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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Dumbo [Blu-ray]

 

(Ben Sharpsteen, 1941)

 

 

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NOTE: It appears as though, aside from region coding, opening logo/adverts, and DUB/subtitle options that the UK 'Special Edition' (March 2011) and US 70th Anniversary (September 2011) Blu-ray audio/video transfers are virtually identical. When there are significant differences we will mention them, in green, under the relevant headings below. - Gary

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Disney

Blu-ray: Disney (US stats are in green)

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked and Region 'A'-locked - respectively (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:03:56.833  / 1:03:56.833

Disc Size: 38,917,086,961 bytes / 39,505,036,369 bytes

Feature Size: 18,516,480,000 bytes / 18,236,576,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.63 Mbps / 24.63 Mbps

Chapters: 17 / 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 22nd, 2010 / September 20th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Bitrates:                                                              UK TOP / US BOTTOM

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3279 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 3279 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio Dutch 1509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Italian 1509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 1509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio Hindi 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Catalan 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Dutch 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Italian 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3279 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 3279 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps
* Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
* Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
* Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English, Dutch, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, none

 

English, French, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Cine-Explore PIP commentary with Pete Docter, Paula Sigman & Andreas Deja

• Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo – in HD (27:05)

• Magic of Dumbo : The Ride of Passage – in HD (3:00)

• Sound Design Excerpt for

• Walt Disney's TV Introduction – in SD (1:10)

• 2 Theatrical Trailers for Dumbo (1941 & 1949)

• Deleted Scenes:

• DVD Disc: Feature Film in SD (PAL)

 

• Original 4:3 or DisneyView Presentation

• Cine-Explore PIP commentary with Pete Docter, Paula Sigman & Andreas Deja

• 2 Deleted Scenes "Are You A Man or a Mouse" + "The Mouse's Tale"

Backstage Disney includes: Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo – in HD (27:05) + Magic of Dumbo : The Ride of Passage – in HD (3:00) + Sound Design Excerpt for The Reluctant Dragon + Celebrating Dumbo + Walt Disney's TV Introduction – in SD (1:10) + 2 Trailers (1941 & 1949) + Art Galleries

+ 2 Bonus Shorts: 'Elmer Elephant' The Flying Mouse'

Disney Family Play "What Can You See?" game, "What Can You Know" game

Previews

• DVD Disc: Feature Film in SD (NTSC)

 

 

Description: For the first time ever, in celebration of this landmark film's 70th anniversary, experience the daring adventures of the world's only flying elephant with a dazzling all-new digital restoration and brilliant Disney enhanced high definition theatre mix sound. The inspirational tale of Dumbo, the courageous baby elephant who uses his sensational ears to soar to fame with the help of his clever best friend Timothy Q. Mouse, will thrill and delight audiences of all ages. And now, the award-winning music and empowering messages about friendship and belief in yourself reach new heights in this must-have Blu-ray high-definition presentation of Walt Disney s animated classic Dumbo!

 

 

The Film: 10
If there is an animated feature more genuinely affecting, with more timeless universal appeal than Dumbo, I am unaware of it.

Dumbo is Disney's fourth movie in the Pentatuch that includes Snow White (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942). Dumbo is credited for having saved the studio, for despite the popularity and critical acclaim heaped upon
Snow White and Fantasia, these films were not moneymakers and Disney needed to reconsider his product. Would it be possible to make a less expensive movie that honored the direction he wanted to go in the medium? Just ask any of the dozen or so contributors to the extra features on this set.

At first glance, and in the context of Disney's own efforts up to then, Dumbo appears less artistic, more cartoony than the three earlier films – and in a way you'd be right to see it that way. Dumbo is a distillation of everything Disney animators had learned to that point. Animation, remember, is not the art of painting, but bringing drawings to life – to animate the inanimate. It isn't animals that they are breathing life into, it is drawings of animals, or people, or tress, or anything they choose.

In the case of Dumbo, this art has been pared down to the absolute minimum, consistent with pleasing audiences and making money. These guys aren't starving artists working in a loft someplace burning their overcoats to keep warm, after all. To make matters even more challenging, the decision was made to keep Dumbo mute - and except for a whimper or two, all of Dumbo's feeling are expressed visually through drawings. Much the same is true for Dumbo's mother, Jumbo. All the other elephants speak, but Dumbo and Jumbo react only in mime.

What makes Dumbo so universally engaging is its ugly duckling story of finding worth in exactly the thing for which others ridicule you and for which you come to hate in yourself. Dumbo not only has huge ears that everyone makes fun of, he continually trips over them and, once he comes to see how others tease him and ostracize him, he hides himself in them. It's a story often told, and for good reason – but I think never expressed better than in Dumbo.


