BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Mar 18th, 2009 •

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This is delicate territory to tread for me, because friends of mine who are animators believe that the digital ‘clean-up’ efforts on the old features in fact hide the artists’ brush-strokes, thereby erasing much of the personal vision of the films. I’m going to have to disagree. I believe rather that the old intermediate stocks weren’t that good, that the original elements incurred excessive wear, even though they were Technicolor, and that much of the graininess and contrast we see on the older transfers were the results of these negative influences rather than of Disney’s noble intentions.

I think the new BluRay PINOCCHIO delivers spectacularly. The backgrounds are still properly grainy and old world in feel, like illustrations in a European children’s book, which is vitally important. The character animation has been enriched and is a treat to the eye. Little touches such as the dry-brush edges on Figaro to counter his black coat, shows even better on BluRay than on the older DVD release. Same with Honest John and Gideon.

Also included on this Platinum edition is a DVD of the film, and it is almost equally marvelous, perhaps trailing a mere 10% behind the BluRay’s color contrast ratio and sharpness of image. Still better than anything previously released.

A commentary track by Disney fanboy/critic/historian Leonard Maltin, plus Eric Goldberg, and J.B. Kaufman, provides us (on both discs) with lots of background stories, and also cuts to old interviews with some of the great animators of the golden period – Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, and Woolie Reitherman (who directed my favorite Disney animated feature – THE JUNGLE BOOK [PINOCCHIO is the company’s best, but not my favorite, if you know what I mean]) Particularly amusing is Ward Kimball’s description of the creation of Jiminy Cricket. And Maltin, I’m pleased to report, thanks Al (Bullwinkle panel-strip creator) Kilgore for pointing out topical references in the Pleasure Island sequence design. I’m glad to see Al, an old and dear friend, properly remembered.

Disney claimed he didn’t make films for children, rather for audiences. Suitable for children, but not made specifically for them. And that approach allowed his staff to elevate these early features to the highest level of art. Though FANTASIA went perhaps a step too far in an effort to weave his films into the broader aesthetic of highbrow entertainment, there’s no denying the great visionary thinking in any of the Disney animated features while he was alive. Also, as the commentary explains, the Depression served Disney well. He could afford the greatest artists in the country, all of who desperately needed work, and the momentum he built continued once the beauty and majesty of his work became apparent.

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