A trio of Disney Blu-rays: McFarland, Spirited Away and The Cat Returns

Jun 16, 2015- Permalink

I quite enjoyed McFarland when I saw it in theaters and now you have a chance to take this inspirational film home with you as it gets released on Blu-Ray. I actually just got back from an Alaskan cruise and this film played on the ship to a warm reception.

Once again, Disney has released it with the title McFarland, USA in the States and McFarland in the rest of the planet. Maybe Americans thought it was about a leprechaun without the geographical addendum?

The disc’s 1080p resolution transfer matches the theatrical release’s aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The colors are warm and while it may often look sun-bleached, this is intentional, as the heat and conditions these young men had to face was a bigger challenge than the teams they had to race against.

On the audio side, the disc features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Spanish, and Portuguese, while the Canadian version of the disc has a English and French tracks and subtitles, but not the other languages.. Dialogue is clear, This isn’t the most immersive 5.1 track out there, while the low frequency channel is well used for foot falls during the races.

The extras are a bit light, with the standard music video and behind-the-scenes packages.

An animated classic was also waiting for me, in the form of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which won the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards. The film tells the story of Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl whose parents are turned into giant pigs in an amusement park used by the spirit world to get a break from the earthly realm. The girl must work for a witch in order to free her parents.

The 1080p transfer features a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very nice presentation that’s lovely to look at. Colors are stunning, the contrast and black levels perfect. Every aspect of the animators’ craft is lovingly presented here.

On the audio side, the disc has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks in both the original Japanese and an English dub, while the Canadian disc also has a French two track dub. The dialogue is very clear and the 5.1 tracks immerse you in the spirit world while the low frequency channel also gets a wonderful workout. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Extras on the disc include the story as told through the original Japanese Storyboards, a look at the animation studio and artists, a look at the work behind the English dub and a Japanese TV special interviewing Miyazaki and the rest of the animation team.

I also got a chance to take a look at The Cat Returns, another Studio Ghibli release from Miyazaki disciple Hiroyuki Morita. It’s the tale of a young girl, who saves The Cat King and then takes a journey into his Kingdom of Cats.

The 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer is clean and crisp with good colors and contrast. The production level isn’t as high as Spirited Away’s — this feels more like a TV release rather than a cinematic masterpiece — but the quality of the transfer work is still good.

On the audio side, there’s English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks, while the Canadian release also has a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English and French. Dialogue is clear but the 5.1 soundscape isn’t as immersive as Spirited Away’s.

Extras include a look at the story through the original storyboards and a behind the scenes look at the English dubbing process.