morning light (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 7, 2009 by  

“An inspiring documentary of 15 young rookies who train rigorously for six months and eleven will get the opportunity to compete in the morning light for the Transpac Yacht Race.  ‘morning light’ captures the hardwork, the challenges and the teamwork that these young rookies must learn in order to compete against the professionals.  Will these rookies have a chance? ‘morning light’ is an inspiring tale and for those who are passionate about aquatic races such as Transpac will love watching this documentary on Blu-ray!”

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: morning light

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (Widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-bit), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Some Language)

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009

Directed by Mark Monroe

Based on the original idea by Thomas J. Pollack

Executive Producer: Leslie DeMeuse and Roy Edward Disney

Produced by Morgan Sackett

Coordinating Producer: Phil Uhl

Director of Photography: Josef Nalevansky and Richard Deppe

Edited by Paul Crowder and Mark Monroe

Music Supervistor: Liz Gallacher

Music by MATTER


Chris Branning

Graham Brant-Zawadzki

Chris Clark

Charlie Enright

Jesse Fielding

Robbie Kane

Steve Manson

Chris Schubert

Kate Theisen

Mark Towill

Genny Tulloch

Pieter van Os

Chris Welch

Kit Will

Jeremy Wilmot

Now more breathtaking than ever on Blu-ray – experience a riveting and inspiring true-life adventure aboard the high-tech sloop Morning Light.  Fifteen rookie sailors have one goal in mind – to be part of her crew, racing in the most revered sailing competition on Earth, the Transpac Yacht Race.  From start to finish, its a rollercoaster ride of emotions and physical challenges, beginning with six months of intense training.  Only eleven will survive to race in the grueling 2,225-mile Transpac.  Matching wits and skills against experienced pros and the unforgiving, unpredictable Pacific Ocean, these young men and women develop a powerful bond and prove how dedication, teamwork and an unyielding spirit can overcome the greatest of odds.  It’s an awe-inspiring film made absolutely stunning in Blu-ray High Definition.

The Transpacific Yacht Race, a race featuring competitors from all over the globe as they start from Point Fermin (southern edge of Los Angeles) and travel through the Pacific Ocean through unforeseen weather conditions and try to reach their goal in Hawaii.  A 2,225 nautical mile contest that is known for its challenge, its adventure and teamwork as everyone aspires for excellence.

Executive producers Roy E. Disney who has been part of the Transpac Yacht Race since 1975 and Leslie DeMeuse (who works as an ESPN producer) who also participated in sailing competitions when she was a teenager are passionate about this race and came up with an idea of what if they can find 11 young rookie sailors who had to work together and compete in the 2007 Transpac Yacht Race.

“morning light” is a documentary directed by Mark Monroe and feature cinematography by Josef Nalevansky.  The documentary is based upon Disney and his staff finding the young men and women who have sailing experience from college, those who were determined to compete in a professional race.

From 538 applicants down to the initial 30 people invited to Long Beach, California and become part of a small competition trials to determine the applicants strength and weaknesses.  From these 30 competitors,  Roy Disney, Leslie DeMeuse and sailing master Robbie Haines and crew decide on the  the final 15 who were then invited to train in Honolulu, Hawaii and undergo intensive training.  These young men and women range from the age of 18 through 23 years old.

After the training, the team leaders will need to determine who will be part of the final eleven who would compete and then prepare for their 2,225 mile competition as they get to ride the 52-foot high, high performance sloop known as “morning light”.

The documentary shows us the men and women who go through training in Hawaii and have to learn safety (several professionals have died in Transpac Yacht Race competitions due to unforeseen weather conditions and inadequate safety preparation), due to the demands of the boat and having to continually grind and lift objects, they need to be in their best shape and to do things quickly.

Although the main 15 people get along, we see a few individuals who face major challenges.  One sailor goes off to the ski slopes during her training off day and ends up breaking her wrist.  Now she is in the risk of not being able to compete professionally.   Another sailor has problems swimming and now he is in jeopardy of not making the team.   And just the sense of competition of which person will lead the team, who will take what position and then having to decide which of the four people will be cut from the final 11.

And once the race does start, they must work together and make wise decisions in their first professional race.


