1. Disney Laserdiscs - Are They Worth It?
It depends on why you want them. Based on what you said, you're interested in the content of the laserdisc and not necessarily the experience of playing one, or keeping one after getting its content. Not that there's anything wrong with that; we all have our own reasons for collecting anything. For myself, I like having a film (for example, Beauty and the Beast
) in its different versions of home media.
Regarding the titles in the Exclusive Archive Collection, there were only seven released in the US:
Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years, Volume One (there was never a Volume Two)
The Three Caballeros & Saludos, Amigos
Alice in Wonderland
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Swiss Family Robinson
All the shorts in the Mickey Mouse set have been released in the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, so acquiring the LD set would be for the 1000+ story sketches.
The set for The Three Caballeros & Saludos, Amigos
includes an extensive amount of material (stills, newsreels, behind-the-scenes footage, audio supplements, and reconstructions of "Caxanga" and "The Laughing Gauchito"), so would be well worth acquiring as none of it is on the DVD. The DVDs for the films, released in 2000 and 2008, only include the half-hour film "South of the Border with Disney" and trailers.Alice in Wonderland
is discussed in detail below. For the short version: the laserdisc features thousands of stills not on the DVD or Blu-Ray, along with a wider range of audio supplements.20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
carries over MOST of its laserdisc supplements to its excellent DVD, released in 2003. However, the DVD does not contain "Operation Undersea," the Emmy Award-winning episode of "Disneyland" that basically promoted the film for its entire hour.
I don't know if the Swiss Family Robinson
DVD carries over all the stills from the laserdisc. However, it certainly does not include the location scouting reports or complete comic strip, which were on the laserdisc. ON a more minor note, the laserdisc featured an interview with director Ken Annakin, which likely would have been redundant since he was interviewed again for the 2002 "Adventure in the Making" documentary that's on the DVD.
All the stills from Mary Poppins
are on the DVD (and are expanded there, the LD only had 145, the DVD has 262), but there were two short video features on the Exclusive Archive Collection disc that have since been replaced. "Jolly Holiday Storyboards With Corresponding Film Sequences" basically provided a side-by-side comparison between the storyboards and the film, somewhat superfluous when you can just watch "Deconstruction of a Scene" (only on the 2004 DVD). The boringly-titled "Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Making Of Mary Poppins" was a five-minute video that simply did split-screen of Bert's dance with the penguins, showing the final film compared to the pencil animation. It's worth viewing, but would not be the dealbreaker when considering whether or not to acquire this disc.TRON
includes all its laserdisc features on the DVD, even the commentary.
2. What is the highest quality method of transferring from a Laserdisc?
3. What is the best way of combining the transferred material with no loss of quality at all?
I wish I could help you with these two questions, but I've never done it before. I'm sure you could acquire a video capture card, connect the player to your computer, and capture it that way.
Regarding the quality, it will really just be as high as what's on the disc. Laserdisc is 425 lines of resolution, so basically a minor step down from DVD (which is 480). You could capture it in a higher resolution (say, if your capture card was capable of Blu-Ray's 1920x1080 resolution), although the improvement wouldn't really be (I assume) that great. It's similar to upconverted SD material presented on a Blu-Ray. For example, when Paramount released "Star Trek: The Original Series" to Blu-Ray, one of the bonuses in Season Two was the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" tribbles episode. Rather than recomposite all the film elements and visual effects from scratch, they simply took the 480i master (standard definition, and interlaced) and upconverted it to 1080p. To quote from the TrekMovie Review
, "[t]he video is incredibly soft and suffers from some serious interlacing artifacts (something that should have been taken care of when it was reprocessed into 1080p) and analog video noise."
I'm sure if you were to transfer the LD content (which is progressive on CAV discs, and interlaced on CLV discs), you'd have to still de-noise it a bit, but I'm not that technically savvy to try it on my own. I've seen some examples of LD-ripped content (on YouTube and elsewhere), and the quality is often softer than watching the actual LD (be it on a standard TV or an HD TV), so it may need to be sharpened as well.
4. How does it work with bonus material? (i.e. I don't have a Laserdisc player so I don't know if the bonus content simply plays after the movie or if it works like a DVD menu, and how do alternative sound tracks work- how would I get hold of an audio commentary if there are any for example?)
