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DVD Review Classic Disney Live Action Family Movie
Disney recently released the first several titles in their "Walt Disney Film Classics" collection. Broken up into several sub-collections, initially "The Don Knotts Collection," "The Kurt Russell Collection," "The Hayley Mills Collection," and "The Comedy Favorites Series," these movie-only DVDs bring some of Disney's classic live-action family movies back to home video after several years. Priced lower than most other Disney family classic DVDs, these discs provide good quality movies with the ease and convenience of DVD. Additionally, given that they are divided into collections, I expect that we will see more of these over the next couple of years.
To kick the series off, each of the collections contain the following movies:
The Don Knotts Collection
The Kurt Russell Collection
The Hayley Mills Collection
The Comedy Favorites Series
Of these movies, my biggest problem is with The Absent Minded Professor. Initially released in black and white in 1961, it was colorized and re-released in 1996. Unfortunately, the colorized version has made its way to DVD with nary a nod to its original form, and the colors have a very fake look to them. For example, everybody's faces are just about the same color tan, and the grass is a uniform, bright Astroturf green. I realize there is an industry feeling that color is better, but given the capacity of DVD, it would have been nice to at least give us the option of selecting either the original black and white film or colorized version. Even for a low cost disc, I would not think that this option would add significantly to the production costs.
As I mentioned, these discs only contain the movie, so there are absolutely no goodies on any of them. Is this a problem? Since the discs are priced and advertised as movie-only discs, not really. While it would be nice to have all the extras we normally associate with DVDs, it is understandable that material like that may not be available for some of these movies, and it is nice to have these titles on DVD. My problem with bonus material is when studios like Disney, charge $30 for a 2-disc special edition of a theatrical animated feature, loaded with extras, and $30 for a virtually bare bones direct-to-video sequel. I am sure that the lower production costs of the sequels helps to offset the higher costs of the special editions, but I would rather pay a little more for good extras and keep the cheap discs priced where they belong. In the case of the Film Classics collection, the lower disc price makes these titles easier to justify the lack of extras.
The Video, Audio and Interface
All of these movies are pretty old, but both the video and audio are in pretty good shape. All the video transfers are full-screen, and the audio soundtracks are either simple mono or stereo. The video is detailed and the colors bright and saturated, yet due to the age of the original film stock, there are occasional film defects like scratches, dust, etc. In the end, these minor issues are not distracting. The most significant disappointment about the video transfers is that most of the movies are pan-and-scanned from their original widescreen format. My guess is that, to keep costs down, Disney used existing full-screen transfers made for video or laserdisc, but it would have been nice to have the widescreen version available. As for the simple audio, the soundtracks are clear, clean, and sound just fine.
The interface is just as plain as the discs themselves. The menus are simple static screens featuring movie-themed music cues. That is it.
The Final Evaluation
These discs retail for $20, so if you can find them for around $15 - $17, they are not a bad deal. However, I think these discs will probably find their primary home in rental outlets. Most folks will want to watch these once or twice, and without the bonus material, renting them is probably the best option, unless you absolutely love one of these movies. The best part of them being released on DVD is that these movies are entertaining and established classics that the whole family will enjoy, and now that they are on DVD, we can all enjoy them for years to come.
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