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Blu-ray Reviews: The Simpsons Movie

Originally published in Sound and Image, March/April 2008, v.21#5
Last updated 6 April 2010

The Simpsons Movie cover The Simpsons Movie
2007 - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment South Pacific Pty Ltd
Director: David Silverman
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Albert Brooks and Marcia Wallace

Movie: 4.5 Picture: 5 Sound: 4.5 Extras: 3

By all reasonable criteria, The Simpsons Movie must be accounted as a resounding success. After consistently high standards for nearly two decades of TV shows, the only real room for change was downwards. In the end, the movie measures up as equivalent to one of the best 25% of the TV episodes, but longer, and with a couple of movie-specific jokes.

Now let us talk techo. The first thing to note is how smooth the picture is in this movie. Presented in 1080p24 and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it is a welcome departure from the TV show. In that, the picture is all over the place. In different parts of the same episode there is a visibly wide range of picture sharpness and different techniques for NTSC to PAL conversion are invoked for no apparent reason.

There is none of that here, of course, because the movie was made for 24 frames per second delivery, and that's precisely what the Pioneer Blu-ray player delivered. The movie was also more densely animated than the TV show or, for that matter, many classic Disney animated movies. To keep production costs down, most traditional animation is based on twelve frames per second. Each freshly drawn frame is repeated twice. Additional detail is often added, such as moving lips during talk, where the lack of temporal resolution would be too off-putting. With this movie, there seems to be full 24 frames per second animation for almost all of it (an exception is the scene with the falling leaves near the end). That makes for lovely smooth motion to go with the clean sharp lines of the animation.

The producers provided clean sound with plenty of bass, such as when the dome is lowered, but didn't really use the surround channels as assertively as they could have. The English track uses DTS-HD Master Audio, which is decoded by no players that we know of, so to get full resolution you will need HDMI 1.3 equipped Blu-ray player and home theatre receiver.

The extras seem light. However, there are four easter eggs (press the arrows inappropriately within the popup menus and when something different happens, press 'Enter'. The trailers are great fun, and there are two commentary tracks. One requires the movie to restart because it's actually in a separate Title. At various points in this one the movie is 'paused' (the action stops and the picture goes monochrome) as aspects of the movie are discussed. This adds fifteen minutes to the run time.

Running time: 87 minutes
Video: 2.35:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 33.04mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 3619kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); French, German: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 768kbps; Dutch, Flemish, Finnish, Swedish: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps; Director's Commentary, Commentary: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 224kbps
Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish
Extras: Movie with second commentary and 15 minutes of pauses for additional commentary (using seamless branching); 4 comedy shorts (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DPL2.0 @ 224kbps - 3 mins); 5 trailers (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DD5.1 @ 448kbps - 7 mins); 6 deleted scenes (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DD2.0 @ 224kbps - 5 mins); 3 'Visual Development' slideshow easter eggs (1080p24, MPEG2 - 3 mins); Spoof THX trailer easter egg (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DPL2.0 @ 224kbps - 1 min)
Restrictions: Rated PG (Australian rating); Locked to Region B

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.3:

The Simpsons Movie video bitrate graph

And the following video bitrate graph shows the 'Commentary' version of the movie, highlighing the 'pauses':

The Simpsons Movie video bitrate graph

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