DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Dumbo - Big Top Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Jun 5, 2006.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]
    DUMBO
    Big-Top Edition

    Studio: Buena Vista Year:1941 Rating:GAspect Ratio: 4x3 encoded 1.33:1 OAR Audio: 5.1 DD English (French & Spanish) SpecialFeatures: 2-cartoon shorts, Making-of featurette, Feature Commentary, still galleries (most of what's already on the current 60th Anniversary Edition)ReleaseDate: June 6, 2006


    Note: Just got my new back-ordered Bulb on Friday! My projector is finally in action again after 2 weeks of no movies…


    Feature...


    Dumbo is a charming Disney feature that falls somewhere between a full-blown “Classic Animated Feature” and “Cartoon Short” in look and feel. The animated style tends towards abstraction and the level of polish seems quite a bit lacking when compared to high-profile efforts like Bambi or Cinderella; Dumbo was animated on-the-cheap at a time when Disney Studios needed to produce a feature to have mass-market appeal without a great financial investment.

    This recipe of necessity, however, does not mean that Dumbo is a product of compromise. Like all good art, limits are the source of creative expression, and at a time when animation “wow factor” was pushing the limits of the technology of the day, Dumbo came on the scene and won over the hearts of movie-goers with it’s understated visuals and down-to-earth feel. The story unfolds at a fast pace yet manages to yoke in the emotions of even the most hard-hearted of viewers. Capitalizing on themes of the mother-child bond and compassion for the outcast/underdog, Dumbo’s story marches forward with bold confidence while retaining a sense of innocence all the while. In addition to some of the most memorable musical moments of animation melody with “Casey Junior” and “When Elephants Fly”, Dumbo is sure to draw a tear during animation history’s most poignant moment: “Baby Mine”.





    New Edition?


    Many of you are wondering if this new release offers an appreciable improvement over the 60th Anniversary Edition disc that’s come before. Short Answer: YES. Image quality is better for the feature film and if your viewing system is wide-angle, I would suspect that, like me, once you see the improved image of the new edition you'd be satisfied with the new purchase (unless you can hold out for HD). Without a doubt, anyone who doesn’t already own a copy of Dumbo has no reason to avoid purchasing this release.




    Picture...



    Without a doubt the new disc offers an improvement over the 60th Anniversary Edition DVD that’s come before. The improvement isn’t night-and-day as with Pocahontas, but it’s unquestionably better… and this improvement is more apparent the more revealing the display (and the wider-angle your viewing distance).

    The improvement is most obvious in terms of:

    • Color saturation and contrast.
      Reduced “noise” from EE exaggerated grain structure.
      Reduced MPEG compression artifacting.


    The first thing I noticed in comparison to the previous DVD was the color saturation is much richer on this new disc. Colors are vivid, vibrant, and bold. The old disc had colors that very often look washed out. Also, I noticed that contrast looked a little “blown out” on the old disc with a gray-scale that looked ramped-up and tended to crush whites. The new disc presents a more natural contrast range that sweeps from dark to light without washing out detail or presenting an overly-dark image either. I think that regardless of display type, most users will appreciate the improvements in color saturation and contrast.

    The next issue is one that is sure to generate more discussion. There is still quite a bit of film-grain structure and print-damage/cell dust visible in the image. Personally, this does not bother me. The image looks more like a “real movie print” than the LDI-scrubbed trophies like Cinderella and Bambi. However, some viewers may object to the analog artifacts and I encourage them to reconsider. And none can argue that regardless of which side of the “digital clean up” fence you fall on, it’s better to leave minor historical flaws endemic to the image alone if the studio can’t afford a full-scale LDI clean-up than to muddle the fidelity with off-the-shelf DVR tools that plague far too many DVD titles to name.

    Now, having just mentioned that there is still visible grain structure, allow me to clarify that the severity of grain is MUCH LESS than what you see in the image from the 60th Anniversary Edition disc. My guess is that one or two things may be the cause:


    1. This new DVD utilizes a better-condition (earlier generation) print which contains less grain to begin with.

      This new DVD has much less EE which would produce a cleaner, less “noisy” image where moderate-grain structure is concerned.


