3D Blu-ray Review The Wizard of Oz: THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW

Ronald Epstein

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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 Wizard Of Oz

Studio: Warner Bros.
Product Release: October 1, 2013
Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master English 5.1
Running Time: 102 minutes
Rating: PG


On A Scale 0-5

Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 4
3D Separation: 3
3D In Yo' Face Factor: 0


Toto, you're not in 2D Anymore...


Nearly two years ago, as Disney began converting their 2D animated classics
for theatrical and 3D Blu-ray release, I began thinking about the way these
upconversions were bringing new life to old favorites. It was then that I
suddenly thought, "If there was one film that would truly benefit from a 3D
conversion, it would be The Wizard Of Oz."

I thought I had stumbled on to one of the most sensational ideas of all time.
I immediately contacted someone I knew at Warner Bros. and suggested that
they perhaps consider converting The Wizard Of Oz to 3D. Well, turns out,
the studio had already had that idea in mind and I was told confidentially that
a conversion was already in the works. Now one year later, audiences are about
see Oz like they have never have seen it before with Warner's 75th Anniversary
release to IMAX theaters and Blu-ray in glorious 3D.

I had actually anticipated that the online community would be rejoicing when
they finally learned the news about the conversion of OZ. Turns out, there seemed
to be more anger than praise for what the studio had done. Certainly, The
Wizard Of Oz is regarded as one of the most definitive classics of all time and
no-one had the right to tamper with (what Warner's George Feltenstin eloquently
calls) a "national treasure." I think, for the studio, this was a labor of love. From
the beginning, it was apparent that Warner Bros. and Prime Focus carefully mapped
out exactly how this conversion would be done in order to bring a new vision of Oz to the
screen, while remaining respectful to the original film and the intentions of its artists.

In case you haven't read about the conversion process itself, I'd like to point
you to this excellent article which I hope you will give a read before moving forward
with this review.



I need not talk about what The Wizard Of Oz is all about. I am not even going
to talk about how good it looks and sounds -- because all of you should know
by now that this Blu-ray presentation is as exceptional as it can be. Those of you
reading this review are most interested in how it will look when you slip the disc into
your Blu-ray player and place 3D eyewear on your face. So let's get to the meat of
this review...

The Wizard Of Oz ranks as one of the most interesting and enjoyable 3D
experiences I have ever witnessed.

...and that's a rather funny statement for me to make when this conversion goes
against everything I most love about 3D. There's no gimmickry here where objects
leap off the screen. The level of depth tends to be more subtle than I prefer. Yet,
just having completed watching this film, I felt as if I had seen an entirely new movie
that I had never realized before.

From the moment the MGM opening logo appears on the screen, you notice the
ribbons of film that drape along its sides. The title credits are well pronounced --
almost leaping forward -- and the first time I can see that there are actually shadows
behind each of the words. This is nothing Warner Bros. altered, mind you, but now
exaggerated, you see these titles in an entirely new fashion.



It is hard not to get a little giddy over the fact that you're watching something you
have been forever familiar with, but now seemingly new. During the film's first 18
minutes in sepia-toned Kansas, the depth of field reveals a slight amount of spacing
between characters and their surroundings. Mostly, it looks like the same effect you
get from watching viewmaster stereoscope slides where objects are placed prominently
in the forefront with all other scenic backdrop in the rear. I was pretty amazed at how
cool these scenes actually looked.

When Warner first brought The Wizard of Oz to Blu-ray four years ago, I remember
posting a statement on HTF that watching the film in high definition made everything
look as if it was shot on a sound stage -- and I remember someone playful responses
of "duh!" The point I was making was that most all of us first watched this film as children,
most likely via television broadcast. The perception you have when watching on medium
that limits picture detail (and this includes original VHS releases), is that there is not a lot
of attention paid to the background sets so everything looks somewhat more real.

If there is one problem with this new 3D creation, is that it forever throws the entire
believability factor out the door. Now before you start laughing at the way I am trying to
describe this transformation, understand that the 3D brings out a slew of nuances that
you probably have never noticed before.



Certainly, everyone is curious about how dramatically enhanced the color sequences
look in 3D. With its new new level of depth (now slightly increased), the film becomes
somewhat claustrophobic. There is no doubt that you are looking at a tight sound stage,
and for the first time, I was noticing things I had never paid attention to before. For instance,
you can't help but realize the plastic sheen in the plants and village rooftops of Munchkin
Land. Yes, it can be distracting at first, but as the film moved forward I began to notice how
my eyes were constantly moving away from the action, paying attention to the smallest details
I never noticed before. For instance, the little flowers on each of the Munchkin Mayor's shoes.
Or, during the scene where Dorothy first meets the Tin Man, I noticed the movement of tree
branches and hanging red apples swaying freely, as wind moved through them. During the
welcoming parade inside Oz palace, I noticed for the first time that the horse changed its colors
three different times. It's not as if there is anything new in the frame that wasn't there before,
but the 3D conversion makes object placement and its textures more pronounced than ever.



