Surf’s Up 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. Because it used a faux documentary style, it became tough to objectively rate the visuals of Up.
That said, the movie looked pretty good most of the time. Softness occasionally took a hit, though, as some wide shots appeared a little soft and ill-defined. Those were infrequent but they did create a few minor distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement looked absent. As for source flaws, the film was clean. Some intentional “print defects” did appear – such as grain - but I didn’t count them.
Colors seemed positive. The documentary presentation made them a little more subdued than usual, but they still came across as pretty lively and dynamic. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows were less consistent. Again, the documentary impression meant that lighting wasn’t always stellar; the movie appeared to want to give us an “on the fly” look, so shadows could be somewhat thick. Overall, I thought the visuals were good enough for a “B”, but they didn’t excel.
Despite the tone of the visuals, Surf’s Up presented the standard big and impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The documentary feel didn’t affect the audio at all, as the mix presented a good impression. The soundfield always gave us a nice sense of environment, and the big surfing sequences proved impressive. They used all five channels to involve us in a action. Other scenes showed decent spread as well, and music offered solid stereo imaging.
Audio quality was always good. Music sounded lively and dynamic, and speech seemed positive. The lines were natural and concise; no edginess or other problems materialized. Effects came across as full and rich, with clean highs and tight bass. This was a consistently good soundtrack.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from directors Chris Buck and Ash Brannon and producer Chris Jenkins. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. At the start, we learn why they chose the documentary format and related concerns. The track also looks at cast, characters and performances, animation issues, story and deleted/altered scenes, music, surf research and inspirations, and a few other technical issues.
Some animation commentaries become awfully dry, but this one stays enjoyable. The guys don’t bog us down in tech minutiae, and we find quite a lot of good notes about the creative side of things such as the decision to record the actors together, a step not usually taken in animation. This is a consistently informative and likable track.
Four Lost Scenes run a total of
We find “Doris and Sheila” (0:48), “Pen-Gu: Island of Adventure” (0:58), “Z Is for Zurfing” (1:04) and “Doris and Sheila: Behind the Scenes” (2:14). The first three come to us via story reels; no finished animation appears. “Scenes” is less a deleted scene than it is a look at the recording session with Mindy Sterling and Jane Krakowski, the actors who played cut characters Doris and Sheila. They act out a scene not in the flick, but it doesn’t come as even a story reel; we just watch them perform.
Based on the evidence here, it’s too bad Doris and Sheila didn’t make the flick. They were supposed to be Z’s groupies, and their sequences are fun. “Pen-Gu” offers a tacky – and amusing – Reggie Belafonte promotion film, while “Zurfing” shows the cheesy side gigs Reggie made Z take back in the day. All the clips are enjoyable.
We can watch the scenes with or without option introductions from Buck, Brannon and Jenkins. They tell us a little about the segments and why the pieces didn’t make the final film. It serves the same purpose as a commentary, and it informs well.
An odd piece, Arnold’s Zurfinary runs four minutes, 10 seconds. The movie’s young Arnold character teaches us how to speak like a surfer. It’s harmless but not particularly interesting.
Some featurettes follow. All Together Now: Surf’s Up Voice Sessions goes for 17 minutes, two seconds as it presents notes from Brannon, Buck, and actors Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, Mario Cantone, Diedrich Bader, Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Sal Masekela, Dana Belben, Reed Buck, Reese Elowe, and Jack P. Ranjo. They discuss recording the actors and how they achieved their performances. Though the piece often feels more than a little self-congratulatory, I do enjoy the shots from the recording studio. We also get quite a few nice insights into improvs and other performance elements.
Not a Drop of Real Water breaks into three subdomains. We get “Surf Cam” (7:24), “Making Waves” (12:55) and “Storyboard to Surfboard” (2:00). “Cam” features Brannon, Buck, Heder, LaBeouf, Bader, co-producer Lydia Bottegoni, head of layout James Williams, CG supervisor Bert Van Brande, and production designer Paul Lasaine. It looks at the film’s camera work and how it achieved its documentary look.
