DreamWorks shines again with “Abominable”
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Teenagers Yi (Chole Bennet) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), with his younger cousin Peng (Albert Tsai), escort Everest a 2000 lb yeti across China to his home in the Himalayas.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG for some action and mild, rude humor; streaming via (buy & rent) Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Lots – including two original shorts! But animation fans will enjoy the commentary with writer and co-director Jill Culton and filmmakers
DREAMWORKS has delivered great animated series and films for 25 years including “Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Madagascar,” and now “Abominable” about a baby yeti trying to return to his home in the Himalayas.
A co-writer for “Monsters, Inc.,” Jill Culton wrote and co-directed “Abominable” with Todd Wilderman, lead CG character animator for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” There’s much for kids and their adults to enjoy in DreamWorks’ new venture which begins in Shanghai and leads us throughout China to the Himalayas. “An Abominable Tour with Chloe Bennet,” one of 15 extras on Universal’s presentation, features authentic Chinese locations seen in the story – the Gobi Desert, a village on the banks of the Yellow River, a huge bamboo forest, and the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan before we reach the Himalayas.
With its feet firmly in the roots of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Abominable” tells the story of a baby yeti – a big furry cutie – trapped by an wealthy collector of animals Burnish (Eddie Izzard) and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson). Frightened by a yeti during a youthful adventure, old Burnish has a life goal of finding a live yeti to prove his story. Dr. Zara has some alternative objectives that create a nice flip in standard characterization.
(1) Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) and her team hope to round up the big furry Yeti, who's trying to escape from the Brunish Industries scientific facility in China. (2&3) The Yeti ends up on the roof of a Shanghai apartment and sees his home on a large billboard. (4) Yi nearly slips past her mother (Michelle Wong) and her grandmother, Nai Nai (Tsai Chin) for another day of enterprising odd jobs.
The big-little guy escapes his captors, finding a hiding place on the roof of a Shanghai apartment building. Teen violinist and entrepreneur Yi, voiced by Chole Bennet (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), lives there with her mother, voiced by Michelle Wong, and grandmother, Nai Nai voiced by a splendid Tsai Chin. Yi finds the creature, naming him “Everest” after spotting a rooftop billboard with a travel ad to visit the Himalayas. Struggling to come to terms with her father’s death, she decides to take Everest home to his family in the mountains and is joined by another teen, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and the younger, fun loving Peng (Albert Tsai). In the extras, Culton and Wilderman note how pleased they were to work with a Chinese cast as well as consultants, animators and crew members.
The journey takes Everest and the kids through a variety of adventures where the yeti’s magical connection with nature is displayed. Yi’s spellbinding musical talent also shines, especially beside the Leshan Giant Buddha.
This is the second U.S.-China animated co-production for an original feature. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment presents “Abominable” in on 1080p and 2160p physical discs and streaming. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1. The 1080p looks wonderful, even exceptional in its format. Still, the best presentation is on the Ultra 4K disc upconverted from a 2K Digital Image.
Fine detail is a touch better on the 4K. Where we really see the difference – as in most animated films – is in the color produced by the expanded HDR color palette. It is brilliant from natural skin tones, clothing and settings; to lush landscapes including desert gold, tropical greens and frosty white; to deep, velvety blacks. Contrast is outstanding especially in headlights against skies and landscapes, and a city-wide rooftop light display.
The Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack is energetic and fun making the most of ceiling and around the room effects. Listen for height effects everywhere in rooftop and mountain escapes, and as drones buzz our heroes. Dialogue is clear, clean and easy to understand, and the music is sublime. The original score is by Rupert Gregson-Williams of “Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman,” “The Crown,” and “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Yi drops her prized violin on the apartment building roof by the spot where the Yeti has been hiding. (2) She attends to the injured 2000 pound creature. (3&4) Jin and Peng hop onto a moped trying to catch up with Yi and Yeti as they are surrounded by a Burnish Industries helicopter.
As mentioned, there are 15 and found on both the 4K and Blu-ray physical discs and Apple's streaming site. Most are quite short save the feature-length commentary headed by Culton. A DreamWorks feature, “Marooned,” is the best of two short animations. It’s a bittersweet piece with strong shades of “WALL-E.” “Show and Tell” has Everest putting on a show for family and friends back home in the Himalayas. There are four deleted scenes with optional intros by Culton and Wilderman.
“Making a Myth” is a good, standard making-of. “Animating ‘Abominable’” covers production from concept, design, storyboards and execution. “Meet the Cast” provides interviews with the cast including Joseph Izzo who provided sound effects for Everest. He also provided voice work for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “The Boss Baby” and the “Kung Fu Panda” films.
“Courage to Dream” is where we learned of Culton’s intentional story-telling irony. As a tomboy, she did not identify with the Disney princesses. The adventurous, non-traditional female lead Yi of “Abominable” has similar inclinations, while Jin becomes the “prince” of the story – very handsome with a wardrobe die for. It works.
“Everest’s Talk Box” shows how Izzo and the audio team created the young yeti’s voice and effects. “Cooking with Nai Nai” is a treat, showing how to make the pork buns the character is known for. In real life, voice actress Tsai Chin does not cook. “Nai Nai Says” allows the wise grandmother to give advice.
“Your Yeti Care Guide” is about how to care for a new pet with Bennet, Tsai and Trainor demonstrating with a puppy, kitten and bird. “How to Abominable” is a how-to-draw feature, and “You Can Speak Yeti-ese,” hosted by Bennet, is a guide to learning foreign languages.
“Abominable” is a beautifully produced and heartwarming story that should entertain family members. There are some good twists in this tale that keeps watchers immersed. But like Dorothy Gale in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” we learn – again – that despite the intrigue of adventures and new friends, there’s still no place like home and family.
– Kay Reynolds
(1) Burnish (Eddie Izzard) puts pressure on his head of security to find the yeti as soon as possible so he can unveil the once mythical creature at a scientific conference. (2&3) Yi, Jin, Peng, and Everest escape on a barge as they attempt an across country adventure to the furry guys home. She discovers her father's postcards are the path to get him home. (4) Yi's magic violin causes flowers to bloom at the base of a Leshan Giant Buddha.
(1) Burnish and his army seem to have Everest and his buddies surrounded again. (2) On top of the bridge, Everest calls to form a lightning storm. (3) Yi says goodbye to Everest. (4) Everest is reunited with his family.