Disney Short Films Collection: “Runaway Brain” Digital Release Review

Disney has decided to release some of it’s short films on DVD and Blu-ray, and thankfully a lot of these are new to DVD or Blu-ray. One short which I would love to own on Blu-ray is “Runaway Brain”. This is included as a digital-only bonus feature on this Short Films collection set. Therefore it is not on the DVD or Blu-ray disc and is only available on Disney’s website after you enter in your special magic code on the Disney Movies Anywhere website.

Runaway Brain is one of my favorite shorts. I was saddened to see that when it was released on DVD in 2005 (as part of the Disney Treasures DVD set: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume 2) there was a noticeable audio sync issue. Meaning the sound was slightly off, but noticeably off, from the picture. This is harder to notice in an animated film, but I noticed it.

So how does this newly available digital version compare?
Well for that I bring out my Mickey Mouse in Living Color (Volume 2, Disc 2) DVD for a direct comparison on my computer.

Visual Quality
From the looks of it the DVD version and digital version are quite similar, but the digital version is a winner by a hair. First I noticed there is a tiny, tiny bit more picture around the outside frame when compared to the DVD. Second, although things still seem to look Standard Definition, things aren’t as fuzzy as the DVD. Overall things appear a bit sharper on the digital version.  So even though there is still some compression visible, it is a slight upgrade from the DVD and welcome one. See the screenshots to judge for yourself. Also the colors on the digital version seem to pop a bit more.

I would have loved to see this in High Definition, sadly Disney has decided not to do this. And I doubt they’ll do it anytime in the next 5 years since they lobbed this over the plate as a bonus feature this time around. If you have a sharp eye and pause the digital version you can see some scenes have more compression than others. So if you compare direct freeze-frames with the version available on DVD you may have some different winners depending on the scene.

Oddly enough the digital version begins with Miramax opening logos. This isn’t present on the DVD, but thankfully the digital version retains the classic blue Walt Disney Pictures opening logos, the Miramx opening (and closing) logos are just added on. Weird, but probably a Disney marketing / legal decision since this film isn’t as family friendly as some of their other shorts.

Audio Quality
As for the audio I wish I could say it’s better than the DVD. It may be, but it’s hard to tell. It seems to be slightly off still, but lip sync issues are difficult to spot in animation. The audio doesn’t seem as badly synced as the DVD, but it doesn’t seem to be 100% either. Maybe it’s just me, but in my opinion it’s slightly off still.

Conclusion
It’s a shame Disney didn’t include this on the Short Films Collection Blu-ray/DVD set. It would have been a perfect edition to the BD, I really wanted to see this short in High Definition, so that is really disappointing. I do hope Disney releases more of their shorts on DVD and Blu-ray. There are still plenty which have not seen the light of day since their VHS or LaserDisc releases many years ago.

Screenshots
Here are some screenshots I took on my Mac. The DVD version is a high-quality MPEG-4 rip from the DVD disc and is displayed on the left. The right is the digital version available on the Disney Movies Anywhere website.

Click the screenshots below to view the full-size image. Images are in PNG format and may be up to 1 megabyte each.

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Title Card (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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Mickey playing his video game. (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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Pluto trying to help out. (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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In the lab. (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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Runaway Mickey! …or is it? (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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Hawaii (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)
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Vacation (DVD shown on left, Digital shown on right)

Looney Tunes Golden Age LaserDisc Collection Shorts List

Starting in 1991 Warner Brothers released five beautiful LaserDisc-exclusive box sets of uncut Looney Tunes containing a total of 338 shorts. These were released as the Golden Age of Looney Tunes collection. The first volume was split-up onto multiple VHS tapes for a release on home video. However, the remaining four volumes are LaserDisc-exclusives. The first 3 volumes contain 70 cartoons per volume, the 4th contains 73, and the  5th and final set contains 55.

Not even these five LaserDisc volumes include the notorious Censored Eleven cartoons, as Turner broadcasting made the decision at the time that these should not be made available in any form. Recently however, Warner Brothers stated these censored 11 cartoons would finally be made available on DVD via the Warner Archive collection for a 2011 release. Although 2011 has come and gone, rumor has it they are still planning this release and the restoration work on these shorts has been completed.

Unfortunately, even with all of the shorts released on DVD as part of the “Looney Tunes Golden Collection” (6 volumes released, 2003-2008) and on Blu-ray as part of the “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection” (3 volumes released, 2011-2014), there are still dozens, if not hundreds, of Looney Tunes shorts still unavailable on DVD and Blu-ray today.

