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WHAT'S THAT BUCKY? YOU'VE BEEN CAPTURED? WHERE? IN THE WELL?
Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 26 2012 by Greg
Actually, Bucky is an animated ship and does not talk, much less bark in astonishing code language, but the truth is that Bucky is taken by Captain Hook from Jake and the Never Land Pirates in the new DVD, Jake Saves Bucky. It's especially notable for the re-appearance of Peter Pan to help in the rescue. This is a three-segment story edited together as a "Full Length Adventure."



Rounding out the DVD disc are eight segments, two of which make up a standard Disney Junior half hour show
:

-  Peter's Musical Pipes
- The Never Night Star
- Captain Hook's Hooks
- Mr Smee's Pet
- Race Around Rock!
- Captain Hook is Missing! (he's not in the well, either)
- Captain Hook's Lagoon
- Undersea Bucky

Designed for the preschooler, Jake and the Never Land Pirates is much like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer, as the characters often ask the viewers to help out, and in this case, earn onscreen coins as rewards.


Each story is very musical and is followed by a live action pirate duo named "Bones and Sharky" singing an original song over the credits.

Modern Family fans take note: the voice of the mermaid in the last episode, "Undersea Bucky!", is Ariel Winter, who plays Alex Dunphy on the award winning TV sitcom (which is really not for preschoolers).

The new DVD also includes a digital download copy so you can load it onto a portable device to keep the kids amused on the go. Select DVD packages might also include an inflatable play sword.







I SAW A DRAGON ON BLU-RAY... BUT NOT ALL THE FEATURES
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 22 2012 by Greg
1977's Pete's Dragon was the last musical fantasy produced entirely within the Disney studio system. Two years later, The Black Hole would not perform well enough a the box office to sustain movies made within the studio and outside production companies were brought in, much in the way all of Hollywood did.

The film is a time capsule of Walt Disney Productions in the '70's, with its distinctive house style. Even the sound quality is unique to the period.

Familiar actors round out the cast, led by pop singer Helen Reddy, whose understated, matter-of-fact performance seems to play better today than it may have seemed to some in the past. Harry Potter and Broadway fans will enjoy the vitality and versatility of the great Jim Dale, who won a Tony as Barnum after this movie (a very similar role indeed) and narrated the American audio versions of the Potter books.

Ambitious as Pete's Dragon was, it owed more to the wacky special effects comedies of its day than its two musical predecessors, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.

It's closest relation to the other two films is the musical direction led by Oscar winner Irwin Kostal, who returned to Disney for Pete's Dragon and again to re-score a digital version of Fantasia and the short cartoon, The Small One. Like Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon opens with on very a magical-sounding string section, rising before the title.

Elliot the dragon took on a life of his own in the Disney Theme Parks as one of the favorite floats in the Main Street Electrical Parade. Surely there are those who think he originated in the parade and don't know the movie!

But Pete's Dragon is one of those enjoyable Disney staples that every family should enjoy together. If you haven't got a copy yet, now is the time. And if you want to see it as sharply and colorfully as possible, you'll want the "35th Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray.



The clarity may betray some of the period's special effects and matte shots, but you can see every speck of the once-grand Disney backlot and the lovely Golden Oak Ranch. The filmmakers really did a marvelous job at sustaining the feeling that this took place in a coastal Maine town, when in reality even the ocean was a trench of water augmented by matte paintings and inventive angles.

Please note, though, that the previously released 2009 "High Flying Edition" of Pete's Dragon had several bonus features that are missing on this new release.

2009 High Flying Edition Bonus Features:
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Original Demo Recordings: "Brazzle Dazzle Day" (alternate
  song); "Every Little Piece" (alternate melody); "The Greatest
  Star of All" (deleted song for deleted character) - Promotional
  Record (Pop versions of the songs from a 7" record: It's Not
  Easy, Brazzle Dazzle Day, There's Room for Everyone,
  Candle on the Water
- Where's Elliott? Disappearing Dragon Game
- Pete's Dragon Art Galleries (Concept Art, Behind the Sccnes,
  Publicity)
- Trailers
- About Pete's Dragon (text)
- Disney Family Album excerpt: Ken Anderson
- The Plausible Impossible excerpt (dragons, dinosaurs,
  mythology)
- Donald Duck cartoon: Lighthouse Keeping

2010 "35th Anniversary Edition" DVD Bonus Features (both Blu-ray & DVD):
- Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic
- Deleted Storyboard Sequence: Terminus & Hoagy Hunt Elliott
- Original Song Concept: Bo Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)
- Trailers

A few more notes from my 2009 review of the "High Flying Edition":

"Brazzle Dazzle Effects: Behind Disney's Movie Magic"  makes it easier to understand that sodium screen process so often used in Disney films of the period -- a kind of yellow light behind the subject that somehow vanishes and allows two images to be combined. Maybe that yellow sheen is the reason that you could always spot a seam along the two separate images -- a problem solved by today's digital technology.

I'm keeping both versions, especially because of those musical extras. There are a selection of demo recordings and a handful of Kids of the Kingdom-style "pop versions" of the songs I had not heard before. "Brazzle Dazzle Day" had a different melody with mostly different lyrics. "Every Little Piece" had the same lyrics with an "If I Were a Rich Man"-like melody.  "it's Not Easy" had alternate lyrics that transformed it into a romantic love song. And there's even a deleted song called "The Greatest Star of All," clearly intended for Jim Dale's character, Terminus. These alone make the new DVD worth getting.

One feature that only appeared on the 2001 "Gold" DVD edition is the 25-minute 1973 live-action/animated documentary Man, Monsters and Mysteries, narrated by Sebastian Cabot with Sterling Holloway voicing the Loch Ness Monster (aka "Nessie").








