Balto (1995)

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Released 25-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-E.T.
Featurette
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 74:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Simon Wells
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Kevin Bacon
Bob Hoskins
Bridget Fonda
Jim Cummings
Phil Collins
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music James Horner
Barry Mann


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

   In 1925 in a small Alaskan town called Nome, a town just 150 km south of the arctic circle, a number of children caught diphtheria. Without immediate medication, they would all die. Nome is isolated. There are no roads leading to it and in the winter of 1925 it could not be reached by sea or air. The only way to reach this desolate spot was by dog sled. The antitoxin for diphtheria was shipped by train to the nearest town, 600 km away, just about right across the other side of Alaska. A relay of dog sled teams carried the medicine through some of the worst storms and blizzards and arrived in Nome in time to save the children's lives and in the process created a legend. This legend lives on and is celebrated in the Idederon sled race that is held every year and follows the same course as the original teams.

    The lead dog of the final team was a somewhat scruffy and not highly regarded dog called Balto, and he too became a legend. Unfortunately for Balto, his fame did not serve him well - he was sent to America and eventually ended up in a zoo (this is not in the movie). Thus man rewards the loyalty and efforts of a faithful dog. You can hear about the original story and what happened to Balto in the accompanying documentary.

    The story of this incredible journey also became the basis of a wonderful animated movie, one of the best children's (and adults who are children at heart) movies that has been made. They have managed to weave into this film a wonderful story and some great comedy along with a strong message, one that is particularly applicable to children today.

    The story revolves around Balto. In our movie version, he is half dog and half wolf, and as such is ostracised because he is different. He lives on the outside, rejected by the other dogs, and feared and rejected by the townspeople. He does have some friends, including a Russian goose who is a wonderful character that refuses to fly south because he loves Balto. He plays the part of the father figure. There are also two polar bears, one large and one small. These two resemble Laurel and Hardy in looks and actions, though reversed in size, and again are wonderful characters that are very easy to fall in love with. Balto is also in love with a beautiful dog owned by one of the children that catches diphtheria.

    No movie would be complete without its antagonist, in this case played by a nasty dog called Steele who goes out of his way to antagonise Balto, and also has designs on the object of Balto's affection. He is backed up by his three henchmen, err henchdogs, that for all the world resemble the Three Stooges, up to and including the slapstick humour that the Stooges were so famous for.

    Taking a few liberties with the original story, a dog team is chosen to go and retrieve the antitoxin, led by Steele. They run into trouble and it falls to Balto to rescue the team and the antitoxin and save the children. On the journey, Balto learns that even though he is different, the very things that make him unique are what enables him to save the day.

    The animation is simply superb, and the backdrops and scenery are also a visual feast. For children, probably up to about 12, this is a wonderful warm and funny film that will both entertain and enlighten. The voices are played by Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda and Jim Cummings amongst others and are very well done.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The animation is bracketed at either end by some live footage, which is of reasonable quality. The animation footage is very close to reference quality and produces a stunning image on screen. I watch my DVDs on a 100 inch screen and the image from this DVD was simply fantastic - you felt that you could walk up and step into Nome and walk down the street.

    Balto is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The live footage at either end of the film, which only runs for a few minutes, is not very sharp but once we move to the animated section, sharpness really improves and overall the image is pin sharp. Shadow detail is excellent and there is no low level noise present.

     The colours are great, with an excellent palette in use with great range, particularly in the backgrounds. There is no chroma noise.

    The only artefact that I could see was some minor blocking present in large areas of single colour, particularly on some of the animated characters. Single-stepping though from 4:21 to 4:22 shows this artefact on the sled dog at the left of the picture, although at normal viewing speed and size most will never see this artefact. There is no aliasing or telecine wobble present. The film master is in excellent condition with almost no grain and no film artefacts at all.

    There are subtitles for the main feature and all of the extras which are accurate and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but I could not spot the layer change despite a long search.

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

Audio

    Accompanying Balto is a wonderful English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This is the only soundtrack on the disc.

    Dialogue quality is excellent and actually moves out of the centre speaker at times to track a character's movement. There are no problems with the audio sync.

    The music maintains the high standards of the rest of this film. It is a grand, sweeping and truly evocative theme that meshes with the picture perfectly. Light at the correct times and reaching right into your heart at others, musical scores don't come any better than this.

    The surrounds work very well with a good expansive soundstage and some pinpoint independent rear speaker usage. All-in-all, this is a very impressive soundtrack.

    While the LFE channel appeared to have little activity encoded, there is more than enough deep bass redirected from the mains for the subwoofer to be happy. While they could have been a little more use for things like the avalanche, the subwoofer supports the action and music very well.

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

Extras

Menu

    A static menu consisting of a picture that is inset into a 1.78:1 area. The actual picture and menus only take up about 2/3 of the available screen real estate. There is no sound.

    Each of the special features have two cryptic icons that can be used to start the feature - one starts the feature normally, the other runs the feature with the subtitles turned on.

Trailer: Balto (2:13)

    Presented at 1.85:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, the trailer sells the movie well, though as usual gives away a little too much.

Trailer: ET 20th Anniversary edition (1:31)

    Presented at 2.35:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital soundtrack with the surround bit set. This is the trailer for the edition that is being re-released theatrically and finishes with the announcement "only in the theater, March 2002". One wonders about having this advert on a DVD which is where the special edition of ET belongs.

Featurette: Balto (26:48)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The inserted film footage is presented at 1.85:1. This documentary covers both the making of Balto and the original story. It is filled with interesting facts and some original footage from the original crisis in 1925. A very good inclusion and a thoroughly enjoyable watch, except the bit where we find out what happened to the original Balto.

R4 vs R1

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

    For some bizarre reason, even though this DVD is available in Region 1, it has not been reviewed by any of the R1 sites even though the sequel Balto II has been. From what I could locate, the following tentative comparison is compiled;

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    Assuming the information I was able to glean is correct, this leaves us with a very clear Region 4 winner thanks to our version being in the correct aspect ratio.

Summary

    Anyone with young children should have Balto in their DVD collection. The story is wonderfully entertaining and can be enjoyed by all ages. The message in the film is clear and if we can communicate this to children at a young age and then continue to reinforce this, it can only be a very good thing.

    The animation footage is superb.

    The audio is also superb and will draw you into the film.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Monday, May 27, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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

Comments (Add)
How long is the featurette? -
Times for special features - Terry M (read my bio)