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DVD Review: The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Blu-ray
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 11 2013 by Greg


Princesses have come to Disney’s rescue more than once. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took Walt Disney and his studio from short subjects into the much more prestigious world of feature films. Cinderella brought the studio back from the WWII setbacks. And The Little Mermaid re-ignited Disney animation, officially launching a second golden age.


It also redefined the musical form of animated features for the first time since Snow White. That is due largely to the vision of lyricist Howard Ashman, who can be seen on the bonus features conducting one of his insightful lectures. With the spectacular music of composer Alan Menken (who made his debut as an underscore composer with this film), the results reverberated throughout the entertainment industry.


Those of us who still pine for cel animation (or 2-D, which seems dismissive) have so much to savor in this film, in particular Glen Keane’s animation of Ariel herself. Even though elements of earlier Disney heroines were referenced (including Alice), no previous Disney animated lady ever had the range of expression as Ariel, thanks in no small part to the live modeling done by Sherri Stoner, who you can see in the best of the numerous bonus features, “Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference.” (Fans of Animaniacs also know her writing and acting in that great show.)


As to acting in The Little Mermaid, the cast is superb, from the leads like Pat Carroll as Ursula to little gems like the seahorse voiced by Will Ryan. What might be overlooked is the fact that Jodi Benson plays two roles: Ariel and her “evil twin,” Vanessa), both so distinctly that it’s easy to think of them as two different voice actors). A little bit of trivia, too, about Sam Wright, who voices Sebastian: he was one of the featured players in the 1974 Broadway show, Over Here!, the first such show with music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman (check out the cast CD, it’s great).


One quirky note: Is it just me, or does Prince Eric look a lot like David Seville from the '80s Saturday morning cartoon version of Alvin and the Chipmunks?



If you want to have the lion’s share of bonus features on DVD, keep your Platinum Edition or find a used copy. Almost everything is only on the Blu-ray, as listed below:


2013 DIAMOND EDITION (2013)

Blu-ray Bonus Features
 “Part of your World” Music Video Carly Rae Jepsen
 @DisneyAnimation: Go behind the Scenes with Today’s Top Disney Animators
  (with Ron Clements, John Musker, Mark Henn, Ruben Aquino, Brittney Lee,
  Hyun-Min Lee, Kira Lehtomaki, Chad Sellers and John Kahrs)
  Deleted Character Harold the Merman
 Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference (Ron Clements, John Musker,
  Kathryn Beaumont, Sherri Stoner, Joshua Finkel)
 Part of Her World Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (includes
  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort )
Howard’s Lecture
 Crab-E-Oke Sing Along
 John & Ron Make Caricatures of Each Other
Animators Comment on Their Characters
 Clements and Musker Demonstrating “The Little Mermaid Handshake”

 Treasures Untold - The Making of The Little Mermaid
 Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit
Audio Commentary
Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale Music Video
 Disney Song Selection
 The Little Match Girl (2006 Short)
 Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
Deleted Scene: Backstage with Sebastian
 Deleted Scene: “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Alternate Version
 Deleted Scene: Sebastian Lost in the Castle
Deleted Scene: Advice from Sebastian
 Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)
 Deleted Song: “Silence is Golden” (Song Demo)
Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride inspired by Disney Imagineers
  (Ride the Attraction / Ride with Disney Imagineers / Behind the Ride that Never Was)
Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea
The Story Behind the Story
 Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel
Original Theatrical Trailer

DVD Bonus Features
 Part of Her World Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (includes
  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort )
 Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
 Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)

