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Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Life as the heir apparent to the kingdom of Slumberland isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

What They Say:
On one unforgettable night, Nemo falls asleep in his usual resistant manner. Soon, with the help of his flying pet squirrel Icarus and his friend Professor Genius, they journey together into Slumberland. Nemo is lovingly embraced by the people of Slumberland, particularly the King, who adopts Nemo and makes him heir to the throne. He is entrusted with two very special possessions: the prized Royal Scepter, and a mysterious key that unlocks all sorts of dark and dangerous secrets.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release contains the English stereo mix, encoded at 256kbps, and the English 5.1 mix, encoded at 448kbps. The show doesn’t exactly use the 5.1 channels in any meaningful way but instead has a much cleaner and richer sounding forward soundstage mix that helps to build things up a bit. A lot of scenes don’t have any discernible differences when you get down to it, but a lot of others make out better in the 5.1 mix. The show has some good directionality and movements across the forward soundstage having been a theatrical mix but it’s still not one that really leaps out at you. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 1989, the transfer for this theatrical feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The feature has a lot of good detail and design to its animation and the quality of the animation is certainly visible here throughout. But it is also an older show, not that twenty plus years should really be considered old, but the quality of masters for a DVD presentation just aren’t the best. A lot of it comes down to just how good you can make it look without a full on restoration and just how much grain really belongs in there and how much comes from whatever version of materials there is. The grain is the only real issue here and I’m not against grain in the slightest, but it just feels a bit more overpowering here than it should be. If grain doesn’t bother you, you’ll likely enjoy the transfer here, though the colors are a bit muted which was how much of animation was done at this time.

Owing to its nature and past releases, the cover art here doesn’t stretch itself much as it’s definitely familiar with the classic image of the main characters riding the bed through the city in the dark of the night. The magic floating around them is nicely done but the cover design is just the kind of dark thing that doesn’t make it seem like something that would be quickly scooped up by either parents or children. Of course, it did sell some two million copies when it was first released in the US in the 90’s, so who knows. The cover artwork is decent here but by the same token, it’s definitely got a bit of second stringer quality to it with the character designs and the lack of real energy to it all. There’s also the slew of quotes along the bottom from past releases that highlights the critical reception of the film which will help. The back cover is very text heavy with just a small and very dark shot of Nemo along the upper right. It covers a lot of ground, but again it’s aimed more at adults here than anything else so it’s hard to say what the right approach is. It’s definitely not a kid friendly cover. The couple of shots from the show are alright and we get the standard production credits breakdown and a look at the extras. The technical grid covers everything clearly though it only lists the 5.1 track and not the stereo one. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu for this release is simple but cute and definitely addictive if you let it loop for any length of time. The static screen juts has a picture of Nemo in his room with some nice framing that fits well, though obviously it’s a bit sharper and clearer than the animation itself. It has a good looping version of the Welcome to Slumberland song that definitely sets the mood rather well. The menu layout is simple as well and everything is easy to access and worked without issue. The release defaults to the English stereo mix and there are no subtitles to be had on the disc so player presets weren’t much use.

The release certainly has some cute extras here that will make some happy. The character profiles section is naturally brief and like other releases I continue to fail to see the real use of them. There’s a good section that has the singalong tracks for a couple of the numbers, though they’re brief. There’s also a very cute section that teaches you how to make one of the royal scepters. Add in a quick screen that has the Little Nemo verse and it’s cute but about all that one would expect of a release of this age outside of someone commissioning a new making of documentary.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For better or worse, I’ve never seen Little Nemo in Slumberland before. And for fans of the film, it’s certainly something that confounds even me as to how I never came across it. It’s been released a number of times over the years through different companies and the feature was profitable with its first home video run in the early 90’s, though it did horrid in theaters three years after it was released to theaters in Japan. The film was so poorly received at the time in Japan, due to Kiki’s Delivery Service coming out at the same time, that the director retired afterward and TMS focused on subcontracting or doing things aimed squarely at the domestic market rather than trying to expand into foreign markets. The film had so many writers in it that while it has two main credits, it comes across as a generally sort of agreed on set of credits just to be done with it.

Films like this are difficult for me to watch as in the end, there really is little appeal with them because of how simplistic they are. There are merits to it and it definitely works for a lot of kids and I have no problem with that, but like the majority of animated films in the US made in the 80’s, it more often than not just kind of bores me. The central focus on the young boy of Nemo who ends up being invited late one night into the world of Slumberland is cute, where he’s brought there in order to meet the princess that resides there who is eager to see him. It takes a third of the film before he gets there as he has to have fun by wanting to see the parade in town but is denied and then gets to explore part of Slumberland for a bit with all its whimsy and flights of fancy. And all of it in his pajamas of course, which gets him a fair bit of teasing from the princess when they do meet.

With the idea behind his time in Slumberland being that he’s the heir apparent to the throne to be the King of Slumberland, a lot of it is designed to show him his new realm and all the silliness and wonder that’s filled there. It does have a big adventure that he has to deal with in terms of a threat to the entirely of Slumberland and it’s dealt in classic form that is true to the time and the scripting of material for young children. Again, it’s all very easy to see why this would have been appealing when it was released and even now to some kids, but the whole thing speaks as to why I felt that animation itself had been in a rut in the 80’s and then became involved in a different rut in the 90’s where it had to be all about musicals (and now it’s just parody/satire comedies).

Visually, the feature is definitely a treat and it has a good mixture of both what a lot of Disney and other animated films were like at the time and before while also having some very distinctly anime features as well. It has a certain smoothness and fluidity that is well captured and gives it a different kind of life, though it tends to come more from Nemo than the supporting cast because, well, the little guy doesn’t spend the bulk of his time dancing. There’s a lot of great detail in the film not only in the background but also the foreground animation. While it may have that classic feel to it and in a way seem like it lacks the polish of newer films, it has a certain warmth and attention to detail that lets it stand beyond the newer films as well. It’s a great film to watch for what it creates with so many little things to focus on in each scene that shows a lot of love paid to its creation.

In Summary:
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is the kind of show where I really, really feel bad for kind of trashing it. It’s not that I find it bad, I just find it uninteresting and squarely not aimed at me. There’s a lot of childlike movies that I enjoy that deal with this kind of intended audience, but this feature did little for me in really drawing me in. Slumberland stories like this always feel like a bit of cheating, much in the way I sort of felt the same about the Narnia books and films as it all comes across as just a dream and nothing more, so it doesn’t resonate well. It may be my age showing and inability to get into the whimsy and magic of it all. The presentation here is decent overall with what few problems there are really coming down to source material more than anything else. The film is one that really feels like it deserves so much more, but because of its origins and the general treatment over the years, it won’t really achieve what it should for the audience that would flock to it.

English Language, Character Profiles, Slumberland Sing-Along, Make Your Own Royal Scepter, Little Nemo Verse

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
MSRP: $14.95
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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