'Up' soars onto Region A locked Blu-ray with an absolutely stunning looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encode, framed at 1.78:1.
At time of writing I have no information on whether a film print was used for the encode, but going by the pristine look of the picture and the fact that there is no grain to behold, I would say not.
Colours are clean and vibrant. The balloons used to transport Carl's house must use almost every strong colour in the palette, while they stand out from the beautiful blue sky. Skin tones look healthy and Kevin's feathers have a depth of colour that I have only ever seen on a real bird before. The picture is also very detailed as witnessed by the wrinkles on Carl's face and the way Kevin's plumage makes you want to reach out and stroke it.
Contrast is superb throughout and blacks are well, black. This would make a first class demo disc to show exactly what the format is capable of achieving.
The audio on 'Up' comes in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that is every bit as good as the picture in terms of quality.
The mix provides us with constant ambience or 'atmos' so we're always in among the action, be it hearing the shifting sounds of Carl's house as it leaves the ground or the sound that the thousands of balloons make as they gently rub together. The attention to detail on this soundtrack is immense.
Dialogue is clear throughout. I was aware of it moving across the whole front soundstage as characters moved left or right of frame. The surrounds get a real workout, especially in the sequence near the end where the dogs pilot small planes in a dogfight (groan) around Muntz' dirigible. They swoop in past your left and right ear with such clarity that you want to duck.
Michael Giacchino's score sounds beautiful here and the main theme will stay in your head long after the movie has ended.
This is probably the best mix I've heard on an animated film in a long time.
The bonus material provided with 'Up' is spread over discs 1 and 2, while disc 3 contains a DVD of the movie and disc 4 is taken up by the Digital Copy, for those who'd rather see the movie on a PC, Laptop or other mobile device.
- Partly Cloudy (HD, 6 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, 5 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 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, 5 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').
- Geriatric Hero (HD, 6 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, 8 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, 6 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, 5 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, 5 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, 6 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, 8 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, 9 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, 6 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.
Disney/Pixar triumph on all fronts with 'Up' - a deeply touching, amusing and exciting movie that takes animation to a whole new human level with the story of grumpy old man Carl as he takes his house on a balloon ride to the South American jungle with Wilderness Scout Russell in tow. A talking dog, a flightless bird and a villainous adventurer make this one for all ages.
The Region A locked, 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encode looks stunning framed at 1.78:1 with vibrant colour, excellent contrast and beautiful animation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track features absorbing ambience, clear dialogue, first class surround steering and impressive representation of Michael Giacchino's memorable score.
A host of fascinating documentaries together with a CineExplore track from Co-Directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson round of the package which also includes a DVD and Digital Copy of the movie.
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