2006 PLATINUM EDITION

 Treasures Untold: The Making of The Little Mermaid
 Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit
Audio Commentary
Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale Music Video
 Disney Song Selection
 The Little Match Girl (2006 Short)
Original Theatrical Trailer
 Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
Deleted Scene: Backstage with Sebastian
 Deleted Scene: “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Alternate Version
 Deleted Scene: Sebastian Lost in the Castle
Deleted Scene: Advice from Sebastian
 Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)
 Deleted Song: “Silence is Golden” (Song Demo)
Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride inspired by Disney Imagineers
  (Ride the Attraction / Ride with Disney Imagineers / Behind the Ride that Never Was)
Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea
The Story Behind the Story
 Original Theatrical Trailer
 Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel
 The Little Mermaid III Musical Sneak Peek (Direct-to-DVD promo)
Art Galleries








DVD REVIEW: Iron Man 3
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 04 2013 by Greg
Before we attend to details about the movie itself, I want to draw your attention to an item I spotted in the lab scene (6:17). When Tony asks for the Christmas music to begin, there's a quick shot of the record player. Nearby, there's a red album cover on the table.



This vinyl gem is A Charlie Brown Christmas, the read-along storybook and record album with dialogue from the sound track. It was released in the late '70s on the "Charlie Brown Records" label, a division of Disneyland/Vista Records. You won't see this factoid anywhere else, nor should you. Apparently talented visionary genius types like Tony Stark like Peanuts -- and cool cartoon records.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Anyway, I wish the entire film was such a delightful surprise. Iron Man 3 was certainly entertaining in the current superspetacular movie-as-theme-park-ride way, but there are some serious story flaws that I suspect sprang from whoever forced the filmmakers to add the "twist" of the Mandarin being an actor.

I do not object to the idea as a comic book fan as so many have, but because you can tell that the rest of the film seems to have been reconfigured to make this micro-managed plot splotch work.

It may be a guess, but if the film were not reconfigured, that would make the two years of work by the entire cast and crew seem less than what they are clearly capable of. The film works so well up until the scene in which the fake Mandarin is revealed, I cannot believe that such an experienced, accomplished team did this by design.

Something's fishy, no matter how much the director and screenwriter valiantly try to make excuses for the situation on the otherwise fascinating audio commentary (which reveals more about the personalities of the duo than the film).

Robert Downey, Jr. is the heart and soul of the film, optimizing both the dramatic and comic aspects. The Pepper character is just as strong, caring and competent as ever, though her sports bra superpower moments also seem added -- Pepper was plenty strong already folks, without supplements.

The special effects are of course, top of the line, especially in the home destruction scene. What is truly remarkable is the nail-biting aerial rescue as the people plummet through the sky. This is what makes this kind of film great. Yet, the climactic battle scene is just one explosion after another, with as many Iron Man suits as they could fit into the scenes -- again, seeming to come from someone saying, "Let's cram in a lot of suits? That'll make it better!"

Again, I have to wonder if the climactic battle was always between Tony and Killian. Guy Pearce is a superb actor in the right role, but he doesn't come across as the "real" Mandarin. He's much better as the smarmy, creepy toady of the real boss (as he was in Bedtime Stories). No matter how things burst into flames and explode, Pearce as a super villain never gets very scary, just very very moussed and veiny.

I sure hope that in the next Avengers movie, Sub Mariner finds the Iron Man chest thingy that Tony threw into the ocean at the end. We need an Iron Man 4. This film made enough money to finance it. Let's hope this is not the last time we see Downey don the suit.



Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary

Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter
Iron Man 3 Unmasked

Deconstructing the Scene Attack on Air Force One
Behind the Scenes Look Thor The Dark World
Deleted and Extended Scenes

Gag Reel








Three more Disney animated features on Blu-ray
Blog, Movies
Posted on Sep 08 2013 by Greg

New Blu-rays of three more Disney animated features have just been released, bringing you three important (but not necessarily "classic") films with bright, clear imagery. All three are entertaining, feature top-notch animation by master artists and have a key place in the journey of Disney animation along its bold but bumpy road.

THE SWORD IN THE STONE 50th Anniversary Blu-ray & DVD

I'm guessing that, in the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, we might get a glimpse of what Walt Disney's circumstances were when The Sword in the Stone was being made. In the early '60s, Disneyland was firing on all cylinders and the studio was producing TV shows, movies and tons of merchandise.

