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Dumbo (70th Anniversary Edition) (1941) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
ImageHere we are.  Alas, Disney has brought “Dumbo” to Blu-ray in the US.  The film has been on Blu-ray for more than a year in foreign countries, and some of you may have imported that version.  But for those that were patient, this US release is worth the wait.

With “The Lion King” currently in theaters and set for a Blu-ray 3D release in the coming weeks, Disney gives us another of their classics first.  “Dumbo” is the four animated feature from Disney, released in 1941, just one year after the, at that time, puzzling nature of “Fantasia.”  This is also Disney’s first animal-based animated film.

Sure, the film only runs about 60 minutes, but its accomplishments are great.  Sure, there is controversy surrounding the racial nature of some of the characters.  But, that can be found in any film if you look hard enough.  “Dumbo” brings a heart-warming and fun tale to the screen and families.  This is the first Disney film that would define the future of Disney - family-friendly animation with a caring story.

I won’t waste time reviewing the plot of “Dumbo” as I’m sure you all have heard the story.  What I will say is that this release brings back a lot of nostalgic feelings and is certain to be introduced to an entire new generation of children.  It has been that way since is inception, only growing stronger with the advent of home video.

As for the Blu-ray release, all I can say is, “wow, stunning, gorgeous,” and whatever other similar term you can pull out of the hat.  Disney is a master at animation restoration.  Every one of their animated classics has been brought to Blu-ray with impeccable video transfers and restorations.  “Dumbo” is no exception.  The hand drawn and painted cels of the “Dumbo” are striking.  Restoration is pencil perfect.  Every bit of detail is sharper than ever.  Until you see “Dumbo” on this Blu-ray, you have never really seen the film at all.  I grew up watching this film from a VHS tape, a poor recording at that.  Then, when I was older and DVD came along I saw the film on that medium.  I was floored by the DVD copy, having only seen a worn out VHS transfer.  But the upgrade of VHS to DVD is nothing compared to Blu-ray.

Colors are beautiful rendered.  There is no chroma issue and no overbearing saturation.  The black levels are rich and deep, resolved as fully black.  You will not find any grey or washed black levels here.  The contrast is pitch perfect, as is the brightness level.  You can forget about artifacting, banding and all other digital transfer related issues.  While this isn’t a Diamond Edition for some reason, it most certainly looks like one. The audio is presented on Blu-ray in the form of DTS-HD MA 7.1.  The original mono audio track has been restored and is presented in a Dolby 2.0 Mono format at 320kbps.  I can say without hesitation that the 7.1 audio track is infinitely better than the Dolby 2.0 track.  The simple fact of the matter is that I never want to hear anything at lossy quality ever again.  Television broadcasts are bad enough.  I don’t need it on my home videos.  That being said, purists will love the inclusion.  But for those that are looking for a marvelous time while watching “Dumbo” should stick with the 7.1 track.  Just because it is 7.1 doesn’t mean that it deviates much from the mono track.  Were the Dolby 2.0 track to be lossless, you probably could get a similar experience to the included 7.1 audio track by using a decoding algorithm on your receiver.  Anyway, the 7.1 audio track provides that little extra sonic material to give you an enveloping feel.  It isn’t immersive by any means, but the audio does feel the room.  There are no flashy sound effects flying all over the film.  The surround channels merely have some ambient bleed to them.  The track remains largely mono.  That being said, the dialogue is crisp and clean.  The music is better than ever.  The quality of the 40s soundtrack is nicely restored.  You will not find any grating high frequencies here, as with many 80s films.  Sure, there isn’t the weight to the audio track as there is now, but come on, we are talking about an audio mix that was created 70 years ago.  The audio presented on this disc is simply incredible.  If you knew the amount of restoration that went into this audio track you would savor every sonic moment.

The Blu-ray package comes with a Blu-ray and DVD copy of the film.  The DVD copy comes with many of the bonus materials that are found on the Blu-ray, however, the Blu-ray does have some exclusive features.

Disney has included their Cine-Explore PiP track on “Dumbo.”  This PiP track is hosted by Pixar director Pete Docter and two others, a historian and an animator.  This track provides in depth production and historical detail on the film.  It is an absolute must for any fan.  The Blu-ray is also equipped with a DisneyView presentation mode, which is just like that of “Snow White,” “Fantasia” and the other 1.33:1 aspect ratio films.  This mode places hand painted mattes down the left and right sides of the screen, framing the film in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  I found this presentation to be natural and quite enjoyable.  The paintings are never distracting.  So unless you have curtains for the sides of your projection screen or TV then I recommend this mode.

“Taking Flight: The Making Of ‘Dumbo’” is a 30-minute documentary on the success of the film and is importance.  Recently discovered, a deleted scene and a deleted song are included on the Blu-ray.  Both are presented in storyboard form.

“The Magic of Dumbo: A Ride Of Passage” briefly looks at the Disneyland ride.  “Celebrating Dumbo” is featurette from the original DVD and contains excerpts from interviews of some notable people in animation.  “Sound Design Excerpt from ‘The Reluctant Dragon’” is not really related to “Dumbo” but is great for those into sound design.  The Blu-ray also includes the original TV introduction by Walt Disney.

As with previous Disney releases this Blu-ray contains two Silly Symphony short films – “Elmer Elephant” and “The Flying Mouse.”  Other features on the Blu-ray include two interactive kids games, art galleries, trailers for “Dumbo” and sneak peeks at other upcoming Disney releases.

“Dumbo” is terrific.  The video and audio restorations are breathtaking.  It is a no brainer that this title should be at the top of your Blu-ray collection.

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