The "oohs" and "aahs" of watching Oz in 3D don't exist in blatant pop-outs. There really
aren't any. However, there are many interesting moments that look somewhat more
larger than life thanks to the conversion process. Let me list a few from the notes that
I took during my viewing...

* When Glenda first materializes before Dorothy and makes reference to her dog,
watch the quick shot of Toto's nose. It looks as if it's nearly peeking out of the screen.

* Some of the best (but very brief) 3D moments deal with The Wicked Witch pointing
her finger. She does it twice: First towards Dorothy with "I'll get you my pretty..." and then
later, on a housetop threatening the Scarecrow with, "...I'll stuff a mattress with you."
Her long, scaly green finger takes on a very interesting dimensional effect, almost begging
to leap off the screen. Unfortunately those shots exhibited a noticeable amount of ghosting.

By the way, let me mention here that there were slight ghosting issues here and there,
but all very brief.

* The field of poppies become more prominent than ever, taking a more foreground
presence. Add a layer of falling snow, and it looks more magical than ever before.

* As the gatekeeper bars Dorothy and her friends from entering Emerald City, watch
the level of depth as his face pops out from the hole in the door.

* Very cool sequence as Dorothy and her friends walk down the long, narrow hallway
towards the Wizard's chambers. Not only do you get the illusion of different size perspective,
but watch how prominent the Cowardly Lion's tail becomes as he pulls it in his hand.

* In the Wizard's chamber, smoke, fire and hologram seem to have their own
individual layers.

* Watch the Witch's hourglass tilt forward, nearly off the screen, as the sand counts
the passage of time.



The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray release arrives housed
in cardboard lenticular packaging. It comes with two hours of extra material including
an All-New-Feature-Length Documentary, "The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

Do yourself a favor and watch the 1970s reissue trailer that is included on the 3D
Blu-ray disc. You can see bits and pieces of the movie, as I imagine it originally looked,
reissued to theaters at the time. It's a startling realization of how much work Warner
has put into the restoration of this film upon entering the digital age.


CONCLUSION



Watching Oz in 3D brought an entirely new level of appreciation to the film I never
had before. I couldn't help but marvel at the level of work that went into the Oz's set
design. Sure, now enhanced in 3D it looks more unrealistic than ever, but at the same time,
these are the most magnificent stage pieces ever built. The matte paintings alone are
gorgeous to behold. I don't think I ever took notice of any of these things until my viewing
this afternoon. This conversion takes everything you haven't noticed before and pulls it
all forward....

...and that's a good thing.

For the haters that still feel that Warner Bros. had no right to alter this masterpiece,
all I can say is that it is quite apparent that the utmost love and respect was given
to the original source material. For as long as the original version is forever available
to the public (and there is no reason to believe it ever wouldn't), there is always room
for this reimagined version.

Bravo to Warner Bros., Prime Focus and everyone involved with this release.



Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc.

Equipment

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
 
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TheBat

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I noticed the plastic plants when I watched the 2d version of blu ray a few years back. thanks for the great review.

Jacob
 

Ronald Epstein

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Andrew,

No, sorry. I went to great lengths to get a copy of this Blu-ray before
leaving for Denver for a trade show early tomorrow.

I will be back by Sunday, look at it then, a day or two prior to release.

If someone else doesn't comment on it, I will be happy to do so then.
 

bryan4999

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One moment that I see as a wasted opportunity for a "pop-out" is Glinda's return after The Wizard floats away. It would have been cool if her bubble had flown in from way out over the audience.
 

Ronald Epstein

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One moment that I see as a wasted opportunity for a "pop-out" is Glinda's return after The Wizard floats away. It would have been cool if her bubble had flown in from way out over the audience.
I agree. Had thought of the same sequence.
However, I am still not convinced that extreme pop-out can be achieved
from these kind of conversions. Not saying it can't -- I just have never seen
it done.
Also, I would suspect the studio decided to forego any kind of pop-out so
not to be disrespectful to the original film. In other words, I think a lot of
restraint was done with this conversion to avoid any controversy.
 