There were some truly great movies and shows during this period, the biggest hits were potboiler comedies starting with The Shaggy Dog, which was a box office smash in 1959 - the same year Sleeping Beauty underperformed. 1961 megahit 101 Dalmatians surely influenced the lighter direction and more modest scope of Disney animated features for the next decade.

This is where The Sword in the Stone comes along. At first glance, you might have expected the film to be a grand epic with some comedy. Instead, it's largely a comedy with some serious moments. This is the first feature completely scored by the Sherman Brothers, but they were new to the staff and were not as much a part of the story process as they later became. Their songs are delightful but they're not "book musical" songs.

Sword is the last Disney animated feature in which the voice actors were not well-known celebrities (though Alice in Wonderland had a few). Even Sebastian Cabot, who appeared in lots of TV shows in the late '50s/early ¿½¬¿½60s, had not yet become the popular "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair. Radio comedy and drama still offered Disney a sufficient number of capable character actors to do voices.

The odd thing about The Sword in the Stone is that it doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. I love a lot of things about this movie, including the songs, the "Higitus Figitus" sequence, the way Merlin blasts off and of course, the wizard's duel. I even noticed how much Wart, as a fish, looks like Nemo.

It¿½¬¢s easy to armchair quarterback, so why not? I might have made Madam Mim a more constant presence in the story, rather than just stealing the film in one sequence.  She could have sent the Wile E. Coyote-like wolf after Wart and the wizard¿½¬¢s duel could have come after Wart became king. As the story stands now, there is no real villain when Mim is out of the picture and Wart¿½¬¢s triumph doesn¿½¬¢t seem very triumphant. In fact, I can¿½¬¢t think of many Walt Disney films in which the resolution was shown to be kind of a drag.

But I quibble. The film pops on Blu-ray, the Xerox lines have a wonderful vibrancy to them, the color design and art direction is magnificent. The Sword in the Stone has also taken on a life beyond the film, through Merlin¿½¬¢s Disney Parks appearances and lots of cool merchandise that came out with each re-release (including the first Disney StoryRama vinyl LP with a pop-up diorama book). Even Madam Mim became a viable villain in Disney books and comics.

Note on Bonus Features

"Disney Song Selection" allows you to choose specific places in the disc where songs are located, playing them with lyrics. "Sing Along With the Movie" is a setting that plays the entire film but adds lyrics when the songs occur (you have to go to ¿½¬“settings¿½¬¿½ to make the words go away). "Disney Sing-Along Songs" are isolated songs with lyrics upon which a Mickey shape bounces on the words (these are from the VHS Sing-Along Series).

Bonus Features

THE SWORD IN THE STONE 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (2013)

Alternate Opening: Where Wart Meets Merlin

Sing Along with the Movie

"All About Magic"" (EXCERPT from Walt Disney Presents TV episode) (7:00)The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

Bonus Shorts - Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)

THE SWORD IN THE STONE 40th Anniversary DVD (2008) & 50th Anniversary DVD (2013) (identical)

Game: Merlin¿½¬¢s Magic Academy

"All About Magic" (EXCERPT from Walt Disney Presents TV episode) (7:00)

Disney Song Selection: "Higitus Figitus," "That¿½¬¢s What Makes the World Go 'Round," "The Legend of the Sword in the Stone," "A Most Befuddling Thing"

The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

Film Facts

Bonus Shorts - Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)

THE SWORD IN THE STONE Gold Classic Collection DVD (2001)

"All About Magic" (COMPLETE "Walt Disney Presents" TV episode) (38:00)

Disney Song Selection: "Higitus Figitus," "That¿½¬¢s What Makes the World Go 'Round"

The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

Film Facts

Bonus Shorts - Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)


ROBIN HOOD 2013 Blu-ray

Robin Hood gets more than its share of flack for its use of recycled animation (most famously Maid Marian¿½¬¢s Snow White dancing), sitcom storyline and episodic nature. Oh, and casting Phil Harris again, this time as Baloo in forest green (I always wait for the part in which he yells "Hey-yo!" like Ed MacMahon on the Johnny CarsonTonight Show.