“Waves” includes Buck, Brannon, Jenkins, Bader, Machado, Slater, Bridges, LaBeouf, visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow, animation supervisor David Schaub, supervising animators Chad Stewart and Pete Nash, lighting technical director Darren Fisher, animators Jeff Schu and Dougg Williams, lead lighting artist Michael Sandrik, character setup supervisor Mike Ford, effects animation supervisor Matt Hausman, wave setup lead Erick Miller, and wave animation lead John Clark. It discusses the animation of the waves and all the issues that went into that area. Finally, “Surfboard” gives us a multiangle option. It lets you watch a part of the film via these choices: storyboards; rough layout; animation; feathers and fur; effects; and final film. We can also view a “progression reel” that shows all six in order of completion.
All of the “Drop” components are quite good. We learn about the movie’s innovations; the parts about the camera work are especially intriguing. “Surfboard” also offers a cool look at the different stages of animation. Definitely check out these pieces.
For the final featurette, Meet the Penguins fills three minutes, 52 seconds and shows a couple of real penguins as they visit the production. Why? I have no idea, as they’re not used for reference material. It’s a cutesy program without much value.
Under the banner of The Secret Spot, we get three games. “Make Your Own Surfboard” allows you to design a board – sort of. You can choose length, shape and color and then see Cody ride a crudely animated version of your product. It’s kind of lame, though I like that Bridges and LaBeouf provide fresh voice-over for it.
“Whale Hopping” offers a simple arrow-clicking game. It gets old pretty quickly and offers little fun. Finally, the “Lava Surf Game” gives us a “Dragon’s Lair” style directional contest. Don’t expect much entertainment here either. (By the way, Reed Buck and Zooey Deschanel do extra voice work for the other games, but the “Chicken Joe” heard here and elsewhere doesn’t sound like Heder.)
Next we find five minutes and 18 seconds of Progression Reels. Visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow narrates as he leads us through the many components that go into various animation pieces. It’s a good examination of the effects elements in the movie.
When we head to the Galleries, we locate two areas. We find “Characters” (16 frames) and “Locations” (27). Both are too short, but they offer a mix of interesting elements.
After this we get a music video for “Lose Myself” by Lauryn Hill. It’s a cheap video, as it just matches movie clips to the song. At least the tune’s not too bad; I won’t want to hear it a ton, but it’s listenable in the “Hey Ya!” vein.
Next we get two ChubbChubbs Shorts. The first one – just called “The ChubbChubbs” – ran with Men in Black II and appeared on that DVD as well as on its own. Since I already reviewed it in both places, I won’t say much here other than that it’s a clever and entertaining piece.
The disc provides a new adventure called “The ChubbChubbs Save Xmas”. In this one, Meeper the aliens tries to find a home for the cute little Chubbchubbs. He sees an ad for the North Pole and chooses it. Unfortunately, he injures Santa and then needs to deliver the toys. It’s not as fun as the original, but it has some good bits and mostly delivers the goods.
At least one Easter egg can be found. Click left on the “Lost Scenes” screen to highlight Cody’s surfboard. Press “enter” to see a 24-second clip that tells us where to find Meeper in Surf’s Up.
Speaking of semi-hidden features, if you let the main menu run and don’t do anything, eventually the characters will pester you. We get material from the movie’s actors recorded just for that purpose, and that makes it fun. It’s not unique, but it’s still enjoyable.
Some ads open the DVD. We find promos for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Daddy Day Camp, Storm Hawks, Spider-Man 3, and Monster House. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Open Season, Open Season 2, Are We Done Yet?, Holly Hobbie and Friends, The Last Day of Summer/Shredderman Rules! and It’s a Big Big World.
I didn’t expect much from yet another penguin movie, but Surf’s Up proves surprisingly winning. No, it reinvents no wheels and doesn’t ever become anything truly special, but it’s fun and entertaining. The DVD offers decent picture as well as good audio and a mix of nice extras. This release takes a likable movie and presents it well.