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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Meet the Robinsons

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 20 Matt Hough

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Posted October 20 2007 - 12:54 AM


Meet the Robinsons (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stephen Anderson

Studio: Disney
Year: 2007
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Rating: G
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $34.99

Release Date: October 23, 2007
Review Date: October 20, 2007


The Film

4/5

The transition to computer animation (apart from the Pixar releases) has been problematic and erratic for the Walt Disney Company. Though Chicken Little made money, the film itself was weak. The Wild was an outright bomb with audiences (oddly, I much preferred it to Chicken Little). With Meet the Robinsons, it seems the studio is finally heading in the right direction. Outstanding, elaborate animation tied to a story with heart and surprising complexity marks the latest effort from Disney’s non-Pixar branch (though Pixar’s John Lasseter was one of the film’s executive producers). To be honest, it took me two viewings to plug into the film’s vibe. I initially found it harried and somewhat scattered, but a second viewing illuminated how well the pieces fit together and also accustomed me to the film‘s really frenzied pace.

Orphan Lewis (Jordan Fry) can’t seem to find a family who wants to adopt him, so he pours his soul into making inventions that tap his inner geek genius. At his school’s science fair, he meets up with Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman) who claims to have used his dad’s time machine to come to the past to save Lewis from an evil bowler wearing villain (Stephen John Anderson aka the director of the movie) who seems intent on harming Lewis. Their battle with this shady character and his seemingly alive bowler (named Doris) take the boys back to the future where Lewis meets the wildly eccentric Robinson family, a clan that makes the loony Sycamores from You Can’t Take It With You seem tame in comparison.

The story is loaded with fierce battles and spirited encounters of every kind, beautifully directed by Stephen Anderson and splashed with the bright, bold Technicolor look of most of today’s animated features. It‘s definitely a visual feast that‘s pleasing eye candy for young and old alike. And the film does offer substance for both children and adults which puts it on the firm ground of all of Pixar‘s wildly successful features. The film’s message of looking to the future for one’s happiness rather than dwelling inertly in the past is one that all ages can take in and appreciate.

The movie seems a bit weak in wit, though. There’s plenty of action, and the characters are all so unusual that they’ll hold your interest with no difficulty (though the members of the Robinson family might have been given a shade more development). But I found the use of slapstick a bit much, enough so that I wouldn’t have minded if the film had wrapped up about ten minutes sooner. There’s a subplot with singing frogs, for example, that certainly has a payoff, and they’re entertaining enough in and of themselves, but their songs add length to the movie.

And speaking of the music, the Danny Elfman score is delightful, and one song in particular, Rob Thomas’ extremely well written and well sung ballad “Little Wonders,” is among the best songs to come out of a Disney film in years. The movie is not a musical, but the songs by Rufus Wainwright, Elfman, and Thomas that serve as background commentary to the on-screen action do establish the necessary emotions for the scenes they accompany.

Video Quality

5/5

The film’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p (AVC codec), and it couldn‘t be more deliriously glorious. The amount of detail is staggering from the nap on the blanket covering Lewis‘ invention to the textures of concrete, brick, wood, and grass (which contains flecks of blue totally unnoticed in the standard definition version of the film). The colors are bold and beautiful but never so intense as to bleed. Blacks are lush, and not a speck mars the pristine image presented here. Selected engagements of this film were shown in theaters in 3-D, and while this transfer isn’t in 3-D, it’s as close to 3-D as it‘s possible to get. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.

Audio Quality

5/5

The transfer’s PCM uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack (48kHz/24 bit, 6.9Mbps) offers a wide ranging soundfield that makes constant use of all available channels. The T-Rex sequence and a later climactic trip to a bowler hat future are spirited and stunning in their creative use of sound. The Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative soundtrack offered on the disc sounds a bit veiled and just can‘t compete with the marvelous uncompressed track with its clear, bold sound. (In addition, there’s an option to pick a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound effects channel from the set up menu so you can hear how active all the channels are if you‘re curious about such things.)

Special Features

4.5/5

An audio commentary by director Stephen Anderson allows him to show how proud he is of this movie. Along with providing some personal information about himself and his identification with the main character Lewis, Anderson also describes the painstaking process of bringing an animated movie to the screen and goes into detail about original ideas that didn’t make it to the final film. The track also includes a funny running in-joke that I greatly enjoyed.

“Inventing the Robinsons” is a 17½-minute HD (AVC codec) featurette in which the original author, the film’s director, the production designer, the voice actors, the composer, and the songwriters all comment on their contributions to the movie.

“Inventions That Shaped the World” is a slight 6-minute rundown of some of the important inventions of the past few centuries that have shaped the world we know now. It’s presented in 4:3 and nonanamorphic letterbox in 480i.

There are six deleted scenes (three more than on the standard definition disc) presented in HD (AVC codec) with director Stephen Anderson introducing each of the segments explaining why they didn’t make it into the finished film. Included among these is an alternate ending which is much weaker than the one in the finished film. The scenes are a mixture of finished footage, in betweens, and storyboard sketches.