But like The Sword in the StoneRobin Hood's issues spring primarily from the period in which it was produced. Walt had been gone for over five years, the studio was starting to repeat itself in live action as well as animation. The Vietnam war had not ended and escapism was still bringing in audiences. The energy crisis was on the rise and it was starting to affect attendance at Disneyland and the recently opened Walt Disney World Resort.

Clearly risk was not a consideration for the major investment in an animation feature, so Robin Hood built on what worked in The Jungle Book - a huge hit, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks - not so much of a hit but with an extremely strong animated sequence. It had to have influenced quite a bit of Robin Hood's look and character design.

Another influence on Robin Hood (and The Aristocats) was the surreal TV sitcom, Green Acres. Apparently feudal England was populated with several former Hooterville residents, as was 1910 France. But Robin Hood isn't a history lesson, it's a jaunty, beautifully animated series of very funny set pieces that remain effective, perhaps more so to younger audiences unfamiliar with the strong personalities doing the voices.

Chief among the voices is Peter Ustinov, a true renaissance man who could take a line and maximize every syllable. Hearing him say "Squeeeeeeeeze" alone makes Robin Hood worth checking out.

Okay, Robin Hood presents virtually the same wedding scene as Cinderella and George Bruns¿½¬¢s music for the fire scene sounds a lot like the Prince battling Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty (you can hear it in The Sword in the Stone too, when a fire occurs in that film). But it works as a home video, its sequential quality making it something you or the kids can start and stop without losing story momentum.

Robin Hood also has "Love," an Academy Award-nominated song that was performed on the Oscar telecast by Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster. The winner that year was "The Way We Were," which of course, was "like buttah."

Bonus Features

ROBIN HOOD 2013 Blu-ray

Deleted storyline: Love Letter

Storybook

Alternate Ending

Disney Song Selection: "Oo-De-Lally," "Love," "The Phony King of England"

Art Gallery

Sing Along with the Movie

"Oo-De-Lally" Disney Sing-Along Song (from Sing-Along VHS video series)

Bonus Short: Mickey Mouse in Ye Olden Days (1933)

ROBIN HOOD DVD (2013) & Most Wanted Edition DVD (2006) (identical)

Alternate Ending

Disney Song Selection: "Oo-De-Lally," "Love," "The Phony King of England"

Art Gallery

Sing Along with the Movie

Oo-De-Lally Disney Sing-Along Song (from Sing-Along VHS video series)

Bonus Short: Mickey Mouse in Ye Olden Days (1933)


OLIVER AND COMPANY 25th Anniversary Blu-ray & DVD

It's fascinating to watch Oliver & Company knowing about the animation history that came after it. In the mid-'80s, both Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, as freshly minted Disney executives, had been wondering if animation was even an viable option for where they felt the Walt Disney Company was going. Fortunately Oliver & Company was a substantial enough success in its initial release to generate a reissue - and more animated features.


Oliver & Company was the first Disney animated feature with a pop-radio-ready musical score that is almost entirely of its time period (unless we go back to the package features of the '40's like Make Mine Music). The soundtrack album was also the very last vinyl LP record in wide release on the Disney label.  

The exceptions in style are the lovely "Good Company" and the campy "Perfect Isn't Easy," a Broadway style number co-authored by Barry Manilow. It is performed by his old friend Bette Midler as the "Sharpay/Veronica Lodge/Snoopy's girlfriend"-like poodle, Georgette (though I somehow felt that character could have been even broader considering the comic talent behind it).