    At first I thought that the new DVD looked less “sharp” to my eyes than the 60th Anniversary Edition and I worried that too much HF filtering had taken place. But once I did some careful back-forth A/B comparisons between the two titles, it appears that the level of actual detail/resolution from the film print is about the same, but the 60th Anniversary Edition DVD has some excessive edge-ringing/EE that causes it to look “sharper” at first glance. Don’t be fooled! The new DVD produces a *better* image in *every* regard. I should note that some very low-level edge-ringing can be seen in a few scenes but it’s not distracting from my 1.5 screen-widths viewing distance and I don’t consider it a problem (unlike the old version which was ringy enough to distract from time to time at 1.5 screen widths).

    In fact, now that I’ve enjoyed the new DVD on my projector, I can’t go back to the old edition…it looks “harsh” and noisy by comparison and pulls me out of the film.

    Summary:

    It’s lovely. Not an reference-work like the LDI (DTS digital images these days) scrubbed Cinderella… but a beautifully mastered and compressed image that preserves much of the historical film-grain and cell-dust in just the right balance: you’ve got the signature of the mechanics of the film medium while at the same time enjoying a beautifully sumptuous image.

    Picture Quality: 4 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Rating Rationale...


    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch even on a 32” 4x3 480I TV. Think Outland or Jean De Flourette (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts etc.)-- 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 Kill Bill Vol 1. 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 limited only by DVD’s 720 x 480 resolution. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW" and ask you if they are watching HD. Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit 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.






    Sound...


    The English audio comes to you in what sounds to my ears as exactly the same 5.1 DD configuration of the previous 60th Anniversary Edition’s DD audio. Dumbo was originally mono, so the purist in my would like to have seen the original mono presentation as an option here. However, the 5.1 mix is nicely balanced and tastefully done (no re-recorded firecracker Follies exploding in the surround channel like on Mary Poppins 5.1) and basically sounds like the mono recording has just been warmly spread to fill the soundstage. Dialogue is fine (and centered) and the fidelity of the musical numbers is satisfyingly full. Honestly it sounds better than I expected for a cartoon of this vintage.


    Sound Quality: 4 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    Listening Equipment:
    B&K AVR 212 processor/receiver driving my Onix-Rocket Loudspeaker system.



    Special Features...

    Sure, a 2-disc SE would have been even nicer. But for a single disc set there is a nice collection of bonus material here to please most fans. Most of the bonus features seem to be recycled from the 60th anniversary edition so the bonus features are not in themselves a reason to upgrade… but if you haven’t already acquired the 60th anniversary set it’s nice to know you can get this set without losing anything important since the bonus material is, for the most part, duplicated between the two editions.



    • [​IMG] Feature Commentary: Disney’s head animator takes you on a wonderful historical journey through the making of this feature. The screen-specific commentary isn’t riveting, but it’s very informative and any fan of animation history, Disney studios, or Dumbo will find something worth listening to here.


      Making-of Documentary: In the Back-stage Disney area there is an enjoyable featurette that totals about 15 minutes in length. The background to the making of this film gets covered nicely though I would have preferred a more in-depth historical account with less glitz from “guest stars” telling me how much they like the movie.


      [​IMG] Bonus Shorts: You’ve got two Classic Disney shorts here: Elmer Elephant (8:30) and The Flying Mouse (9:20). Both have been released via the Disney Treasures collections but it’s nice to have them here and they fit nicely into the theme of the feature film. Image quality is gorgeous… watching them on the projection screen really feels like being at the movies when I was a kid (and they used to show cartoon shorts before the feature film).

      Music Video: Baby Mine. Sung by some guy and some girl all hip, cool and modern (gag me).


      Sing Along Songs: I shudder, but fun for kids. Rather than use the video from the feature film with subtitles, this is a separate video track with it’s own burned-in “bouncing ball” lyrics.


      Walt Disney Intro: This feature is really the first couple of minutes from Walt Disney’s television series (B&W) when he introduced the film Dumbo in his television series. Would have been much neater if they had included this to play right before the feature film.


      Still-frame galleries: The usual.


      [​IMG] Cardboard fold-out Casey Junior Train: You heard me. I think it’s cool!


      MISSING: re-release trailers, Casey-Jr. sound feature, music-video from the first edition. (see Mike Cameron's excellent comments in the first post following this review for more details).







    All Together...


    It’s a classic. It’s a tear-jerker! And it’s got noticeably improved picture quality on this new Big-Top edition.

