The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p 3D picture and is Region Free (note that the 2D disc, also included, is locked to Region B).
Up was Pixar’s first foray into 3D and even though 2009 wasn’t lacking the technology their skill had yet to fully mature, so while there are some terrific looking effects, the overall immersion, whilst pretty good, does not have that ‘wow’ factor that Toy Story 3 would demonstrate just a year later.
The first thing to note, however, is how ‘round’ everything is, from characters to objects and especially the balloons. Take a look at Karl, his facial features have depth, his nose sticks out from his face and his eyes are behind his glasses. There is tangible distance between him and Russell in their two shots and, when they are dragging the house, the layering in the frame is excellent giving a real sense of scale into the picture. The house itself has a clear front, middle and back, giving a true sense of volume to the structure. And simple scenes are the most rewarding; when the house is floating above the city you really feel its height, look at the birds that fly in front of it as it soars through the clouds. Take a look too at the many landscape shots of Paradise Falls, real attention to framing is evident to give a very impressive sense of size; look how tall the water falls is, how far back the plains go. All, extremely impressive. However, it’s not consistent and this is where the image flattens out slightly, some scenes, such as sitting around the camp fire, or the ‘dog fight’, or Muntz falling, or the dinner table, fail to exhibit any significant depth and this shortening of the frame leaves you with the impression of a far less immersive experience, it just doesn’t have the punch that later pictures would exhibit. Add to that the near absence of any negative parallax the makers were obviously being very conservative with their 3D budget, and whilst it is not a total loss, as when it is good, it is very, very good, overall is rather short in the frame.
The rest of the picture, however, is clearly reference all the way. Detail is excellent, take a look at the grey hairs on Karl’s chin, or the weave of his woollen jumper, the cotton binding of Russell’s badges, even the wood grain of the old house is expertly seen. The fur of the dogs is a little coarse this time around, but ‘Kevin’s’ feathers look suitably detailed.
Colours are sublime, from the myriad tones of the balloons, to the lush jungle greens, the soft blues of the sky and the oranges of the Paradise rocks, all grade perfectly and are bold, strong and vibrant. Flesh tones are well seen too with a decent and noticeable difference in colour between Karl’s old weather beaten features to Russell’s youthful glow.
Brightness and contrast are set to give a strong indication of black, though the film seldom really uses them, inside the Spirit of Adventure show case the darkest portions with the best shadow detail, though the cave escape is pretty good even if that concentrates more on deep blue.
Digitally there were absolutely no problems with compression, gradation of colours or edge enhancement. Using passive technology there was no crosstalk to be seen, but there were some horrible instances of aliasing – looking up at the cliff edges when Karl and Russell are being herded to Muntz was shocking – but this is purely an artefact of the technology and nothing to do with the print. Had this been a review of the 2D image it’d be a reference score, but as we’re concerned with the 3D elements I have to go one lower, as, as good as it is in places, there are now much better out there, even in Paxar’s own catalogue.
No problems with the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that accompanies the visuals though; it is storming. Not only is it bombastic in the right places but it is also very subtle and restrained, Michael Giacchino’s wonderfully evocative score is a testament to this as is plays around the room, often quiet, sometimes louder, but ever present in a cacophony of delight. Stereo effects range from front to back and left to right and range from the dog pack chase to the house scrapping along the rock plains. Bass is well handled giving just the right amount to ground everything naturally and turning up the wick to give the sub something to sing about in some of the heavier moments, the ‘dog fight’ or the house initially taking off, for example. It doesn’t, however, go quite as deep, nor is as sustained, as the very best out there, but it’s certainly no slouch either. Dialogue is very natural sounding, clear and precise and given some directionality when asked for.
On the whole it is a very immersive track with plenty going on to keep the room surrounded in sound – it's not as deep or loud at some and this will keep the neighbours happy, but what it lacks in punch it more than makes up for is effects.
Since the extras package is the exact same set (i.e two discs, the film and an extras disc) that has been released before, with Alan Paterson’s kind permission, I present his thoroughly researched description of the US disc extras found here.
- Partly Cloudy (HD, 05.46 mins) - This is one of those animated films made solely to confuse kids on the subject of where babies come from. Directed by Pete Sohn (who must have been the inspiration for Wilderness Explorer Russell), it shows how babies are made - by a bunch of cutesy cloud spirits. While they make all sorts of babies, one particular cloud appears to specialise in scary, spiky creatures that bite. His unfortunate stork has the unenviable task of delivering said beasties, much to the detriment of its plumage. It's all about the relationship between the cloud and the stork - and we grow to love both characters quickly.
- Dug's Special Mission (HD, 04.40 mins) - This animated short follows the fortunes of Dug, the talking dog, leading up to the point where he meets Carl and Russell in the movie. Best not to spoil it for viewers as it's a gem.
- Adventure is Out There! (HD, 22.17 mins) - This is a fascinating documentary that follows a group of Pixar animators and directors on a research trip to the plateau mountains of South America, in order to obtain visual references for the artwork used in the movie backgrounds. Adrian Warren, who has written about and documented the area, is their guide on this visit to a place where very few humans have ever been so they can draw and paint the rock formations as well as the plant life. We also see some of their party almost get stranded overnight due to poor weather. This held my attention for its duration.