There are also several instances where the emerging computer technology was used as a technical boost to the animation. The lines are solid black, resembling neither the toned inks of the classic days nor the "stretchy lines" of early Xerox cels. And there's even some product placement - including Ryder Trucks and USA Today¿½¬€perhaps another first for a Disney animated feature.

With voice talents like Midler, Joel, Ruth Pointer, Cheech Marin and Huey Lewis, it was clear that this was the "new" Disney, with a cast largely from the Touchstone stable (including a young Joey Lawrence as Oliver, who would "whoa" his way to hunkdom on Blossom and subsequent TV series). Oliver & Company plays out like a Disney/DreamWorks hybrid before there was a DreamWorks, right down to the characters rocking out together in the finale.

You can also spot differences in the animation, as if some of the masters and the best apprentices did some, and some of the newer artists were just getting their feet wet. There is some truly outstanding character animation here, yet the film is not widely recognized for it, nor is it acknowledged for its role in bridging and sustaining Disney feature animation before The Little Mermaid initiated the second "Golden Age." The credits are overflowing with artists who have gone on to many other amazing projects.

What is apparent, though, is that Oliver & Company holds up nicely, especially for today¿½¬¢s kids and young parents. There are tinges of ¿½¬¿½80s style in the songs, but they still work. The overall look, slightly edgy tone and brisk pace fits right in with much current animation, whether cel or CG.

Bonus Features

OLIVER AND COMPANY 25th Anniversary Blu-ray (2013)

Sing Along With the Movie

The Making of Oliver & Company

Disney¿½¬¢s Animated Animals

Bonus Shorts: Pluto in "Lend a Paw" (1941) (Best Animated Short Film Oscar Winner); Pluto in "Puss Cafe" (1950)

Publicity Materials

OLIVER AND COMPANY 20th Anniversary DVD (2009)

& 25th Anniversary DVD (2013) (Identical)

Disney Song Selection: ¿½¬“Why Should I Worry?¿½¬¿½ ¿½¬“Streets of Gold¿½¬¿½

Game: Oliver¿½¬¢s Big-City Challenge

Disney¿½¬¢s Animated Animals

Oliver & Company Scrapbook "Lend a Paw" (1941) (Best Animated Short Film Oscar Winner); Pluto in "Puss Cafe"








Maybe it should be called "American Idol" Maker?
Blog, Movies
Posted on Aug 30 2013 by Greg
The 1980 musical drama The Idolmaker, reissued on Blu-ray, crackles with relevance in today's overnight success-promised marketplace. The main difference between what Ray Sharkey's character, Vinny, does in this film and they do nowadays on TV talent shows is that it was on a much smaller scale back then. Today, the stakes are higher, the rise is more lucrative and the fall can be more precipitous.



The Idolmaker
is based on the real-life impressario Bob Marcucci, who masterminded the careers of Frankie Avalon and Fabian. This is an amazing process to watch, as the unknowns are trained, designed and marketed by the Henry Higgins-like Svengali.

Sharkey, whose tragic tailspin of a personal life imploded with an untimely death, saw Idolmaker as his big breakout movie. As the director explains on the commentary (probably recorded previously as he mentions laserdiscs), Sharkey took the film's lack of success as a devastating blow, and even though he got a lot of attention later on TV's prestigious Wiseguy, he never really recovered.

It would have been interesting to see how Sharkey might have developed beyond this film, which is so close to his own background and so steeped in his personal pain, he draws a little too intensely on inner demons and leaves little room for subtlety. If he had dialed it down, he might have been another DeNiro or Pacino, which seemed to be his goal.

The director makes a point of setting the record straight about how Sharkey took credit for the iconic scene in which Vinny duplicates Paul Land's stage moves while standing in the wings. He told Jane Pauley he just made it up on the spot, while it was really storyboarded all along. It was this relentless nature that might have contributed to his highly destructive path.

