Expo: Magic Of The White City

Expo: Magic Of The White City (2005)
Inecom Media
Cast: Narration by Gene Wilder
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes

We all boast about our extravagant DVD collections. I have met countless people who strive to have more DVD's than anyone they know. Take a quick look at your collection though. I'm sure it is filled with genre pictures and television shows that cover the past few decades. How many educational DVD's do you own? Not counting Michael Moore's altered view of America or documentaries about super sizing, how many of your titles truly educate is viewers on a particular subject. "Expo – Magic Of The White City" does just that. It offers up a mesmerizing look at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and delivers a surprisingly feature filled DVD that will appeal to all ages. Read and learn!

In 1893, 300,000 people turned out to the unveiling of a new city of sorts. Filled with small details and large sights, the masses were blown away in Chicago as the World's Fair was debuted. Costing $22 million, 40,000 workers labored for over a year to bring the fair to life, which is amazing if you calculate inflation. Close to 28 million people visited the grounds in awe of what is regarded as the beginning of the 20th century. Art, technology, and architecture are all given state-of-the-art treatment on grounds designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. With a runtime of just under two hours, we are shown the ups and downs of the amazing process and its impact on America.

Unfortunately, "Expo – Magic Of The White City" is one of those DVD's that will not get the recognition it deserves. I commend Mark Bussler and his crew for collecting the information and giving an interesting and informative look at possibly the grandest event in American history. In today's world, we are less likely to sit back and learn about our diverse history. Our fast food, on-demand culture has shortened attention spans and changed our view of entertainment. It was enriching to see a day and age where people were blown away by events and structures that are the equivalent of background noise in 2005.

Filmed in High-Definition, "Expo – Magic Of The White City" is destined to look good. The 16×9 enhanced widescreen presentation is superb, but there is a downside. Since it covers events taking place over a century ago, older still images and illustrations are shown to compliment the narration. Some of these images are rough black and white photos, so the excellent film quality is limited by the images. When color and live action are shown, they look spectacular. The image is flawless. Only watching the feature in true High-Definition could top the crystal clear presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a nice one. Gene Wilder's narration is very personal, deeply progressing the historical events over the soft sounds of classical music and background noise to mirror the images shown onscreen. For the most part, these sounds are limited to the front speakers. The sound is very rich and showcases the bass with firecrackers and gunshots during the story. When the rear speakers are used, they don't sound forced. The dynamic range is great and the full sound surprisingly captures your attention by adding to the narration. Being an educational DVD, I was very impressed with the quality of the Dolby Digital track.

The feature-length commentary by World's Fair historian David Cope is included for more insight into the extravagant event. While Gene Wilder's narration is passionate and interesting, David Cope's is much drier. He provides a wealth of information, but the presentation of the material will be dull for most listeners. I would only recommend the track for those who have a deep thirst for knowledge about the origins of the World's Fair. There are four featurettes that cover different aspects of the Fair, each with an additional commentary by Director/Editor Mark Bussler and some also have Writer Brian Connelly's insight as well. "Making The Fair" (7:27) centers around bringing together the extensive material to create the feature length film. "Art Of The Fair" (10:03) was such a peaceful look at the amazing art from the era. This was my favorite of the four featurettes. Seeing these images with classical music in the background was a delight. "Pictures Of The Fair" (4:42) provides many of the images taken for the event itself rather than artist's interpretation. "Storyboards Of The Fair" (4:56) is more of a look into the filmmaking process rather than the World's Fair. Both the featurettes and their respective commentaries are enlightening and give even more information to the subject. Breaking them up gives viewers an opportunity to explore certain aspects of the process rather than skipping though material to find specific points of interest. Collectively, the featurettes emulate the laid back, yet informative approach of the film. Eight deleted scenes and six trailers for other Inecom Entertainment releases balance out the fully packed, dual-layered DVD.

WOW!!!! I will certainly never judge a DVD by its cover again. The tame cover art may not catch your eye, but if given a chance the DVD will provide a great treat. Top notch picture and sound are supported by commentaries, featurettes, trailers, and deleted scenes that will stimulate your mind for hours while educating on the spectacle of the Chicago World's Fair. Fans of The Learning Channel will find the information and presentation a delight. This disc is highly recommended for viewers looking to spend some productive time in front of the television with their families.