Boasting 2160p resolution at 128Mbps with the very best lossless audio, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, UHD Blu-ray is finally here! But it’s important to keep in mind that this is still a brand new format, and for the moment, the content is fairly limited. There is also the fact that calibrating displays for enjoying the best picture quality possible is somewhat tricky since material in HDR10/WCG is not readily available. With that in mind, I did the best I could in calibrating my Sony Bravia XBR75X940C which is connected to the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Achieving 98% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, the picture quality is astounding when the Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) feature is activated. Worth noting is that this particular display automatically switches to a setting called "HDR Video" when such content is detected, but I leave the color space in “Auto” and only switch between in Rec.709 and BT.2020 to determine the transfer’s color grade.
Still, my colleagues and I have come to the general consensus that we should hold the UDH format to a higher standard and be much more conservative with our video scores. Essentially, what would normally qualify as 5-star presentation in standard Blu-ray could hypothetically be thought of as a 3-star video on UDH BD. It is still a significant improvement and will be a better viewing experience, but with this new format, we are looking for more than just sharpness and resolution. Now, we must also take into consideration how the transfer benefits from the HDR/WCG upgrade, which complicates matters since not all movies are produced in native 4K or mastered with 4K digital intermediates (DI). What this all amounts too is our attempt and promise to provide our readers with the most honest and accurate assessments as possible as we enter this new format.
Perhaps 'The Peanuts Movie' is so enjoyable simply because it doesn't try to be anything it's not, without trying too hard to appeal to "modern" children. So often these old franchises are rebooted, given a pop-culture facelift, and marketed to a new generation with the promise of, "We're cool. We're hip. See! Here's a joke about Charlie Brown doing the Nae Nae." Man, could you imagine that movie? Yeesh!
The fact that Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang never run into Peanut-ized versions of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber is just another reason to love this movie. It could have sold out. It could have pandered to the kids of Millenials by spoon-feeding them dated pop-culture references, but it didn't. Instead, you get the feeling from this sweet little movie that "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz would indeed approve.
There's a fine balance that 'The Peanuts Movie' must constantly be aware of. It needs to update its look and pacing in order to please kids of today (my four-year-old son might be the only kid in the world who consciously picks out the Blu-ray of 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' on purpose, and enjoys it), all the while retaining the care-free spirit that makes the Charlie (Noah Schnapp), Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), Linus (Alexander Garfin), Snoopy (Bill Melendez), and the rest of the crew such endearing characters.
In order to maintain this balance the filmmakers, headed by director Steve Martino, craft a story that exists without being tied down to this one period in time. For example, while the 'Shrek' movies are fondly remembered by many, they're also instantly dated because of the pop-culture references and popular-at-that-time songs which are used throughout the franchise. Each movie can be tied to a specific time period simply by the jokes. Whereas, tying down 'The Peanuts Movie' to a specific period would be much harder.
Sure the characters have been updated in regards to animation. Gone are the days of wholly 2D-animated Peanuts people. However, in order to keep some of the charm of Schulz's original comic strips, the animators provide a rather intriguing 2D-3D mash-up that feels fun, fresh, but also harkens back to those flat panels in the funny pages (the one downside to this animation style being the way Linus' hair is animated makes him look like he has some kind of scalp disease).
True to form, Charlie Brown is a man constantly at the receiving end of old fashioned bad luck. If there were fictional proof that karma doesn't exist, it would be Charlie Brown. All the poor kid does is put good out into the universe only to have the complete opposite rained down upon him.
Here Charlie Brown becomes enamored with the new red-haired girl who moves in across the street. The storyline follows Chuck and his friends through an entire year of school. Charlie Brown finds himself faced with moral dilemmas, insurmountable challenges, and the frightening possibility of having to talk to the girl he likes (gulp!). Of course, on the side, we get another entry into the Red Baron vs. Snoopy canon, which is fun, but may overstay its welcome.
Charlie Brown makes the new 'Peanuts Movie' pleasurable. Here's a movie that could've gone off the rails and kowtowed to pop culture. Instead, it stays true to its roots, delivers a lighthearted adventure filled with chuckle-worthy moments. Sure, kids will love it, but the most appealing thing about 'The Peanuts Movie' is that the new look is in keeping with the classic "Peanuts" spirit.Charlie Brown makes the new 'Peanuts Movie' pleasurable. Here's a movie that could've gone off the rails and kowtowed to pop culture. Instead, it stays true to its roots, delivers a lighthearted adventure filled with chuckle-worthy moments. Sure, kids will love it, but the most appealing thing about 'The Peanuts Movie' is that the new look is in keeping with the classic "Peanuts" spirit.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Pan' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, or if the disc is dual-layered or tripled-layered. The new UHD disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Charlie and Snoopy crash into Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to their wild imagination for love bundled up in a near-reference quality HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, and frankly, the transfer serves as a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the new format. However, worth noting, it does not seem the elements were color graded to fully take advantage of the wider color gamut and the transfer likely comes from the 2K digital intermediate, but the video looks best in the DCI color space. In BT.2020, reds are pushed to the extreme and tend to ruin several scenes while in the DCI gamut, everything appears more natural and attractive.
