The economy has gone to hell, but you can still afford to splurge on the latest in High Definition
treats. The CHUD Home Entertainment Team has taken upon themselves to
draft the Top 25 Blu-Rays released in Region A thus far. From the 1st of
December until Christmas, we’ll count down to the greatest Blu-Ray release of all-time. Join us and marvel at the treasures of the 1080p set.
LIST POSITION: #24
Directors: Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton S. Luske
Cast: Mel Blanc, Don Brodie, Walter Catlett, Frankie Darro and Cliff Edwards
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WHY IT’S ON THE LIST
Walt Disney was the King of American Animation for a reason. Taking advantage of the booming animated theatrical exhibition market, Disney decided to set up an annual release schedule where he could stack theaters with the best animation available. Pioneering technique, style and finesse…Disney and his team of animators created a brand that would stand the test of time. Time being the few months after Walt died and the animation staff realized that they could lightbox and recycle animation.
Pinocchio is one of the highlights of the Golden Days. The time when Walt was young and was still trying to get the studio out from under RKO’s heavy wing. Bambi was taking forever and Alice in Wonderland was barely on the drawing board. Multiple attempts to get the film screen ready were underway before we finally got the screen legend that we all grew to love. So, what’s the big deal? Why should you care about it?
Walt Disney chose the flick as the studio’s second full-length animated featured after Bambi fell behind schedule due to animation difficulties. The 1080p transfer on this allows you to see the line work and rich color palette in a way that hasn’t been experience since the original three-strip Technicolor print. Realizing that the film plays heavily off the RBY spectrum, one must be willing to accept that you’re not going to get Pixar level definition. The careful hands at Disney take heed of this caveat, but caught off us guard. They embraced the fact that a film of its age should look unique and they gave half of the disc space over to the transfer. Twenty plus gigs to breathe has allowed for a such immense depth and color yield that I was floored upon first viewing.
Most people don’t know that Disney scrapped the original production after it followed Carlo Collodi’s original book too closely. Pinocchio was shown as being less than human, while Jiminy Cricket died in his first scene. These were tidbits that I enjoyed discovering in the supplemental material, but the extra highbrow material was few and far between.
Pinocchio arrives on Blu-Ray for its 70th Anniversary with the best home entertainment presentation possible. While recreating a three-strip Technicolor print is nigh impossible, we are getting a rather impressive recreation of the original theatrical print. Take a look at the screenshot of Monstro below. Notice how in the 1080 shot, you can tell how Luske, Disney and Sharpsteen worked together to layer larger creations on top of painted background while creating motion in the foreground. These were the building blocks of animated motion pictures and you’re getting to see it come to life in such stunning clarity.
The film is a milestone in pre-1950 American Animation. While it was a replacement film for Bambi, it’s a film that works because it had to do the heavy lifting. The era is an odd one to put your finger on, but I’m excited to see how Disney will continue to release their older classics in High-Definition and beyond. There seems to be a common sentiment among more relaxed home theater enthusiasts about the necessity of having older cinema on Blu-Ray. All I can say is that you need to look at these shots and compare them to your DVD copy. Hell, compare them to the average HD broadcast of the film. Any real fan of classic cinema should want to see the older favorites in the best way possible. Technology will only continue to push the envelope forward and take us to the point of original optimal viewing.
One thing that I have to commend is the fact that the film is being presented in its proper aspect ratio for the first time. Pre-World War II films always seems to suffer when studios try to find ways to repackage them for modern audiences. Criterion handles these issues by trying to replicate the original Academy ratio of 1.37:1 and going narrower for older international titles. While this might not be what the average Joe wants to see on their brand-new widescreen monitor…it’s more important that the original film is being displayed correctly.
WHY IT DIDN’T RANK HIGHER
The Blu-Ray didn’t rank higher because it suffers from Disney being Modern Disney. The House of Mouse figures that there’s no serious classic animation fans in their key demos, so they automatically target kids. They force their current stable of Disney Teen Pop onto the supplemental materials, while trying to find ways to hide any educational value about the film. Any chance to discuss the original stories is thrown to the wayside, while we’re given featurettes that try to cram the story into modern sensibilities. If that wasn’t enough, you’re not even given the chance to watch the film with its original audio restored. You get an insanely over-the-top DTS-HD 7.1 master audio track that almost overpowers the viewer inside of their home theater.
THE BEST SUPPLEMENT
The best special feature on the disc has to be The Sweat Box. It’s a look at Walt Disney’s review process for the animation that was presented to him. While we don’t get to see the process at length, several historians and Disney folk discuss how Disney was hands-on with all films. Using an old projector, Disney would take storyboard and crude animatics then project them as a semi-movie. Seeing how design and story flowed together, Disney could make changes on the fly. Spending hours upon hours scrutinizing over the smallest scenes shows a man that cared deeply about his art. Sure, he became an anti-Union limelight stealing pig later in life. I just want to remember him as the guy that took us from Bosko farting into an inkwell to highly developed animated features.
It ain’t a party until the Blue Fairy gets ready to go ass-to-wand.
Those who escape Sherri Shepherd are few in number. I fear that today…a young puppet boy shall not be one of them.
9.7 out of 10