101 Dalmatians: Special Edition (Live Action) (1996)

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Released 17-Mar-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes (4:01)
Featurette-Dog Stars (2:09)
Music Video-(3:24)
Game-Connect The Spots
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 98:39 (Case: 76)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stephen Herek
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Glenn Close
Jeff Daniels
Joely Richardson
Joan Plowright
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Michael Kamen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Portuguese
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Not content with generating superdollars from their wonderful catalogue of animated classics, Walt Disney Pictures have decided to remake one of their best into a live action film. The result? Actually, pretty d*** good family entertainment, and thankfully not a complete rip-off of the animated classic. But of course the earlier release was one of those typical Buena Vista releases of the day - which meant that the extras cupboard was pretty bare. So in keeping with the general trend since they assumed the responsibility for their own distribution, and no doubt the continued desire to rip the consumer for every possible dollar, the earlier extras-less version has been replaced by this new whiz-bang Special Edition, full of interesting extras - NOT!

    Whilst I presume that most readers will be familiar with the plot of 101 Dalmatians, Disney-style, the following plot synopsis is purloined from my earlier review of the plain Jane version of the DVD:

    The broad plot is very similar to the animated classic, but for those few people who may never have seen the animated version, here we go (albeit somewhat updated from that version). Roger Dearly (Jeff Daniel) is a struggling designer of video games, and the proud owner of one Dalmatian named Pongo. Anita Campbell-Green (Joely Richardson) is a fashion designer with the House of De Vil, and the proud owner of one Dalmatian named Perdy. After one slightly disappointing design pitch, Roger is about to cycle off through the park with Pongo when Perdy happens by with her owner in tow. Pongo is immediately smitten and heads off in pursuit of Perdy, through which Anita and Roger meet, fall in love and get married (in the space of seven minutes of film time - an all time record?). Meantime, Anita's boss has fallen in love with a design done by Anita that requires the fur of a significant number of Dalmatian puppies to make. Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) wants the 15 Dearly puppies from the Pongo/Perdy relationship and will stop at nothing to get them - along with 84 others. She gets hold of them, but the slightly incompetent help she has manages to lose them. Of course, since this is a Disney family film, everything works out happily ever after.

    As suggested in the earlier review, the live action update works pretty well, and Glenn Close is very good as one of Disney's most famous villains. Whilst lacking the charm of the earlier animated release, there is no doubt that this rather bright, glossy update is no bad film in its own right. Of course there remains the tendency to compare the film with the animated classic, but the more you watch the two, the less they have in common other than the broad story. The characterisations in the live action film are obviously much better and the whole film has a much more contemporary look that probably goes down well with the younger set to whom the film is aimed. In the overall analysis, Stephen Herek did a pretty good job with the direction of the film, especially given the old adage of never work with animals - especially hundreds of them.

    Not an obvious film for the collection, but one that has a deal of charm to wile away ninety minutes or so on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well this sort of falls into the good news/bad news category. The good news is that the Special Edition release gets a widescreen transfer, unlike the accursed pan and scan abomination of the earlier plain Jane release. The bad news is that it is not an especially wondrous transfer, with aliasing constantly breaking out at virtually every available opportunity...

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in accordance with its original theatrical aspect ratio, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The new transfer is very sharp in definition and that is probably why the aliasing problem constantly appears. Detail is just terrific when the transfer actually settles down and some of the transfer is quite breathtaking in its depth. Shadow detail is really good and the transfer is very clear - there is nary a hint of any grain present here. Low level noise is not an issue.

    The colours are also really terrific, with quite a range on offer. Cruella De Vil sports some rather sharply solid and highly contrasting colours that come up superbly well, whilst the steely grey that is afforded old London town is highly reminiscent of what London actually looks like in winter. The colours are really vibrant and the whole thing looks a treat. Despite the obvious scope for it to do so, the transfer never shows any hint of over saturation or colour bleed. The blacks have a really good depth and solidity to them, which is extremely important in this film.