Laserdiscs are broken up into chapters, and when you place a disc into your player, it naturally begins at the first chapter. From there, you can input whichever chapter you wish to go to, or use the chapter-skip button (like on DVD and Blu-Ray remotes).
The chapters play automatically, except if you're viewing a chapter that is comprised of stills (sometimes, it may include video as well).
For example, let's take a look at the Alice in Wonderland
: Exclusive Archive Collection LaserDisc. This is a three-disc set, most of it in CAV format (which lets you use freeze frame, slow motion, random access, multiple time speed, and scan).
The first three sides of this set make up the movie, which means you'd use both sides of the first disc, and the first side of the second disc. As soon as you start the disc, it will play Chapter 1, and continue on. When it reaches the end of one side, you have to do one of two things. If your player features the option to automatically turn over the lens, then you'll have a slight pause (10-20 seconds) as it moves over to read the other side of the disc. Otherwise, once it reaches the end, you'll have to eject the disc, manually turn it over, and it will start playing automatically.
Since the movie is on three sides (1 and 2 on Disc 1, 1 on Disc 2), you'd have to manually change discs anyway when watching the film. After the film completes (on Side 1, Disc 2), it will automatically turn over the lens (or you'd turn over the disc) and begin playing from the beginning of that side.
Here's a sample of the chapter listing for the supplements from this set. You'll notice that chapters may either be a video, or a set of stills. When it's a video, it will play automatically. When it's a set of stills, the player automatically pauses on that frame. You then use the "step" button on your laserdisc player to go from frame to frame to frame.
--Chapter 29. Program Start (0:27)
--Chapter 30. Table of Contents for Sides 4, 5 and 6 (46 stills)
--Chapter 31. The History of "Alice in Wonderland" (21 stills)
--Chapter 32. Sir John Tenniel's Illustrations for the Lewis Carroll books (38 stills)
--Chapter 33. An Alice Comedy: "Alice's Wonderland" (1923) (8:06, 4 stills)
--Chapter 34. A Mickey Mouse Cartoon: "Thru the Mirror" (1936) (8:48)
--Chapter 35. 1939 Storyboards for Unproduced Feature Version (Artwork by David Hall and Ray Jacobs) (678 stills / frames 25273 to 25950)
So, if you were to place this side into your player, it would start playing Chapter 29 immediately.
When it reaches Chapter 30, it will automatically pause on the first frame. You'd then use your "step" button on the remote to go to the next frame, and so on and so forth.
If you wish to skip a chapter, you simply press the "chapter skip" button.
Sometimes, you'll come across a chapter that includes both video and still frames. Chapter 33, for example. This starts with the 4 stills, which you can step through. At the fourth still, it will instruct you to press "Play," thus starting the short.
Pressing "Play" when you're in a chapter of stills will literally play that chapter like a video. BUT... it's not going to be a nice montage that goes from still to still. Every still is actually encoded on the disc as one frame. Similar to how film reels are projected at a speed of 24fps (24 frames per second), Laserdisc stills were encoded in the same manner. Thus, if you were to hit "Play" on a chapter that held 24 stills, the player would go through all 24 in one second.
An extensive chapter, like Chapter 35, holds 678 stills. If you hit "Play" while in that chapter, it would play it out, all 678 frames, in 28 seconds.
Now, all of the above is only applicable on laserdiscs in CAV format (Constant Angular Velocity). This option allows for a higher-quality image, and the ability to pause, scan, freeze-frame, etc., but that higher quality means only 30 minutes of material can fit on a side. This is especially helpful on animated titles, as you can actually go frame-by-frame for the animation. I've had a lot of fun going frame-by-frame on my Beauty and the Beast: Work In Progress
laserdisc, since it includes the "Transformation" scene in pencil animation as a supplement, thus allowing me to see all of Glen Keane's drawings one at a time.
On a CLV disc (Constant Linear Velocity), you can have twice as much material on a side (60 minutes), but without the ability to do all the fun playback features of a CAV disc.
