"IF THERE WASN'T A TRON, THERE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN A TOY STORY"
Posted on Apr 14 2011 by Greg
So says John Lasseter
in one of the many bonus features on the Tron and Tron:Legacy five-disc combo set
, containing a Blu-ray and DVD each of 1982's Tron
and the recent Tron: Legacy
, plus a digital download disc of the latter. (You can also get each film separately, but why unless you have the earlier DVD and don't want Blu-ray?)
Lasseter's quote comes from what are billed as the "original DVD features" that were included in the much-sought-after first DVD release of the original Tron
, which Disney did not reissue until now. Turning away what might have been a great amount of profit, the studio withheld the original film from reissue when the new film premiered, reportedly to avoid what might have been assumed as technical comparisons from the 1982 movie to the shiny new 2010 one.
They needn't have worried much, but it didn't seem to matter in the long run, because today both films are among the best sellers in the DVD market. And even though they don't compare well when judged primarily by special effects standards, they actually both stand together better than expected.Steven Lisberger
is still one of the most unique films to come from Disney or any other studio, now as well as then. There is simply nothing exactly like it, including Tron: Legacy
, which is undeniably a tribute in its basic look, but also resembles a good many current big-screen special effects extravaganzas.
There's no way that modern filmmakers would replicate what is very much a product of its era in scope and resources, and Tron: Legacy
is lightyears beyond its predecessor in astonishing visuals. And like the original, the sheer, overwhelming proponderance of eye-filling sights leave little room for characters, though both tried valiantly. Tron: Legacy
has the lion's share of labor, having to survive comparisons to its predecessor and reconcile two storylines, all the while relaunching a franchise that has been like shining gold in a locked treasure chest for decades.
On the third point, Tron: Legacy
succeeds extremely well. Like Star Trek
, which transformed from a canceled network series with high ambitions and vision that transcended its limited sets and effects and built on itself through new incarnations, Tron
was a great idea that occurred before the medium could handle it and even Disney didn't know what to really do with it for almost three decades -- though perhaps now has come into its own.
The key was to catapult the franchise, and Tron: Legacy
hit the mark. The animated version previewed on the disc is just one piece of the pie; a high-tech dance party called ElecTronica
at Disney's California Adventure
Park is another; and apparently the merchandise is already doing wellBruce Boxleitner
and Jeff Bridges
appear in both films, a plus for fans, though clearly many enthusiasts do miss Cindy Morgan
(who appears on the earlier bonus features). Rather than relying on star power to sell the new film (and jeopardize sequels with high contractual demands), Disney wisely gave Garrett Hedlund
and Olivia Wilde
a high-profile showcase. Wilde -- who has already distinguished herself superbly on TV's House
, is especially impressive -- she is a scifi icon in the making, along the lines with Star Trek: The Next Generation
's Seven of Nine.
What's especially fascinating about Tron
, though, is the road entertainment and effects took between the two films, which can be traced on the bonus features (though the earlier Tron
DVD set did have a few more, so keep your old one if you have it). It was an influential film that inspired countless viewers, especially those within the film and video industry.
Both films make good use of the clarity of Blu-ray. The only missing feature is a new commentary track. But we can still hear the comments on the original film by Lisberger himself, who seems to have been welcomed into the new production by the new creative team.
BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO H-B'S "ALICE"
Posted on Apr 02 2011 by Greg
45 years ago last Wednesday, March 30, 1966, ABC broadcast Hanna-Barbera
's most ambitious TV project of up to that time, Alice in Wonderland, or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?,
featuring a multi-star voice cast and the unique twist that Alice falls down a TV set instead of a rabbit hole.
Among the characters in this updated version were Fred Flintstone
and Barney Rubble
as a two-headed vaudevillian caterpillar. The always astonishingly knowlegable animation historian Jim Korkis
knows how much I love this special, so he sent this rare concept art to enjoy.
In this concept, Yogi Bear
played the Mad Hatter and Barney was the Dormouse (the March Hare, resembling but not intended as Ricochet Rabbit, looks as he did in the final show). The Hatter and the Dormouse were later designed as stand-alone characters.
Can't wait for this to appear on DVD...someday. As for Jim Korkis, he's now one of the today's most sought-after public speakers, his legion of fans are looking forward to his upcoming appearances this summer in California at the Disneyana Fan Club Convention
and at the Walt Disney Family Museum
, as well as seminars and speaking engagements at businesses, colleges and private gatherings throughout the country.
HAIL TO THE PRINCESS RAPUNZEL
Posted on Mar 28 2011 by Greg
Rumors of the end of the Disney Princess movies, to paraphrase Mark Twain
, "have been highly exaggerated." Tangled proved it by being a huge theatrical hit. Part fairy tale, part musical, part romantic comedy, somehow it all came together despite a long, difficult history of behind-the-scenes changes and rearranges, including giving the film a "hip" title instead of Rapunzel
(or as it was known in an earlier incarnation, Rapunzel Unbraided
When the Tangled
trailers originally aired, I was apprehensive because of the title change and the skewed trailers with their blaring pop music tracks. Would it be a spoofy, Shrek
-y send up? Would Rapunzel herself be the tough-talking "today" lady so common in recent animation? Would it end with a boogie dancing '80s top-40 chestnut?
I needn't have been concerned. Tangled turns out to be a Disney fairy tale in the classic sense that straddles the difficult line between "straight" storytelling, screwball comedy, romance and yes, even a little suspense -- because, like Cinderella
, we know it's all going to be fine but we want to see how it works out.
