I was pretty okay with director Robert Zemeckis’ motion captured turn at A Christmas Carol when it was released to theaters around this same time last year. Disney has made what some would view as a wise marketing decision and held off on releasing the film for home consumption up until now. In today’s world of three month or less theater to home release windows it nearly feels like a life time.
Disney is promoting this as their first Blu-ray 3D release, which is accurate as a 3D Blu-Ray is available in the four disc Blu-ray combo pack. Lost In Reviews was provided with a copy of the two disc Blu-ray/DVD set also being released on Tuesday November 16. Thus all comments in the review refer to the content available on that version of the various packaging Disney’s A Christmas Carol is receiving. As for the 3D release, the big D that is Disney sure is pimping the heck out of it on these two discs. Going so far as to include a four minute and twenty three second promo on the Blu-Ray disc with the often used popular characters from The Lion King Timon & Pumbaa. In the flashy promo, it explains in plain English that a fancy and expensive new TV, Blu-Ray player and of course the glasses are required to experience 3D at home. It also obviously provides additional time to pimp future 3D Blu-Ray releases, or in a couple of cases re-releases. Those would be the same that I previously lamented about in my Toy Story 3 Blu Monday review a few weeks back. Then again this is Disney we are talking about here who excels and has built an empire off of double, triple, and even quadruple dipping customers back in the days of the easily worn out VHS tape.
Okay I’ve jumped off my soap box about the whole 3D thing, lets get into what this release offers and see if it’s worth your hard earned cash.
Disc 1 (Blu-Ray)
Before I dive to deep into this fairly shallow disc I want to go out of my way to give Disney kudos on one thing they do right with their Blu-Ray releases. This will seem trivial but as a film fan I feel it warrants a mention. Unlike another studio who shall go nameless way to go Disney on giving your Blu-Ray releases menus that match the film. Okay, with that out of the way disc 1!
Obviously the entire film is presented in a sterling 1080P transfer presented in a listed aspect ratio of 2.40:1. NERD ALERT: This is a somewhat curious choice as the film presented theatrically had three aspects, IMAX 1.44: 1 3D 1.85: 1 and the 2D release was 2.35: 1. Thus the 2D presentation presented on this Blu-Ray should come closest to matching what you saw in theaters if that is the version you experienced. The soundtrack is presented in 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio. Other options include a 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital track and an English 2.0 DVS track. Subtitles included English SDH, French, and Spanish.
The image is crystal clear, being digital doesn’t hurt since there isn’t any real traditional transfer from film to speak of. The audio is also clear as can be and occasionally fills the room with sound once Scrooge begins his various journeys with the ghost after that fateful visit from old business partner (and the very dead) Jacob Marley.
Bonus content on the back of the box looks sparse and that is because well, it kind of is with only 24:25 of content. Here is a breakdown.
Behind The Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience this is part commentary part picture in picture viewing experience. The picture in picture piece shows footage of all the actual motion capture performances that ended up in the film. It can be swapped with the film and fill the entire screen to watch the actors’ performances. This does a good job of showing how little animation is actually used in the film. Catch here is unless your hardcore wondering about the process or a fan of any of the actors and the multiple roles most played in the film I feel the casual viewer won’t find much appeal to this offering. This is supplemented with a commentary track by Director Zemeckis that can quickly be turned on and off. The commentary comes across more as a letter to the mo-cap non believers as he explains the process and discusses how he feels his actors were robbed of attention for their performances upon release of the film. He occasionally gets into the process of making the film, pointing out interestingly that in a digital world of motion capture, actual cuts are the rarity and not the norm. I found the track overall lacking and not adding much interesting information to warrant a listen short of the most die hard Zemeckis fans or those wanting to get lots of information about motion capture. I will confess after listening to it that Zemeckis has an obvious passion for this still new way of making films, and I have a better, clearer understanding of what all actually goes into the process.
Capturing A Christmas Carol This featurette runs 14:43 and is a slickly produced look at how motion capture works. It’s pretty light material that keeps it from being too dry and technical but still shows enough that my techie-behind the scenes info seeking mind was satisfied enough to get a feel for how “mo-cap” actually works and how the performances for A Christmas Carol were captured. Think of this as Behind The Carol light. I would recommend watching this and if you find it interesting moving on to the Behind the Carol PIP experience.
Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar It’s an interactive advent calendar. Not much to add to it outside of that. I guess if you feel like firing up your Blu-Ray player daily beginning December first you’ll find this a nifty feature. It will not let you jump out of order, yes I tried, and it keeps track of the days. Each day contains some form of animated “gift” that also changes the landscape of the calendar itself after its reveal. From the five or so days I clicked on nothing directly related to the film popped up. Wow, did I just spend that many words explaining this? Yep…moving on.
Deleted Scenes Six deleted scenes are included with a quick intro from director Robert Zemeckis explaining that most of the scenes/shots aren’t finished. The six scenes run a quick 8:39. I felt mostly indifferent about having what was eliminated not included in the film. Interestingly enough I found these mostly incomplete scenes more interesting in respect to showing more of how the motion capture process works.
Rounding out the Blu-Ray disc is On Set with Sammi this quick 1:52 is a quick kid’s version of the many other “how motion capture works” featurettes on the disc. Sammi seems sweet enough but this just feels a bit tacked on as it really didn’t add anything new that hadn’t been covered in depth earlier on in the disc’s other features.
Disc 2 (DVD)
Read the above, subtract the Behind The Carol Feature and commentary and the interactive calendar and you have this disc. I guess it’s handy for the holiday trip to the parents in a van that has one of those more and more common DVD systems. Or perhaps as a coaster at home.
Overall this is a solid release for fans of the film but ultimately falls well short of a Buy It recommendation. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of A Christmas Carol the disc was really a Scrooge (yep I did that) that doesn’t contain enough content to warrant repeat viewings after being seen once.
By John Coovert