Home on the Range appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Disney usually do a nice job with their animated releases, and London didn’t vary from that model.
Sharpness appeared fairly good. Some mild examples of softness crept into wide shots, and these led to present an image without great definition at times. However, the movie generally looked concise and detailed. No shimmering occurred, but I noticed occasional jagged edges and a little light edge enhancement. Source flaws caused no concerns and stayed absent.
Range enjoyed a suitably cartoony and lively palette with a Western tint, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The colors always came across as tight and vibrant. The hues never displayed any bleeding, noise, or other concerns, and they consistently appeared strong. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately dense but never became too thick or opaque. In the end, Range presents a reasonably positive picture.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 of Home on the Range, it seemed acceptable but lackluster. The soundfield maintained a noticeable bias toward the front speakers, and it displayed decent spread and imaging there. Music showed nice stereo separation, and a lot of environmental and other specific effects cropped up from the sides. The soundfield showed a good level of activity and made the front domain reasonably lively, with nice blending and movement.
Surround usage was relatively minor, though the movie enjoyed some active moments. For the most part, the rear speakers simply reinforced the front ones, but periodic instances of unique audio cropped up from the rear. This track stayed focused on the front.
Audio quality appeared clear but somewhat uninspiring. Speech came across as natural and concise, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded clean but lacked much dimensionality. The score and songs were somewhat thin and without impact. Effects also seemed clean and accurate, and they could provide some acceptable low-end response when appropriate. Bass for those parts was fine but a little loose at times. Some moments stood out as powerful, such as the arrival of the train or an explosion toward the end. Otherwise, though, the audio of Range was decent and nothing more given the flick’s vintage.
Not one of the more elaborate Disney DVDs, Home on the Range nonetheless comes with a mix of extras. We start with an audio commentary from writers/directors Will Finn and John Sanford and producer Alice Dewey Goldstone, all of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Like most Disney animation tracks, this one seems bright, bubbly, and reasonably informative. We get a lot of information about the film’s evolution, with remarks about cut sequences, changes of pace and characters, and various parts of the decision-making process. Happy talk pops up pretty frequently, and we also get lots of notes about who was responsible for what part of the flick; both elements get a little tedious at times. Nonetheless, the commentary gives us a good level of information and moves along nicely.
A collection of four deleted scenes follows. This section starts with a 35-second introduction from Finn and Sanford; they simply explain the concept of deleted scenes. As for the clips themselves, they run a total of 15 minutes and 10 seconds; that total includes scene-specific introductions from Finn and Sanford. The snippets vary from simple story reels up to rough pencil art; no fully finished footage appears.
Since little in the final film seems particularly entertaining, I didn’t anticipate much from these scenes, and my low expectations were warranted. The segments would have slowed down the movie even more, and they lacked much amusement or excitement. Sanford and Finn’s introductions give us good notes, however, as they aptly let us know what the scenes intended to do and why they got the boot.
Under “Music & More”, all we get is a music video for “Anytime You Need a Friend” by the Beu Sisters. (Why call it “Music & More” with only one component?) It’s little more than the usual lip-synch/movie snippet blandness, though the Sisters are attractive enough that I won’t complain.
Two elements pop up in “Games & Activities”. The Joke Corral tells us cracks - presented in the style of Laugh In and its folks behind windows - and lets you toss out your own funny; do so and hit a button to get a reaction from a character. We get 18 pre-programmed jokes in all, and while none seems scintillating, the presentation’s cool. It uses an interesting cutout style of animation (ala South Park) and also features all the original voice actors. This makes it more endearing than it might have been. (The “Herd of Jokes” play all option is also a nice touch.)
Yodel Mania! divides into three smaller areas. “Yodel Memory Game” requires you to attend to a growing sequence of singing animals. It builds up slowly to a possible seven vocalists, and that makes it easy. It’s surprisingly cute and fun, again because we find the original voice actors; how can you not love to hear Judi Dench and Joe Flaherty yodel? The bonus round is tougher, but I cheated and wrote down each yodeler so I aced it. Unfortunately, successful completion comes with no prize.
This area also includes a “YodelMentary”. This 160-second piece doesn’t present a game or an activity. Instead, we get a quick, glib, and not very interesting look at the history of yodeling. Finally, “Yodel Maker” sends you to a DVD-ROM drive and requires a microphone, so that’s all I can say about it. Alas, I shan’t record any personal yodels today!
”Backstage Disney” includes the already-discussed audio commentary plus two other elements. Trailblazers: The Making of Home on the Range lasts 16 minutes, 40 seconds, and presents a pretty standard piece. We hear from Finn, Sanford, Dewey, dialogue writer Shirley Pierce, composer Alan Mencken, lyricist Glenn Slater, background supervisor Cristy Maltese Lynch, and supervising animators Mark Henn, Duncan Majoribanks, and Chris Buck. They talk about the flick’s origins and development, its characters, the art and animation, the music
In addition to the comments, we see footage of the actors in the studio as well as production art and other archival elements. Those add to the package, which otherwise seems reasonably efficient and informative but not spectacularly deep. A fair amount of material repeats from the commentary, though enough new info pops up to make it worthwhile. It’s a good program given its length and restrictions. (Footnote: Mencken refers to kd lang’s “all-American” voice - does he know she’s Canadian?)
For the last part of “Backstage Disney”, we find a 10-minute and 15-second Art Review. In this, we check out look at research photos and concept drawings while we hear from Maltese and art director David Cutler. They discuss the processes they went into the visual and character design of the movie. It’s an informative and tight look at its subject.
Range tosses in an all-new animated short called “A Dairy Tale: The Three Little Pigs”. This uses the same style as the look of the “Joke Corral”. We watch Mrs. Caloway retell the “Three Little Pigs” story in this three-minute, 40-second piece, but she constantly gets interrupted by other cast members. It’s cute and fun.
In a fun touch, before you get to the main menu, you’ll find a unique animated intro. This offers tidbits with the original voice actors for four of the characters as they tell us of the coming menu. It’s cute and fun - and easily skipped, which is great since it’ll get old after a few screenings.
As the disc starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, Aladdin, Mulan and Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for The Magical World of Pooh, Disney’s ToonTown Online, and the Range soundtrack.
The disc features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
If Home on the Range represents the final chapter in Disney’s legacy of 2-D animation, it’s too bad for a number of reasons. Much of the sadness will come from the lackluster quality of this flick, which doesn’t represent a strong moment for the studio. It seems tepid and without much pep to make it entertaining.
The DVD offers very good picture along with sound that seems acceptable but not much better. The supplements don’t compete with the extras from Disney’s more packed special editions, but with a commentary, a good featurette, and some deleted scenes, there’s enough here to make it a better than average set. Too bad the movie itself is so bland. Leave this one for the Disney completists.