It’s interesting to note that about a dozen or more shorts on the LaserDisc volumes, which were not available on the Golden Collection/Platinum Looney Tunes DVDs, made their way to recent DVD releases such as the Super Stars sets. Sadly some of these Super Star sets a zoomed in and cropped to fit a 16:9 screen, cutting off the top and bottom of these shorts. Recent releases have resolved this issue, but it shows that those in charge of Warner Brother’s DVD releases need a good reality check.

Furthermore, a handful of the Merrie Melodies exclusive to the LaserDisc releases, sporadically make appearances as DVD extras on some of Warner Brother’s films from that era (the late 1930’s… thank you Netflix!).

The majority of the shorts from the “Golden Age” LaserDisc sets remain unreleased elsewhere. However, some stand-alone VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD releases (not including the Golden/Platinum collections) do include some of these shorts here and there.

Anyway, I couldn’t find a list of these Golden Collection shorts online which noted which were commonly available on DVD and Blu-ray… So I made an spreadsheet listing all the shorts from these 5 Golden Age Collection LaserDisc box sets and noted if the short was available on a commonly available DVD or Blu-ray. Hope this helps!

View the Spreadsheet of Looney Tunes Golden Age LaserDisc Shorts

The future doesn’t look bright for these old Looney Tunes. The recent Platinum Blu-ray collection has sadly seen it’s final volume as of 2014. It seems to be fate that many of these cartoons will likely never be seen by the general public again. Or maybe it’s  just Warner Brother’s will to have these locked away since they feel there isn’t enough money to be made. Either way, it is a true shame, these hilarious shorts should be available to all. Time and money should be spent by Warner Bros now to preserve these classics before the original film elements fade beyond repair. After all these LaserDiscs were sourced from fading 16mm prints of these shorts (which were all they had access to at the time).

Thankfully, through the magic of LaserDisc, these rare shorts can still be viewed, even if only by the avid collector with a clunky-ol’ LaserDisc player.

Beauty and the Beast – Work In Progress: LD vs DVD

For the 1991 New York Film Festival Disney premiered a work in progress version of their latest film, Beauty and the Beast. This version contains incomplete black & white animation sequences and still drawings throughout the film to stand in for incomplete shots.

In 1992 this Work in Progress edition was released on LaserDisc. For the 2010 Blu-ray release, Disney included this Work In Progress version of the film only as a small picture-in-picture feature. The DVD included in this 2010 Blu-ray combo pack does contain the full-size version this WIP edition (like the previous Platinum DVD edition).

However, these DVD and Blu-ray releases are not identical to the LaserDisc release and it suffers in a few areas. In my opinion there is no clear winner. While the LaserDisc version may be more true to the 1991 Film Festival screening and has strength in the black & white sequences, the DVD offers enhanced resolution, however most of the shots are cropped slightly to fit the 16×9 frame.

On the DVD black and white sequences have their contrast altered, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to see background lines or art. Also, there appears to be some print damage which is not present on the LaserDisc transfer. A big thing I noticed was the opening title card on the DVD is not the original shown on the LaserDisc.

On the LaserDisc release you can notice that some black and white sequences show more picture information on the top and bottom. However, in some cases the drawing lines stop short, leaving white space around them. This shows that the position or cropping of the image wasn’t quite finalized or set perfectly for the WIP release. The DVD version crops these shots to a 16×9 window, so you would never know. (See image #20 for a clear example of this)

The LaserDisc is an interesting piece to examine. Often, (but not always the case) the fully completed full-color sequences have more picture information on all sides of the screen on the LaserDisc, especially the top and bottom of the screen. Disney slightly cropped the presentation of this film to perfectly fit within the 16:9 display of your HDTV. This is a common practice these days with their animated releases, but it sometimes shows a few specs of detail on the left and right sides of the image that were not shown on the LaserDisc release.

The LaserDisc has a 4:3 aspect ratio due to the limitation of the format, but uses matted black bars to letterbox the image, making no attempt to crop the image to fit on then 4:3 Televisions. Although the resolution of the black and white sequences is lower when compared to the DVD, there is overall less print damage and it’s clearer to view.