- The Many Endings of Muntz (HD, 04.56 mins) - We hear, from director Pete Docter, the difficulty they had in getting the character of Muntz just right and how they agonised over his demise. We see some of the possible deaths of Muntz in animatic format, including one where he gets lost in a maze of rock formations (reminiscent of 'The Shining').
Special Features Disc
- Geriatric Hero (HD, 0624 mins) - Here, the animators talk about the research they did to help them draw Carl and Muntz including visiting an old folks home to watch the movements of old people as well as the wrinkle patterns. Co-director Bob Peterson talks about some film he took of his grandparents' house in the early 1990's, and how they used that for reference purposes.
- Canine Companions (HD, 08.26 mins) - This short details the amount of research that went into creating the dogs in the film - both the loveable Dug, and Muntz' pack. We are treated to interviews with dog behaviour expert Ian Dunbar, together with footage of lectures he gave to the Pixar animation team on dog psychology.
- Russell: Wilderness Explorer (HD, 09.00 mins) - This short focuses on the evolution of egg shaped Russell in both his design and character development. Much of it shows the similarities between Russell and animator Pete Sohn (and he really does look like him). Interestingly, he's also the voice of Emile in 'Ratatouille'.
- Our Flightless Friend Kevin (HD, 05.04 mins) - This mini featurette looks at the process the animators went through to try to decide what kind of bird Kevin should be, going from mythology to design led ideas then to a 'missing link' creature between man and dinosaur. We see the animators attempts at communicating with live ostriches in their quest for inspiration and visual references.
- Homemakers of Pixar (HD, 04.38 mins) - Here we see the animators' efforts to bring Carl's home to life as they make a detailed model of the house and photograph it using different light sources. They take it outside and hold it up against the sky in an attempt to help them visualise what they must then draw and bring to life.
- Balloons and Flight (HD, 06.25 mins) - Uh, oh! Geek alert! This short is all about the physics of the balloons - and almost induced sleep but it's interesting in a factual kind of way to those with adenoidal tendencies.
- Composing for Characters (HD, 07.37 mins) - Here we get to see Michael Giacchino working on his score for the film and the orchestra playing it. It's nice to see this young composer picking out his gentle main theme on a piano. It shows how big a part the music plays in creating the emotion of a movie.
- Alternate Scene: Married Life (HD, 09.15 mins) - Pete Docter talks about the importance of the opening "Married Life" sequence, where we follow the marriage of Ellie and Carl, without a word being spoken. Its inspiration was some silent home movie footage of Pete's childhood. We see, via storyboard and animatics, an early version where they hadn't quite got the approach right and it makes you realise just how good the final version is by comparison. This part of the movie has incredible emotional power. Featuring deeply sad moments in someone's life at the beginning of a family film was quite a gamble. Worth seeing to show the way the film might have looked but for some good sense.
- 'Up' Promo Montage (HD, 06.00 mins) - These look like little links that might have been planned for TV or DVD usage or supplied to Film review programmes to edit together as they wished. They are brief character moments and look great as well as being quite amusing.
- Worldwide Trailers (HD, total 4 mins) - Strangely, the teaser trailer I remember is missing but what we have here are a couple of theatrical trailers of different duration to hook in the audiences.
- Cinexplore: The Making of 'Up' with Pete Docter and Bob Peterson - This is a commentary track with a whole load of clips and artwork to liven it up. Both Pete and Bob obviously get on well in their professional relationship as they combine to provide a warm and affectionate insight into the production with some great anecdotes. They may well cover some of the same ground as the many documentaries, but this is well worth a listen and the on screen visuals cut in nicely. Very good indeed.
- Global Guardian Board Game - This game (reminiscent of an old fashioned board game) uses BD-Live so an internet connection is required. Players have to try to locate countries, states and capitals around the globe. It's probably fun for younger children as it didn't really hold my attention for long. It might give parents some much needed respite though.
Up (now out on 3D Blu-ray) is the wildly successful computer animated film from those stalwarts at Pixar whose unlikely story line of a pensioner escaping eviction by using helium filled balloons to raise his house, manages to entrance and entertain by paying a close attention to detail with its characters. The opening eleven minutes are like a film unto themselves and with this emotional hook the makers can take you on a fantastical journey to lost continents and ‘monster’ birds with impunity as you will always side with the characters and follow them wherever they go. It is immensely touching and forever rewarding and comes highly recommended.
As a Region free 3D Blu-ray set, Disney have just repackaged the original 2D set that is already available; that in itself is fine as that set is extremely good. The picture of the 3D disc is very good with plenty of depth and a solidity to the layers, but it does lack the polish and ‘wow’ factor that later Pixar releases (specifically Toy Story 3 and Cars 2) exhibit. No such problems with the sound though which is bold and bombastic as well as being refined and accurate. The rest of the set, as mentioned above is the same as the two disc 2D set that is already available with reference picture and sound and backed up by an extremely comprehensive extras package. In all it's a great set, just slightly marred by the somewhat ‘premium’ price tag it is currently selling at.
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