When it comes to picture quality, “morning light” is presented in 1080p High Definition (aspect ration of 1:85:1).  As a big fan of documentaries shot on the ocean, especially in Hawaii, I can tell you that you get very beautiful shots of the sloop on the ocean and nice and beautiful blues of the ocean and the skies.  Because the film was shot outdoors, you get to see the vibrancy of the reds and yellows and with occasional shots of Hawaii, we get to see the beauty of the island. Skin tones are natural (well, considering everyone had to apply the lotion on their faces) and blacks are nice and deep.  There is little artifacting and noise that can be seen on certain scenes in the documentary but nothing terrible.

But the primary focus is on the ocean and that is where the majority of the action takes place.  This is a documentary shot in the ocean and because of the amount of shaking and constant movement, it was noted on the special features of how challenging it was for Director of Photography Josef Nalevansky.  There are a few scenes in which drops of ocean water get on the lens but for the most part, considering the challenges of instability on the sloop’s movement, picture quality is pretty good.

As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-bit).  Dialogue is clear, music is clear but you get the occasional bad weather with the rains and thunder, the winds and the crashing of waves which come alive.   Documentaries are not exactly something to expect superb audio and full usage of all channels but overall, “morning light” manages to capture the sounds of the ocean and of course, the youthfulness of the film by its rock n’ roll soundtrack.

As for subtitles, “morning light” is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.


“morning light” comes with two featurettes.  Both are featured in 1080p High Definition with English 2.0 Dolby Digital sound.  English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Included are:

  • Stories from the Sea with Host Jason Earles – (28:32) “Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles stars in a featurette about behind-the-scenes footage of what was not seen in the documentary, including interviews with both Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse.  Learning how Josef Nalevansky was chosen to shoot the documentary.  Also, learning of the impressions of the youths who were selected and what happened to some of them after they were cut from the final selection.
  • Morning Light: Making the Cut – (41:52) The actual special that was shown on ESPN.  This featurette focuses on the final 30 people who were selected among the 538 applicants.  How they had to compete and be evaluated by Roy Disney and his crew and in the end, the 15 people were chosen.  This special was enjoyable as we learned of the things that transpired before the actual documentary.  So, I’m glad this was included on the Blu-ray.

I happen to find “morning light” quite enjoyable to watch.  I have always found it entertaining to watch films especially about college students who have taken up collegiate sports that may be unfamiliar with most people.  From rowing competitions featured on the 1984 film “Oxford Blues”, to people competing in badminton, surfing and various competitions.  In this case, college students who were (and some who still are) members of their collegiate sailing team.

I found it fascinating to watch these young men and women who were very passionate about sailing and how excited they were to be part of such a project.

For Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse, to film a documentary on the sport definitely helps generate interest but also brings the spotlight to these athletes and gives us who are not familiar with these competitions a chance to see what is involved.

So, as a documentary, I found it quite entertaining.  If anything, it was good to see everyone come together as a team.  There were no major squabbles, if anything, the most difficult part that these people had to endure outside of the competition was having to cut the four people they trained with for six months.  And of course, those who were cut having to face disappointment.

I found the whole race and the cinematography captured to be quite breathtaking.  I am quite biased towards aquatic based films and I just found the whole sense of leadership, teamwork and adversity among these rookies who don’t know each other all that well, having to come together and work together for ten grueling days in the middle of the ocean with no one but themselves to depend on.

It also helps to have two enjoyable featurettes, one special that was shown on ESPN showing the viewer what transpired before the documentary of “morning light” and another featurette that shows us what happened to some of the people who were cut from the team but were given some real awesome opportunities.  But what caught my attention was when both Disney and DeMeuse were talking about “Trash Island”, areas in the Pacific Ocean where people who have dumped their litter and it has all been collected in certain parts of the ocean and have become poisons to aquatic life (plastics dissolve into polymers and become ingested by aquatic organisms and enters the food chain).  I was surprised to hear about all this.

Overall, “morning light” may not be a documentary for everyone.  I can see sailing enthusiasts and those who are open and are curious about the Transpacific Yacht Race to watch this documentary and enjoy it.  I’ve never sailed in my life but I do appreciate the sport and enjoyed the documentary.

If you are a person who has an interest in sailing or any ocean sports, I definitely recommend giving “morning light” a chance!

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