The wonderful Tovah Feldshuh, so often versatile and inventive when given the opportunity, starts out as the savvy executive in this story but becomes little more than the archetypical adoring lady friend, not allowing her to make more of her talents.

The stars that really emerge in Idolmaker are the legendary songwriter Jeff Barry, one of the all time greats of the pop music days from the "Brill Building" stable of hit makers to The Monkees and The Archies to TV theme songs that we will never get out of our heads, like "Movin' On Up." For The Idolmaker, Barry wrote a stack of songs that could have been hits. It's a fresh approach rather than taking the less risky route of playing records over the soundtrack.

The other star is a super young Peter Gallagher, who dominates the film in each of his scenes, not by emoting, but by becoming someone he really wasn't: a less-than-gifted, terrified, naive busboy who Vinny gives the Eliza Doolittle treatment. Since this film, his career trajectory has been substantial indeed, yet you could see the possibilities even in this role.

The bonus features include the aforementioned commentary and a trailer. If you love classic pop, popular culture, or want to see how they did it back then, take a look.










Blu-ray Review: Disney's "Sword," "Robin Hood" and "Oliver"
Movies
Posted on Aug 23 2013 by Greg

New Blu-rays of three more Disney animated features have just been released, bringing you three important (but not necessarily “classic”) films with crisp, clear imagery. All three are entertaining, feature top-notch animation by master artists and have a key place in the journey of Disney animation along its bold but bumpy road.

 


THE SWORD IN THE STONE 50th Anniversary Blu-ray & DVD

 

I’m guessing that, in the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, we might get a glimpse of what Walt Disney’s circumstances were when The Sword in the Stone was being made. In the early ‘60s, Disneyland was firing on all cylinders and the studio was producing TV shows, movies and tons of merchandise.

 

There were some truly great movies and shows during this period, the biggest hits were potboiler comedies starting with The Shaggy Dog, which was a box office smash in 1959the same year Sleeping Beauty underperformed. 1961 megahit 101 Dalmatians surely influenced the lighter direction and more modest scope of Disney animated features for the next decade.

 

This is where The Sword in the Stone comes along. At first glance, you might have expected the film to be a grand epic with some comedy. Instead, it’s largely a comedy with some serious moments. This is the first feature completely scored by the Sherman Brothers, but they were new to the staff and were not as much a part of the story process as they later became. Their songs are delightful but they’re not “book musical” songs.

 

Sword is the last Disney animated feature in which the voice actors were not well-known celebrities (though Alice in Wonderland had a few). Even Sebastian Cabot, who appeared in lots of TV shows in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, had not yet become the popular “Mr. French” on TV’s Family Affair. Radio comedy and drama still offered Disney a sufficient number of capable character actors to do voices.

 

The odd thing about The Sword in the Stone is that it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. I love a lot of things about this movie, including the songs, the “Higitus Figitus” sequence, the way Merlin blasts off and of course, the wizard’s duel. I even noticed how much Wart, as a fish, looks like Nemo.

 

It’s easy to armchair quarterback, so why not? I might have made Madam Mim a more constant presence in the story, rather than just stealing the film in one sequence.  She could have sent the Wile E. Coyote-like wolf after Wart and the wizard’s duel could have come after Wart became king. As the story stands now, there is no real villain when Mim is out of the picture and Wart’s triumph doesn’t seem very triumphant. In fact, I can’t think of many Walt Disney films in which the resolution was shown to be kind of a drag.

 

But I quibble. The film pops on Blu-ray, the Xerox lines have a wonderful vibrancy to them, the color design and art direction is magnificent. The Sword in the Stone has also taken on a life beyond the film, through Merlin’s Disney Parks appearances and lots of cool merchandise that came out with each re-release (including the first Disney StoryRama vinyl LP with a pop-up diorama book). Even Madam Mim became a viable villain in Disney books and comics.