The final two sides of the Alice in Wonderland
set are in CLV format, as they hold the hourlong "Walt Disney Christmas Show" on one side, while "Operation Wonderland" (11 minutes) and "The Fred Waring Show" (31 minutes) are on the other side. Thus, when you play these, it will play automatically at the beginning. You can still chapter skip, but you can't pause (when you do, it goes to a blue screen until you resume again), and you can't go frame-by-frame like with CAV.
Regardless if a laserdisc is CAV or CLV, the audio options are the same. You have a digital audio channel, as well as two analog audio channels (billed simply as Analog Left and Analog Right). The supplemental audio is often included on one (or both) of the audio channels. And just like the "Audio" button on a DVD and Blu-Ray player, you can switch between the three soundtracks.Alice in Wonderland
offers the following supplemental audio over the feature film:
*Digital Channel: Restored Soundtrack
*Analog Left: Original Mono Soundtrack
*Analog Right: Restored Music and Effects Mono Soundtrack
In addition, you can switch to supplemental audio when watching the bonus programs "One Hour in Wonderland," "Operation Wonderland," and "The Fred Waring Show." Their original soundtracks are all on the digital channel, which is the default.
For "One Hour in Wonderland," you can switch to Analog Left to listen to various song demos and dialogue recordings, many of which are not included on the DVD or Blu-Ray. And switching to Analog Right gives you the one-hour BBC radio dramatization of the film, which features Walt Disney and Kathryn Beaumont.
When watching "Operation Wonderland" and "The Fred Waring Show," Analog Left gives you more song demos, and Analog Right" gives you the BBC Christmas radio broadcast, again featuring Walt Disney and Kathryn Beaumont.
Sadly, only six of the song demos/dialogue recordings (out of 43) were carried over to the DVD and Blu-Ray:
--"Beware The Jabberwock" (2:15)
--"Everything Has A Useness" (1:18)
--"So They Say" (1:54)
--"Beautiful Soup" (1:27)
--"Dream Caravan" (2:33)
--"If You'll Believe In Me" (3:01)
In addition, Disney produced "From Wonderland to Never Land" which showcased how "Beyond the Laughing Sky" was transformed into "The Second Star to the Right." This featurette uses the demos from the laserdisc, now set to concept art for the film.
Also, Disney released various other special editions on LaserDisc, under different banners than the "Exclusive Archive Collection." This is a quick list (from an older post I wrote years ago), with short blurbs about what's on this laserdisc that's not on the DVD:Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Deluxe Edition
Isolated Music & Effects Track
The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1994 documentary, 34 minutes)
Lux Radio Theatre - December 26, 1938 - Director Cecil B. DeMille interviews Walt Disney (audio)
Press Articles And Political CartoonsPinocchio: Deluxe Edition
Pinocchio: The Making of a Masterpiece (1992 documentary, 26 minutes)
Pinocchio Comic Strip (stills)
Storyboards With Corresponding Film Sequences (4:02, not on R1 but appeared on R2/R4 DVDs)Fantasia
The Making of a Masterpiece (1990 documentary, 47 minutes)Bambi: Limited Edition
Isolated Music & Effects Track
1988 Re-Issue Trailer
Bambi: The Magic Behind The Masterpiece (1997 documentary, 15 minutes)Fun and Fancy Free: Limited Edition
Walt Disney and Billy Blecher recording session from 1941 (11:32 - not on the Fun and Fancy Free
DVD, but is featured on one of the Mickey Mouse Treasures, I think it's In Living Color Volume One)
Cliff Edwards sings "I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow" (from the Mickey Mouse Club),
Concept and storyboard art for both featurettes: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk.Cinderella: Deluxe Edition
Isolated Music & Effects Track
The Making of Cinderella (1995, 34 minutes)
1950 Sunday Color Comic Strip (stills)Peter Pan: Limited Edition
Storyboard Presentation - 8/9/49 - Sequence 13 - "Captured by the Pirates" (audio)
Storyboard Presentation - 6/21/50 - Sequence 4 "Introduction of Captain Hook and Mr. Smee" (audio)Old Yeller: 40th Anniversary Edition
The Best Doggone Dog In The World - The Making of Old Yeller (1997 documentary)Sleeping Beauty: Limited Edition
