BALTO's Digital Debut Dreadfully Disappointing
Jake Stitch | USA | 05/27/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Balto is one of the most amazing animated features of all time, easily ranking with the best of Disney's efforts such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." However, this 1995 animated classic from Universal was buried like a dog bone at the box office, and hasn't achieved the popularity it deserves even in the home entertainment market. Perhaps this is the reason that Universal decided to create a remarkably underwhelming DVD version. This is quite possibly the worst DVD I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of DVDs in the two years I've owned a player.The biggest problem with this release is the movie-to-DVD transfer: not only is it poorly done and grainy, but the DVD executives at Universal decided to release it exclusively in fullscreen pan and scan format with a 1:33:1 aspect ratio which never even comes close to doing the stunning visuals justice. The greatest asset of DVD, even greater than all of the room on each disc for extra features, is the widescreen capability, allowing the film to be experienced at home as it was in theaters, with up to 30% more picture presented to the left and right of the screen. Fullscreen reformats the film for 1:33:1 televisions and in doing so cops out up to one third of the original widescreen picture, thus diminishing the epic splendor of many shots. As do many animated features, "Balto" offers many stunning visual effects that would look absolutely amazing in widescreen, and yet Universal refuses to release the film as it was meant to be seen. I love this movie, and it pains me very greatly to say that as it is, this DVD isn't any better than the original 1996 VHS version I have.The extra features here include a very unthoughtful, low-tech game clearly designed for the youngest children (although I can't imagine that anyone old enough to comprehend the movie would be interested in such a dry, boring game.) The production notes and cast and crew bios are nothing much either. The only true plus in this area is the theatrical trailer.As if this was not enough, Universal attached a forced-view preview for "E.T. The Extra Terrestrial" to the beginning of the DVD, and it must be viewed every time you start the movie. There is no way to skip it, and although "E.T." is one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time, it starts to get on your nerves having to watch the preview EVERY TIME you want to watch Balto.DVD is the home entertainment medium of the future, and is important on several levels. When a DVD disc is made well, it does a number of things: a) presents the film in question in the best possible picture and sound available, b) gives the viewer interesting information regarding the film, such as how it was made, c) entertains the viewer with its extras and d) does all of this in an easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate, enjoyable system. This DVD is certainly easy to use, but it fails to deliver on all other fronts.With this release, Universal is telling people that the film does not deserve a disc equal to even any decent one on the market today, let alone the best of the best. I have been a loyal fan of this film ever since I first saw it in summer 1995, and find this highly insulting. They will be receiving a nasty letter from me shortly for this underwhelming disc, and my only hope is that Universal will correct these mistakes in the future with an anamorphic widescreen edition featuring thoughtful, interesting bonuses such as "The Making of Balto" and audio commentary. Until then, don't let the utter horridness of this release stop you from seeing this underrated gem of a movie, which I recommend very highly. The film itself is an amazing five-star work of art in every sense, but sadly its digital debut is dreadfully disappointing...."
Blows Disney right out of the water!
Becky | 08/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An appealing story which will be cherished by people of all ages, this movie chronicles the life of Balto, a half husky, half wolf outcast whose courage and noble spirit is ignored by the inhabitants of his hometown of Nome, Alaska, the town dogs, and even the wolf packs of the surrounding wilderness, because of his parentage. The wolves won't accept him because he is half husky. The townspeople won't accept him because he is half wolf, warning their children, "You can't trust him. He's half wolf. He might bite you," ignoring his innate gentleness. Little do they realise that someday soon they will have cause to be grateful to Balto, that they will paraise him as a hero.When Nome is stricken by a diptheria epidemic, the only way the antidote can reach the town is via the local sled dog team, which is led by the arrogant Steele. But when the team becomes lost in a blinding blizzard, it is up to Balto to rescue them, compelling him to embark upon a journey so perilous that he is forced to rely on his half wolf lineage in order to survive, during which he finally learns to celebrate and appreciate this aspect of himself, realising that this uniqueness is a gift.Unlike with Disney animated features, the cinematic release of "Balto" didn't follow a lot of studio-generated hype. Perhaps that was a shame; perhaps had the hype been bigger, more people might have gone to see it. But no amount of hype can describe the warmth, sincerity, compassion, and wholesomeness of this story. For it is a true gem, which even non animal lovers will enjoy. Balto is a cinema canine who deserves to be placed in the realms of Lassie, Benji, and Rin Tin Tin, cinematic and family icons who have touched the hearts and softened the tear ducts of millions of moviegoers for over half a century."
