A few words about…™ Lady and the Tramp — in Blu-ray

Walt's Lady and the Tramp is still a miraculous, gorgeous animated entertainment, but on screen, without it's proper, or at least a small replaced sheen of film grain, it's deader than a doornail. 4 Stars

I’ve been trying with the Disney animated classics.

Trying to like the new Blu-rays.

I really have.

I’ve even reviewed them well, hoping for something to change.

For about a decade, I’ve been forgiving them their exigencies, as they try to get films that shouldn’t look like Toy Story to be precisely that.

Digital animation.

The worst, for me, was Snow White, a little 1937 film, that had some sequences (think Snow and the Huntsman) so horrific, that they looked like stagnant, post card images, with parts of cells frozen in time, with not a single bit of film grain to create the magic of a cohesive image.

Disney(‘s) new Blu-ray of this glorious 1955 film, while a bit better than Snow White, similarly removes the magic of motion, and the natural patina of film grain, that made these films what there were.

There are two sides to this debate.

There are those who will tell you that this isn’t really a film at all.

Never was.

They’re all drawn cells. Photographed to create the illusion of movement.

But that’s what film is.

Nothing moves, as we move from frame to frame. It’s all just a long (very long) strip of fillum.

And that film grain was merely something that was a necessity toward creating a means of replicating, and getting these films on to motion picture screens.

Remember, these films were shot on black & white film, which was then used to produce printing matrices, all of which had grain.

You can’t ship hundreds of multi-plane flip-books.

And, of course, this is correct.

The films are created from cells, and photographed to create an illusion.

But that’s not the way that they were originally seen, and the removal of the original film grain (at least for me) destroys that overriding cohesiveness that binds the cells together, and allows us to believe that they’re moving.

The latest incarnation seems to be a bit more cleaned up than the previous release (the Diamond Edition), and it’s now playable on every device that Walt never imagined, possibly down to one’s Apple Watch.

Let’s also be very honest about this.

There are a couple of very separate audiences involved.

Kids won’t give a damn about film grain, and those under two will probably just drool, and smile at the pretty “oof-oof” faces, or whatever they call them.

But to those of us who grew up with these films, and understand the art of cinema, it’s become more than troubling. With all due respect to Disney management, and they’re a great company, I was hopeful that when one of the top animation execs took a leave, or whatever, that things might change, but it appears not.

Walt’s company seems to be set in their ways, and I in mine.

I can no longer excuse their desires to make everything shiny and new, and drool-worthy for tots.

Make no mistake.

Walt’s Lady and the Tramp is still a miraculous, gorgeous animated entertainment, but on screen, without it’s proper, or at least a small replaced sheen of film grain, it’s deader than a doornail.

What may be necessary here, (and please, no 4k releases) are two versions, on the same Blu-ray disc. 2.55, 76 minutes = no problem.

One modernized and beloved by drooling tots, and some studio execs, and the other for dotty, old fans of the cinema.

Image – 2

Audio – 5 (DTS-HD MA 7.1)

Pass / Fail – Fail

Upgrade from previous Blu-ray – No

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

29 Comments

  1. Absolutely right. The hand-drawn animation was glorious, the detail incredible. Computer animation not so much. The last Disney film I really enjoyed was Aladdin. The computer animation look is, well, antiseptic, untouched by human hands.

  2. Was there also a 1.33 version of this film made? If so, has anyone seen it in the last few decades? Imho that should have been included as a bonus feature. But I also agree these movies should look like animated movies on film, not almost as if they were digital animation….

  3. Personally I was spoiled all the time about that topic, and so it came, that I have bought the BDs, but somehow avoided to watch them (after the wacky "Snow White" experience).
    What would be Your suggestion Mr. Harris? Would it be the best, trying to find the old DVD sets again? And: which ones? Platinum,"special collection" etc.? Any "plan B"?? 😀

  4. alter filmnarr

    Personally I was spoiled all the time about that topic, and so it came, that I have bought the BDs, but somehow avoided to watch them (after the wacky "Snow White" experience).
    What would be Your suggestion Mr. Harris? Would it be the best, trying to find the old DVD sets again? And: which ones? Platinum,"special collection" etc.? Any "plan B"?? 😀

    Don’t remove the grain. Simply soften the image very slightly to replicate the look and texture of the original prints. Keep in mind that the SE negs were a bit grainy, and grain was reduced in the dye transfer printing process.

