Annie appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Boy, fans of this flick just can’t catch a break. The original DVD from 2000 presented the film in its correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio but suffered from some weird framing that cropped parts of the picture. Now Columbia-Tristar put out the movie again but dropped the widescreen image totally in favor of this harshly panned-and-scanned chop job.
In addition to being cropped, Annie presented fairly erratic picture quality. Sharpness seemed adequate for the most part, but it varied. Most shows looked acceptably concise and distinctive. However, more than a few moderately soft images appeared. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the movie often looked rather grainy, and occasional examples of specks and other defects popped up throughout the film. I noticed some marks, grit, and other small issues, though these remained generally modest.
Colors usually seemed decent, but they never rose above that level. At their best, the tones were moderately clear and vivid. However, the hues often appeared somewhat bland. Black levels appeared a bit drab and they remained somewhat flat throughout the film. Shadow detail was passable but no better. Low-light shots looked generally visible but could seem somewhat murky at times. Given the age of the material, Annie presented a fairly mediocre image.
While the original Annie DVD included only Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, this version featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Though the pair mostly seemed similar, I preferred the latter. I’ll discuss the latter first and then relate the differences I discerned.
The soundfield stuck strongly to the forward channels for most of the movie. Not surprisingly, music dominated the mix, and the songs and score displayed positive stereo imaging throughout the film. I also heard a lot of good usage of effects from the side channels; these made the track more lively and engaging, and the sounds panned nicely from speaker to speaker. The surrounds largely restricted themselves to general support of the music; the rears offered reinforcement of the tunes but presented little other audio.
One problem with the track related to the pan and scan transfer. At times localization seemed off, as elements came from the side although visually they appeared in the center. That appeared connected to the cropped image. In the original widescreen presentation, the elements likely came from the logical side spots in the spectrum, but the re-imaging caused by the pan and scan version altered their visual placement. I didn’t really fault the mix for this, but it did cause some distractions.
Sound quality seemed erratic but largely good for its era. Dialogue sometimes appeared a bit thin and reedy, and a little edginess occurred at times. Still, the speech was generally natural and distinct. Integration issues occurred because of discrepancies between dialogue and singing; when we jumped from crooning to talking in the middle of a song, the two didn’t connect well.
Effects were similarly bland at times, but they generally seemed acceptably accurate and clean. Some distortion occurred, but not much. Music varied a bit more. Music was the most important element of the mix, and the songs and score mostly sounded pretty good. At times they were somewhat shrill, but usually the material seemed pretty clear and lively.
So how did the Dolby Digital mix differ from the DTS one? The latter seemed more active and richer. The DTS version used the surrounds more fully, especially in how it presented the songs. Those broadened well to the rears for the DTS track but seemed more firmly stuck in the front for the Dolby version. In addition, the DTS edition came across as richer and showed stronger low-end response. The variations didn’t seem extreme, but I still gave the nod to the DTS track.
Billed as a “Special Anniversary Edition”, one might expect a nice roster of extras on Annie. One won’t get them, as this disc comes free of any substantial supplements. To tout this sucker as a special edition seems like a cruel joke for fans.
What do we get? We launch with a music video from the teen pop group Play. They do their update on “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”. They do a dance pop rendition of the tune. The video alternates their dancing and lip-synching with movie clips. It’s a lifeless take on the song and a dull video. Too bad the DVD didn’t include Jay Z’s “Hard Knock”, since it famously and creatively sampled the Annie track.
Next we find a trivia game called “The Age of Annie”. This presents some clips from the movie and asks us insanely easy questions like “In which decade does Annie take place?” It also gives us some information about the era and elements seen in the movie that provide basic knowledge. Some moderately interesting tidbits show up, but for the most part, this isn’t a very strong piece.
A retrospective featurette, My Hollywood Adventure with Aileen Quinn lasts 12 minutes and two seconds. We see and hear from an adult Quinn as she chats about her Annie experiences. She gets into her early interest in performing, her tests for the film and her casting, the production, and publicity stints. Some interesting archival bits pop up along the way; we see parts of Quinn’s screen-test and her initial press conference. Quinn divulges a few decent notes about the production as well, but mostly she just gives us a glossy and puffy chat about the flick. It’s not a terrible featurette, but it doesn’t seem terribly useful or informative. (By the way, Quinn still can’t act, but she’s kind of cute.)
Insult to injury time: all of the movie clips seen in “Adventure” come in the flick’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Ouch!
Sing Along with Annie! provides a Karaoke feature. It allows you to select any of three songs: “Maybe”, “Tomorrow”, and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”. You can play these with or without vocals, and the DVD supplies the lyrics for you. Act Along with Annie! starts with an introduction from a grown-up Aileen Quinn. This basically offers a Karaoke version of acting. It’ll let you try out three different scenes with or without Annie’s dialogue.
Finally, trailers includes five different ads. We get promos for Daddy Day Care. Matilda, The Baby-Sitters Club, Stuart Little 2, and The Swan Princess Collection. Oddly, no trailer for Annie itself appears, although one showed up on the original DVD. The new disc also lacks the talent files and “original advertising” found on the prior release, and it loses that set’s booklet; the latter included some good historical notes.
By the way, could somebody tell me what anniversary this “Special Anniversary Edition” commemorates? The movie came out 22 years before its release, while the stage musical debuted 27 years earlier. I guess this is supposed to be timed to the comic strip’s 80th anniversary – it first appeared in 1924 – but that’s a fairly loose connection. When I see “anniversary” touted on a DVD, I assume it ties to the movie, not the inspiration for the flick.
Annie remains a dud because the movie itself is an insufferably cute and cloying concoction. How so much talent wasted itself on this mess is a mystery to me. The DVD offers fairly bland pan and scan picture quality with relatively positive audio and a weak roster of supplements. Fans of Annie need to get a copy of the old DVD. The new one lacks the appropriate aspect ratio, and the extras definitely don’t merit much attention. This “Special Anniversary Edition” is a misfire.