A great classic, which deserve to be more known
Steve Stan | France | 08/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm 20, and yet I've never heard of Balto before this year. But now I'm an absolute fan of this movie, and I've must seen it a few dozens of time now... Why? Outside of its classical aspects, this is simply a well done animated movie. To me, there's everything you need to make a great movie : great animation, attractive characters, a beautiful story, a good production... There's no dead time, no songs (except for the excellent credits one), and it's a really good thing. But above all, I love the soundtrack, composed by James Horner (= Titanic, Braveheart...) There are probably the most awesome and varied themes I've ever heard in this kind of movies. And I'm sure everybody would have put it up among Disney's greatest movies, if it had been one! So if you've never seen it, give it a try!"
A powerful story
Steve Stan | 04/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My only regret with this movie, is that I did not catch it at the cinema! However when I first rented it from a video store, I instantly fell in love with it (and ended up re-renting it out quite a few times before finally receiving a VHS copy of my own later on). Now it is on DVD and so I have happily purchased this to keep forever more, it really is an absolute favourite of mine.Story Summary:Our main character is a half-dog, half-wolf protagonist who is shunned by the townspeople and rejects the outside life of the wolves, he doesn't belong anywhere. This story sees the children of the town threatened by a virus and when it seems that the life-saving medicine will be impossible to obtain, our protoganist throws himself into the world of both realities for the sake of others and getting his chance at proving his worth to the world, but not without it's trials and tribulations of course. Place in an overbearing and selfish lead husky, a gentle canine love interest, a cynical goose partner, and some fun polar bears, then be prepared for a ride filled with danger, love and humour. All carried along with a powerful message that "You don't need a pedigree to help someone" and of acceptance of the self so as to cherish those personal qualities that make you different and attempt to rise above the odds by acting to your fullest.Elements:The animation is wonderfully done, very impressive and carries the story well. As mentioned before, the music is also a treat, the end credits vocal fits the whole movie extremely well and is as powerful as the movie's message itself, the instrumental soundtrack also gives a powerful underlying atmosphere to all the dynamic scenes. The plot is played out well, as firstly you are gradually introduced to the main characters through fitting scenes and get a good feeling for who they are and how they carry themselves out in life, an important factor for following a character driven plot. Then there is a good variety in the action, causing our protagonist to be pitted against an array of odds that keep you gripped and doesn't let the pace die. As mentioned, the voices are all acted out very well.Conclusion:Either way this film is a must-see in my opinion, and one I have happily seen many times myself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.Sidenote:However on another note, I believe the VHS cover would of been better than this new cover, it seemed to have a more powerful composition with a nice variety of colour. If I remember right, it doesn't outrightly say "true story", it was more like "the story that became a legend" which could still be in a fictional sense since it is a word often used in mystical themes, rather than the word "true" that pulls away any doubt of this not being from something or other based in reality. If I remember correctly that is. Either way, since I didn't enter this movie initially thinking in a forward manner of "This is based on a true story" I felt the ending words had an added impact. But this is an extremely minor point, and this movie is very impacting either way in my opinion.So, as stated, this is based loosely on a true story. For the purpose of this version of the original story things have been re-invented and so on. I do not believe this being an alternative interpretation detracts from this movie, incase you wondered, and I feel it's very impacting and influential. When I first watched this film I had no idea of this being based at all on a true story, so when the final words came, "Based on a true story", I was very touched as the underlying achievement is extremely impressive. To see the bare facts you may wish to see other documentation in company with this movie, however.All in all, a great and influential story."