 

Note on Bonus Features

“Disney Song Selection” allows you to choose specific places in the disc where songs are located, playing them with lyrics. “Sing Along With the Movie” is a setting that plays the entire film but adds lyrics when the songs occur (you have to go to “settings” to make the words go away). “Disney Sing-Along Songs” are isolated songs with lyrics upon which a Mickey shape bounces on the words (these are from the VHS Sing-Along Series).

 

Bonus Features

 

THE SWORD IN THE STONE 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (2013)

 Alternate Opening: Where Wart Meets Merlin

 Sing Along with the Movie

 “All About Magic” (EXCERPT from Walt Disney Presents TV episode) (7:00)

 The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

 Bonus Shorts Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)

 

THE SWORD IN THE STONE 40th Anniversary DVD (2008) & 50th Anniversary DVD (2013) (identical)

 Game: Merlin’s Magic Academy

 “All About Magic” (EXCERPT from Walt Disney Presents TV episode) (7:00)

Disney Song Selection: “Higitus Figitus,” “That’s What Makes the World Go ‘Round,” “The Legend of the Sword in the Stone,” “A Most Befuddling Thing”

 The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

 Film Facts

 Bonus Shorts Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)

 

THE SWORD IN THE STONE Gold Classic Collection DVD (2001)

 “All About Magic” (COMPLETE “Walt Disney Presents” TV episode) (38:00)

Disney Song Selection: “Higitus Figitus,” “That’s What Makes the World Go ‘Round”

 The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook

Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers

 Film Facts

 Bonus Shorts Goofy in A Knight for a Day (1946), Mickey Mouse in The Brave Little Tailor (1938)

 


ROBIN HOOD 2013 Blu-ray

 

Robin Hood gets more than its share of flack for its use of recycled animation (most famously Maid Marian’s Snow White dancing), sitcom storyline and episodic nature. Oh, and casting Phil Harris again, this time as Baloo in forest green (I always wait for the part in which he yells “Hey-yo!” like Ed MacMahon on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show.

 

But like The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood’s issues spring primarily from the period in which it was produced. Walt had been gone for over five years, the studio was starting to repeat itself in live action as well as animation. The Vietnam war had not ended and escapism was still bringing in audiences. The energy crisis was on the rise and it was starting to affect attendance at Disneyland and the recently opened Walt Disney World Resort.

 

Clearly risk was not a consideration for the major investment in an animation feature, so Robin Hood built on what worked in The Jungle Booka huge hit, and Bedknobs and Broomsticksnot so much of a hit but with an extremely strong animated sequence. It had to have influenced quite a bit of Robin Hood’s look and character design.

 

Another influence on Robin Hood (and The Aristocats) was the surreal TV sitcom, Green Acres. Apparently feudal England was populated with several former Hooterville residents, as was 1910 France. But Robin Hood isn’t a history lesson, it’s a jaunty, beautifully animated series of very funny set pieces that remain effective, perhaps more so to younger audiences unfamiliar with the strong personalities doing the voices.

 

Chief among the voices is Peter Ustinov, a true renaissance man who could take a line and maximize every syllable. Hearing him say “Squeeeeeeeeze” alone makes Robin Hood worth checking out.

 

Okay, Robin Hood presents virtually the same wedding scene as Cinderella and George Bruns’s music for the fire scene sounds a lot like the Prince battling Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty (you can hear it in The Sword in the Stone too, when a fire occurs in that film). But it works as a home video, its sequential quality making it something you or the kids can start and stop without losing story momentum.

 

Robin Hood also has “Love,” an Academy Award-nominated song that was performed on the Oscar telecast by Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster. The winner that year was “The Way We Were,” which of course, was “like buttah.”

