Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: True-Life Adventures review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 1 Old 11-19-07, 10:31 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
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Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: True-Life Adventures review

I recently screened Volumes 1 and 2 of Walt Disney's Legacy Collection: True-Life Adventure series.
Now before you groan about nature documentaries, let me say that these are more along the lines
of live action cartoons. Like many people, I find old nature shows dull. Grainy footage with pretentious
narration. Certainly Disney was aware of this before embarking on this series.

In the second collection suppliments, Roy E. Disney goes into detail how it came about. Apparently
a number of independent photographers were shooting miles of 16mm Kodachrome footage of
wildlife but had little idea what to do with it. Disney purchased it and gave it to his
editors 'to make something out of it'. What they decided to do is to extract specific parts of
the footage and create live action cartoons. What do I mean by this? By altering the footage
and adding sound effects and music, they can tell the story of the animal or insect but make
it dramatic or amusing. For example, if battering Rams are fighting for their mate, they cut it to the
Anvil Chorus music. Disney staff composer, Paul Smith, wrote additional catchy and sometimes
lyrical music to go with the images. Similar to what they had done in reverse for "Fantasia"
where they animated the images to classical pieces. As you might suspect, much of the footage
is staged. The scene where the wasp and tarantula are fighting to the death was filmed on a
small set in the studio. The scenes when the ducks slide on the ice into each other was also created by
the photographers who shot one animal doing this by accident, then taking other ducks and
sliding them intentionally to get a laugh. Scenes of prairie dogs in their burrows were also small
sets since there's no way of filming them underground. The hawk that swoops down to attack
the rodents was a trained pet. Some of the animals are given names to humanize their story.
Even the animal sounds like the bark of the Prarie Dog were simulated by human actors.

Considering the fact that so much of it was staged for the camera, you have to ask...was it accurate about the wildlife? According to Roy, it was but it was filmed and edited in an entertaining fashion so audiences wouldn't get bored. Some people might object to this approach but there's no denying the
movies are very entertaining and fascinating to watch.

I highly recommend the suppliments in each set too since they disclose how they were filmed. One cameraman disguised himself as a buffalo to get in close. In the long run, Disney ended up hiring many of the independent filmmakers after purchasing their early film and sending them out to specific locations
to catch images that they might be able to use rather than just compling already shot footage.
I suppose they might have resented somewhat Disney attaching his name above the credits but
that's the only way these films would've ever been exhibited.

As for Disney, he apparently was a "Naturalist" as well as a showman. Now this term has been
somewhat degraded with the radical environmentalist movement of recent years. Many
environmenalists and animal rights activists are just political opportunists using the subject
to advance unrelated agendas. Early Naturalists going back to Teddy Roosevelt had a non-partisan interest in preserving nature and species within reason and not at the expense of human life or private property rights.

Volume 1 features the following movies: "Beaver Valley", "Water Birds", "Prowlers of the
Everglades", "White Wilderness" and "Mysteries of the Deep"

Volume 2 has "The Living Desert", "Vanishing Prarie", "Seal Island", "Islands of the Sea"
and has the most interesting suppliments and interviews. "The Living Desert" is the
best one of the series in my judgment.

Visually, the restored DVDs look sensational. In fact they look far superior to when they were
released theatrically. I saw a number of them at theaters in the sixties and they were grainy
and full of dust even though the Technicolor prints had vivid color. Here's why...

All of the films were photographed in 16mm Kodachrome. This was a reversal stock not a negative
film. There were no dyes on the actual film. Each color record was photographed in black and
white latent images. During processing, these records absorbed the appropriate dye in the latent
records as a positive. The final film was a rich and vibrant color positive that was fade resistant
like dye transfer Technicolor. The reason they used this stock was because 35mm equipment
at the time was very bulky and cumbersome, especially the three strip Technicolor camera utilized
prior to the fifties. The smaller and more compact 16mm cameras could be hidden or disguised
to capture the animals without making them run away. They also had extreme focal length lenses
to film close ups on a near microscopic level. The miles of 16mm Kodachrome footage
was then edited by Disney staff into the 'live action cartoon' type of format and then blown up
to 35mm dye transfer Technicolor prints. The trouble was, blow up stock was pretty poor back
in the forties and fifities and prior to 1955 they didn't have 'wet gate' printing to fill in the scratches
and dust so the end results didn't look that good although they were still quite popular and won
numerous Academy Awards. The Disney company went back to the original 16mm Kodachrome masters, digitally scanned them and removed all of the dust, scratches and improved the grain. The
new DVDs look sharper, finer grain and are much cleaner than the originial blow up prints. Because
Kodachrome had rich color and contrast like the larger Technicolor format, some of these shows
look breathtaking. Unfortunately, not every True-Life Adventure was mastered in this format.
For example, "Nature's Strangest Creatures" on Volume 2 is obviously derived from a 35mm blow
up print and looks horrible in comparison to the others. They also included some "Wonderful
World of Color" television episodes featuring clips of the features with new introductions. They
also look grainy, contrasty and dirty. Since the advent of digital restoration, it's hard to watch
these old broadcasts since I've gotten used to blemish free images.

In any event, I recommend these compilations, especially if you project them on a DLP.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 11-19-07 at 01:26 PM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  


adventures , collection , disney , legacy , review , truelife , walt

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