Some notable differences between the Work In Progress LaserDisc and DVD presentation:

  • On the DVD the new Steamboat Willie Walt Disney Animation logo replaces the original 1990’s era opening logo.
  • On the DVD a modern Beauty and the Beast title card replaces the still stand-in title card from the WIP version.
  • In some areas the DVD shows more picture information on the left and the right on the color sequences. This is likely due to the availability of the digital animation via the C.A.P.S. files.
  • Rarely, some of the black and white sequences diffeer slightly between the two versions. See image #3 as an example.
  • A background has been changed completely. See image #13. The background used on the DVD is very similar, but it is a different painting than the one used for the LaserDisc. Disney has repainted backgrounds for previous releases, so this isn’t surprising. It would be interesting to see which background is shown on the non-WIP version of the film available on VHS / LaserDisc.
  • The DVD picture is slightly cropped at the edges in order to have no borders on a 16:9 TV set. This effects all sequences during this version. This gives the LaserDisc the advantage to showing more picture information in most, but not all shots.
  • The finished color sequences are from the C.A.P.S. / Restored Blu-ray print and differs from the LaserDisc version. This is likely how they fit 3 versions of the film on one standard DVD 9 (dual-layer) disc, via branching.
  • The full color sequences have a much bolder and vivid look on the DVD, the LaserDisc does look dull in direct comparison, but shines on the black & white sequences due to the more balanced contrast. Note: LaserDiscs were meant to be displayed on very bright CRT-tube televisions, during my digital capture and comparison the brightness is not altered. But these “dull” colors may look a bit brighter on an actual CRT. But still, the colors on the DVD are straight from the digital source, so they look great.
  • The contrast on the black & white sequences differ, in a bad way. While on the LaserDisc it is easy to see the background sketches, the DVD version darkens the character lines and the background appears washed out.  Therefore, detail is consistently lost from the lines drawn on the foreground and background. This is the biggest problem with the DVD edition of this version.
  • There is some mild to moderate print damage in some of the black & white sequences on the DVD. Dust, scratches, and even some other issues are easy to spot. These scenes also make it easy to spot DVD compression and pixelation in some shots. It is likely that the DVD version used a different source, or the original source that was used for the LD has picked up this damage over the years when it was prepared for this DVD release.
  • I am unsure if the Work In Progress DVD (from the 2010 Blu-ray) presentation differs from the previous DVD released by Disney. However, Disney often does not re-print DVDs for their Blu-ray releases, so I would assume the same disc or transfer was used.
  • The DVD edition includes a newly shot brief introduction by Don Hahn (about 35 seconds) which is not on the LaserDisc. Also, with the exception of the brief “The Four Stages Of Animation” introduction on side 4 of the LaserDisc and the “Theatrical Reviews” trailer, all pencil tests and other supplementary material from the 1992 LaserDisc are available on the 2010 Blu-ray Combo Pack release.

Screenshot and Image Comparisons:
(The top images are from the DVD, the bottom is from the LaserDisc)

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The opening logo has changed for the DVD.

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There is more picture information on the LaserDisc.

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Notice the contrast differences here.

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The original logo card has changed.

BatB-WIP-Compare-8 BatB-WIP-Compare-9 BatB-WIP-Compare-10 BatB-WIP-Compare-11 BatB-WIP-Compare-12The DVD shows more information, likely due to being directly from the C.A.P.S. files. BatB-WIP-Compare-13Notice the background, is 100% different! See the clouds? Disney sometimes remakes backgrounds for releases if the originals are unavailable or damaged. BatB-WIP-Compare-14

Example of DVD compression problems.

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The colors are more vivid on the DVD release.

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This flaw is present in both versions, likely from the source.

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Print damage only on the DVD version.

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Example of DVD compression problems.

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The Lion King – Supplemental Feature Comparison (WIP)

The Lion King was released on a 4-disc LaserDisc deluxe box set in 1995 with a retail price of $125. Unfortunately the 2003 DVD release, and the recent Blu-ray release fails to carry over some of the content from the LaserDisc edition. The main feature missing is the 30 minute “Making Of” feature. Disney is notorious for not carrying over their previous “Making Of” features and instead they make new “Making Of” features (which include footage from the previous features, but not all of it).

In addition, some content from the 2003 DVD release is missing from the “Classic DVD” bonus features section on the Blu-ray’s Disney Virtual Vault menu. (This virtual vault feature is sadly no longer available, instead we get an error message!) I believe some European (Region B) discs may have the content on the disc itself, at least this was the case for other releases.

Some of the interview featurettes from the LaserDisc have been ported to the 2003 DVD release. However, these have been slightly re-cut. Where as these interviews usually focused on the person being interviewed, Disney must have thought this was too boring for 2003 DVD audiences. So they re-cut these interviews to insert footage of the film into these interviews. Thankfully the audio remains intact.

Looney Tunes: Wince Upon a Time (LaserDisc)

Title: Looney Tunes: Wince Upon a Time
Tagline: Foolhardy Fairy Tales & Legends

Year Released: 1993
Format: LaserDisc
Country: USA
None of these cartoons are on the Golden Age LaserDiscs.

