Plot: What’s it about?
Wilbur (voiced by Henry Gibson) is satisfied with his life on the farm, but he fears an end is coming to his happiness, with the approach of the season’s end. You see, Wilbur is a pig and when the end of the season arrives, he will go from farm animal to dinner, to be sure. This scares him and he knows unless he hatches a plan of some sort, he will end up on the dinner table, instead of continued bliss as it stands. He is able to find some solace in a friendship with a spider named Charlotte (voiced by Debbie Reynolds), who agrees to lend a hand in the plotting business. As time passes, the two become the very best of friends and Charlotte teaches not just Wilbur, but all the farm animals a thing or two in the process. But when all is said and done, what will become of Wilbur and Charlotte, as well as the other animals on the Arable farm?
I love the novel this film was based on and while this animated edition isn’t quite as good, it is a terrific adaptation, to be sure. I think the animated form was a wise choice, as it was impossible at the time to create realistic talking animals, which is vital to this story, of course. I do think the animation looks dated, but the art has come a long way since the 1970s, so that’s to expected, I think. It looks more than acceptable and while not as fluid as more modern releases, it gets the job done and that’s what counts. The story and characters translate well here and while some details end up lost in the movie, the important elements come through. The voice talent is up to task, with such names as Debbie Reynolds, Rex Allen, Charles Nelson Reilly, Agnes Moorehead, Danny Bonaduce, Dave Madden, and Henry Gibson all present and in fine form. I do think a modern update is in order for this material, but if you love the book and want a different take, then this release should fill that request. Paramount has done little to warrant a purchase here however, so I think a rental will suffice in most cases, to be sure.
Video: How does it look?
Charlotte’s Web is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I think this is the best I’ve seen the film look, but this is still a pretty weak overall presentation. The print used shows a lot of grain and also debris & marks, more than I care to see in such a release. I know this is an animated film from the ’70s, but I expected it to look better than this, to be sure. The colors and contrast are stable, but lack refinement as well, which leaves me to score this one in the middle, but only because of the film’s age, otherwise it would be lowered.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono option is more than decent, but the material seems quite limited at times, due to the musical content involved. The basics are more than covered however, so don’t think this is a substandard present, as it isn’t. I am unsure why Paramount didn’t also included a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix however, as they often do these days. The musical numbers sound adequate, but lack the range and punch we’ve come to expect, which is a let down. The dialogue sounds clean and crisp throughout however, so I don’t think the score should be knocked too much. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a game called Meet the Animals, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.