Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not among the best visual presentations I’ve seen, Horton consistently looked very good.
Sharpness was almost always excellent. A few wider shots showed minor softness, but those elements nearly fell into the category of nitpicking. Across the board, the flick demonstrated nice clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws also failed to mar this clean, fresh image.
With its bright storybook setting, Horton boasted a broad palette. The movie featured a wide variety of hues, and the DVD made them look quite good. The tones seemed lively and full throughout the movie. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows looked clear and well-delineated. Overall, the presentation was strong.
Though not quite as good as the visuals, the audio of Horton also satisfied. The DVD featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. If any differences emerged between the two, I couldn’t discern them. I felt the pair sounded identical.
The soundfield wasn’t super-active, but it provided a good sense of place. The flick featured enough action-oriented scenes to add a reasonable amount of pizzazz to the package. Most of these stemmed from Horton’s attempts to save the speck and ward off aggressors. Those sequences allowed a lot of information to spread to the side and rear speakers. The elements opened up matters well, with nice localization and integration. While I couldn’t identify any real standout segments, the mix provided a good overall impression.
Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music showed fine vivacity and depth, and effects also delivered solid presence. Those elements were consistently full and clear; no distortion interfered, and bass response seemed fine. Again, this was a very good pair of mixes that worked well for the material.
Most of the set’s extras appear on the first platter. On Disc One, we begin with an audio commentary from directors Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss adapting and expanding the source material, cast, characters and performances, music, visual design and animation, and a few other production topics.
Hayward and Martino maintain a peppy tone throughout the chat, which is good and bad. On the negative side, they often simply tell us how much they love various aspects of the film. Nonetheless, they balance this with a lot of useful info about the flick. We get a well-rounded glimpse into the production despite the happy talk.
Fun with looping: a couple of times during the chat, the directors refer to a name-brand soft drink. I guess the suits at Fox didn’t like this, so the commentary awkwardly dubs “soda” over top of the specific beverage. This delights me.
Obviously intended to help promote the upcoming sequel, we get a short called Surviving Sid. It runs seven minutes, 59 seconds and shows Sid the sloth as a camp counselor. Slapstick hijinks ensue, with a little amusement as well.
Deleted Footage lets us look at a bunch of cut sequences. After a glib 24-second intro from Hayward and Martino, these break down into three areas: “Storyboard Versions” (nine sequences, 14:50 total), “Rough Animation Versions” (two sequences, 2:39 total), and “Almost-Final Versions” (two sequences, 1:09 total). The “Storyboard” scenes allow us to view the segments at their most basic, which is why we find so many of them; these sections got the boot pretty early in the film’s production. “Rough Animation” shows some works-in-progress, while “Almost-Final” gives us clips that fell out of the flick late in the production.
Did any interesting segments appear? Sure – a few of them seemed pretty fun, though most deserved to be cut. For instance, some let us hear Jojo speak well before the film’s end, and that would’ve been a mistake. It’s good to see the storyboarded “Alternate Ending”, though, and some other intriguing pieces emerge. This becomes a good collection of deleted material.
We can watch the “Footage” with or without commentary from Martino and Hayward. They give us some info about the sequences and usually let us know why the elements didn’t make it into the movie. The directors continue to be chatty and reasonably informative.
Under Animation Screen Tests, we get early glimpses of some characters. After a 43-second introduction from animator Nick Bruno tells us what to expect, the pieces allow us to check out Horton, the Mayor, and the Whos. In the “Horton” area, we first find an “Original Horton Short” (0:59), which you can watch with or without commentary from Hayward and Martino. An additional nine “Horton” clips last a total of one minute, 59 seconds.
From there, we get 10 clips for the Mayor (3:47) and two for the Whos (0:22). The “Original Horton Short” lets us a fully-rendered Horton; created as a demo to show to the Seuss estate, its Horton looks fairly different from the final film’s, so it’s interesting to examine. The other bits exist to provide basic movement demos; they’re crudely animated but fun to check out.