  1. A-Lad-in His Lamp — ld nodvd
  2. Little Red Rodent Hood — dvd-gc vol. 5
  3. The Windblown Hare — dvd-gc vol. 3
  4. Yankee Dood It — dvd-gc vol. 6
  5. Pied Piper Porky – B&W — ld nodvd
  6. Lumber Jack-Rabbit — dvd-ss (BB,SS: Bugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire)
  7. Goldimouse and the Three Cats — dvd-gc vol. 5
  8. Knighty Knight Bugs — dvd-gc vol. 4 / bd-plat vol. 3
  9. Porky’s Hero Agency – B&W — ld nodvd
  10. Tweety and the Beanstalk — dvd-gc vol. 5
  11. Rabbitson Crusoe — ld nodvd
  12. Porky the Giant Killer – B&W — ld nodvd
  13. Red Riding Hoodwinked — dvd-gc vol. 5
  14. Paying the Piper — dvd-gc vol. 5

Looney Tunes: Assorted Nuts (LaserDisc)

Title: Looney Tunes: Assorted Nuts

Year Released: 1993
Format: LaserDisc
Country: USA
None of these cartoons are on the Golden Age LaserDiscs.

Shorts / Contents:

  1. A Bear For Punishment (1951) — dvd-gc vol. 2
  2. Dog Gone South (1950) — dvd-gc vol. 6
  3. Boyhood Daze (1957) — dvd-gc vol. 6bd-plat vol. 1
  4. Pests For Guests (1955) — ld nodvd
  5. Mouse Wreckers (1948) — bd (CJ,MC)
  6. A Sheep in the Deep (1962) — ld nodvd
  7. Rabbit’s Kin (1952) — dvd-ss (BB,WW)
  8. Feed the Kitty (1952) — dvd-gc vol. 1 / bd-plat vol. 1
  9. The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (1950) —bd (CJ,MC)
  10. From A to Z-z-z-z (1953) — bd-plat vol. 1
  11. Chow Hound (1951) — bd-plat vol. 1
  12. Strife With Father (1950) — bd-plat vol. 2
  13. Bear Feat (1949) — dvd-gc vol. 6
  14. Feline Frame-Up (1954) — bd-plat vol. 1
  15. Gone Batty (1954) — dvd-ss (PP,HH)
  16. A Hound For Trouble (1951) — ld nodvd

Longitude & Looneytude (LaserDisc)

Title: Longitude & Looneytude
Tagline: 14 Globetrotting Looney Tunes Favorites

Year Released: 1993?
Format: LaserDisc
Country: USA
None of these cartoons are on the Golden Age LaserDiscs.

Shorts / Contents:

  1. Mouse Mazurka — bd (CJ, MC)
  2. Frigid Hare — dvd-gc vol. 1
  3. A Pizza Tweety-Pie —  ld nodvd
  4. French Rarebit — dvd-gc vol. 2
  5. The Timid Toreador (B&W) —  ld nodvd
  6. Trip for Tat —  ld nodvd
  7. Little Beau Pepe — dvd-ss (SS, PLP)
  8. Sahara Hare — dvd-gc vol. 4
  9. Polar Pals (B&W) — dvd-gc vol. 5
  10. A Scent of the Matterhorn —dvd-ss (SS, PLP)
  11. Roman Legion Hare — dvd-gc vol. 4
  12. Dough for the Do-Do — dvd-gc vol. 1
  13. The Cat’s Bah —  ld nodvd
  14. Hare We Go — dvd-ss (SS, BB)

Guffaw & Order: Looney Tunes Fight Crime (LaserDisc)

Title: Guffaw & Order: Looney Tunes Fight Crime

Year Released: 1993?
Format: LaserDisc
Country: USA
None of these cartoons on are on the Golden Age LaserDiscs.

Shorts / Contents:

  1. Bugsy and Mugsy (1957) —ld nodvd
  2. My Little Duckaroo (1954) — bd-plat vol. 2
  3. Catty Cornered (1953) — ld nodvd
  4. The Blow Out (1936) — ld nodvd
  5. Don’t Give Up the Sheep (1953) — dvd-gc vol. 1
  6. Porky’s Movie Mystery (1939) — ld nodvd
  7. Baby Buggy Bunny (1954) — dvd-gc vol. 2
  8. The Stupor Salesman (1948) — bd-plat vol. 3
  9. Bye, Bye Bluebeard (1949) — dvd-gc vol. 3
  10. Boston Quackie (1957) — ld nodvd
  11. Riff Raffy Daffy (1948) — dvd-ss (SS, PH)
  12. Dough Ray Me-ow (1948) — bd-plat vol. 2
  13. Rocket Squad (1956) — dvd-gc vol. 3
  14. Bugs and Thugs (1954) — bd-plat vol. 3