Chuck Pennington

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I wonder if the 3-D Blu-ray has benefitted from the same noise reduction process IMAX used on the version shown in theaters this weekend.I also wonder if it exhibits the sound sync issues that I and some of my friends (in different cities) noticed with the IMAX 3-D presentation. I e-mailed IMAX with examples of scenes to check and they admitted that the sound sync was off in their master and that it was what Warner delivered to them.At the IMAX screening I attended, the sound appeared to get ahead of the picture by 4-5 frames in these areas:* "Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead," starting with Dorothy's line of "It really was no miracle - what happened was just this..." It stays out of sync during the Lullaby League and Lollipop Guild sections through to the end.* The Tin Man's dance, when he slaps his knees and chest - you hear the sound effects before what they represent* "Lions, tigers and bears" scene is badly out-of-syncI never noticed these scenes out of sync on any video releases, and maybe blowing them up to IMAX size shows up flaws in the original, but couldn't this have been fixed?
 

JoeDoakes

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bryan4999 said:
One moment that I see as a wasted opportunity for a "pop-out" is Glinda's return after The Wizard floats away. It would have been cool if her bubble had flown in from way out over the audience.
Don't think it can be done. I was hoping for that kind of think in Titanic, but it didn't happen except when they added in some bubble effects as the ship went down.
 

Virgoan

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Wasn't the shininess of flowers and leaves (and stalks) due to the material with which they were made? Wasn't it a cellulose-type product, or something like that?

I loved the way they made the painted backdrops look like they had depth. I've never thought of Oz as being grounded in realism. It's a fairy tale place.

With the effects achieved, it seems you can walk down that yellow brick road and over and around those hills painted in the background.
 
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ROclockCK

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Virgoan said:
I loved the way they made the painted backdrops look like they had depth. I've never thought of Oz as being grounded in realism. It's a fairy tale place.

With the effects achieved, it seems you can walk down that yellow brick road and over and around those hills painted in the background.
This was one of the pleasant surprises I was reluctant to talk about in the other thread until more folks have seen this in 3D, but now that the 'terrier is out of the basket' so to speak...yes, it was a nice touch the way they simulated some landscape depth in all those flat cyclorama backdrops and matte paintings.

Equally impressive for me was the 'volumizing' (word police?) applied to the smoke bomb effects. Plus some nifty barrel distortion introduced into those shots of Wicked Witch's crystal ball.
 

lukejosephchung

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For 3D fans who can't wait to get their copy, you should be aware that Best Buy has broken street date and is already selling their retail stock of this at their B&M locations...I'm being a good boy and waiting for my copy to arrive from Amazon next week, however!!! :P
 

moviebuff75

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I love this film more than anyone on this earth. The original version isn't available. WB is using a 1998 track that contains alterations THROUGHOUT THE FILM. Couple that with missing frames that were fixed for the 3D version, and I am disappointed.
 

Ejanss

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Ronald Epstein said:
During thewelcoming parade inside Oz palace, I noticed for the first time that the horse changed its colors
three different times.
Well, that gets a "duh"-- :P
I remember the first time Oz came out on VHS, one magazine article included a page of Oz trivia, and one of the questions was, "In order, WHAT colors does the Horse of a Different Color change into?"(Other questions, IIRC, were:
- What was the name of Professor Marvel's wagon horse?
- Name three things Dorothy sees outside her window, in the tornado.
- What Witch-hunting objects are each of the characters holding, when they enter the forest?
- What's written on the Wizard's balloon?)
 

Ronald Epstein

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Well, that gets a "duh"-- :P
I remember the first time Oz came out on VHS, one magazine article included a page of Oz trivia, and one of the questions was, "In order, WHAT colors does the Horse of a Different Color change into?"
Never noticed the color changes....

...but understand, it is so prominent in this 3D release that it
sticks out like a sore thumb (in a good way). The purple horse
just radiates with color.

To answer the question, I believe it's White (where the carriage first pulls up), Purple and then Yellow.
 

Matt Hough

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Ronald Epstein said:
To answer the question, I believe it's White (where the carriage first pulls up), Purple and then Yellow.
You left out strawberry which comes between purple and yellow.
 

EricSchulz

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I saw the IMAX 3D version yesterday. I DID notice the sync issues (I'd have to go back and watch my DVD to see if they are as prominent). And I had the same problem seeing the film in its 60th anniversary re-release: there are things you just never see when you are watching a movie for DECADES on a TV screen and then see it in a theater. (I noticed the "moving" plants during the "If I Were King of the Forest" number, too.) I found the 3D to be VERY well done (and respectful of the original material) without being forced.

DEFINITELY a movie (3D or not) that everyone should experience in a theater!
 

Dave MJ

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moviebuff75 said:
I love this film more than anyone on this earth. The original version isn't available. WB is using a 1998 track that contains alterations THROUGHOUT THE FILM. Couple that with missing frames that were fixed for the 3D version, and I am disappointed.
Can you elaborate? Is there an online resource that lists the changes?
 

benbess

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Saw it in IMAX 3D with my 12 year old daughter. We liked it a lot. Hat's off to the team at Warner Bros! Fantastic work.
 
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