    That’s the easy part.

    The difficulty is the corporate mindset.

  5. benbess

    Was there also a 1.33 version of this film made? If so, has anyone seen it in the last few decades? Imho that should have been included as a bonus feature. But I also agree these movies should look like animated movies on film, not almost as if they were digital animation….

    There was indeed an Academy Ratio version of Lady. This version was released in the 90’s on VHS and Laserdisc along with the CinemaScope version (I know because I have that VHS and the fact that this VHS is the Academy Ratio version is the primary reason I’m holding onto it, along with the 90’s Fantasia tape with Deems Taylor’s actual voice and a more accurate approximation of the original Fantasound mix).

  6. Robert Harris

    Don’t remove the grain. Simply soften the image very slightly to replicate the look and texture of the original prints. Keep in mind that the SE negs were a bit grainy, and grain was reduced in the dye transfer printing process.

    That’s the easy part.

    The difficulty is the corporate mindset.

    …yes, that would be nice, but how to watch the movies until then in Your opinion?

  7. benbess

    Was there also a 1.33 version of this film made? If so, has anyone seen it in the last few decades? Imho that should have been included as a bonus feature. But I also agree these movies should look like animated movies on film, not almost as if they were digital animation….

    Yes. I have the laserdisc with both versions.

  8. benbess

    How much do they differ? I guess what a mean to say, is did they draw different cells for the two different versions?

    They recomposed certain scenes to fit. For example when those three dogs are walking toward the camera. In the 4:3 version they’re much closer together to fit in the frame. Someone posted comparison shots quite a while back.

  9. Gary16

    They recomposed certain scenes to fit. For example when those three dogs are walking toward the camera. In the 4:3 version they’re much closer together to fit in the frame. Someone posted comparison shots quite a while back.

    There’s also a difference in one scene between the two versions that’s not related to framing. In the scene where the Tramp first sees Lady, the Academy Ratio version starts with a wide-angle shot but then zooms into a close-up of Lady, indicating his interest in Lady. By contrast, the CinemaScope version stays on the wide-angle shot.

  10. Dave H

    DVDs?

    alter filmnarr

    Personally I was spoiled all the time about that topic, and so it came, that I have bought the BDs, but somehow avoided to watch them (after the wacky "Snow White" experience).
    What would be Your suggestion Mr. Harris? Would it be the best, trying to find the old DVD sets again? And: which ones? Platinum,"special collection" etc.? Any "plan B"?? 😀

    Yes, but that was my question at the beginning. Are the DVDs really better than the BDs and especially: which ones? Only the first editions or the later ones as well? To be honest, I gave away some of them, and I am curious, if it pays off to buy them back again or to stay with the less than stellar BDs… For the Moment I'm in the strange situation, that I hesitate to watch them at all.

    Please, excuse my faulty English, coming from Vienna/Austria…

  11. JoeDoakes

    Does anyone happen to know when the current approach of Disney to their animated classics began? I think people were happy with the 2008 blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty, but by the 2014 release things had gone wrong. This is the chronology of the Disney blu releases: http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Blu-ray

    And what of the 2009 SNOW WHITE AND THE 7 DWARFS Blu-ray, as opposed to the 2016 Signature release? Also, is the '01 DVD edition better than both, in terms of the original look?

    CHEERS! 🙂

  12. Tony Bensley

    And what of the 2009 SNOW WHITE AND THE 7 DWARFS Blu-ray, as opposed to the 2016 Signature release? Also, is the '01 DVD edition better than both, in terms of the original look?

    CHEERS! 🙂

    Not sure how accurate the 2009/2016 transfer is color-wise (as far as I know, they’re exactly the same), but the 2001 transfer (itself based on the 90’s restoration) does not have accurate color-timing per Ollie Johnston, who said of the restoration, "Nice colors. Not the colors we used, but nice colors."

