DreamWorks Ultimate Holiday Collection appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on its Blu-ray Discs, while Rise of the Guardians went for 1.85:1 on its platter. As expected, these computer-generated animated programs looked great.
At all times, sharpness looked excellent. Every aspect of the image came across as crisp and well-defined, without any soft or fuzzy elements on display.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and edge enhancement failed to occur. Source flaws also remained absent in this clean presentation.
The various programs provided differing palettes, though they all tended toward Christmassy tones. Even when they avoided the standard green and red, they still came across as warm. The hues came across well, as they always appeared vivid and full.
Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed clean and well-developed. All the components here looked great.
Though not as impressive, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks of the Holiday Collection shows were perfectly acceptable for the material. The soundscapes favored the forward channels.
They offered good stereo delineation for the music as well as a bit of localized speech. Effects cropped up from logical spots and blended together nicely.
Surround usage varied from segment to segment. “Fury” was probably the most active of the bunch due to the flight of the dragons, but “Merry Madagascar” came with plenty of movement and involvement as well. Though none of the sequences dazzled in terms of soundfield, they used the channels in a satisfying manner.
Audio quality succeeded as well. Speech was concise and natural, while music sounded full and rich.
Effects demonstrated good clarity and accuracy, and those elements also boasted pretty nice low-end response when necessary. There wasn’t enough “dazzle” on display for the audio to merit a grade above a “B”, but the soundtracks satisfied.
Note that Rise of the Guardians came with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 affair that worked even better. With all the movie’s action, the mix gave us many active moments and lots of impressive sequences.
Elements like North’s sled and the tooth fairies zoomed around the room, and other components – like Pitch’s nightmares – made strong use of the various channels. These all combined to form a well-integrated soundscape.
Audio quality was top-notch. Speech appeared distinctive and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music seemed robust and rich, while effects gave us clean, accurate information.
Bass response also appeared deep and taut. Everything here worked well to create an “A-“ soundtrack.
On the Holiday Collection disc, we get an animated piece called Shrek’s Yule Log. It runs 30 minutes, 19 seconds and provides a “video fireplace”.
At the start, we see Shrek set up the Yule log, and occasionally characters like Donkey and Puss pop into the image to make comments. It mostly remains a view of a CG fireplace, though, so don’t expect much from it.
Next comes 12 Days of Christmas Pop-Up Book. This one goes for two minutes, 18 seconds and features a quick bedtime story from Shrek. Though brief, it amuses.
From Dragons: Gift of the Night Furies, we locate a five-minute, 29-second collection of four Deleted Scenes. These tend to add some character beats and a few action or comedy moments, but nothing especially memorable.
Director Tom Owens gives us background for the clips and lets us know why they got the boot. This turns into a nice compilation of clips.
Under Sing-Along Music Videos, we find four tunes. The area encompasses “We Wish You a Merry Penguin”, “Jingle Bells”, “12 Days of Christmas” and “Deck the Halls”. Most involve Penguins, though we see Madagsacr characters too.
The videos themselves are cheap and crude. However, the songs offer amusing riffs on the classics.
This disc finishes with Learn How to Draw. Here we find artistic tutorials for “A Baby Gronckle” (4:04) and “Wo Hop” (5:43).
Tom Owens brings instructions during both segments. He offers useful insights and makes these segments enjoyable.
Footnote: the disc titles the second tutorial “Wo Hop Scared Shrekless” but I can’t figure out why. Wo Hop is from the Kung Fu Panda universe, and Owen’s discussion never touches on Shrek.
On its separate disc, Rise comes with copious extras, and we launch with an audio commentary from director Peter Ramsey and producers Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, story/character areas, visual and character design, score, animation and technical issues.
While you'll learn a little about those subjects, you shouldn't expect many insights. Instead, happy talk dominates this commentary to an absurd degree. From start to finish, the participants gush about the great work done and what they love about the film.
When Ramsey claimed to be “super-critical” of the movie, I nearly had a stroke. Across the movie's 97 minutes, you’ll find maybe five minutes of actual film-related information – and that’s a big “maybe”. I won’t say this was the most tedious, least enjoyable commentary I’ve heard, but it’s close – I view it as pretty worthless.
Under Behind the Magic, we find a collection of four featurettes. With a total running time of 27 minutes, 43 seconds, we see “Dreaming Up the Look” (8:06), “Naughty and Nice: Designing Memorable Characters” (8:39), “Enchanting Effects” (5:32) and “Creating an Epic Score” (5:26).
Across these, we hear from Ramsey, Bernstein, Steinberg, production designer Patrick Marc Hanenberger, executive producer Guillermo Del Toro, executive producer/author William Joyce, head of character animation Gabe Hordos, head of story Hamish Grieve, head of effects Yancy Lindquist, visual effects supervisor David Prescott, effects lead Stephen Wood, and composer Alexandre Desplat.
The pieces examine character, set and visual design, influences and inspirations, animation and effects, and music. After the painful commentary, “Magic” comes as a relief. While not the most in-depth examination of filmmaking I’ve seen, it covers its subjects well and offers a useful take on the topics.
Another featurette called The Man Behind the Guardians goes for six minutes, 25 seconds and includes notes from Joyce, Steinberg, Bernstein, and Hanenberger. We get info about the development of the novel on which the movie’s based and other aspects of the story/characters. Joyce dominates and makes this an enjoyable view of his work.
For the final featurette, Dreamers & Believers fills 10 minutes, 47 seconds with info from Ramsey, Steinberg, Joyce, and actors Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law.
“Dreamers” discusses cast, characters and performances. Like its predecessors, it gives us some good info, and I like the shots of the actors in the recording studio.
Sandy’s Dream Guide gives us an interactive feature. This presents a variety of potential dream subjects – like parents or castles – and interprets their meanings. It’s a cute addition for kids.
Two Blu-ray exclusive games follow. We locate Jack Frost Snowball Showdown! and Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy. In the former, you use your remote’s arrows to move Jack around the bottom of the screen to dodge/throw snowballs.
Expect a tedious affair. For the latter, you play the old kiddie fave in either single elimination, best of three or best of five configurations. It’s simple and not much fun.
The disc opens with an ad for The Croods and Dragons: Riders of Berk. These pop up under Previews along with clips for Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, the Rise of the Guardians video game and Madly Madagascar.
Sneak Peek also provides a promo for Turbo. Worlds of DreamWorks Animation throws in musical snippets from Shrek, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda. No trailer for Rise shows up here.
While the programs involved demonstrate inconsistent quality, the Dreamworks Ultimate Holiday Collection still packs a lot of entertainment. It becomes a fun choice for Christmas viewing. The Blu-rays boast excellent picture as well as good audio and a decent array of bonus materials. This turns into a likable package.