James & The Giant Peach – Special Edition (1996/Disney Blu-ray)
B Sound: A- Extras: C Film: B+
frustrating to think many people claim The
Nightmare Before Christmas as their favorite Tim Burton film, when in fact
it is a Henry Selick film. But it must
be even more frustrating to Henry Selick who went on to direct James and the Giant Peach in a similar
style to The Nightmare Before Christmas (although
nowhere near as dark) that is also often mistaken as a Burton film. Now it is fair to say that Burton did have the original idea for Nightmare while at Disney, but
regardless of that it is a Henry Selick effort.
James and the Giant Peach, as
previously mentioned, is nowhere near as dark as Nightmare, but it does have the same heart and soul.
James and the Giant Peach is a 1996 film based on a Roald
Dahl book by the same name. The film is
a minimal blend of live action and stop –motion animation; the live action
sequences taking place at the beginning and end of the film. James
and the Giant Peach is a brilliant fantasy film that seamlessly blends
musical numbers, action, horror and everything in between. Though the film did not receive the praise
and acclaim of Nightmare Before
Christmas, it does have a sizable cult following by both Roald Dahl fans
and animation fans alike.
starts off in live action with James living a peasant like life with his abusive,
ugly aunts Spiker and Sponge in England;
think of it as a Cinderella-esque tale. James
Henry Trotter’s parents died in a horrible accident where they were “eaten by a
demonic rhino” and his aunts have “raised him” since. James is not allowed to live the life of a
normal boy, spending most of his time locked up with his only friend being a
window spider. One day a traveling
salesman offers James a mysterious bag filled with green crocodile tongues that
are meant to change his life, but he trips on the way home and the bouncy green
tongues take root in an old peach tree.
Unbeknownst to James the crocodile tongues have extraordinary affects on
the old tree and its inhabitants; at first with the appearance of a giant
peach. Spiker and Sponge see profit in
the peach, showcasing it and selling tickets/pictures for profit. One day James decides to venture inside the
peach only to find that it is inhabited by giant anthropomorphic insects, who
it quickly befriends. The peach rolls
down the old hill and the bugs with the boy are flung into the Atlantic Ocean
with the intention of heading to New
York City for a better life. The crew of the peach soon gets airborne when
they use Ms. Spider’s silk web to capture a flock of seagulls to aid them on
their way. So join Mr. Grasshopper, Mr.
Centipede, Ms. Spider, Mrs. Lady Bug, Ms. Glowworm, Mr. Earthworm and James as
they head for New York City
with many adventures along the way.
is absolutely wonderful and one of this reviewer’s all time favorites. There is something about stop-motion
animation that CGI can NOT capture. It
is comparable to using real costumes in films versus all CGI creatures (*cough*
George Lucas *cough*). The film has
life, depth and heart like no other and fully holds up to today’s standards if
not better. This film is classic Disney
through and through with so much magic it is busting at its peachy seams.
the film is fantastic and the previously released Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray is one of the best on the
market, James and the Giant Peach’s video
is not impressive in the slightest. The
first question I asked myself when viewing James
was “is my TV broken?” The 1080p
High Definition 1.66 X 1 transfer looks dull, washed and stripped of life. Even with the film arriving three years after
Nightmare it looks astonishingly
worse as it lacks the depth, detail, colors and deep inky blacks that made the Nightmare Blu-ray so memorable. The film has an odd cloud about it from
beginning to end, obscuring the fine details and stripping away the brilliance
of the stop-motion feature. The colors
are not bright and the blacks are far from inky; with crushing occurring
frequently in the darker sequences, making it hard to make out what is
what. I must say that the film does look
better than the prior DVD release as Disney has erased debris, dirt and digital
noise; but everything else about the image leaves the viewer asking why? There is no reason that the image should not
have been just as memorable and stunning as The Nightmare Before Christmas.
the technical reviewer in a different direction is the sound. WOW! The
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix is totally up to Disney standards
as it is immersive and knocks your animated socks off with its power and
range. It sounds like an action flick,
but it is a pleasant children’s tale…amazing.
Every speaker is utilized with full ambient noise range, solid
directionality and immersive speaker use with booming bass. The viewer is surrounded by the film in every
way with voices coming clearly and music crisper than ever. Bravo to the sound department.
extras are sad, sad, sad. Every bonus
feature has been ported over in standard definition from the previously
released DVD; making for less than 10 minutes of extras. Bonus features include a Production
Featurette (4 mins), “Good News”
Music Video by Randy Newman, Film Trailer and a boring Still Gallery. There is ONE new HD feature, which is a
nonsensical game where you see how many time you can poke Spiker and Sponge
with a rhino horn…all in all useless.
end, James and the Giant Peach is
one of the best animated films of all time; inspired by a Roald Dahl classic
and projected with all the same heart and creativity. My gripe with this release lies in the
picture quality and extras. I would have
gladly waited another year for this release if Disney had spent the time to do
the picture right and give us some much deserved extras. If you don’t own the film already or are as
big of a fan as I am than Blu-ray is the way to go, but don’t expect the
picture to be demo quality.
certainly is a world beyond your imagination.
- Michael P. Dougherty II