I popped in my "Gold Collection" DVD of The Sword and The Stone and watched the scene of Arthur writing the alphabet, and then I did the same thing with the new Blu-ray. Then I scanned a few other scenes.
I am probably one of the most easy-to-please folks when it comes to Blu-rays and picture quality; I am happy if the film shows a modest to good bump in picture quality over the previously-released DVD iteration..
The image quality of the Blu-ray is worse than has been reported. I thought that maybe the images where the figures were bigger in the frame would not suffer, but the whole picture is just marred beyond what I would have believed.
And, for this era of Disney animated films, I cannot imagine a more ill-suited digital clean up process to put them through, because part of their unique quality is in the roughness of the marks made by the animators.
Starting with, I believe 101 Dalmatians, the animator's had their drawings directly transferred to the acetate. There were not "ink and paint girls" doing extensive clean up as was done during the pinnacle of their mastery of flawless ink and painting, as demonstrated in every frame of Sleeping Beauty, where no line is other than precise and clean.
For The Sword and The Stone, we *should* be seeing the extra little drawing marks around the characters being animated. That is the work of the actual animators, and not the clean up team cleaning up the animation. And it is cool and wonderful and amazing...and the animators were proud of it.
Another interesting aspect of this era is how Disney animated films move towards more simplified backgrounds, so, in 101 Dalmatians, you get these ideas of city landscapes, but with large blocks of color spanning several buildings and sections of the street that are not "painted inside the lines." The same is true for much of The Sword and The Stone, particularly in the non-woods backgrounds and backgrounds like the stacks of books behind Arthur and Archimedes during their chalkboard lesson together.
Most of that extra detail and animator rough line work is just GONE. It has been smeared away and all the detail and life of the drawing is gone along with it.
The aforementioned chalk board looks worse the the previously provided screen caps.
That is not chalk he is writing with, it looks more like he is smearing marshmallow goo.
That is it! The whole film is gooey. Nothing crisp nor clean nor fresh. Blurry and gooey.
Goo. ALL OF IT. Backgrounds look like they'd melt. Characters are, more often than not, mushy. After scanning the Blu-ray, Merlin seems to suffer the least, maybe, but Archimedes often looks like every drawing of him has been smuggled with thumbs on oil board before being filmed.
It is as if the whole thing was drawn with oil sticks and then someone took all of those oil based drawings and put them in the microwave to see what would happen.
The "Gold Collection" DVD has its own set of image issues, but it is a better image in terms of representing what the artists actually drew and seeing their work than this Blu-ray.
If this was 2008, I could almost forgive Disney for being so incompetent in their handling of this release. Even Universal re-released Patton on Blu-ray because they learned and got better and doing their jobs. They got smarter about applying DNR, if they were going to. Disney should be putting all the other studios to shame in terms of picture quality because no other studio's back catalog of films has as much of a pre-determined market that will buy its films on Blu-ray.