    The only noticeable MPEG artefact in the transfer is a slight loss of resolution in the pan shot of Trafalgar Square around 12:23. That is probably where the good news about the transfer actually ends. Thereafter the review note book is filled with so many references to film to video artefacts that I simply gave up recording the problems after about 30 minutes. The main problem is aliasing, and there is plenty of evidence of it throughout the transfer - examples can be seen in the computer at 2:20, in the building at 5:50, in the bicycle basket at 11:04 and in the wall at 26:54. Add into the equation some copious moiré artefacting such as in the computer monitor at 3:18, in the hat at 7:04, in the seat at 9:49 and in the jacket at 15:43, and you soon get the idea that this is not an especially great example of the art of mastering. Indeed at times the offering here gets downright ugly. The transfer displays aliasing at just about every opportunity presented to it, such as vehicle grilles, fences and so on. Adding into the equation, albeit at a reasonably minor rate, is a decent smattering of film artefacts. None of these are really more than brief dots on the image, but they do pop up at inopportune moments.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming reasonably unnoticeably at 83:28. The only way I noted this on my player was due to a very slight pause in the movement of the puppies over a hill.

    There are four subtitle options available on the DVD. I sampled the English efforts, which are very good and have no significant problems.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD, those being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to just the English soundtrack. You will note that the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack of the earlier release has been dumped in favour of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    There is nothing at all wrong with the dialogue, which is clear and easy to understand. There is nothing in the way of audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The score comes from the pen of Michael Kamen, and is very good, and contributes well to the film. It is very reminiscent of a Danny Elfman score, but has enough individuality to be distinctive.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pretty good, although the bass channel is somewhat more prevalent than I would normally expect in an ostensibly children's film from Disney. The surround channels are quite decently used, although a little more ambience would probably not have gone astray. The overall soundscape was a little more analytical than I prefer, and certainly lacks something in the encompassing stakes. The bass channel kicks in with fairly solid support where required. There are no obvious blemishes in the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    So when is a Special Edition not a Special Edition? When Disney toss a couple of disappointing EPK-style featurettes, a music video and a pre-primary level interactive game, that's when! There really is nothing special about this Special Edition.

Menus

    Reasonably well themed, and 16x9 enhanced to boot. The main menu has some modest audio and animation enhancement. Perhaps we should not mention the original language selection, which asks us "To view this disc in Eglish please press here". How on earth such a blatant error got through quality control almost defies description.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (4:01)

    A typical EPK style presentation from behind the scenes that really does not convey a whole heap of good tidings - or at least much in the way of information or entertainment. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There is a great deal of aliasing in the transfer at times.

Featurette - Dog Stars (2:09)

    Another EPK style presentation looking into the dogs of the film. Nothing overly exciting, but at least it is a bit more interesting here. The presentation is the same as the pervious effort, and it suffers the same aliasing issues.

Music Video - Cruella De Vil Dr John (3:24)

    Not a favourite artist of mine, but the song and his style certainly go together well and the result is not too bad at all. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Game - Connect The Spots

    Obviously aimed at a fairly younger set than the one I currently reside in, this really is not that terrific. Basically there are six separate little games to play, based around mathematical skills - counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and a mixture. Note that the instructions for the last one refers to multiplication, which is clearly wrong. Basically you use the remote to answer the questions posed and connect the dots. Once the dots are connected, the puzzle segues into a sketch then into the relevant part of the film, which short segment you get to see as a reward. The vocal encouragement get a little grating as they are the same in each game.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    Forgetting everything else, the lack of 16x9 enhancement would sway the vote in favour of Region 4. However, it should be noted that the Region 1 version appears to have a better video transfer without 16x9 enhancement - no mention is made in available reviews of the aliasing issue that is prevalent in the Region 4 release.

Summary

    101 Dalmatians is a good, quite entertaining family film that is worth catching up with, if for no other reason than to see Glenn Close at her best. It does not however supplant the animated version of the film, even though this widescreen re-release certainly makes a better fist of demonstrating the worth of the film. The overall package is not, however, aided by the prevalence of the artefacting problems and the lack of a seriously decent extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, April 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
DVD Net - Adrian T

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