DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

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DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Dacey » January 7th, 2018, 3:48 pm

So I recently came into possession of DuckTales: The Movie on DVD. It's presented in "anamorphic widescreen" and looks fine...except for one thing. The film often looks...crowded. Like it looks okay, but if Disney were to have cropped the sides of the image for it on VHS, there's no way it would've looked good on video.

So basically, my question is...was DuckTales: The Movie produced in 1:33 and then "chopped" for theaters? Because that's the hunch I'm getting here, but I can't find any answers online. Disney has never handled the original DuckTales very well on DVD (it looks like Volume Four will never be released), but at the same time, I'm not complaining about the "theatrical" presentation being what's included here. But a full frame version would also be nice if that's the case, and now I'm wondering if I should seek out the movie on VHS for the "non-cropped" cut.

Any thoughts?
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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Randall » January 7th, 2018, 8:31 pm

I am guessing it was 4:3 to begin with, but cannot say for sure.

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby droosan » January 7th, 2018, 8:44 pm

It was actually once common practice to shoot feature animation at 1.33:1, with the intention of cropping the top & bottom of frame for 'theatrical' release. I know for certain that Don Bluth filmed The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail in this fashion. Compare the 'widescreen' versions of those films on DVD with their 'full frame' releases, and you'll see the former is cropped from the latter.

And this technique actually made sense, in the early days of home video .. when 100% of TV screens were a 1.33:1 aspect.

Now that a majority of home TVs are 16:9, it's understandable that Disney would release a 'theatrically-cropped' version of the movie .. if they did originally shoot it at 1.33:1, that is.

DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was also released on LaserDisc in 1991 .. and was in 1.33:1 aspect.

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby EricJ » January 8th, 2018, 4:50 am

Think the Movie was originally a collection of TV episodes, before it was upgraded to the new movie marketing--
To be a native Widescreen 16:9 movie, it would have had to been groomed for the bigscreen from scratch, and this supposedly wasn't.

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Ben » January 8th, 2018, 8:04 am

Okay...

Firstly, DTTM wasn’t ever a bunch of episodes: it was developed and animated by a new division, Disney MovieToons, in France, intended to be the first in a series of lower budget films that would utilise the classic Disney characters and fill in the gaps between the bigger Feature Animation titles. Overseen by Disney TV Animation in the US, MovieToons also produced A Goofy Movie and eventually became what we now know as DisneyToon Studios, producers of the DTVs. The physical Paris studio continued for a while and contributed to Tarzan and Fantasia 2000 among other things (it's also where Glen Keane was based while living in Paris).

Second, the 1.66:1 Disney Movie Club exclusive DVD of DTTM is in its correct aspect ratio. After The Black Cauldron's near 'Scope framing, every single Disney animated film was shot to a 1.66 negative ratio, which is taller than a movie screen's average 1.85 but wider than the TVs at the time of 1.33, or 4:3, the old Academy format.

1.66 proved to be a useful framing device: it could be marginally cropped top and bottom in theatres to give the 1.85 framing but then open that picture into top and bottom to "fill in" more space on TV screens and crop marginally less on the sides. When you see some pencil animation for the 1990s films, it’s usually in 1.66 ratio (an otherwise dormant European ratio) and you’ll see a darker, semi-matted area top and bottom: this is what would have been cropped off in the 1.85 theatres.

On VHS, all these films - save for the obvious later widescreen titles - were opened up top and bottom and cropped on the sides. Some titles got different treatment on LaserDisc - DTTM used the same VHS 4:3 transfer, so it has the full height info but crops the sides, while Goofy Movie, Lion King and Hunchback, to preserve the more cinematic aspects of the slightly wider framing, were hard-matted to 1.85. Most others such as Mermaid, Aladdin, B&TB, Pocahontas, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc, were presented on LD in their original 1.66 in collector editions (though Mermaid and others also got non-collector versions that were in 4:3).

It wasn’t until 16:9 TVs and anamorphic DVDs came along that Disney largely went back to the original 1.66 negative ratios on most of its films...for some films the first time we had seen the entire frame (such as Lion King and Hunchback). Toy Story was always 1.78:1, the actual aspect ratio of a 16:9 screen, again cropped top and bottom in theatres but issued in full on LD.

With Blu-ray, we got another issue: most of the Disney films have retained their 1.66 ratio, but some have been zoomed in slightly to lose the this strips of side-matting and fill the 16:9 frame, such as Home On The Range. While this doesn’t actually remove anything from the sides, it does crop a little too and bottom, though less than it would have been to 1.85 on a theater screen.

My preference is to see the entire 1.66 negative ratio, which may be a compromise for two differing screen formats (one of which, 4:3, is now redundant) but gives one the full image of what was shot to film. The only film that doesn’t automatically fit this format is Roger Rabbit, which was shot to 1.66 film but had its visual effects hard-matted to 1.85, the only way the film should be seen (the VHS pan and scanned the 1.85).

So, going back to DuckTales, for which I still have my VHS, LD and the DVD. The VHS and LDs are cropped left and right. I once suspected that this was an open matte transfer and attempted to blow up the image on a projector: instantly it was clear that the framing was too tight. When the DVD came along I compared and could easily see the extra picture info on the sides. Yes, the framing is still tight, especially in the opening scenes, but this is an artistic choice to fill the frame and make things feel faster and more, as the MovieToon division label indicates, more cartoony.

In a loooong post to provide a short answer...the DTTM DVD's 1.66 is the original and correct negative ratio framing. It was cropped a little top and bottom to give a 1.85 showing in theatres, and was cropped on the sides for VHS and LD.

And, yes, it did look even more crowded on those formats. But then, unless something was actually shot open matte (and even then the "extra" info was never intended to be seen!), nothing ever did look good when it was cropped and/or pan and scanned!

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Randall » January 9th, 2018, 12:10 am

I dunno. I don't think Ben sounds like he knows what he's talking about.


;)

Kidding!

OK, mystery solved!

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Dacey » January 9th, 2018, 1:24 pm

Thanks, Ben. :) Very helpful answer. Guess I should try to find that edition on ebay somewhere down the road.
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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby Ben » January 9th, 2018, 4:30 pm

Is it not the Disney Exclusive disc you have?

If not, don’t worry...the later wider retail disc uses the exact same transfer. There’s only one widescreen version of DTTM out on DVD. :)

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Re: DuckTales: The Movie "Widescreen" question

Postby James » January 10th, 2018, 11:26 am

C'mon Ben, tl;dr!

:D

I'm thinking you should do an article based on some of that info...