a selection of disastrously restored movie classics.

At first glance, the two images of ‘Cinderella’ above these lines are only slightly different. There is a change in the colors, and even, if you look closely, it can be said that the one on the right is sharper. Indeed, belongs to the remastered version of the film, present in the Blu-Ray and DVD editions of the film, as well as the one that can be seen on Disney +. However, there are more differences, and they are the ones that have made fans of the company’s classic animation nail.

The level of detail in the image on the right is much lower. The highlights on the tail of the dress are reduced and, most importantly, the white seams are gone. This is important, because these seams are not a mere ornament, they also give volume to the drawing: The right hand in the original version is lifting the dress to go down the stairs, but in the remastered version it is simply resting on the leg. The loss of the edges also makes the glove melt into the waist of the dress.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

But there is more: the colors are completely changed, and you do not have to get too exquisite to appreciate it. The ladder on the left is brown, the one on the right is light fuchsia. The dress on the left is light purple, the one on the right is light blue. The contrast also changes, in this way, in the details of the dress: seams, waist, gloves and shoulders on the left are almost white, and on the right the seams disappear and the rest are the same blue as the fabric of the dress, but more clear.

Details, without a doubt, that mark a difference in quality between the remastered version and the original (the commented loss of volume in the dress, which on the right seems rigid, not made of fabric), which can only be seen in the versions in VHS and Laser-Disc of the film. This wreck not only affects these plans: being an automated restoration, there are other plans with problems in the details. And the change of the color palette is continuous throughout the film. Let’s look at another couple of examples, taken from an analysis made by the Bored Panda website.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

This user of a forum specialized in image has many more examples, with the old versions extracted from the Laser Disc of the movie.

Some will say that they are unimportant details and that the benefit of the indisputable sharpness, the loss of grain and the appearance of details in the backgrounds (although, in return, others disappear with the transformation of the colors, especially shadows) compensates for the changes. . It is a discussion that has been taking place since 2012, the year of the appearance of the remastering, and that has returned to the fore thanks to a tweet from animator Stephen Duignan, who has also explained why this happens.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

The Blu-ray of CINDERELLA (right) has been so scrubbed of grain that they’ve actually destroyed the linework in some scenes pic.twitter.com/TlqiVk5eY6

– Stephen Duignan (@stephen_duignan) April 23, 2018

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

The reason for the mismatches is that it is not a frame-by-frame restoration of the original, but a system in which each frame of a character is rotated and isolated from the original scene. Then it is recomposed on a new fund, already restored, and the two come together.

The problem is that Disney has applied this system to a good number of its classic films: it happens in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Robin Hood’, for example, with this pair of shots also from the Bored Panda website. In this case, the differences are even more notable due to the peculiar style of drawing the original lines., almost like a sketch where the lines of the drawing are perceived, and that films like ‘101 Dalmatians’ also share. In this case, not only that “sketchy” style is lost, but also the watercolor-style nuances of the background and the shadows of trees and vegetation.

The examples are innumerable. And in some cases, open to discussion. For instance, Is editor Rachael Camp’s next ‘Beauty and the Beast’ screenshot better or worse than the original? It is clear that there is more light and detail in the restored version, but … does it lose some of the mystery of the original, where practically only the eyes and jaws of the Beast were seen?

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

HESITATE. I noticed the same thing about Beauty and the Beast last year! Glad people are finally taking notice! pic.twitter.com/6yHGnST3pU

– Rachael Camp (@rachaelccamp) July 10, 2018

Other botch when cleaning the image

Live-action movies aren’t immune from this kind of mess. The person in charge of Most of the problems with recent restorations is the so-called Digital Noise Reduction, or DNR, a technique that removes grain, image noise and various imperfections from films that were shot on celluloid, resembling how we see cinema shot on digital. The method is not without controversy.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

Although today’s films know the properties and limitations of the digital image and know how to take advantage of it, something similar happened in the past. A good cinematographer knew that blacks were never going to be absolute and that under certain lighting conditions the image would show grain. These “imperfections” are not only an inseparable part of celluloid, but many fans associate it with the analog image, in the same way that it is said that the sound that is extracted from vinyl is “warmer” than digital sound.

That is why many films have been criticized for being restored without regard to their original properties. In many cases, we are not talking about debatable issues but about a clear loss of details and even, paradoxically, of sharpness, since the grain also provides information to the image. It is the reason why, when Christopher Nolan presented his restored version of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in Cannes talked about how it was actually a “unrestored” version, respecting the occasional glitch in the image: “Celluloid is the best analogy to how human eyes see.”

Nolan did not lose sight of something that all restorations should take into account here: It is not about “improving the image”, but about getting closer to what should have been the perfect experience at the time of the premiere. of the movie. In other words, a good copy, without the wear and tear of time, but respecting colors, textures and peculiarities of the original work, not “improved”. It is curious that something as simple to understand in other arts as painting still arouses discussion in the cinema.

To illustrate, we have some examples of controversial or downright disastrous restorations in which the original characteristics have not been respected.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

Star wars

These images, belonging to the 4K77 restoration project, make it clear what is the difference between a restored version with DNR or without it. The change in colors is obvious and the loss of original grain as well. There are many fans who prefer the grain-free version (here is another video comparison), and there are countless unofficial versions restored based on different criteria.


One of the most popular cases, from the 2010 Blu-Ray. A full screen shows how the loss of grain entails loss of detail, textures, and produces an unpleasant “wax doll” effect in the skin of the actors.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Another comparison that makes the differences clear. The DNR kills the contrasts and although it brings out details, sometimes causes characters to be crushed against the background, losing the sense of depth of the scenes and, with it, sometimes giving away the digital effects.

a selection of disastrously restored movie classics

The longest day

Another clear example that restoring a classic doesn’t necessarily mean washing its face until the details are gone. The original brilliant black and white is utterly lacking in depth in the 2008 Blu-Ray version, deservedly famous for the wrong reasons.