As would be expected, considering its origins, the video is stunning and jaw-dropping from start to finish with razor-sharp lines and clarity in every frame. Viewers can practically count the individual blades of grass as they gleam in the sunlight, and the plain architecture of the houses show the tiny little bumps of the stucco walls. I was most taken aback by the lifelike texture around the puffy fur covering Snoopy, moving and swaying with impressive realism during his Red Baron fantasy sequences. Along those same lines, the sparkling clumps of snow are arguably the most impressive aspect of the animation because they add a shocking level of realism, and there are even a couple instances where individual flakes and grains can be distinctly made out. The most trivial detail, tiny nuance or particularity in the background is as sharply-defined as any object in the foreground, and minor blemishes like the subtle scratches on Snoopy's doghouse airplane or the smallest threading and stitching on clothing are plainly perceptible.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 4K presentation is a dazzling, hypnotizing feast for the eyes, full of vibrant colors that never sway and illuminate the screen with sumptuous brilliance and energy. Viewers will be mesmerized and overwhelmed by the luxurious splendor of it all as the video shines with an intensity not really seen in any other movie. From the reds in Charlie Brown's jacket and Snoopy's doghouse to the sky blues and greens of the grass, primaries are sumptuous with vividly rich saturation, giving the movie an energized, happily-go-lucky feel that's consistent right from the first opening moments. Secondary pastel hues are also brimming with a boldness that further add to the story's lighthearted humor and gives each character a life of their own. Yellows are true to life while most impressive is the surprising difference between blues, purples, violets and magentas in the clothing, walls, random household objects and the sky. Skin tones have a nice reddish tone, especially around the cheeks. Sadly, some scenes suffer from a mild case of banding and are easy to notice, which ultimately affects an otherwise perfect score.
As for the rest of the Ultra-high transfer, contrast is right on the money and crisp, allowing for remarkable visibility of the most minute feature and facet. There is a lot of stunning variation in the snow where shadows create lumps and small hills. Whites are radiant and ecstatic with brilliant luminosity, providing the fluffy clouds an amazing, realistic glow every time Snoopy takes to the air and battles the Red Baron. Equally impressive is the fact that Snoopy is actually of a different shade of white from the snow and clouds. Full-bodied black levels are inky and luxurious with spotless gradations between the lighter and darker portions of the frame, adding a splendid intensity to the three-dimensional image and delivering clear differences between the various shades. Overall, this Ultra HD Blu-ray makes for one of the finest and most impressive releases on the new format.
Interestingly, unlike the day-and-date Blu-ray, the UHD presentation of the Peanuts gang arrives with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that doesn't take full advantage of the object-based audio format, but is nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable and complements the animated film splendidly well.
For the most part, much of the lossless mix offers the same amusingly lighthearted soundscape as its DTS-HD Master Audio counterpart where the sides do much of the work, delivering several pleasing ambient effects like leaves rustling in trees, the clatter of kids in a classroom or adults giving 'Mwa-Mwa-Mwa' instructions. Of course, the best and most memorable moments are the few Snoopy action sequences and Linus's Red Baron toy plane. The planes fly across the screen and into the surrounds, panning flawlessly all around the room and generating a satisfyingly immersive soundfield. Better still, the hum of the motor, whether it's the toy or the Red Baron, can be heard in gliding through the overheads. In fact, it's these very moments which even serve as reminders to viewers they're actually listening in upgraded audio, but sadly, ceiling speakers are generally silent.
Where the Atmos track really shines is in the front presentation, where imaging explodes with immaculate, fluid movement between the channels, generating a broad soundstage with excellently discrete off-screen effects. The mid-range is extensively dynamic and far-reaching, defining the highs and mids with perfect crystal clarity. This is most appreciable during Snoopy's action sequences as an assortment of sounds are employed to keep things exciting and thrillingly child-friendly, flawlessly panning across the screen and utilizing the front heights for creating a half-dome wall of sound. Christophe Beck's score decidedly benefits most from the upgrade, keeping the movie active and lively throughout with sharp, detailed differentiation within the orchestration. Low bass is generally of the mid-bass variety, but it's full-bodied and persuasive with plenty of nice hearty moments experienced, again, during Snoopy's flying fantasies. With well-prioritized and intelligible vocals in the center, the Atmos track makes for a fun and engaging mix.
To reiterate Aaron's original thoughts:
The fact that 'The Peanuts Movie' feels like a Schulz creation is the prime reason it's so amusing. There's a carefree, timeless sort of spirit here. No, it's probably not a classic of animation. That's okay though. It doesn't have to reinvent the wheel in order to create an updated story for an enduring classic.
On the plus side, this Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a fantastic, near-reference 4K video presentation although unfortunately, it also comes with a minor but noticeable issue worth noting. Still, the film also receives an upgrade with a satisfyingly amusing Dolby Atmos audio presentation, along with the same collection of supplements, making the overall package worth checking out for fans and early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.