    If you don’t already have Dumbo in your DVD library, this is an easy recommendation. If you *do* already have it, I’d recommend this buy if have a wide-angle viewing distance… after having watched the improved picture quality of the feature film on this disc, I can’t go back and satisfy myself with the 60th Anniversary Edition. Special features are fine for a single-disc presentation and more-or-less what you get on the previous DVD… nothing serious gained or lost.


    Recommended for first-time purchase or for wide-angle viewers


    p.s. Please check out the OUTSTANDING review at UltimateDisney which includes in-depth comparisons between the new and old DVDs along with screen caps.

    http://www.ultimatedisney.com/dumbo-bigtopedition.html
     
  2. Beast

    Beast Second Unit

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    Nice review, David. Thanks. This is a must buy for me, as I didn't like the PQ of the 60th Anniversary Edition of Dumbo. Can't wait to pick it up at Target tommorow for $16.99. [​IMG]

    In total, they seem to have dropped five things. Two of them you probably won't miss... two of them you probably will. And one of them is pretty unimportant in regard to Dumbo.

    The two you probably won't miss is a Music Video by Michael Crawford of "Baby Mine" that was on the last release. Most people seem to think the new Music Video is a vast improvement over the mediocre M.C. version. The other is a promotional look at the currently scrapped 'Dumbo II', which I can understand them leaving off as it could prove confusing giving the status of the project.

    The two that you may miss are the original and the 1949 re-issue trailers that were on the original 60th Anniversary Edition release. I see no reason why they were left off of this one, it really doesn't make a great deal of sense. There shouldn't have been anything to prevent them from being included.

    The final thing left off the release is a 'Sound Design' featurette that really has nothing to do with Dumbo at all, other than a small segment featuring the recording of "Casey Junior". It mostly focused on the 1941 feature film 'The Reluctant Dragon' instead. It also recently was included on the now OOP Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio DVD set.
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Mike,

    outstanding comments. Thanks for clarifying the difference between the special features! I admit that my stamina was a bit lacking after hours of Dumbo A/B disc swapping!

    dave [​IMG]
     
  4. Beast

    Beast Second Unit

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    No problems. I noticed you hadn't finished the 'Missing' list, so figured I'd do a quick recap of what has been stated as missing to save you some time. The only thing I wish they would have kept was the trailers, but maybe we'll get a Super Duper Dumbo release in a few years anyway. [​IMG]
     
  5. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    I'd love to see some comparisson shots as well as the new menus and screens!

    Btw, even though I have the 60th Anniv. Ed. - What is the sound featurette which you've mentioned is included on the 'Behind The Scenes' Treasure (of which I also own) and was it just a short cut segment or an entire featurette?

    Finally, I'm pretty sure those 2 animated shorts were included ont he previous Dumbo release as well (it sounds likeyou're alluding to them being new extras on this release).

    Anyways, nice review. Im still on the edge about this though I'm sure I'll upgrade after seeing some screen caps to compare.


    I wish Disney offered an option of paying extra for discs to NOT have the crappy sing-a-longs and music videos, etc. included..
     
  6. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    PS - Just read your post in the other thread.

    Thanks David!

    I'll probably get around to picking this up next week. I'm sure it'll be a welcomed improvement on my 100" projection screen.
     
  7. Beast

    Beast Second Unit

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  8. Beast

    Beast Second Unit

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    Mark? Who's Mark? [​IMG]
     
  9. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    Definately not one of my favorite Disney flicks and I'm not too wild about a single disc version (for some reason I thought this was a 2-discer all along)...but it's got that blasted Disney logo on it. And I am just *slightly* obsessive compulsive...

    Target, here I come.
     
  10. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Jason,

    the improvement in picture quality is worth the upgrade while we wait for HD.

    Ok...fixed a few more problem in my review. Sheesh! I'm full of typos and bad edits these days... inlcuding the mystery "Mark" who is "Mike"!

    [​IMG]
     
  11. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  12. Lyle_JP

    Lyle_JP Screenwriter

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    I'm not doubting the review here, but based on those screen shot comparisons that were linked to, I think the 60th Anniversary disc looks worlds better. Of course, a still photo can't really show you grain or other motion artifacts, but I must say, the lack of trailers and the lack of any new supplements of substance makes me want to pass on this new disc.

