From Fox comes a beautiful transfer of Francis Lawrence's romantic ode to the circus. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is a nearly perfect. The color palette is rich and nuanced. The bookend sequences, which have a heavier film grain, have a more natural tone. When the film moves to the Depression era, the saturated colors pop. The lavish red of August's ringmaster jacket. The rustic circus banners. The detail provides that virtual 3-D appeal. Look at the detail of the face of elephant and the vintage costumes. The only blaring problem is pixilation during the scene where Jacob catches the train at night. This is probably due to the scene being shot day for night and digitally rendered dark.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is full of ambience and detail. Crowds, animal sounds and the closing stampede fill the entire sound field. Especially in the latter example, directionality comes into play as animals race across the soundscape. The mix is spot on, giving dialogue, music and sound effects all their proper due. The LFE track is utilized best during scenes with the rumbling train.
The disc has a nice selection of polished special features. Director Francis Lawrence and writer Richard LaGravenese provide the commentary track. It falls into the trap of commentaries where it turns into a praise fest of each crewmember, but some nice trivia pops up.
"Raising the Tent" delves into the detailed production design that brought the 1930s circus to life. They really created a working 1930s circus. "Secrets of the Big Top" goes into the history of circuses in America. "The Traveling Show — Page to Screen" chronicles the adaptation of Sara Gruen's novel and why changes were made. The best feature on the disc for sure. "The Star Attraction" highlights the elephant Tai and her training. "Robert Pattinson Spotlight" is just a praise fest for the TWILIGHT hunk. "Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon" focuses on the actress performing her own tricks… without a net. It's a brief look but it certainly makes you respect Witherspoon more. "Working without a Net: The Visual Effects of Water for Elephants" is simply the entire vfx reel for the film. A vfx breakdown this comprehensive is very rare and without any voice over gives a startling look at all the seamless vfx that went into the film.