There are two music videos, each running about 3 minutes and each presented in nonanamorphic, standard definition (480i) letterbox. Rob Thomas performs the wonderful “Little Wonders” while the Jonas Brothers perform the lesser “Kids of the Future.” Each music video mixes newly shot footage with clips from the movie.

“Family Function 5000 Game” is an entertaining trivia game based on facts from the movie which little ones may need their parents’ help with.

“Bowler Hat Barrage Game,” a Blu-ray extra not found on the standard definition DVD, requires the player to maneuver and blast away at evil bowler hats to save the day.

As usual on Disney Blu-ray releases, a movie showcase feature chooses three scenes that the executives consider reference quality scenes.

Trailers presented in 1080p for other upcoming theatrical and DVD Buena Vista releases include Ratatouille, Enchanted, and Wall-E. The trailer for Meet the Robinsons is not included here but is available on other Buena Vista releases.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Meet the Robinsons might not have the patented wit and smarts of the Pixar films, but it shows that the “other” Disney animation unit is at long last on the right track for continued success. It’s an enjoyable and even emotionally satisfying animated feature, and the Blu-ray release joins Corpse Bride as the two best looking Blu-ray animated titles currently available.


Matt Hough
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#2 of 20 Seppo

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Posted October 20 2007 - 03:55 AM

Nice review, Matt! I'm planning on buying this title but I'd like to know whether it's region coded or not because I have a Euro PS3...

#3 of 20 StevenW

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Posted October 20 2007 - 05:33 AM

Can't wait for this, loved the movie!

#4 of 20 Jon Moss

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Posted October 20 2007 - 06:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seppo
Nice review, Matt! I'm planning on buying this title but I'd like to know whether it's region coded or not because I have a Euro PS3...

I believe it's coded to Region A Seppo, so your only option is to import the UK Blu-ray version.

#5 of 20 Matt Hough

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Posted October 20 2007 - 08:38 AM

Jon is absolutely right. It is coded Region A.

#6 of 20 RobertSiegel

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Posted October 20 2007 - 09:29 AM

I am excited to get this movie, I really liked it, and seems here's another great Disney release, with the (smiling) 5.1 PCM uncompressed sound. Hats off to Disney for giving this track on every title. I hope when they do get to the mono-only movies or the classics, they continue to give us uncompressed sound. I would much rather have a mono 1.0 PCM than a compressed DD. And on stereo classics like Mary Poppins, I am really hoping for PCM.

This should be a great home presentation. Matt, just wondering, your final rating 4/5, how do you arrive on that? Is that the rating of the film you gave at the top? Because, with the picture being a 5 and the sound being a 5 and the 4.5 for the extras, was wondering how it ended up being a 4/5, unless it's just on the movie itself.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#7 of 20 Sam Davatchi

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Posted October 20 2007 - 09:52 AM

How could you check if it's not Region A coded?....The people without a Region B player of course!

#8 of 20 PerryD

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Posted October 20 2007 - 10:47 AM

I actually like Chicken Little better than the Wild, I think the characters in the movie are better, and perhaps the Wild seemed a bit derivative releasing so soon after a similar Madagascar. I passed on both movies on blu-ray, until just this week I broke down and picked up Chicken Little at Amazon for under $10.

Looking forward to renting Meet the Robinsons to see how it turned out. I think having Lassiter nearby is going to have a positive effect on everything that Disney turns out from here on. I've read articles that said as soon as he came in, he cleaned house, scrapping a lot of mediocre projects (much of the DTV sequels) and massively reworking the salvagable projects, desperately trying to save the Disney animation brand.

I think Lassiter provides a role similar to what Shigero Miyamoto has performed as executive producer at Nintendo, make sure everything that is released by their studio is the best that they can offer. I've heard that Miyamoto will play each game that Nintendo releases throughout development and will give a laundry list of suggestions for improvement.

#9 of 20 Matt Hough

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Posted October 20 2007 - 03:21 PM

Robert, for me, the quality of the film itself weighs far more heavily in my final estimation than anything else. It's a purely subjective score which is why I added the caveat that it's not an average.

#10 of 20 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 24 2007 - 03:04 AM

Wowsee, Wowsee Wowsee!

This is the best looking high-def title in my collection.

If you really want to see what these HD formats are capable
of, Meet The Robinsons sets the standard.

I just didn't like the movie that much.

Ronald J Epstein
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#11 of 20 DaViD Boulet

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Posted October 24 2007 - 04:26 AM

I enjoyed the movie... not a "great" Disney by a long shot, but a fun watch unlike bombs like The Wild.

Can't wait to get this on Blu-ray!
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#12 of 20 RobertSiegel

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Posted October 25 2007 - 09:43 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
I enjoyed the movie... not a "great" Disney by a long shot, but a fun watch unlike bombs like The Wild.