Helene Stanley on "The Mickey Mouse Club"The Jungle Book: Limited Edition
The Jungle Book - The Making of A Musical Masterpiece (1997 documentary, 15 minutes)
Original Theatrical Trailer Something Wicked This Way Comes (Remastered)
Isolated Music Track
Commentary with Ray Bradbury, Stephen Burum, & Harrison Ellenshaw (some sites list it as solely Bradbury, but the back of the laserdisc cover mentions Burum & Ellenshaw)The Little Mermaid: Limited Edition
Under The Sea: The Making Of The Little Mermaid (1998 documentary, 15 minutes)Beauty and the Beast
Be Our Guest: The Making of Beauty And The Beast (1991 documentary, 25 minutes)Beauty and the Beast Work in Progress
The Four Stages of Animation (3:14)
Theatrical Reviews TrailerAladdin: Deluxe Edition (Japan Only)
The Making of Aladdin: A Whole New World (1992 documentary, 25 minutes)
Theatrical Trailer (different from US)
Multi-Language Reel: "A Friend Like Me"The Lion King: Deluxe Edition
See Disneykid's post herePocahontas: Deluxe Edition
Commentary with James Pentacost, Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg, Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, Michael Giaimo, Carl Binder (DVD has a newly recorded commentary)
The "Pocahontas" Animation Discovery Adventure Tour (stills)
The Historical Pocahontas (stills)
History Of The Production Of "Pocahontas" (stills)
Frankfurt Book Fair Presentation Reel (video)
Sequence Breakdown And Storyboards (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 5.7 -- Ship Landing (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 11 -- Pocahontas And John Smith Meet (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 14 -- "Color Of The Wind" (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 28 -- "Savages (Part 2)" (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 29 -- The Execution (stills)
Storyboards: Sequence 30 -- Farewell (stills)
Early Concept: Sequence 14 -- "Colors Of The Wind" (video, with commentary by Stephen Schwartz)
Abandoned Concept: Sequence 26 -- John Smith Escapes (video, with commentary By Carl Binder And Eric Goldberg) - the scene is present on the DVD/Blu-Ray, but the commentary isn't
Abandoned Concept: Sequence 25 -- "Just Around The Riverbend" Reprise (video)
Character Design: Miscellaneous (stills)
Prop Designs (stills)
Computer-Generated Imagery (stills)
Miscellaneous Deleted Animation (video, with commentary by Eric Goldberg, Stephen Schwartz, Mike Gabriel And Michael Giaimo) - again, the deleted animation is present on DVD/Blu-Ray, but commentary isn't
Deleted Sequence: "If I Never Knew You" (video,with commentary by Eric Goldberg And Stephen Schwartz) - this is the pencil animation version. The 2005 DVD includes it re-integrated in the film, the 2012 Blu-Ray includes it as a supplement - both without the Goldberg/Schwartz commentary.The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Deluxe Edition
Early Presentation Reel (video)
Deleted Song: "Someday" (video, with commentary by Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
Deleted Song: "In A Place of Miracles" (video, with commentary by Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
Deleted Song: "As Long As There's A Moon" (video, with commentary by Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz)
History and Background of Notre-Dame de Paris (stills)
History of the Production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1:40)
Character Design: Quasimodo (stills)
Character Design: Esmeralda (stills)
Character Design: Frollo (stills)
Character Design: Phoebus (stills)
Character Design: Clopin (stills)
Character Design: The Gargoyles (stills)
Character Design: Archdeacon (stills)
Character Design: Djali (stills)
Character Design: Miscellaneous Townspeople And Gypsies (stills)
Story Reel: Prologue - "The Bells of Notre Dame" (video)
Story Reel: "Heaven's Light/Hellfire" (video)
Workbook and Scene Planning (video & stlls)
Art Design, Layouts and Backgrounds (video & stlls)
Animation (video & stlls)
Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) (video & stlls)
Publicity (stills)The Parent Trap (1998 )
Screen Test with Dennis Quaid & Lindsay Lohan
If you're still reading this, hurray!
I hope it helped you figure out whether or not to invest in a Laserdisc player and titles.