If Hollywood's vast abundance of remakes, spin-offs and sequels weren't enough to kill your appetite for spending money on "new" entertainment, it seems like almost every one of these releases finds its way onto home video in multiple forms. Sometimes the studios issue different iterations of a film all at the same time, in a thankful moment of honesty that at least allows consumers the option which version they want. More often, though, the studios will re-release, expand and double-dip their top earners time and time again in order to wring out a few more dollars from the less dull entries in their back catalog. And especially now, during the still-early days of Blu-ray, there's even more new and different editions being released in stores, some of which are honest-to-Jah improvements on the presentation and packaging, while others are merely the next generation of mediocrity.
As such, welcome to the second installment of "Making The (Up) Grade," a comparison of some of the more high-profile (or maybe just personally-preferred) blu-ray releases with their previous home-video iterations. This week, we're taking a look at Snow White, which Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is releasing in a three-disc Diamond Edition.
What's Already Available: WDSHE released a standard-definition deluxe, two-disc Platinum Edition in October of 2001. In addition to the film itself, the set included a ton of material, including a 40-minute documentary, a performance of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" by Barbra Streisand, a "Heigh Ho" singalong, a "Dopey's Wild Mine Ride" game, an audio commentary utilizing recordings of Walt Disney himself, a series of production and biographical timelines, storyboards, galleries, and camera tests.
What's In The New Set: The Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs Diamond Edition is three discs – two on Blu-ray and on one standard-definition DVD – and its collection of content is arranged in a slightly different way, which makes it seem both equal to its predecessor, and unwieldy for folks unfamiliar with any of the material. The SD disc features the remastered film, a commentary track by John Canemaker, a music video, and a sneak peek at The Princess and the Frog.
The first Blu-ray disc features digitally restored picture and sound, a "DisneyView" option where audiences can watch custom art by Toby Bluth in the sidebars (since the film is 1.33:1 aspect ratio), the same Canemaker audio commentary featuring recordings of Walt Disney, a series of new interactive games, a music video, a "Backstage Disney" section, a preview of The Princess and the Frog, and deleted scenes. The second Blu-ray disc expands "Backstage Disney" with an interactive look at Hyperion Studios, where the film was developed and made, and a collection of the "classic" bonus features included on the '01 edition.
What's The Difference In The Movie Itself: As indicated above, Snow White was given a full, meticulous digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound, and it looks amazing. Like the Pinocchio Blu-ray released earlier this year, the presentation of the film is the best it's ever been on home video, and probably better even than it looked during its many theatrical runs. The cleanliness of every frame just leaps off of the screen, but the color and clarity is more than equal, making the film gloriously vivid without giving it a purely contemporary kind of glow.
What's The Difference In Everything Else: Also as indicated above, there's a massive wealth of material here spread mostly across the two Blu-ray discs (the SD disc is basically a transitional purchase for gradual adopters of HD entertainment), and it's all pretty impressive. Because so much of the material is organized on the second Blu-ray disc under the auspices of a tour of Hyperion Studios, however, it's tough to know how much has now been re-purposed multiple times and how much has simply been organized to maximize a casual but effective narrative about the film's production.
Although the commentary track on both discs is the same as the one from the 2001 edition, it's one of the greater commentary tracks ever recorded for a film, especially an older one, since it literally uses actual recordings of Disney himself in relation to key scenes in the film. Meanwhile, there are a handful of other new features, including a short featurette about Disney's development of a possible sequel, and a documentary entitled "The One That Started It All," which utilizes a lot of period footage and recordings to chronicle the troubled and initially criticized development of the first feature-length animated film of all time.
What's The Final Grade: A. There is no doubt that this release is the most complete and comprehensive version of Snow White ever released on home video, thanks to its wonderful presentation, and a combination of existing and all-new bonus materials. While sticklers for presentation will find their patience duly rewarded by how good the movie looks and sounds, virtually anyone who picks this set up will be satisfied by some aspect of its contents, qualifying this not merely as a replacement for previous editions, but the definitive release by which all others can and will be defined.