Coco Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Disney/Pixar ambitiously attempt a kid-friendly take on the afterlife, giving us yet another colourful, unusual and extremely touching tale.Turning their sights on Mexican culture for the Dia de los Muertos-themed Coco, the story sees a young boy, frustrated by his family's ban on anything musical, inadvertently transported to the Land of the Dead, where he encounters all of his long-lost relatives and must forge a path back to the Land of the Living before sunrise, or he will be trapped there forever. Although the Day of the Dead backdrop was already used in the impressively animated The Book of Life, back in 2014, Coco does it the Disney/Pixar way, affording it much more consideration and weight, and arguably offering us far greater insight into this celebrated Mexican holiday. It's a nice and easy way to introduce younger audience members to a particularly tough subject matter - death - and whatever you believe about what happens after death, if anything at all, Coco finds a way to reframe it in a colourful, exciting fashion, worldbuilding a whole new universe that wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi movie like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, with its neon shantytown skyline.For adults, Coco has a whole extra level on which it operates, with its lovable riffs on everything from the eccentricities of a large family to the bureaucracies of border control. It's still amazing how imaginative the studio are when it comes to subtleties like this, as the references would likely go completely over the head of most younger audience members, and yet they would remain just as engaged by the ostensible point of the scenes - which is to show how hard it is for some characters to get back to see their families - whilst adults get that and the added layer. This is also yet another emotionally powerful Disney/Pixar story, drawing you in with belly laughs and clever references, but really getting under your skin when it comes to the more emotional moments, as life and death and the memory of our loved ones hangs in the balance. As with Up, Coco really shows an adeptness at dealing with these eminently adult issues, to the point where, as with Up, it'll likely be the adult audience members who need comforting from their own children when the floodgates open.
Picture QualityAlthough, rather frustratingly, the UK aren't due a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Coco, thankfully the US gets one and not only is it released earlier, but it comes with a Region Free Blu-ray release of the film too.
Coco brings us the most colourful vision of The Day of the Dead you could ever imagine on this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presented in 3840 x 2160p with a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, using 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range(HDR), encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Coco looks perfect on Blu-ray, so it's unrealistic to expect a significant upgrade on 4K disc
Unquestionably reference quality already on plain old 1080p/AVC-encoded Blu-ray, it may come as little surprise to find that the Ultra HD Blu-ray release finds it extremely difficult to provide any kind of striking upgrade. Sure, there are differences, but it may well come down to taste as to whether or not you prefer the look of the Ultra HD Blu-ray, with little tangible upgrade in terms of detail and clarity, unsurprisingly given not only the 2K Digital Intermediate but also the fact that it is an animated feature. Indeed the area where you may have hoped to find some distinction - the colour scheme - is the only one that comes close to offering a definitive upgrade, tweaking the palette for the most part with changes that certainly don't leave it head and shoulders over its Blu-ray counterpart, but coming into its own with a few striking primaries that really do make you sit up and pay attention, particularly in the vibrant Land of the Dead. In typical Ultra HD Blu-ray style, the whole affair is darker, with no fear of crush here and HDR and WCG bringing the colours and brightness to bear. Coco is simply packed with strikingly vibrant, vivid tones, neon cityscapes and rainbow fluorescents, with the modicum of pop afforded to some of these colours further helping edge this ahead as the better way to watch the film.
Overall Coco already looks largely perfect on Blu-ray, making it unrealistic to expect a significant upgrade on the Ultra HD Blu-ray, and the slight differences are not always unequivocal improvements, but the colours and HDR/WCG implementation really does make a difference, leaving it ultimately the better way to enjoy the film, even if only marginally.
Sound QualityOn the aural front, US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Coco benefits from an arguably more definitive upgrade over it's Blu-ray counterpart, coming in the form of a Dolby Atmos track to preside over the Blu-ray's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Certainly Atmos fans will rejoice, with the immersive HD audio enhancement founded upon a strong Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core which, one might safely assume, is almost indistinguishable from that aforementioned DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 alternative.
This should have been a reference release
Dialogue is given firm prioritisation across the frontal array, afforded clarity and coherence throughout, and rising above the maelstrom of energetic effects that bring the wonderfully colourful worlds to life - from the bustling streets and talk-over-one-another families that define the Land of the Living to the neon cityscape of the Land of the Dead, both realms founded upon a music-centric core (even if the former spends much of its time in denial), giving way to roaring crowds and heaving festivals. Even though music is a central component of any Pixar offering, it's even more prominent here, and the concerts and guitar solos are afforded some priority, with the surrounds and even the LFE channel working to explore the dynamic range although again, Disney appear to come up slightly short in this regard, not quite lending the feature the same overwhelming presence it had on its cinematic run. It's not likely to be as controversial as the recent Thor: Ragnarok release on the aural front, but you'll still need the same kind of added tweak of the volume to get this track going, which is really not the way things should be. This should have been a reference release, but it ends up being merely a very good release with flaws that prevent it likely ever being regarded as demo.
ExtrasThe US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Coco is quite impressive on the extras front. Even without affording the actual Ultra HD Blu-ray disc itself any of the additional features, we get not one but two Blu-ray discs full of extras, the former adorning the Blu-ray copy of the film with a commentary and a number of strong features, and the latter a dedicated extras disc.
An impressive selection of extras
The director, co-director and producer unite for a strong Commentary that headlines the first disc, whilst we get a Welcome to the Fiesta short film, also with optional Commentary, that acted as the pitch for the main film. A 10 minute Featurette, Mi Familia, looks at the eccentricities of the crew's own families, whilst shorter Featurettes focus on Dante the dog and offer a quick tutorial on skeleton drawing.
The second disc is mostly Featurette-driven, with A Thousand Pictures A Day spending 20 minutes looking at the crew's on-location research into Mexican culture; a quarter-hour look at The Music of Coco; a 6-minute look at the Land of the Dead in The Land of Our Ancestors; a 9-minute look at Fashion Through the Ages; 3 minutes on The Real Guitar; another tutorial, this time on how to make a Mexican decoration; a brief You Got the Part! look at the casting of the lead character, and a longer piece, Paths to Pixar, which has the crew reminisce over their own lives leading up to their work on Coco. There's also a whopping half hour of Deleted and Extended Scenes, albeit mostly in unfinished storyboard form, and a whole bunch of Trailers and Promos.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictYet another emotionally powerful Disney/Pixar story
It's truly surprising that Coco hasn't been afforded an Ultra HD Blu-ray release in the UK, but 4K fans can rest easy as not only is the US release out earlier than the UK Blu-ray, but the included Blu-ray is also Region Free (obviously there's no region coding on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs). It's also a strong package, with excellent video that just about tops the already reference Blu-ray image, and solid audio (also with a Dolby Atmos upgrade over the Blu-ray) which unfortunately sits in the shadow of the Thor: Ragnarok audio debacle, albeit not quite as controversially, with a similarly quieter edge. It's still a solid accompaniment, and there's a bevvy of extra features spilling out onto two accompanying Blu-ray discs to round out the package. Fans of the film should have no hesitation in importing and, as with almost all Pixar offerings, the film itself is simply unmissable.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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