Presented in 3D, this is simply superb from every angle. The 2D film looks great, but moving to 3D it really does use that extra dimension to the full. Plenty of pop out detail and foreground fills combined with nicely rounded animation and detailed backgrounds. OK, so there is some layering of backgrounds in places and a few pieces of animation simply move so fast in 3D you miss details you pick up in 2D, but this is nit picking.
The transfer is a flawless AVC-MPEG that seemingly loses nothing between 2D and 3D. The film is made in 16:9, so fully fills the frame. The rich colours and carefully controlled digital lighting and grading will look great on anyone’s TV, however badly it is set up, so this is not a disc to assess the quality of your system or put demands on the image processing, but it will impress your more gullible neighbours. Being an animation, issues like edge enhancement, exposure correction and poor contrast do not exist.
Comparing it to Hugo in 3D, it is possible to see the difference in approach. The sheer number of different objects that have been created for Arthur Christmas give some scenes a cluttered busyness that Hugo cannot match. This adds massively to the rendering workload and this can cause inconsistencies in the final output if not properly managed, but not here. Movement looks very natural and scale and proportion is generally well handled. Camera techniques like pull focus and highlighting are all used to great effect, coupling well to the animation. Of particular mention is the “Steadicam” type shot following the Elves on their delivery raid. Just one of a number of firsts that required not only new software – pretty usual on most big animation projects, but also new hardware and techniques.
It is very hard to avoid giving this movie a 10 and as it is nearly Christmas I will be generous!
The rousing and instantly recognisable repeating stanzas that set the Wallace & Grommit and Chicken Run films apart from the rest are all present here. Maybe not quite as strong but still a large, full orchestral score. The sound presentation is very rich, with plenty of low mid and a little less low bass and extreme treble than we get with some mixes. Again, this will favour and flatter lesser systems, particularly the lower price sub / sat all in one systems that tend to be lacking in subtlety and low-mid reproduction. Expect to see this disc in an electrical superstore demo home cinema system somewhere near you soon.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix is pretty full on with lots of ambience and moving effects. Dialogue is clean but not always as crisp, becoming buried in the busy score from time to time. The dynamic range is also more limited than we have come to expect, but this makes it more suitable for younger children and less likely to cause distortion in systems that struggle with more demanding discs.
Unusually for a 3D release, this is a single disc SKU. You also get an Ultraviolet 2D copy to stick on the kids iPads to keep them quite while you attempt to assemble their more challenging toys on Christmas afternoon. The disc loads quickly with few refresh rate changes or repeated switches between 2D & 3D. 3D can only be selected if a suitable system is detected. The menu then becomes 3D until the disc is removed.
All the extras are nicely made in HD and look very good. The American influence becomes quite clear as you watch the movie and extras, with many of the extras narrated by our cousins from across the pond.
- The Family Christmas Tree: An introduction to the film with interviews with cast and crew and at just over ten minutes long holds one’s interest. Pretty standard stuff, but well made all the same.
- Santa’s Soldiers: Another ten minute short paying tribute to Santa’s million strong Elven workforce. Describing their managerial organisation, social and domestic structure, this is excellent source material for anyone researching the subject.
- Unwrapping Arthur Christmas: Feels more like a continuation of The Family Christmas Tree but contains quite a few spoliers. Make sure little ones don’t watch this until they have seen the film.
- Making of Santa Claus is Coming to Town: When the movie was released in the cinema, it was preceded by Justin Bieber massacring this much-loved Christmas tune. This is a short making of, so if you want to see the teeny bop star chucking some drum sticks around while being shouted at by the director, this is the short for you.
- Justin Bieber Video: I must confess I watched the first minute before spooling on to something better…
- Progression Reels: The animators explain how the various scenes and effects were created. Unlike most Aardman productions, this one is entirely CGI. What is interesting is that it is apparent the CGI is no cheaper or less labour intensive than Claymation. The opening shot is 1000 frames and took 25 hours per frame to render, let alone the building of more than 8000 individual objects! If anyone was in any doubt about the care taken with the making of this movie, watch this selection of reels before you make up your mind.
- Elf Recruitment Video: Actually one of the theatrical trailers and very funny.
Subtitles and Language tracks are limited to Spanish, Hindi and English audio description.
Resume and 3D menu structure all work perfectly with minimal resolution changes as the disc loads.
With Christmas around the corner, there will be a glut of seasonal movies flooding the market pretty soon. This is one of the better ones with big budget ones and looks all the better for it. An amusing and original tale wrapped up in a well-produced movie. It is just a shame that the market appeal is a little too limited to make it a big success, but the kids will enjoy it.
As with many animations, this movie will flatter your TV and indeed sound system beyond measure. Nothing here to trip up a lesser system and a great first 3D Blu-ray to test out the more budget 3D TVs now on the market. The sound is easy on the ear and is very likeable, featuring a predominantly orchestral score.
Arthur Christmas makes the perfect movie to sit the kids in front of on Christmas Eve while you belt round putting the finishing touches to your own magical day.
Keeping it real for Santa!
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