And speaking of Cinderella, there has never been a Disney animated film with a more complicated villain than Mother Gothel since the Stepmother in Walt Disney
(Cruella and Madame Medusa are close contenders). The evil is all about psychological abuse, the manipulation of a person into submission that is so effective that the victim is compelled to sustain it, even though they yearn for more.
How many of us have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, a situation in which we are led to believe that we're "lucky to be here" or "better off than the alternative" by a person or a group who knows your true worth but conceals it by convincing you you're not capable otherwise? Who hasn't had the boss/parent/partner/friend who criticized you so much you started to believe you really were worthless? I was astounded to see this complex dynamic dealt with in a Disney animated film.
Both Rapunzel and Flynn have self-doubt but they trod on anyway. They didn't start out contemptuously loathing each other the way couples do in way too many films nowadays, either. Their character arcs were the most plausible we'd seen since Beauty and the Beast.
The Alan Menken/Glenn Slater
songs were not tossed in at random just to fill up an album or make a great theme park number (though they probably would), but because they had a crucial book requirement. They all served the story -- and I've Got a Dream" was the funniest number since "Gaston."
Often when the story was just about to approach a cliché, there was a gag or twist that punctured it. And the horse -- Maximus -- stole every scene.
Animation-wise, there was a hand-drawn quality to the expressions that I don't recall in most CG films, especially in the more human-styled characters. In his commentary on Toy Story 3
, Lee Unkrich
said there had been huge strides in CG humans and clearly both films were able to benefit.Tangled
didn't make me get all misty eyed the way that Toy Story 3
did, but it was, in tone, more of a grand epic romp overall. I liked it much more than I thought I would. My wife and kids loved it, too.
The Tangled Blu-ray
is truly dazzling, making full use of meticulous detail, design and color. The DVD does not contain as many bonus features as the Blu-ray, but there aren't all that many overall anyway. One highlight is a segment in which lead voice actors Mandy Moore
and Zachary Levi
breeze through a lighthearted trivia trek which includes a quick rundown of all 50 Disney animated features (a list that has, historically, changed a little bit over the years). Sure wish there was an audio commentary, though.
There seemed to be no doubt that Mandy Moore was a perfect fit for the singing and acting duties of playing a Disney princess. The surprise is Levi, who has far more range than he often is allowed to display on TV. Clearly he has more stage experience than the unpretentious persona evidenced in various appearances. He even has a decent singing voice.
Like Mickey Mouse, who started it all, the fairy tale is the heart of Disney storytelling. They can and should stretch and go outside the box but they should never totally abandon the core form. Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest...(somebody stop me!)
Posted on Mar 26 2011 by Greg
It was widely reported this month that our beloved Annette Funicello
suffered but recovered from smoke inhalation when her house caught fire. I don't know the extent of the home damage, but it's yet another thing she and her husband Glen has weathered in addition to her ongoing MS condition.
The best way to show support for her would logically be to contribute to The Annette Funicello Fund For Neurological Disorders
, which she founded to help fund research. Every fan I meet feels the same way -- why should Annette, of all people, have to have had this happen? This is a celebrity who has always been the benchmark of kindness and unpretentiousness.
And say what you want about those frothy beach movies, they always seen over and over again, maybe because they're such a total respite from daily cares. And so is her peppy, pop music, which has once again seen a resurgence thanks to a new Collectors Choice CD called First Name Initial: All Her Chart Hits & More
. We wish her nothing less than the best.
Posted on Mar 18 2011 by Greg
There's no denying that even the people who helped launch the Hannah Montana series could not have dreamed how it would have exploded into an international phenomenon, with top-charting albums, sold-out concerts and infinite merchandise all revolving around a 'tween sitcom which basically takes the basic Cinderella story and allows its lead character to have fame and a "normal" life at the same time. It's the pretend game that millions of girls play with their Barbie (and now Hannah) dolls.
The series ran four seasons, but the DVD releases have been limited to themed collections, the complete first season and now this, the fourth and final. I couldn't tell you if, by picking up all the collections that you'd have all the shows combined, but it might be nice if seasons two and three are issued intact someday.
Because Hannah Montana The Final Season
draws a curtain over the entire series run, it's notable for many reasons. We see Hannah grapple with "growing up" her music perhaps perhaps at the expense of her loyal young fans ("Hannah's Gonna Get This"), a storyline that parallels Miley Cyrus' leaps into more mature escapades (the episode tones down the leap, but her decision to move ahead is the same as in real life).
And when it comes to real life, it's got to be difficult to know where Hannah Montana ends and Miley Cyrus begins, and where she's going to go next. When The Monkees left the network, their albums stopped climbing the charts. However, Disney Channel may run the series for years, much like Nickelodeon runs the "Steve" episodes of Blues Clues even though he left the show years ago. Can Steve ever really leave it behind?
Time will tell. The strange thing about the DVD set is that, in the three short bonus features, there are moments that make those of us who have been keeping track of the Cyrus family issues in the media. On one, the cast says goodbye, Billy Ray even thanking the Disney Channel. Prophetically, in a short clip from a very early casting session, or something of that nature, he comments about how, if this show takes off, his little girl is never going to be the same, calling it a "double-edged sword." Interesting.
The most unusual thing is an "alternate ending" to the last show of the series. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say that one ends with Miley going to college (which we might hope she does in real life, as many specialists in child stardom will attest) and the other ending does not, though it implies that the whole thing might have been a... well, you'll see.
The package includes a glossy, hardcover scrapbook that houses the two discs, quite a nice package for the price.
Now if they could only fill in the gap with the other two dozen or so episodes in the middle...
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