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Blu-ray: DUMBO (1941)

This restoration of the Disney classic is brought to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer exquisitely. Unlike some restorations, this one doesn't turn the hand drawn feature into something that looks like TV animation. The subtleties remain, especially in the watercolor backgrounds, where the artists' touch really pops in hi-def. Color is a huge element in this film and the range is kept under control in that nothing seems unnaturally bright. Black levels are inky. Digital anomalies are absent from the release as far as I saw, but others have pointed out some ringing.

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This restoration of the Disney classic is brought to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer exquisitely. Unlike some restorations, this one doesn't turn the hand drawn feature into something that looks like TV animation. The subtleties remain, especially in the watercolor backgrounds, where the artists' touch really pops in hi-def. Color is a huge element in this film and the range is kept under control in that nothing seems unnaturally bright. Black levels are inky. Digital anomalies are absent from the release as far as I saw, but others have pointed out some ringing.

The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. This surround mix doesn't over do it. The rear speakers are used sparingly, especially noticeable in the storm and elephant tower sequences. Dialogue is clear and balanced well with the music and sound effects. The songs and score have a tinny quality but that is a source issue not something wrong with this transfer. For purists, the disc also has a nicely restored 320kbps Mono track as well.

As for the special features there is a host of wonderful additions. The Cine-Explore feature is an amped up commentary track, featuring UP director Pete Docter, Disney historian Paula Sigman and Disney animator Andreas Deja. The picture-in-picture feature not only includes video of the commentators, but also artwork, stills and even clips from other films when useful. At times the track is turned over to archival recordings of the artists that worked on the film. The threesome not only covers the artistry but also the history of the production.

What isn't covered in the Cine-Explore experience is certainly tackled in the two making-of docs "Taking Flight: The Making of DUMBO" and "Celebrating DUMBO," which is a 15-minute carry over from DVD. The mini-docs get into the details of how the feature was the smoothest production in the early years and done as a reaction to the box office failures of PINOCCHIO and FANTASIA. The simplicity of the short-feature was more in tune with the studio's shorts rather than the epic special effects filled productions they had been doing.

The disc also includes a deleted scene and song reconstructed from early sketches. "The Mouse's Tale" sequence has Timothy Q. Mouse telling Dumbo the tale of why elephants are afraid of mice. You know, back in "prehysterical times" mice were bigger than elephants and elephants never forget. Timothy also gets the song "Are You a Man or a Mouse?" in order to cheer up Dumbo.

Other features include: "The Magic of Dumbo: A Ride of Passage," a short promotional doc on the popularity of the Dumbo ride; DisneyView, which adds artwork from Disney background artist James Coleman to the black bars on the side of widescreen TVs; a TV introduction of the film by Walt Disney; a sound design excerpt from "The Reluctant Dragon;" art galleries; two interactive games; and the shorts, ELMER ELEPHANT and THE FLYING MOUSE, which are the perfect companions to DUMBO.

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Rick DeMott
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