Open Season 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer 2D and 3D MVC encoded. As to be expected with a computer animated film the 2D version is reference quality, as detailed as the artist’s pen, especially Boog’s hair and the waving grass in the foreground, with colours that are bold and striking and, at times, shine off the screen, with no banding or posterization in sight. Contrast and brightness give rise to deep blacks, check out the night-times scenes in the forest, that contain plenty of shadow detail when present. Perhaps not as reference as a Pixar release, but still demo.
However, when we look at the 3D transfer things open up to a whole new level, literally! The 3D layering on this film is sublime, with the only drawback that the distance shots tend to be somewhat flat compared to the near to middle distance, more on which later. The film was released in 2006, comparatively early in the fast moving world of computer graphics, even so there is a lot of sophistication to the animation and the picture is clearly framed with 3D in mind. Right from the off you can tell this is going to be a treat – just examine the opening frame, the jeep next to Boog’s garage – close foreground, grass and bush, driveway moving to distance, the jeep itself with clear near, middle and far layers, then background forest and distance trees – there is real distance between these layers, but what really gives it it’s three dimensionality is the solidity of the objects within those layers – despite the ‘cartoon style’ this is like looking at real life, it is that good. This opening frame is just a taste; look at Boog’s fur, each individual hair rolling back to give an actual solid feel to the bear, same thing with the human characters, despite their style, they have actual presence and solidity, they are ‘round’, it really is terrific stuff. All fore/middle ground is like this. Where the frame does lose its distance is in the far background of the long shots, a function of the flat background mattes, when some thought goes into it, such as the left/right helicopter carrying Boog to the forest shot, there is tremendous depth, with each layer moving individually increasing the depth, but sadly this is rare. Thankfully though such distance shots are few and far between. The directors take the wise choice of framing for 3D rather than ‘point at the screen’ which give a far, far better result – of course they can’t help themselves and there are a couple of ‘money shots’ mostly taking place in the candy store raid, though Boog’s face as he looks into camera could also qualify, check out his nose! Other scenes to look out for (or demo) when Shaw tries to run Elliot over, the point of view shot over Shaw’s shoulder, or the damn burst, the point of view of the animals on the log – reminded me of Grand Canyon adventures in a wonderful excuse for nearly being there filming – or Boog falling off the cliff face.
Colours are as bold and striking as their 2D counter part. Detail is, once again, as defiant as the artist’s computer, that is to say everything you are meant to see, you can see with absolute clarity, I point to all the animal’s hair, particularly Elliot’s wet mat after the dam bursts, though other elements are just as clear, Shaw’s teeth, or the flowers and grass of the forest clearing being prime examples (wonderful 3D effect on these too!) Contrast and brightness are set to give very decent black levels with the normal caveat of 3D technology, but I was never once brought out of the picture by a slightly less than black, black.
Digitally there were no compression problems, no banding, no posterization, no edge enhancement and, obviously, no grain, an absolutely pristine picture. There were three instances of blink and you’ll miss it, crosstalk (that might have been my panel rather than the disc) making this the outright winner, so far, in terms of 3D release clarity. Without doubt the best 3D presentation so far in this format, clearly demo material!
The disc has eleven (!!) sound tracks to choose from, I concentrate on the English DTS-HD MA 5.1. In a word, disappointing. With such a visual feast, this film could have benefitted from a dynamic surround field to fully immerse the experience; sadly the track is all rather front based. It’s not bad, it’s just lacking. There is good dynamic range and nice stereo separation with dialogue coming through sounding natural with a little directionality. Surround is, as stated, rather limited, with few effects being steered to immerse the viewer, one exception would be the damn burst and underwater scene which was well realised. Even the score fails to light up the surround field. Bass is well defined and holds everything in place though LF effects are even more limited than the surround activity with the only decent rumbles coming in the underwater scene above and when ‘Mr. Happy’ explodes setting off the chain reaction. Other than that this is a rather average track that fails to ignite the sound stage to any real significance. Such a shame.
- Boog and Elliot's Midnight Bun Run - HD, 04.31
An animated short telling the story of our titular characters stealing ‘bear claws’, or biscuits as we call them, from the campervan featured in the film being guarded by (a sleeping) Mr Weenie.
- Audio commentary
Participants are producer Michelle Murdocca, directors Jill Culton and Roger Allers and co-director Anthony Stacchi, who are all quite enthusiastic about their film. It is quite scene specific in that you will hear “oh, I like this scene” or “oh, the animation on this bit” a lot but that often leads into lengthy examinations of what is going on, how the ideas and animation style flowed, and how much input the animators themselves had on the scene; rabbits springs to mind. It’s quite technical in places but never runs dry though it’s not much more than a one listen extra.
- Featurettes – SD, 22.75
Under this we have two short features entitled Behind the Trees and The Voices Behind the Stars that can be watch individually or together with the play all function. The former discusses the film from conception through to fruition, animation style and design, of both characters and environments and is pretty comprehensive even if it is a little self congratulatory and played dumb for the kids. The latter, in a very similar format, looks at the acting talent that gave the characters their voices.
- Deleted scenes – SD, 02.03
Two scenes shown as storyboard pictures voiced by the characters.
- Music video – SD, 02.19
I Wanna Lose Control (Uh Oh) by Deathray, oh dear god no ...
Has two ‘games’ that are both slightly 3D, not though you’d notice though, Wheel of Fortune: Forest Edition is Wheel of fortune, only for three year olds and relies on your being truthful with your score; and Voice-O-Rama, in which you can hear characters dubbed into different languages, much as you can if you change the language in the main film ...? Lastly is Swept Away Scene Deconstruction, the best in this section, shows the scene at four separate times in the animation process, use the remote to select anyone, though the best is the default, which shows all four at once.
- RingTales - SD, 00.55
Series of extremely short jokes played out to images of the characters
Under the titles Environments, Characters, and Beat Boardswe can view production and design images.
- Sneak Peak
If you can stand the wait (at the time of writing) you'll be greeted by an error message, some might say the best BDLive has to offer, but I'm not that cynical.
The menu itself is 3D, which is always nice, and a little adding of 3D to the extras themselves is a good idea, even if it is barely visible, but other than that there is nothing new here (except the sneak peek) that hasn’t already been seen on previous DVD or Blu-ray editions. A small selection of extras that fail really to ignite much passion despite valiant attempts by the filmmakers to insist that story, story, story is the way to make a film work – if only they’d listen to themselves ....
Open Season was Sony’s first foray into the world of CG animated films, and despite my personal reservations about an extremely clichéd, badly acted, nonsense film, it’s success guaranteed a sequel and the companies continued growth culminating in the excellent Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Boog, the domesticated grizzly bear and Elliot the mad deer, voiced by Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher respectively, lead a revolt of woodland animals against the humans out to hunt them, in what is a tried, and tired, 'buddy movie' formula that has little engagement for an adult audience, however, those of a younger persuasion will probably get much out of it.
As a 3D Blu-ray the picture simply will not be better than this, it is reference, demo, or any other word you care to use to glorify a simply stunning experience. A shame, then, that the sound and extras package don’t live up to that high bench mark, meaning that, as a whole, the package is rather lacking. Still, early adopters have little choice in an under saturated market, so on that note alone its success is assured – I can see this disc being shown to friends and family alike to wow them on this new technology, it really is that good.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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