Kung Fu Panda Blu-ray impressions
I don’t like to tar an entire studio with the same brush, but broadly speaking I haven’t thought much of DreamWorks’ animated output. Barring their collaborations with Aardman, most of their stuff leaves me cold, with unattractive character designs, stiff animation, bland celebrity voices, irritating pop culture references and a lack of actual story development. Tonight, though, we watched the UK Blu-ray Disc of Kung Fu Panda, a rental copy of which has been sitting on my desk for some time, and I have to say it entertained me. It still suffered from some of the same problems that have plagued other DreamWorks films, most notably the overuse of celebrity actors who no-one remembers for their voices, as well as some truly hideous-looking character designs, but it was, overall, an enjoyable 92 minutes and certainly a whole heap better than, say, Shrek. Overall, I’d say it clocks in a couple of pegs below Pixar’s worst, which would be (in my opinion) A Bug’s Life.
Transfer-wise… well, this one has been praised in virtually every circle as “perfect”, “reference quality”, etc. Some viewers do seem to be under the impression that digitally-sourced animation is inherently flawless and couldn’t possibly look bad on BD. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, it can. Discs like Ratatouille and Open Season are basically perceptually perfect (at least to my eyes), but, at the other end of the spectrum, The Simpsons Movie and Asterix and the Vikings, both of which are traditionally animated but were composited entirely on computers, suffer from needless low pass filtering, which removes the finest level of detail and adds unsightly ringing to edges with his contrasts.
Unfortunately, Kung Fu Panda is in this latter category, again thanks to filtering. The overall effect is actually far from awful, and indeed I can even understand why many people have failed to notice this problem, but it’s definitely there, and it’s consistent throughout. If you look at any of the screen captures below, you’ll see that the letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the image suffer from a mild amount of ringing. This sort of thing is almost always indicative of filtering of some sort, and indeed if you look at, for example, the branches in Example 13 or the rope bridge in Example 14, you can see clearly the extent to which it affects the image as a whole. In the end, it’s definitely a very watchable transfer, but it’s a shame it looks like this, because it didn’t have to. Digital animation may not automatically look perfect, but it could and should. 8/10
Kung Fu Panda
studio: Paramount; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 22.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 35.44 Mbit/sec