    -Lyle J.P.
     
  13. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The JPG captures seem to be too compressed because it doesn't look THAT noisy on the DVD. The new DVD seems to just have a softening filter applied with slightly desaturated colors. The older DVD has a more natural film grain texture and better color. The whole Pink Elephants on Parade looks fantastic on the 2001 disc, too.
     
  14. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Patrick,

    can you tell us more about your video chain? I ask because my own impressions were so different. There was *no* filtering in the new release IMO after careful A/B comparison on two video systems... it seems that the old release has some added EE which created a "sharper" image which had no more real detail.


    Looking at those screen-caps I had the same impression.

    What I've seen on two separate video systems looks very different that the screen-caps at Ultimate Disney. Both systems were carefully calibrated and in both cases the new DVD looked *clearly* better than the old DVD which looked a little washed out with less realistic contrast.

    One system was my own 720P BenQ 8700+ DLP projector fed via my OPPO DVD player scaling to 720P via HDMI, and the other system was my friend's HD2K JVC 1080P projector ISF callibrated by William Phelps fed via HDMI from Pioneer's elite DVD player.

    The results between the two video systems were the same: the new DVD looks more natural, with less "noise" from EE with a more balanced contrast and more saturated colors.

    I wouldn't assume that the Pink Elephants scene is less accurate on the new version like the Ulitmate Disney DVD suggests... I've seen far too many films where the "accurate" image looked darker than what was familiar because a previous master had blown-out contrast. Think Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory... both look "brighter" in their original DVD form and "darker" in their accurate later-DVD form which was more faithful to the look of the film.
     
  15. PerryD

    PerryD Supporting Actor

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    I'm also surprised how much better the screenshots of the older release look compared to this new release:
    Bad old release:
    [​IMG]

    Good new release:
    [​IMG]
     
  16. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Perry,

    to be fair, ultimte Disney said that the Pink-Elephants Parade sequence was the one point in the movie where the old DVD out-shined the new.

    I didn't do a critical A/B comparison of that scene... but I did with the rest of the movie and in all other cases the new DVD is objectively "better".

    I'll have to compare the p.e. scene next time I have the PJ fired up to see how that sequence fares. I can tell you though that while actually "watching" the movie the pink-elephants scene looks just fine to my eyes on the new version without a back/forth comparison between the two.

    -dave
     
  17. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    But there's a big difference between live-action and animation in this regard David.

    It's easy to run into such error when evaluating the look and color of set design and wardrobe, etc. from a 50 year-old film print, in which case and due to available resources, a stronger measure of conjecture is involved. But when your basis is an animated film which uses colored inks to fill in the image and enhance the technicolor look of a feature, especially in such a visually surreal and psychedelic sequence as this - AND - taking into account similar Disney films, as well as cels, stroyboards, production art and specific materials (paints and inks)... you have to ask yourself which of the two captures shown above logically seems most accurate?

    To me eyes, it's clearly the first.
     
  18. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    The Disney team usually does a great job using actual painted artwork and cells from the vault to properly gauge colors etc.

    Also, let me repeat:

    What I'm seeing on my projection screen on *both* my own calibrated DLP and my friend's William-Phelps-tweaked 1080P JVC projector does NOT look like the screen-captures at Ulitmate Disney (which *do* look "too dark" to my eyes in the new version in the linked screen-cap images). In both projection systems the new DVD looks perfectly balanced...in every way, and looks *better* than the old without any controversy. By contrast (pun intended), the old DVD looks "blown out" with whites that appear crushed, poor gray-scale tracking, and much less shadow detail, in addition to distracting digital noise and a generally "harsher" look from too much edge emphasis.

    In other words, don't judge the two DVDs by what you see in those screen caps. There may something else going on there of which we're not aware. I wouldn't be so adamant about this point except that having compared a/b the two discs in *two separate high-end video systems*... they BOTH showed the new disc to be superior in exactly the same way... and they both showed the problems with the old DVD to look the same as well.
     
  19. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    RATS! I was hoping this was just a re-dress so I wouldn't have the need to repurchase. Looks like that's another plan gone out the window! [​IMG]

    Thanks for the outstanding review David, as well as the constant disc swapping, this reader appreciates the effort, as always!
     

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