  13. It’s a tragedy. I remember the old laserdiscs had grain and specs and I loved it. These blu rays look smeary. Take the new Three Caballeros. You can see in the live-action sequences that every spec of grain has been removed and they just look plain smeared. Warner Bros. does the best job on animation in the Looney Tunes sets where they take the original negatives and just scan them with all the dirt specs and grain intact and they look like beautiful works of art. It’s a shame that the lovely artistry of the original Disney artists is being archived for eternity as smears of plain color blobs.

  14. Interesting… appears that the artists and animators get some study about wide angle lenses, as we can see a very angular nice feeling in this animated cartton.

    But about grain, I don't understand why cartoons after 1940 have noticeable grain in video transfer up to HD or even DVD, if in 1940 fine grain stocks was intorduced and a technicolor camera for cartoons do not suffers from lack of light as technicolor cameras used for live shooting, since for animation cells it could expose the film as long as required by the slow fine grain stocks.

  15. This is truly a shame. One of my favorite Disney animated features that just happened to be released the year I was born, which makes it all the more special to me.

    At 62, I'm glad that I don't look "smeared" (just the right amount of wrinkles and grain) just as I'd expect a film of the same vintage to look.

    I'll not be double dipping on this title. Will have to be content with the previous BD.

  16. warnerbro

    It's a tragedy. I remember the old laserdiscs had grain and specs and I loved it. These blu rays look smeary. Take the new Three Caballeros. You can see in the live-action sequences that every spec of grain has been removed and they just look plain smeared. Warner Bros. does the best job on animation in the Looney Tunes sets where they take the original negatives and just scan them with all the dirt specs and grain intact and they look like beautiful works of art. It's a shame that the lovely artistry of the original Disney artists is being archived for eternity as smears of plain color blobs.

    Please don’t confuse a Blu-ray with anything archival.

    Disney has a wonderful archival program, as both film and data. Blu-rays are merely a secondary use of that data.

  17. JoeDoakes

    Does anyone happen to know when the current approach of Disney to their animated classics began? I think people were happy with the 2008 blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty, but by the 2014 release things had gone wrong. This is the chronology of the Disney blu releases: http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Blu-ray

    What happened was that Roy E. Disney died, and with that, the Disney-Without-Any-Disneys-In-It era began. That's when everything started to change. The attempts to bring back hand-drawn animation didn't take, and remake-mania got out of control. Theo Gluck replaced Scott MacQueen as head of the restoration department in 2003, and their restoration philosophy also gradually seemed to change regarding cel dust, film grain, aspect ratios, and even running times. No better example of this dichotomy exists than the Blu-ray of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It's not one of the worst examples of the smearstorations, and it's a special case since it was stitched together from three featurettes made over almost a decade of time, but it also has Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore in 1080p and 4×3 with the film grain and cel dust left in. It is unfathomable to me why they can't remove cel dust but leave the grain alone. I'd rather they leave a little bit in than remove high-frequency detail.

    There's also the matter that ever since they bought ABC, the movies and TV shows that came with the deal have needed time and care, too.

  18. Disney obviously hasn't been listening. And for that, I am obviously not buying. To them, I fear that its only a numbers game. Theirs is strictly about catering to the young of today, while excluding the young that once was. No more grains. No more songs of the south. No more truths or history; warts and all. And for that, it's now an even smaller world.

  19. MatthewA

    What happened was that Roy E. Disney died, and with that, the Disney-Without-Any-Disneys-In-It era began. That's when everything started to change. The attempts to bring back hand-drawn animation didn't take, and remake-mania got out of control. Theo Gluck replaced Scott MacQueen as head of the restoration department in 2003, and their restoration philosophy also gradually seemed to change regarding cel dust, film grain, aspect ratios, and even running times. No better example of this dichotomy exists than the Blu-ray of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It's not one of the worst examples of the smearstorations, and it's a special case since it was stitched together from three featurettes made over almost a decade of time, but it also has Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore in 1080p and 4×3 with the film grain and cel dust left in. It is unfathomable to me why they can't remove cel dust but leave the grain alone. I'd rather they leave a little bit in than remove high-frequency detail.

    There's also the matter that ever since they bought ABC, the movies and TV shows that came with the deal have needed time and care, too.

    I highly doubt that decisions such as this comes from anyone in the asset protection area.

Leave a Reply