The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p 3D transfer and Region free.
Once again a natively filmed 3D picture comes across extremely well and when viewed correctly really adds much to the filmic experience; and what sets this one apart again is the how natural it is. First up the solidity to the objects, be they people, dragons, hammers, swords or whatever, is just phenomenal, everything has a roundness and a texture to its surface which makes it standout as ‘real’. Take a look at Toothless’ skin, or any of the Vikings hair, how it sticks out from their faces. Simple shots such as Hiccup putting a hammer away in the workshop, how the nails that hold it protrude from the board. Simple two shows have tangible distance between the characters; the chain roof of the arena stretches over the floor, the dragons fire bellows out towards you, dragons themselves have a very real head, body, tail, even the stubby ones! Landscape shots have incredible distance to the layers, see how the houses stretch way back into the frame and the island itself is above the sea. There are many standout moments, Hiccup flying on toothless, the multitude of dragons on their way to offer the queen her tribute, the ash as it falls down after her demise, but for me the best shot is the fireball that flies into the queens cave – watch as is lights up the many dragons the stretch far, far back into the screen. This is fantastic use of the format and it is a insult that this disc is only now commercially available and not tied up in an exclusive deal.
The rest of the picture fairs just as well so let’s start off with the detail – ok detail, as we know, is limited by the animation process and the artist ‘pen’, but here they have gone overboard with their craft to bring an amazing amount to the image; look at the barnacles under the ships, or the various knick knacks/tools in the rooms, the dragons' respective skin detail, Gobber's hairy arms, clothing weaves and the sea – the sea looks photo realistic, you can swear it is actual film, not digital animation. Add to this a colour and lighting scheme that if it wasn’t for the stylised animation you could easily be fooled into thinking is real.
Colours are incredibly lush, the greens and blues of the forest, the reds and oranges of the village or the dragon’s fire breath are so vivid and bold as to shine off the screen. The colours of the dragons themselves are amazing, even Toothless, being black, shows incredible ‘colour’. What also really stands out are the evening set scenes, the hues form such an amazing set of sunset colours that have to be seen to be believed. Flesh tones, look like flesh, amazing for an animated film.
Contrast and brightness are set to give wonderful, wonderful blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) that flow deep into the picture giving some spectacular depth, which includes as much shadow detail as you are meant to see; take a look at the background in the father and son talk, or any of the night time scenes for a near glossy take on the black, terrific stuff.
Digitally there were no compression problems or edge enhancement, no banding or posterization and using passive technology to view it no crosstalk; but the same technology did produce areas of aliasing and numerous occasions; not enough to spoil the fun, but noticeable nonetheless. But in all another first class picture.
The sound hase been upgraded to an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track (from a 5.1 track) that is every bit as reference as the picture, although the additional channels only marginally improve what was already a stonkingly good mix. Right from the off you are greeted with an aggressive, but perfectly steered, surround track that makes full use of the dynamic range and every speaker to place you firmly in the centre of the action.
Stereo separation is wide across the front, wide across the back and wide between the two, effortlessly creating effects such as the whoosh of air while the dragons are in flight, or the creak of ships stealthily making their way through the mist. Dialogue is natural sounding and given plenty of directionality when needed. Discrete effects, ambient effects, both are used to add plenty of dimension to the sound field.
Bass is phenomenal, grounding everything naturally, and, when needed, there are plenty of LF effects to give the sub a thorough workout; dragon fire, catapult firing, the final battle add so much depth to the bass depth you think it’s going to form a vacuum and suck the room in. A blistering sound track and absolutely reference.
- Audio Commentary - Directors and co-writers Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois along with producer Bonnie Arnold give a very enthusiastic and informative discussion combining technical and anecdotal information with ease, in what amounts to a surprisingly engaging listen. All the bases are covered, including animation, casting, the music and the various themes explored – for a ‘kids film’ this one is well worth a listen.
- The Animators' Corner - A picture in picture feature that uses a little of the above commentary, but also contains interviews with cast and crew, story boards, animatics and behind the scenes footage.
- Trivia Track - pop up text based trivia track that offers little cross over with the above information, can be played at the same time as the audio commentary for an information overload!
- Viking-Sized Cast – HD, 11.44 - Looks at the behind the scene recordings of the voice talent used to bring the characters to life.
- The Technical Artistry of Dragon – HD, 10.13 - Seems there is always new animation techniques with each new film released, How to Train your Dragon is no different, here the animators and designers discuss how the film achieved is spectacular look.
- Musical Jukebox - Plays songs from Shrek, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Bee Movie and Kung Fu Panda.
- Trailers - Housed in the ‘Keep Out’ section on the menu are trailers for other films and games available from Dreamworks
- 2D Version - The same 2D Blu-ray that has been avaialbe for over ayear and houses all the extra material.
- DVD - A DVD of the film
The best Pixar film that Pixar never made - How to Train your Dragon is a spectacular film, telling as it does the story of Hiccup as he tames a dragon and in doing so heals rifts, saves lives and gets the girl, in what is a very mature and layered film dressed up as kids animation. Truly wonderful stuff. It is such a crying shame that this 3D version is only now commercially available and not tied up in an exclusive deal, since the disc is of reference quality and is actually a film worth watching, unlike so much of the other 3D content that may look great, but is actually a chore to sit through.
As a 3D Blu-ray package, Dreamworks provide an absolute reference disc in terms of 3D picture which is bright, bold and detailed boasting incredible effects and very natural looking depth, and sound which is stunning in both surround environment and bass. Whilst the extras are still a little light there is no doubt that this disc has been worth the wait. Highly recommended.
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