Oh, don't be shy, David Boulet wrote a review that makes me smile and it's more than worth a full length quote.
I did speak to David before he wrote this, and that's pretty obvious - I do wish he had watched the Recobbled Cut before writing though.
The Thief and the Cobbler
Written by DaViD Boulet
Friday, 17 November 2006
Miramax Home Entertainment / 1993 / 73 Minutes / G
Street Date: November 21, 2006
I’m not qualified to review the “movie” quality of this film having never seen the real film. You see, what’s been released on this DVD is a severely compromised shadow of the original concept by animation artist Richard Williams (best known for his work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). However, I’ll do my best to pass along a bit of what I’ve learned while becoming acquainted with this film for the purpose of this review.
Richard Williams began working on The Thief and the Cobbler in the mid-to-late ‘60s. At the time, he was assisted by several old-school Disney animators (Art Babbit and Grim Natwick) along with a few excellent artists from Warner Brothers. For many years Williams financed work on the film using his own money; it was his dream to create an unrivaled animated masterpiece that would manifest uncompromised artistic expression of the medium. After recognition for his work on Roger Rabbit, Williams was able to find investors willing to finance his production of The Thief and the Cobbler. However, after a brief period the studio hands funding the project became dubious of Williams’ ability to produce a marketable film and they took the project out of his hands for completion. This new team replaced many of the original animated scenes with farmed-out third-party animation and added clichéd musical sequences in an effort to clone the success of Aladdin. Several different versions of this studio interference were released in different regions. However the Miramax version is one of the most troubling; the studio added narrative dubbing for the lead characters during what Williams had animated to be silent sequences.
It was hoped by many fans that this new Miramax DVD release would present the film in a manner better reflecting Williams’ original workprint for the film (google to learn more about the surviving workprint). Or, if not presenting a fully restored director’s cut of the original film concept, it was hoped that Miramax would at least appeal to the fan base by presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a new film-to-digital transfer and include missing original workprint content in the form of bonus features and deleted scenes. None of those wishes have been granted in this new DVD release. Sadly, to my eyes and ears it looks like Miramax has simply transferred an old VHS/Beta copy onto DVD with fancy silk-screening and fold-out packaging to disguise the travesty.
The Video: How Does The Disc Look?
After having reviewed Disney’s recent re-release of The Fox And The Hound I honestly didn’t think it could get any worse.
The image quality of this disc, quite literally, looks like a VHS/Beta tape rather than a DVD . . . and one that’s seen better days. Colors are smeared and murky. Detail is nonexistent. There’s a strange flutter/wobble to whatever detail has managed to survive. It’s like what you expect to see when you record a cable program onto VHS for time-shifting. Blacks are crushed and grayscale tracking is non-linear. I could hardly believe my eyes; there’s even dot-crawl characteristic of composite video. That’s right. The Miramax magicians couldn’t even take the time to use a decent comb-filter to break out the luminance/chrominance channels when transcribing the source composite analog master to component digital for DVD authoring. And on top of it all, you’re forced to view the surviving fragments of Williams’ groundbreaking animation through a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan window that slices off almost half of the artwork at any given time.
You’re the consumer. If you are dissatisfied with the studio’s efforts on this title there is a toll-free number you can call. They value your input. Be polite.
The Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
The Dolby stereo mix is slightly less infuriating than the video presentation, but that’s not giving it any praise. High-frequency extension and detail are still intact and the soundstage has a surprising sense of depth at times. However, there’s enough wow and flutter on this soundtrack to make you think you’re listening to a cassette tape that had been played all summer long in the dash of an overheated car. Dynamic range is also severely restricted (sounds very compressed) and the audio has a tiny-quality that sounds a bit shrill at times. Without any solid bass extension, the audio sounds unsatisfyingly thin.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
No special features whatsoever are provided on this Miramax DVD release. None. Unless you count silk-screen artwork on the disc as a special feature. You don’t even get a booklet with printed chapter-stops. Oh, but you do get that fold-out pop-up castle in the cardboard DVD cover-sleeve. Maybe you can just buy the sleeve without the disc and save some money since that’s the only thing worth complimenting about this release.
Exclusive DVD-ROM Features: What happens when you pop the disc into your PC?
None are included on this disc.
Miramax had an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past with this new DVD release of The Thief and the Cobbler. Ideally, they painstakingly would have done their best to restore this unrealized work of Richard Williams’ animated art to its original, intended, form. At the very least, they might have presented the current compromised edit in the animation’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and provided the excised sequences and workprint content along side the feature film in the form of bonus material so collectors would have access to the original concept and animated sequences.
None of these criteria were realized. Rather, it looks to my eyes and sounds to my ears like Miramax has merely recycled the shoddy off-the-shelf composite analog master boasting no better than VHS image and sound qualities. Without even a single special feature to mitigate the offense, I heartily recommend you avoid this release and contact the studio to let them know about the proper DVD presentation that would earn your purchase.