 

Bonus Features

 

ROBIN HOOD 2013 Blu-ray

 Deleted storyline: Love Letter

 Storybook

 Alternate Ending

 Disney Song Selection: “Oo-De-Lally,’ “Love,” “The Phony King of England”

 Art Gallery

 Sing Along with the Movie

“Oo-De-Lally” Disney Sing-Along Song (from Sing-Along VHS video series)

 Bonus Short: Mickey Mouse in Ye Olden Days (1933)

 

ROBIN HOOD DVD (2013) & Most Wanted Edition DVD (2006) (identical)

 Alternate Ending

Disney Song Selection: “Oo-De-Lally,” “Love,” “The Phony King of England”

 Art Gallery

Sing Along with the Movie

Oo-De-Lally Disney Sing-Along Song (from Sing-Along VHS video series)

 Bonus Short: Mickey Mouse in Ye Olden Days (1933)

 


OLIVER AND COMPANY 25th Anniversary Blu-ray & DVD

It's fascinating to watch Oliver & Company knowing about the animation history that came after it. In the mid-‘80s, both Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, as freshly minted Disney executives, had been wondering if animation was even an viable option for where they felt the Walt Disney Company was going. Fortunately Oliver & Company was a substantial enough success in its initial release to generate a reissueand more animated features.

Oliver & Company was the first Disney animated feature with a pop-radio-ready musical score that is almost entirely of its time period (unless we go back to the package features of the '40's like Make Mine Music). The soundtrack album was also the very last vinyl LP record in wide release on the Disney label. 

The exceptions in style are the lovely "Good Company" and the campy "Perfect Isn't Easy," a Broadway style number co-authored by Barry Manilow. It is performed by his old friend Bette Midler as the "Sharpay/Veronica Lodge/Snoopy's girlfriend"-like poodle, Georgette (though I somehow felt that character could have been even broader considering the comic talent behind it).

There are also several instances where the emerging computer technology was used as a technical boost to the animation. The lines are solid black, resembling neither the toned inks of the classic days nor the “stretchy lines” of early Xerox cels. And there’s even some product placementincluding Ryder Trucks and USA Todayperhaps another first for a Disney animated feature.

With voice talents like Midler, Joel, Ruth Pointer, Cheech Marin and Huey Lewis, it was clear that this was the "new" Disney, with a cast largely from the Touchstone stable (including a young Joey Lawrence as Oliver, who would "whoa" his way to hunkdom on Blossom and subsequent TV series). Oliver & Company plays out like a Disney/DreamWorks hybrid before there was a DreamWorks, right down to the characters rocking out together in the finale.

You can also spot differences in the animation, as if some of the masters and the best apprentices did some, and some of the newer artists were just getting their feet wet. There is some truly outstanding character animation here, yet the film is not widely recognized for it, nor is it acknowledged for its role in bridging and sustaining Disney feature animation before The Little Mermaid initiated the second "Golden Age." The credits are overflowing with artists who have gone on to many other amazing projects.

What is apparent, though, is that Oliver & Company holds up nicely, especially for today’s kids and young parents. There are tinges of ‘80s style in the songs, but they still work. The overall look, slightly edgy tone and brisk pace fits right in with much current animation, whether cel or CG.

Bonus Features

 

OLIVER AND COMPANY 25th Anniversary Blu-ray (2013)

Sing Along With the Movie

 The Making of Oliver & Company

Disney’s Animated Animals

 Bonus Shorts: Pluto in “Lend a Paw” (1941) (Best Animated Short Film Oscar Winner); Pluto in “Puss Caf” (1950)

Publicity Materials

 

OLIVER AND COMPANY 20th Anniversary DVD (2009)

& 25th Anniversary DVD (2013) (Identical)

 Disney Song Selection: “Why Should I Worry?” “Streets of Gold”

Game: Oliver’s Big-City Challenge

Disney’s Animated Animals

Oliver & Company Scrapbook

Fun Film Facts

The Making of Oliver & Company

 Publicity Materials

 Bonus Shorts: Pluto in “Lend a Paw” (1941) (Best Animated Short Film Oscar Winner); Pluto in “Puss Caf” (1950)










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