Both Region Free discs present a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 aspect 1080p picture, and both are a joy to behold. The 2D blu-ray is everything you have come to expect from a computer generated film, with breathtaking clarity, superior detail and colours that leap of the screen. Even in this mode there is plenty of 3D pop to the picture. Blacks are deep and plentiful, showdown detail is shown when needed, and there are no blooming whites anywhere to be seen. Easily a reference picture.
Now, on to the 3D presentation, which is why we are here, and is itself an amazing looking picture. Of course we have the caveat of the extra brightness needed to generate the light needed for the 3D image but this doesn’t skew the blacks or colour as much as one might think.
First up; the detail is quite astonishing, right down to the hairs on Scrooge’s nose and nothing is lost on the 3D presentation. The artists have gone all the way to try and establish as much realism as possible, from the aforementioned hairs to other skin defects, to wood grain, clothing/fabric weaves to the old leather chair that Scrooge sits in. The 3D effect is remarkable in some instances; take a look at the hair on the Ghost of Christmas Present, as it moves back and forth giving a true representation of solidity. This is when the 3D is at its best and not with the many instances of ‘pointy at the screen’ that proliferate during the run time. Sure they look great and are truly stand out, but they are obvious, trite and totally unnecessary. Spectacular scenes of flying through London, or with Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas Past are quite stunning, you really are pulled into and through the picture. These scenes really are far better suited to 3D than their 2D counterparts. Other stand out moments of stunning 3D are dropping snow, or the distance of the London streets, or, best of the lot, Marley in his coffin, take a look at the depth there!
The animators have excelled with the lighting with near photo realism being generated, from day light or, even better, candle light or better still the light generated by the Past and Present Ghosts, the latter even given 3D effect from his torch, a subtle but nevertheless impressive display. Such lighting is given terrific colouring, something that could be affected by the technology needed to produce the 3D effect. Luckily there is very little difference between the two discs in this regard. Primaries remain bold and solid, there is plenty of gradation, no banding or posterization was visible. Blacks remain pretty decent considering, yes they do tend a little towards the grey compared to their 2D counterparts, but within the brightness limitation still add good depth to the picture. Shadow detail is also very prevalent when the artist wants you to see it – check out Scrooge’s room before Marley first appears.
All of this is extremely positive, but unfortunately there were quite a few instances of crosstalk that where noticeable – it’s one of those annoying things that once noticed is very easy to spot, and whist not totally distracting and usually stops between scene cuts, is still something that should be noted.
In all this is a fabulous picture from Disney, it’s just a shame that they pushed so much into the foreground and didn’t utilise the depth that can be achieved with 3D, but from a technical standpoint this has reference all over it.
Both discs contain numerous sound tracks including Spanish DTS and Portuguese, Hungarian and Icelandic Dolby Digital, I shall, however, concentrate on the English DTS-HD Master Audio track that accompanies both discs.
Just as the 3D envelops your eyes, so too does the sound track envelop your ears in a comprehensive surround track that may be light but is well and truly effects laden. Right from the off, in Marley’s casket scene, where the effects are subtle but still engrossing, with speech being natural sounding and given directionality when needed, with the ambience of the street noise filling the surrounds, you know this is going to be a decent track. Once the action moves to the Ghosts then the sound stage opens even further, Christmas Past’s flight through time is a nonstop assault, whipping past you from front to back/left to right. Christmas Present’s booming laughter and eavesdropping is perfectly suited to the visuals. Bass isn’t forgotten either, listen to Marley’s walk up to Scrooge’s door, the thump of the chained boxes is enough to move the furniture.
The score is well represented, with the various Christmas carols filling the room, and when shown to be sung by carollers, given the directionality it needs. In all it’s an extremely well mixed track, with plenty going on, nothing is ever lost and everything comes across evenly and coherently. Impressive stuff.
- Mr Scrooge’s Wild Ride
Is a woefully short making of featurette (two minutes) that concentrates on the motion capture used to make the film, with interviews and a bit of behind the scenes filming, this is way too short and padded out with far too much film material to be of any worth.
The only other extra is an ad for 3D and tantalising glimpses of what is to come – Nightmare Before Christmas being one!
- Audio Commentary and Behind the Carol – the full motion capture experience
These can be viewed individually, but best work together in tandem. Behind the Carol is a picture in picture feature that runs in the right hand bottom of the screen and follows the actions precisely showing all the actors in their motion capture suit’s. Zemeckis’ commentary only works when you watch PiP as he constantly refers to it through his chat, rarely straying from it – as such is pretty much useless without the visuals. When he is not referring to the motion capture he does regale you with titbits of information be that casting, direction, characterisation and sticking faithfully to the story, but it’s few and far between as the motion capture and performances very quickly become his main focus.
- Capturing A Christmas Carol
This featurette annoyed me. It has so much potential, talking about the motion/performance capture, its uses and technology, including interviews with principle cast and crew, but the whole thing is narrated by Jacquie Barnbrook in a sappy, aim at the kids, totally patronising and irritating way. I’ll leave it there ....
- On Set with Sammi
Is another two minute feature focusing on the performance capture but this time through the eyes of twelve (at the time) year old Sammi Hanratty. Amazingly this is my feature of the set, it’s candid and to the point, without the fluff or padding of any of the other extras on the set.
- Deleted Scenes
There are a number of deleted scenes, in various states of completeness, with an introduction from Zemeckis. Most are a few second extensions but there are one or two new short scenes, all deemed unnecessary for the finished product.
- Digital Advent Calendar
Exactly what is says, twenty five numbers corresponding to the advent time, each with a festive picture behind it – you can’t skip to the end ....
- 3D with Timon and Pumbaa
An ad for the new 3D technology from these two ‘lovable’ characters.
In case you are caught short and need a fix as your 3D disc boots up.
Disney bring the story of Ebenezer Scrooge to life like never before in a lavish 3D computer generated world, in a set that contains both 3D and 2D Region Free Blu-ray discs as well as a digital copy. The film is a faithful retelling of a story that is so ingrained in our culture that the names and philosophies have become part of everyday language. Zemeckis, in using the latest technology, his own filleted script and swift storytelling brings the tale of the old miser who turns his life around and enjoys the festive season inspiring all around him to do the same, to a whole new audience. And whilst it might not be entirely new in its characterisation, the style with which it is shown means that the 3D will be a winner this Christmas.
The set is suitably lavish with a wonderful lenticular sleeve, three discs, reference picture and sound and a set of reasonable extras, ensuring that a 3D starved audience will want to pick it up
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