Can't wait to get this on Blu-ray!


I enjoyed The Wild.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#13 of 20 Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted October 26 2007 - 06:02 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
I enjoyed the movie....
Viewed this for the first time on Blu-ray. There are some great moments that can really trigger some good emotions, and I find a lot of value for that in a good movie story.Posted Image There are also a few long scenes in the movie where I wanted to doze off, but all in all, I still want to view it again.Posted Image

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#14 of 20 RobertSiegel

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Posted October 27 2007 - 02:38 AM

I finally got to watch this movie last night, and was pleasantly surprised at how good this was. This was different from anything else I have seen in modern day animation, and the art direction was superb, story was touching and exciting, I loved it! And that high def transfer, all I can say is WOW, and another WOW for the PCM track, it blew me away. That's why I much prefer blu-ray. Every single title from Fox, Disney, MGM, Sony/Columbia, Lionsgate, and most from Anchor Bay and Starz have the lossless track. Hats off to the blu-ray format for providing a great listening experience. Now if Warner would only start to do the same.

It will be interesting to see what other studios do with their classic movies. I would hate to see movies like Sound of Music or other great classics have just a regular Dolby Digital track, that would be really sad.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#15 of 20 DaViD Boulet

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Posted October 27 2007 - 09:20 AM

Lucky for us, Fox owns Sound of Music... along with many of the RH musicals. MGM is West Side Story. Warner has Music Man and My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Little Shop of Horrors (can't wait for THAT to come out on BD! LOSSLESS PLEEEAASE WB!!!!).
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#16 of 20 RobertSiegel

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Posted October 27 2007 - 09:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
Lucky for us, Fox owns Sound of Music... along with many of the RH musicals. MGM is West Side Story. Warner has Music Man and My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Little Shop of Horrors (can't wait for THAT to come out on BD! LOSSLESS PLEEEAASE WB!!!!).

David, agreed. I don't have alot of hope for the Warner ones having lossless, their first batch of classics had nothing in lossless, unfortunately. Don't they realize that this would greatly improve the overall sound of these classics? As for Fox, I have hopes they would use DTS master, that would be a DREAM for the Rodgers and Hammerstein, Dolly, Star!, Dr Dolittle, and all of the Cinemascope films. But I hope they don't end up going with the mentality that because they are older films, it's no need to go lossless. Same with Columbia (Oliver, Funny Girl) or MGM (Chitty Bang Bang, Man of La Mancha,ect) and then Disney (Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Happiest Millionaire,ect). So far none of these but Warner have released a classic. Perhaps David you know a way of contacting Disney Home Video , specifically the people who make these decisions? I'd also love to know who does this at Warner, is it George Feltenstein? I want to send a set of letters to these departments about this issue.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#17 of 20 Eric F

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Posted October 27 2007 - 03:17 PM

I've never been much for the non-Pixar Disney CG films myself, they just seem to be missing that certain "something".

As good as this one is, it really has me looking forward to the release of Cars and Ratatouille in a few weeks.

#18 of 20 Jim_K

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Posted October 28 2007 - 01:35 AM

I enjoyed this, though not enough to own. PQ/AQ is reference material though.


For me CG animated films fall into two categories:


1. Pixar


B
I
G


G
A
P


2. the rest (non-Pixar)


I'm also looking forward to picking up Cars and Ratatouille in two weeks. The former is probably my least favorite Pixar and the later is a blind-buy.

I'll be doing backflips if Disney ever gets around to releasing The Incredibles and the rest of the Pixar films.
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#19 of 20 DaViD Boulet

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Posted October 28 2007 - 10:10 AM

Robert,

I honestly think that someone with "tin ears" heads up the audio decision making over at WB. Either that or they aren't allowed to make decisions based on sound quality given other political issues at the studio. Remember, it was WB who said that "384 kbps is good enough" and wouldn't even up the bit-rate of lossy DD on DVD to 448 like other studios did. Then WB "hid" DTS on a few catalog DVD releases (barely mentioning it on the packaging) and then claimed that the public just didn't hear a difference because those re-released titles (like interview with a vampire) didn't sell in record numbers. Also, it's folks heavily pushing limited-bit-rate formats, including WB, who are now suggesting that lossy DD at 1500 kbps is "transparent" and that nothing would be gained from going full lossless. I don't know what agenda might be at work, but my suspicians tell me that it's a combination of folks at the studio in charge of these decisions not personally having an audiophile orientation coupled with the political agenda of suggesting that there's no image/sound compromised on limited-bit-rate encodings.

In any case, even before the whole HD DVD/BD issue, WB displayed the same below-bar effort on presenting audio on DVD given the DVD format's potential for better sound.
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#20 of 20 RobertSiegel

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Posted October 28 2007 - 11:24 AM

David, agreed...Twister was reissued with only the small DTS logo on the bottom of the back of the disc. It would be a shame if they continue the path they are on because they are releasing not only Warner movies but many from MGM.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!



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