"Mulan" in 70mm at the
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Issue 53 - June 1998
The Walt Disney Company had several DTS 70mm
prints made of their new animated film "Mulan".
We doubt that any further uses of these prints are contemplated, but they
were at least being used locally for an invitational premiere on June 5 --
in L.A. at the Hollywood Bowl! The film opened nationwide in the US in 35mm
on June 19, 1998.
There were at least 3 complete prints, plus countless miscellaneous other
reels also printed. However, all the other reels were rejected for various
reasons of color, or flickering, or problems with the black masking printed
on either side of the image. The film was to run at 1.85:1 ratio, so the
plan was to black in the sides. Ultimately, because of the continuing
problems with the various labs, the prints were finally produced without the
black masking borders! So it was blacked out by aperture plates in the
The initial report about it being made with DTS timecode was only partially
correct: only the final reel (reel 5) was made with the timecode, and that
was done not for the soundtrack itself, but to use the DTS process to
synchronize some fireworks events at the end of the film presentation. This
is something like was done with those flashing strobe lights in selected
cinemas for the teasers of "The Lost World".
There is an add-on device from DTS which takes some reference information
off the time code, triggering desired special events at the appropriate
moment. So, reel 5 had timecode, the other 4 reels were silent! The film
sound was supplied by interlocked magnetic tracks on separate machines
(using 35mm magnetic film). These were the so-called "6-track"
masters, which were also used as the source material for the various analog
and digital sound tracks. The reason given for using this equipment- and
labor-intensive process was that, because of the size of the Hollywood Bowl,
it was necessary to delay the sound by "regions", depending on how
far away from the screen the various seats were located. The intent was that
everyone in the audience would see and hear the sound in synchronization
with the picture. This was accomplished by a digital variable delay which
customized the vast Bowl seating areas into distinct audio zones. There was
a difference of a full 3 frames from front row to back.
The picture was projected on a special screen that came up out of the
"floor" of the stage, following a one-hour live stage show
featuring Disney characters and music, plus music and performers themed to
the film, which takes place in ancient China. The screen was 85ft wide, and
46ft high and it was 205 feet from projector to screen. Lens focal length
was 130mm. The size of the screen (plus the problem of nighttime ambient
light, making it hard to get the space really dark) were the reason(s) that
they felt it necessary to use the 70mm print size. And, in fact, the prints
were also made 2 printer points "lighter", to let even more light
through to the screen. This washed out (desaturated) the colors slightly.
The net result of all this means that, to be realistic, there is virtually
no likelihood that the prints could or will ever be subsequently mag striped
and used in some theatrical situation. Furthermore, there was a reasonably
noticeable flicker in the image, a product of the blow-up process somewhere.
However, they ran out of time and were not able to figure out what was
causing it, other than "something in the printing process". So,
don't look forward to seeing "Mulan" in 70mm at
your local cinema! Part of the problem these days is that labs seem to be
out of practice in producing good 70mm prints, just like many cinema
projectionists are similarly out of practice in handling 70mm prints.
These prints, by the way, were not produced from a 65m negative, but rather
from a 35m dupe negative. The enlargement process took place individually
for each and every reel. Part of the reason for no 65mm negative was that
there were only to be "a few" prints made. Of course, in
retrospect, maybe that wasn't the right decision, as they must have had to
throw away many, MANY rolls of film. "Hundreds", if the Disney
sources are not exaggerating!
Print rehearsals were done at the Hollywood Galaxy cinema because they
couldn't rehearse at the Hollywood Bowl for several reasons, one of which
was that it wouldn't get dark enough to see the film until about 8:30 or
9:00pm. They are supposed to finish making "noise" (to not disturb
the neighbors in the area) by 11:00pm. That's not much time to rehearse.
Other reasons include the Bowl stage being busy setting up the
"live" part of the program, and the unavailability of the prints
Further in 70mm reading:
In DTS 70mm
- top - back issues