What can I say? I love 3D! From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content. I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite. That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT. I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky. However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation. These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves. I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum. My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released. As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.
The Little Mermaid
Studio: Walt Disney
Product Release: October 1, 2013
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; Dolby Digital French & Spanish 5.1
Running Time: 83 minutes
On A Scale 0-5
Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 3
3D Separation: 3
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 0
The Little Mermaid will forever be regarded as the film that heralded a rebirth
in Disney animation. During the 1980s, after the studio had released a string
of mediocre titles that included Oliver and Company and The Black Cauldron,
interest in their animation had greatly dwindled. Returning to their roots, Disney
took a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale and collaborated with top talents Howard
Ashman and Alan Menken, to adapt the story into a Broadway-worthy musical feature.
In 1989 when The Little Mermaid was released to theaters, Disney found themselves
a new classic -- their first in nearly 30 years.
For more than a decade Disney has been quite successful with their campaign in
re-releasing some of their most popular animated titles theatrically and on Blu-ray,
rampage, it was rather surprising to see them put the brakes on bringing a 3D
conversion of The Little Mermaid to theaters earlier this year. Many attributed the
decision to somewhat declining box office sales and interest in 3D reissues.
Fortunately, Disney didn't abandon the project entirely, making the effort to
bring the newly converted The Little Mermaid to the home market with this upcoming
3D Blu-ray release.
Beautifully animated and filled with wonderful characters and music, The Little
Mermaid stands today as one of Disney's greatest achievements. It's the story
of a young mermaid princess named Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson), who longs to
belong to the world beyond the sea. Despite warnings from her father, King Triton
(Kenneth Mars), the mermaid falls in love with a human prince she saved from
drowning. Hoping to become human herself, she forfeits her voice to an evil sea
witch named Ursula (Pat Caroll) in hopes of being transformed and winning her
man's heart. Ariel's lovable friends Flounder (Jason Marin), Sebastian (Samuel E.
Wright) and Scuttle (Buddy Hackett) do their best to make the Prince fall in love
with the Princess before Ursula's spell takes an evil turn.
Compared with many of the modern Disney animated releases over the years,
The Little Mermaid may seem somewhat dated at first. It is one of the last films
to use the traditional hand-painted cel animation process. Looking at the film
so many years later, I found myself truly appreciating the level of artwork that
translates so beautifully here for the very first time on Blu-ray.
There's a huge amount of contrast with this hand-drawn effort compared to
recent digital efforts by Disney and Pixar. There's nothing eye-popping as far
as animation or colors go. Instead, everything has a more subdued, natural look to
it. Colors look perfect without being over-saturated and black levels, at times, can be
quite inky (check out prince Eric's hair). Without a single anomaly to be found in the
transfer, all the details within the film's artwork are well defined. The film simply
looks as good as one would expect.
It's difficult for me to talk about the film's 3D conversion. Some are going to like
it more than others. For those that are used to eye-popping visuals with lots of
depth, you will be ultimately as disappointed as I was. I just didn't feel that The
Little Mermaid looks astoundingly better in 3D than more recent computer animated
efforts like Finding Nemo. I am guessing the reason for this is because we are
dealing with hand-painted animation rather than something on a computer and
that it involves an entirely different conversion process. I'll admit I am no expert
on how this works, but something seems different about this upconversion than
most all the other Disney upconverted releases thus far.
While there is a sense of depth, it is kept very minimal. Most of the animation
below the sea often seems flat. I think the most interesting underwater 3D
effect is the presence of water bubbles that seem to place themselves forward.
When the film's action rises above the water into Prince Eric's world, the level
of depth is slightly more pronounced. In fact there are times where Scuttle's
beak, Sebastian's claw, or a wisp of Ariel's hair seems to almost permeate the
screen. During a tremendous thunderstorm that takes control of Prince Edward's
ship, the windswept rain takes on an interesting dimensional effect. Yeah, at
times this upconversion looks mostly good, but something tells me that perhaps
this was not the best film to pick for such a conversion -- and certainly it's not
going to be 3D demo material for anyone's library.
Thankfully the film's 7.1 DTS Master Audio Track (downconverted to 5.1 on
my system) is quite immersive thanks to the amount of music, effects and vocals
that are supported through the rear channels. The very opening moments of
the film feature a crew of singing seamen whose voices entirely surround the
listening area. LFE booms as waves crash around the ship. Character voices
move in and out of various channels. Even Ursula's maniacal laughter, later
in the story, is echoed across the entire sound field. You can say that this is a
powerful soundtrack with exceptional channel separation.
...and allow me to add that there's something to be said about hearing "Under
The Sea" and the romantically moonlit "Kiss The Girl" in immersive 5.1. The entire
sound field has never seemed so alive and it will be hard to keep your feet from
tapping themselves against your chair.
The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition arrives as a 3-Disc set with 3D Blu-ray,
Blu-ray and DVD/Digital Copy. The packaging doesn't seem to be lenticular but
nonetheless, the cardboard sleeve mimics the movement of the sun's rays as Ariel
reaches for the ocean surface. New bonus features to this set include @DisneyAnimation,
Disney Intermission (Crab-E-OKE Sing-Along), Deleted Character: Harold The Merman,
Under the Scene: The Art of Live-Action Reference, Part of Her World: Jodi
Benson's Voyage to New Fantasyland, Howard's Lecture and all of the original
classic DVD bonus features.
Also new is a 10 Music Track Download.
Remarkably, Disney didn't litter the 3D Blu-ray disc with more than a single
trailer for the upcoming 3D theatrical release of FROZEN.
The Little Mermaid is a scintillating mix of dynamic animation, top-notch voice
talent and toe-tapping music by the song writing team of Ashman and Menken.
It stands as one of the biggest Disney classics ever made.
Unfortunately, I don't feel this is one of the better 3D conversions done by the
studio. Depth is far more subtle throughout, with some sequences looking rather
flat. Whether this was done by design or because we are dealing with hand-painted
animation over CGI is something I don't have the expertise to elaborate on.
All that being said, if you own a 3D display, it definitely doesn't hurt to buy the
3-Disc package. I still feel that the upconversion does manage to bring something
new to the table. I just don't feel that it will become demo material when showing
off your new, cool display to friends and family.
Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.
LG 60PX950 THX Certified 3D display
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player
Denon 3311CI Receiver
Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear speakers
SV Sound Subwoofer