Stitch! The Movie Studio: Disney Year: 2003 Rated: G Film Length: 64 minutes Aspect Ratio: 16X9 encoded 1.66:1 (pillarboxed) Audio: DD 5.1 (English, French), DTS 5.1 (English), 2.0 DD Spanish Extras: Experiment Finder (child's game), Trivia Challenge, "Aloha, E Komo Mai" Music Video (4x3 Lbxed, 5.1 DD), Experiment Gallery Release Date: August 26, 2003 Movie... Stitch! is one of those Disney direct-to-video sequels following on the heels of success of a theatrical precursor (in this case, Lilo & Stitch). But don't let that discourage you if you're a fan of the first film or if you've got kids who would enjoy a new Stitch installment. While not quite as developed as the first theatrical film (both in story and in animation), Stitch! is entertaining and is infused with enough intelligent humor to keep adults engaged. My partner and I chuckled more than once out loud, and in some cases we had to rewind the movie because we had laughed over some dialogue and missed something. Story... First, don't bother seeing this movie (or even reading this part of the review) if you haven't first seen Lilo & Stitch. Nothing will make sense without the background of the first film (...long pause for those who haven't already seen it...). Ok, now that you've just come back from having watched the first film, we pick up where we left off. Remember how Stitch was experiment number 626? Well didn't you ever wonder about the other 625? Without giving away too much of the complex-Hitchcockian plot development, Lilo and Stitch find out about the other experiments and must save them from the evil Captain Gantu. Will they succeed or is the doom of the other 625 experiements at hand? shocking surprise: They SUCCEED! Ok just trust me--it's fun and if you liked the first movie and can handle this film not quite measuring up to quite the same polish and craft as the first theatrical film, you'll enjoy yourself and have a good time. Really! Stop looking at me like that! As fate would have it, this movie ends right where another movie (or TV series) is poised to begin... (note: There is a rumor that an SE is planned for a January release. Casual viewers may choose to wait and see, but I encourage anyone who's a Stitch fan to go ahead and get this DVD and enjoy it now...I think it sets the stage for the TV series to follow so if you're anticipating becoming a loyal Stitch-series watcher you owe it to yourself watch this DVD before the series debuts.) Picture... Ok, it's back to the 16x9 34" 480P direct-view grindstone for this one (as opposed to my friend's front projection set-up). Siiighhhh. Anyway, as with many similar direct-to-video animations from Disney these days, you won't be disappointed in the picture. Perhaps just the least bit softer than some of the other "reference" material out there, but chances are the DVD is presenting the animation they way it really looks. This animation is rendered beautifully on DVD and comes across very natural, smooth, and free from "video" artifacts. You can get very close to the screen and the image maintains its clarity and definition and doesn't dissolve into a video-looking blur. The (film based?) field/frame cadence seems to be properly flagged for progressive playback and doesn't have any disjointed field/frame edits from sloppy video mastering; I noticed no combing artifacts on the feature film and my Panny RP91 Progressive-scan DVD player tends to trust frame-flags when they are present (for instance, I did see some combing from time to time on the Cinderella 2, dreams-come-true DVD). Colors are rich and vibrant, Black level is solid. No distracting compression noise that I could detect. Moving close (real close...like closer than 1 screen width away) to the screen I *may* have seen the slightest haloing from time to time but nothing that would have been obvious from a 30 degree viewing angle. Overscan on my monitor typically hides the vertical "pillarboxing" bars that frame the left/right of a properly 16x9-encoded 1.66:1 transfer. Those of you with computer monitors or well-calibrated front-projection systems might see vertical black bars on the right/left of the picture. Never fear... this is the way to properly present 1.66:1 material on DVD with the highest resolution possible and allows viewing on 16x9 displays without cropping picture content at the top/bottom of the frame as you'd get with the normal "zoom" effect on a 4x3-lbxed 1.66:1 transfer. Thanks Disney for continuing your fine tradition of presenting 1.66:1 material in a 16x9 frame! Ok, stepping down from my 16x9-shaped soapbox now... Picture Rating: Picture: 5 / 5 Sound... The 5.1 mix is well delivered. I honestly was hoping for a bit more surround activity, but what is there (mostly a sporadic effect from time to time) is acceptable. The surrounds are also used effectively for "atmosphere" to help pull the the musical score out from the front mains and into the room. Dialogue is very clear and one volume setting seems to do a great job of providing easy-to-understand dialogue and still gives the soundtrack room for some more dynamic sound effects without needing to adjust the dial to keep things balanced. Speaking of dialogue, there's a bit of directionality that I always enjoy...when characters step off screen or sound-sources move across the screen (like a car driving by) the audio mix reflects this. The mix is full bodied, clear and natural, without a fatiguing edgy sound to highs or mids and has plenty of bass when called for. The DTS soundtrack sounds slightly louder, but even when compensating for this by adjusting the volume it seems to bring some refinement to the audio presentation. The DTS just adds that last level of focus and resolution to the audio that allows for pin-point imaging and more realistic soundstaging and musical timbres. Dialogue takes on a more believable presence with the DTS mix in my system. All in all a fine sounding disc. Sound: 5 / 5 Note: I try to have my audio/video scores reflect how faithful the DVD is in representing the source material...which does not necessarily reflect my opinion about that artistic choices made by the film's creators (such as how much use is made of the surround channels). Extras... This DVD is definitely oriented towards kids, and this is made abundantly clear by the bonus material. There is a sort of "find the monster" game where you use the directional pad on your remote to try to locate where some of the rogue experiments might be hiding on the screen. There's also a trivia challenge which kids may enjoy after having watched the film. There's an "experimental gallery" where you can check out the details of many of the "experiments" and read/hear about them. The coolest special feature IMO is the "Alohoa, E Komo Mai" music video made up of a montage of clips from the movie. Presented in 4x3 lbxed 1.78:1 (why isn't this 16x9???) it looks decent but did present some combing problems with my progressive-scan DVD player. Chances are this is due to edits in the video domain which occasionally leave one field without its other half making complete frame-reconstruction impossible...and the 3-2 pulldown/video deinterlacer of my player isn't fast enough to keep up with the alternating film/video/film field-cadence transition. Interlaced viewers will notice no problems at all, and if your deinterlacing is performed by a Faroudja chip you probably won't notice anything either. Audio is a rip-roaring 5.1 DD soundtrack and is well delivered. Like many "5.1" music tracks it makes hardly any use of the center channel and concentrates on the front L/R and rears (many mixing engineers shy away from the center channel in their 5.1 music mixes because they don't trust the often mis-matched center channel that many "surround sound" systems may employ). Hopefully as more and more consumers make use of properly timbre-matched center channels, audio mixers will utilize it more fully on more and more mixes...but this is a tangent we don't need to discuss here. Gosh, you know when you stack these soapboxes you feel really tall! Bottom line on the extras...they're fun for kids and the music video sounds great. Conclusion... A fun movie for those of you who like the original theatrical Lilo & Stitch or for those of you with kids who want to give them something to watch that's got enough intelligent humor to keep you from getting that glazed-over zombie look. Great picture, Great sound, and fun extras for younger children make it easy to recommend.