A slew of featurettes follow. Bringing the Characters to Life goes for five minutes, 28 seconds and includes notes from Hayward, Martino, Bruno, animation supervisor James Brenahan, animation character leads David Torres, Mark C. Harris, and Jeff Gabor, and animators Jackie Fortin and Patrik Puhala. They tell us a little about how the animators act out the roles to create their work. We also see a little of some voice actors in the studio, though the show mostly deals with the acting of the animators. I especially like the shots of the animators and voice actors as they perform; some decent info emerges otherwise, but the behind the scenes stuff works best of all.
For the eight-minute and seven-second That’s One Big Elephant: Animating Horton, we hear from Hayward, Martino, Torres, Harris, environmental modeling lead Salvatore Melluso, character technical direction supervisor Stephen Unterfranz, sculpting supervisor Mike Defeo and supervising animator Michael Thurmeier. The program digs into the character design and animation for Horton. Despite the program’s brevity, it provides a nice look at the subject matter. Lots of useful test footage helps make the show a winner.
Meet Katie runs three minutes, 47 seconds and features Hayward, Martino, story artist Eric Favela, and animator Jason S. Martinsen. They tell us a little about the minor character of Katie and her development. Like “Elephant”, “Katie” proves illuminating and fun.
We look at the story’s adaptation in Bringing Seuss to the Screen. The eight-minute and 13-second show provides statements from Martino, Hayward, executive producer Chris Wedge, art director Thomas Cardone, screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, modeling supervisor David Mei, materials supervisor Brian Hill, and actor Carol Burnett. The program looks at the source work and how the filmmakers expanded the short story and adapted its visual style. While I’d have liked more info about the new elements added to the tale, this still becomes a nice look at the thoughts being the book’s big-screen adaptation.
Info about the lead actor arrives via The Elephant in the Room: Jim Carrey. It goes for four minutes, 53 seconds and delivers notes from Hayward, Martino, and actor Jim Carrey. As implied by the title, “Room” looks at Carrey’s take on the lead character. I like the shots of Carrey at work, but too much of the material simply praises the actor.
The film’s theme comes to the fore with the three-minute and 41-second A Person Is a Person: A Universal Message. It includes Hayward, Wedge, Martino, Daurio, Paul, and actors Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett. They chat about the movie’s message in a basic way that adds virtually nothing to its interpretation. Carell tosses out a few funny lines, at least.
Our Speck: Where Do We Fit In? runs three minutes, 59 seconds and presents precocious kids as they try to teach us an ecological message. Obviously intended for a young audience, it won’t do anything for adults.
For the final featurette, Elephant Fun: The Facts lasts five minutes, 27 seconds. As expected, it gives us info about elephants; we hear from elephant expert Hayden Rosenaur as he tells us the pachyderm basics. As with “Speck”, this one’s meant for the kiddies, but it provides a decent overview of its subject, so adults will learn something as well.
Next we find We Are Here!, a game related to the film. It requires the player to remember the order in which some musical instruments play. It’s pretty forgettable.
DVD-ROM users can Create Your Own Animation. Does this work well? Maybe – the program failed to run properly on my computer. I tried it on a couple of machines but couldn’t get it to work.
Under Trailers, we find ads for City of Ember, Dr. Dolittle: A Tinsel Town Tail, Space Chimps, Garfield’s Pet Force, Elephant Tales and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. No promo for Horton appears.
Only one feature appears on Disc Two: a digital copy of Horton. This allows you to copy the film to your computer or to a portable digital device. If that suits you, go nuts!
After a few crummy Dr. Seuss adaptations, I had low expectations for 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!. Happily, the flick proved to be pretty entertaining. It remained reasonably true to its source and provided a nice piece of entertainment. The DVD offered very good picture and audio along with a mix of fairly interesting extras. Both the DVD and the movie satisfy; this stands as a good piece of family fun.