er] quality and a welcome addition to the annals of Disney DVDdom.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#20 of 38 DavidBL

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Posted December 13 2005 - 07:36 AM

That's good to know; I'm glad one of my two Treasures purchases this year isn't of lesser quality...