 

Image: 9/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Compared to the U.S. "Big Top" DVD, the new
Blu-ray is a revelation: Colors are brighter, and lighting has been reconsidered for proper dramatic intention. Noise is seriously reduced without loss in sharpness. Dumbo is not big on texture in the first place, but what little there is is now more apparent. A close examination of the edges around the tuba reveals a subtle swash of shading to give dimension to the instrument, else it would appear completely flat. The artist did that. Cool, huh.

But don't expect the same level of restoration we see in the Blu-ray editions of Sleeping Beauty or Pinocchio. Scratches and specks, which in some scenes on the DVD seemed almost painted into the background, are now 99% removed. Natural watercolor splotching can now be seen where before it was just noise. Sharpness, especially in respect to the line art, is restored. All in all, a huge upgrade, but not perfect.

 

The discs offer widescreen framing - called DisneyView filling the black vertical bars at the sides of HD (1.78) TV frames with custom imagery (as we have seen with Disney's' Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland and Bambi Blu-ray releases) as well as offering  the original 4:3 presentation. We have included a sample below. Other than that file size and video bitrate are as good as identical.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) DVD TOP - 2) UK Blu-ray MIDDLE 3) US offered DisneyView Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

DVD TOP - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 5/9
I wish I could report the same level of care for the audio that was offered for Pinocchio. Alas, this is not be. I feel the idea of turning a mono score into a 7.1 surround is preposterous to start with, but I wouldn't have minded if there were an original somewhere to be found. But the bad news doesn't stop there. The DTS-HD MA mix is too screechy, with exaggerated treble. Much better is playing that same mix through the digital output of your player, possibly even the analog output (I didn't try it), bypassing HMDI for the audio.

The film won an Oscar for Best Musical Score and a nomination for "Baby Mine" – a song that any of today's composers would give their index finger to have written. And look at how Disney dramatizes the song in a series of mother and child tableaux, alternating sentiment with deft humor. At least the song had the good taste to lose to the Meryl Steep of composers: Jerome Kern, for "The Last Time I Saw Paris."

 

The US version offers the same 7.1 track as in the UK edition and also a 'Restored original track' in standard Dolby. The latter sounds pretty good in my opinion but I would guess that most will go for the bumped surround option. The UK adds a few more DUBs and subtitle options where the US only has English, French and Spanish.   

 

Operations : 2
The content information on the back cover just about drove me crazy, as most of it is just wrong. It suggests that the accompanying DVD contains more extended bonus features, but it is simply a 480p version of the Blu-ray, minus the Cine-Explore. And speaking of Cine-Explore, why hide it under the Play function in the Menu? At least have the good sense to duplicate it under Set-up or Extra Features, or both.

 

The US disc is a slow-loader and you must go through the process if you want the original Menu again but the Pop-up menu works fine. I didn't require any firmware update on my Oppo.

 

 

Extras: 8
If you like John Canemaker's audio commentary from the DVD, you should not part with it once you get the Blu-ray, for neither it, nor the "Celebrating Dumbo" documentary is anywhere to be found here. In place of that 15 minute feature is an updated half-hour high-def documentary titled "Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo. Very good, with all the right people crowing about Dumbo and offering some background. There is also a cute piece on the Dumbo ride at Disneyland. And in place of the Canemaker commentary, Disney offers "Cine-Explore" – a PIP presentation with Disney Historian Paula Sigman, Disney Animator Andreas Deja, and Pixar Director Pete Docter (who is there primarily as an excuse to update the documentary to new audiences – he prefers to let his colleagues lead.) The trio fleshes out the points brought up in "Taking Flight" as they detail matters of how the original children's book materialized into the movie, animation and especially each of the animators (some of whom we hear from in archive tapes), voice actors and the historical context of the film in regards Disney and the art form in general.

One more detail about the DVD: Like the
Blu-ray, it is Region-Locked. This included DVD is also PAL, and therefore the movie is subject to speedup – another good reason to keep the U.S. DVD if that's what you have already.

 

Everything seems duplicated but the included DVD is NTSC as opposed to PAL.

 

 

UK Blu-ray  Blu-ray

 

US Blu-ray Menus

 

Bottom line: 9
My only gripe – and it's no small one – is the audio. But it least there is a workaround. The image quality is a huge improvement over the DVD (I hope you appreciate my avoidance of elephantine metaphors here). The special features are quite good considering the lack of on the spot archival footage. And, yes, the Cine-Explore panel does address the question of the elephant in the room – the crows. I've always thought the issue was something of a pink elephant myself, but that's another story.

 

So, in summation, there are no notable differences - I didn't have the discerning reservations on the audio that Leonard had. Walt's favorite is now available for Region 'A' fans (although I had heard a Mexican Region 'A' Blu-ray was in existence) and it makes for a magnificent presentation.

Leonard Norwitz
March 27th, 2010

Gary Tooze

September 11th, 2011

 

 

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About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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