I agree 100%. After all, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King all had releases with excellent sharpness details. (I should note that even with my concerns about the garish color palette of Beauty and the Beast, all the line details were still excellent.) Someone should do a frame-by-frame cleanup of The Little Mermaid to bring out the line details without needing to use edge enhancement and also "brighten" up the color palette just a tad; that's probably going to be necessary in the future when The Little Mermaid comes out on Blu-Ray high-definition disc format.
The analogy with the SW DVDs went through my mind as well. While the particulars of the encoding choices are arguably different, the end result of a dissapointing DVD that performs far blow its potential due to studio choices is exactly the same.
Despite my tremendous disappointment after reading David's review (as well as a few others), I decided to purchase the title anyway. While I agree with everyone's point that I should reward Disney with my money after they do a shoddy transfer, I'm a bit surprised that no one is giving some real credit to Disney for their bonus features.
I can't even believe I'm advocating the purchase of a bad transfer simply for the features, but I was impressed ever since the announcement of this title in regards to the extra features. I've so far only watched the second disc, so I can't comment on the film itself yet. The "making of" documentary is excellent, and even better are the documentary about Hans Christian Andersen and the featurette about the never-completed Little Mermaid ride.
I'm truly disappointed with Disney for not giving this film the proper audio/video treatment it deserves. However, I think it necessary to at least applaud Disney's dedication to providing quality and substantial bonus features that are not simply aimed at adults. Indeed, while many here have said that the film transfer is an insult to the film's creators, I'd have to say that the recreation of the ride is a true compliment to the Imagineers.
Should great features and a great transfer be mutually exclusive? Of course not!! My point is simply that, despite the huge flaws in the film transfer and in the audix mix, I think it unfair to recommend that people not buy this film, considering that there was clearly some serious work put into preparing the bonus features. Rather than comparing this to Lucasfilm's release of the Star Wars OOT recently, I'd compare it to the initial release of the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD: sure, there are some drawbacks that I wish would have been corrected (and could have easily been avoided)....but that won't stop me from buying something that I've looked forward to owning for a long, long time.
I hope that RAH's suggestion that Disney fix this title comes true, so that I can trade in my disc for an upgrade in six months. But if that doesn't happen, I'll still be happy to own some version of the film on DVD along with some great documentaries.
How sad this is, David. What's with Disney and their Home Theater Mixes? They ruined Mary Poppins (but thank God they left us the original mix in that case). I do have the old dvd and think I will rent this new edition for myself before opening the wallet again. I have been down on Disney for some time, considering they are ruining much of their library. All of their older widescreen films (Flubber, Absent Minded Professor, One and Only Genuine Original Family band, ect) are ALL pan and scan, and those that had stereo tracks are mono now. Then they took The Happiest Millionaire (previously on Anchor Bay, and that was a fine pressing in fact) and added so much video compression and edge enhancement, I had to search for the Anchor Bay issue which I foolishly sold thinking the Disney version would be better, and alas, Disney didn't even enhance it for 16:9 tv's. Then there was the terrible job with Tarzan, and now Little Mermaid. I can't understand why they wouldn't have included the original theatrical mix, but obviously those making decisions in their Home Video Department aren't worthy of the films they are releasing.
I watched the movie last night. On my (Admittedly) sub-reference quality system, the sound didn't sound jarringly awful to me, unfortunately I sold off my old disc on ebay a few years ago, TLM was one of the first titles I bought with my DVD player.
The picture looked pretty good, if a little dull compared to some of the better mastered titles, on my projector, when I watched it on my 27" TV to listen to the commentary, I was worried about how it would look on the projector. I guess the anamorphic downconversion made the lines around the characters (especially the lines in Ariel's hair) look horrible and stair-steppy, sort of like the characters were old school Print Shop graphics :-D (At least it did on my old Panasonic A-120)... the DVB-318 over DVI to my XGA projector looked very nice.
I would strongly suggest that those who are holding out on this title because of the transfer at least give it a shot.
I watched this last night on a 5'x9' screen upscaled to 1080 via an HTPC with my usual ffdshow processing. Seating at 1.3x screen width. While the image was soft and the color palette muted at times (for example many of the underwater scenes), I am pretty sure that this was intentional. The above water scenes were considerably punchier. I certainly didn't notice any jarring use of EE (in fact I suspect the lack of EE may be contributing to the perceived "softness" of the hard edges) and the HT Mix was clean with no issues with the balance of music/effects and dialogue on my system.
In summary: No, the color palette isn't brilliant, but I don't think it was intended to be. The audio mix was fine. No EE present on my system. To anyone who has ever been underwater with scuba or snorkel, I think the look of the film portrayed this environment very well.
I was very disappointed reading this review. I very much looked forward to upgrading my Limited Edition release yesterday but I think I'm going to have to check it out via Netflix first to make a decision as to whether I can justify spending $$ on this release. I'm not a fan of DEHT and would have easily picked this up if it had included the original audio even if the DEHT was substandard. I will definitely be waiting to read your Fox & Hound review prior to considering a purchase next Tuesday.
My biggest fear is that this foreshadows another poorly mastered Disney Treasures release later on this year.
Well - not that I'm surprised - but David's review of this release is, as always, right on the mark.
I just viewed the movie and have to say that I wholeheartedly agree that the 5.1 audio mix on the original DVD (which I still own) is far preferable to the DEHT mix.
The video is better than the non-anamorphic DVD, of course, but does look soft and muddy (and digital) in places.
The bottom line for me is that I'm still fairly happy to have this video upgrade to the original DVD plus all the nice extras for just a little more than 50% of what I paid for that original release (The MSRP was $34.95 in January 2000; I believe I paid $24.95). I don't understand why the nice 5.1 mix from the original DVD (which was highly praised by the all the reviewers back then) was left off this disc; and I *will* complain about it to Disney along with registering my complaints regarding the 'digital' look to the movie.
One has to almost wonder if this release was "Dumbed-down" a little just to make the inevitable Blu-ray release look better by comparison!?