Free Willy (1993)

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Released 25-Nov-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 107:09
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Simon Wincer

Warner Home Video
Starring Jason James Richter
Lori Petty
Jayne Atkinson
August Schellenberg
Michael Madsen
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Basil Poledouris

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    Free Willy opens with some nice footage of a pack of killer whales playing, which is set to the movie's theme music. This leads us into the scene that shows us how Willy (Keiko) is captured. Next comes the introduction to our main character, Jesse (Jason James Richter). Whilst trying to evade the police Jesse finds himself in the underwater observatory of the North West Adventure Park where he briefly sees Willy for the first time, but the police find him there and return him to his social worker Dwight (Mykelti Williamson). Jesse's mother abandoned him six years ago, and has not been heard from since. Jesse is still convinced she is going to come back for him, which is clearly not the case. Jesse does not realize that Dwight is doing him a favour by attempting to place him with foster parents Glen (Michael Madsen) and Annie (Jayne Atkinson) Greenwood.

    Jesse goes to work at the North West Adventure Park where he reports to Randolph (August Schellenberg) who warns him to stay away from Willy as he gets into moods and is dangerous. Despite this warning, Jesse is drawn to Willy and through a series of events they become friends - for me these are the main highlights of the movie.

    Rae (Lori Petty) is the North West Adventure Park aquatic animal trainer. She is unable to work with Willy as he is uncooperative and will not learn to do any tricks. Willy becomes playful with Jesse, and as their friendship deepens (this is another highlight of the movie for me), Jesse is able to teach Willy to do some tricks with Rae instructing him. Their debut show goes disastrously wrong when Willy is scared by all the banging on his tank and will not perform. After this, the owner of the North West Adventure Park decides to cut his losses by arranging for Willy to have an accident so he can collect the insurance money.

    Jesse finds out about this and with the help of Rae and Randolph they set about trying to return Willy to the sea.

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Transfer Quality


    Due to the continuous aliasing that occurs throughout this transfer, I can only describe this transfer as being just acceptable. This is a real shame because in almost all other departments it is one of the best video transfers I have ever seen.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely clear and sharp and is by far one of the clearest transfers I have ever seen. Some minor over-enhanced edges can be seen during the opening and closing scenes, particularly around the whales' dorsal fins. Only one other sequence was affected by excessive edge enhancement, which was from 40:37  through to 41:03, but it was minor and not at all disruptive.

    Shadow detail was excellent and no low level noise was seen.

    The colours, well what can I say? They were exemplary - beautifully saturated, rich and vibrant. This transfer is, without a doubt, one of the best transfers I have ever seen in this respect.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Again, this disc was exemplary in this area. I cannot ever remember seeing a DVD that was so grain-free as this one.

    Aliasing is where this transfer comes unstuck - big time - and this stops this transfer from being even close to reference quality. There is almost no scene in the entire movie that does not have some minor aliasing in it - whether it is distracting or not is another matter. A lot of the aliasing is very minor and is not distracting at all, but there are far too many occasions where you cannot help but notice it...and then there are the downright annoying occurrences. The worst examples of these are at 23:09, 52:49, 59:19, 61:01 and 93:39. I must say for me that this disc is right up there with the infamously bad Die Hard: With A Vengeance transfer for aliasing.

    There is one more point I would like to specifically mention on the topic of aliasing - Progressive Scan Output. I am sure that if this disc was played on a DVD player which had a Progressive Scan Output mode all the aliasing seen on this disc would simply vanish, leaving us with one of the BEST video transfers EVER. I, for one, will be replacing my current DVD player with one that has Progressive Scan Output capability when they become available, as it is far superior to the Component output that I am currently using.

    There were more than one or two film artefacts seen, but overall this transfer was still very good in this area. The film artefacts noticed were mostly white, small and one-offs.

    Romanian and Bulgarian subtitles were present on this DVD, but not mentioned on the packaging.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is beautifully detailed, clear and clean.

    There are four audio tracks on this DVD. The default is the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The other soundtracks are French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. The Dutch soundtrack is not mentioned on the packaging of this DVD.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score was by Basil Poledouris and suited the movie nicely.

    The surround channels were used to create a good sound envelope which was beautifully detailed. The only thing that I could criticize this soundtrack for was the lack of directional or localized effects in the rear speakers, but that is more a movie production issue rather than a transfer problem.

    The subwoofer channel was used subtly but frequently to enhance the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are absolutely none at all, not even Cast & Crew biographies and filmographies.


    The Main Menu appears to be 16x9 enhanced and has a picture from the movie with the following selections; Jump To Scene, Select Languages, Play Movie.

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 of this disc misses out on;      Going on the reviews I read for the R1 version, it does not appear to suffer from any aliasing problems and you also get some extras.


     I enjoyed this movie but it is clearly biased towards keeping children entertained and I'm sure that the problems I noticed with this transfer will not matter to them.

    Due to the continuous aliasing that occurs throughout the movie, I can only describe this transfer as being just acceptable. This is a real shame because in almost all other departments it is one of the BEST video transfers I have ever seen.

    The audio is beautifully detailed, clear and clean.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Sunday, February 13, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

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