Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Christmas Carol, A 3D
Release Date(s)2009 (November 16, 2010)
Studio(s)Walt Disney Studios
Who doesn't know the story of A Christmas Carol by now? The latest silver screen version comes from director Robert Zemeckis' Image Movers Digital, previously responsible for films like The Polar Express and Beowulf. It's also Disney's first trip into Blu-ray 3D.
Being a digital production, the image quality on this Blu-ray is nigh-flawless. Color, contrast and detail are all very near to perfect. We've all seen enough 3D animation on the format to know that on Blu-ray - aside from some minor instances of banding on rare occasion - this is about as good as HD gets. A Christmas Carol definitely does not disappoint on Blu-ray in 2D. But 3D is this title's real opportunity to shine, and I'm happy to say that the 3D image too glows like the Ghost of Christmas Present.
I've now been experimenting with Blu-ray 3D on my own system for a few weeks now, and one of the big problems I've noticed with animation on Blu-ray 3D thus far has been the "art flat" look, where the 3D encoder doesn't guess right on a set piece or character and they turn into a cardboard cutout in the middle of a 3D space. While this problem has certainly lessened as both the 3D encoding software and compressionist experience improves, it's still plaguing some of the other titles arriving on Blu-ray 3D at the moment. Thankfully, aside from the view outside of Scrooge's office window, I experienced few instances of this phenomenon. A Christmas Carol is the first Blu-ray 3D disc I've felt truly delivers an experience on-par with theatrical 3D exhibition. Bar-none, this is the finest BD3D title currently on the market, and will almost certainly be the showcase title for 2010 (especially since Avatar 3D will not be widely available in stores until at least 2012). Is the 3D illusion always perfect? No, but it isn't in the movie theater either. Still, you feel like you can reach out and touch Jacob Marley's chains, and the flight over London with the Present Ghost is a total trip. Other flights have you hovering over an alleyway with very perceptible depth. And while there's a lot more "inny" than eye-poking "outie" 3D effects, I don't think anyone will feel less than delighted by this top-notch presentation. Even my tech-challenged mother was impressed... and that's saying something.
Moving on to the audio, while Christmas Carol's DTS-HD MA lossless mix isn't going to win any awards, there's still plenty of directionality and panning to be had. The soundtrack is very open, concentrating more on establishing a space without being intrusive. Of course, when the on-screen action gets crazy, there's plenty of whiz-bang and ping-pong surround effects to shake the cobwebs out of your subwoofer.
When it comes to supplements on this Blu-ray release (other than both 2D and 3D versions of the film itself), the first present under the tree is the full-length PiP track featuring the on-set motion capture footage. So you can watch as Jim Carrey and the rest of the company run around looking like they have chickenpox, with facial capture cameras strapped to their faces like pinchers. The novelty wears off after about 10 minutes, but it's well worth visiting key sequences just to see the original performances and how closely the animation matches them. Bob Hoskins as Fezziwig is particularly fun to see, as is the undertaker. The rest of the extras are pretty straightforward. On Set with Sammi follows one of the child actors around behind-the-scenes. Capturing Dickens is a standard EPK-style making-of documentary, and the ironically 2D Discovering Blu-ray 3D with Timon and Pumbaa attempts to sell the uninitiated on the home 3D experience. A smattering of deleted scenes, a BD-Java powered advent calendar and (of course) bonus DVD and Digital Copy discs round out the package.
Few stories have been put to film as many times as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The universally beloved tale of a bitter old miser that rights his wrongs and rediscovers his humanity speaks to every man, as we spend each day trying to be better people. Robert Zemeckis's crew have delivered the best version of the tale since the George C. Scott effort in the 1980s. With a surprisingly dark tone, and a few embellishments for the cinematic medium and 3D, this film adds a nice bit of top-shelf brandy in the usual eggnog to makes the tale feel fresh again. Adults planning on showing this film to very small children may want to screen it for themselves first, as the tone and intensity could be a bit overwhelming for them. That being said, I think it's fair to say that Disney's first Blu-ray 3D effort has placed them at the head of the class in terms of technical presentation. A Christmas Carol become the Blu-ray 3D title to beat at retail for the 2010 holiday season.
- Jeff Kleist