THE MOVIE FORMERLY KNOWN AS "BASIL OF BAKER STREET"
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 18 2012 by Greg
The Disney animated feature The Great Mouse Detective was originally called Basil of Baker Street, from the books by Eve Titus, but higher-ups at Disney (perhaps Jeffrey Katzenberg) wanted something more obvious. It prompted a humorous memo from Peter Scheider and the Animation Department, in which other Disney animated features were similarly renamed:

Seven Little Men Help a Girl
The Wooden Boy Who Became Real
Color and Music
The Wonderful Elephant Who Could Really Fly

The Little Deer Who Grew Up
The Girl With The See-Through Shoes
The Girl in the Imaginary Place
The Amazing Flying Children
Two Dogs Fall in Love
The Girl Who Seemed to Die
Puppies Taken Away
The Boy Who Would Be King
A Boy, A Bear and a Big Black Cat
Aristocats
Robin Hood with Animals
Two Mice Save a Girl
A Fox and a Hound Are Friends
The Evil Bonehead


Perhaps the only upside to the title change is that it inspired the memo.

Anyway, The Great Mouse Detective makes its third appearance on DVD, but first time in Blu-ray, with a two-disc set.



The film looks wonderful in Blu-ray (there is a literally clear difference) but the clarity also betrays some grain in the film. It also reveals the handmade nature of this cel-animated film, which is part of its charm. Even the historic Big Ben sequence, in which computers were used for the first time in a Disney feature, is hand inked and painted.

This is one of the Disney features that often gets overlooked in the vast catalog of classics, but it actually holds up well because it is so straightforward and unpretentious, like a lot of modern cel animation but more lush and fluid.

Much was made at the time of the film's release of the casting of legendary Vincent Price as the villainous Rattigan. It was not his first time voicing for animation; he was the voice of Irontail in the Rankin/Bass special, Here Comes Peter Cottontail. Later, he played a version of himself in the better-than-average 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo.

But Price's performance in The Great Mouse Detective is his most inspired for animation. He sings one of the few songs, and really gives Rattigan a range. This is not the ham-fisted caricature acting often associated with Price. While Rattigan is larger than life to be sure, Price adds nuance and frighteningly low-key moments as well as the truly terrifying climactic battle at the end.

If you're adding to your Blu-ray collection, you would do well to pick this up. But if you have the previous "Mystery in the Mist" edition, you already have everything on the DVD. And, if you have the original 2002 DVD, you have two extra cartoon shorts and a scrapbook.

Here is the breakdown:

2002 DVD BONUS FEATURES
 Making of the Great Mouse Detective
 World's Greatest Criminal Mind Sing along
 Cartoon: Clock Cleaners
 Cartoon: Donald's Crime
 Great Mouse Detective Scrapbook

2010 MYSTERY IN THE MIST BONUS FEATURES
 So You Think You Can Sleuth
 Making of the Great Mouse Detective
 World's Greatest Criminal Mind Sing along

2012 BLU-RAY AND DVD BOTH INCLUDE
 So You Think You Can Sleuth
 Making of the Great Mouse Detective
 World's Greatest Criminal Mind Sing along







DON'T HIDE FROM HANNA-BARBERA'S "HEIDI'S SONG"
Blog, Movies, Music
Posted on Oct 16 2012 by Greg
Timing is everything, especially when a feature film is released. When Hanna-Barbera released Heidi's Song in 1982 through Paramount, family films had become more edgy and sophisticated, while this warmhearted musical was something that might have been more widely embracned in the mid-60s, when The Sound of Music was a Hollywood smash.

It's very possible that Hanna-Barbera had Heidi's Song in the production pipeline for many years, assigning artists to it between TV series projects. I do recall a 1982 cover story in Millimeter Magazine in which director Robert Taylor (DuckTales, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Men in Black: The Series) was attached to the film and some of it being redone.

Clearly it was a difficult film for Hanna-Barbera to complete. They were clearly hoping for a Disney-type classic that would perhaps live on as an example of what they could do with the right amount of money and time. Heidi's Song does show a lot more loving care -- and a much higher frame rate resulting in above average animation fluidity by HB standards -- than most of their animation of the 70s and 80s.

Story must have been a challenge, too, but Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Taylor and cowriter Jameson Brewer really gave it their best shot. Like so many children's tales, Heidi may not have enough plot to sustaio an animated feature in the Disney tradition. Like Walt Disney, they and their artists came up with many clever ways to keep things moving and add to the plot, including subplots with dogs and cats which are, of course, Hanna-Barbera specialties.



Among the films biggest strengths is its score. Any lover of movie or show music will want to play this DVD on a stereo system to fully appreciate the scope of the music of Burton Lane (Finian's Rainbow) with lyrics by Sammy Cahn (Disney's Peter Pan, among many others). This is also the only major HB feature film arranged and conducted by HB musical director Hoyt Curtin. It's a joy to hear what he could do with a gigantic orchestra and chorus (including Hollywood's best singers including Gene Merlino and BJ Baker).

There are so many songs, though, that some of them advance the plot ("A Christmas-sy Day," for example, covers the time in which Heidi adjusts to mountain life and bonds with her Grandfather), while others suspend the story. These are delightful, but not always crucial to the story. As Disneylike at Heidi's Song is, the film has roughly twice the amount of songs and musical set pieces than the average Disney fairy tale feature.

By the way, the box claims that there are 16 original songs and there are indeed 16 musical pieces but some are reprises and instrumentals, as I have noted here:

Overture (Orchestra & Chorus)
Good at Making Friends
Heidi's Nightmare (Orchestra)
A Christmas-sy Day
Heidi
An Armful of Sunshine
Heidi (reprise)
Frankfurt (Orchestra)
She's a Nothing
An Armful of Sunshine (reprise)
Monkey Theme (Orchestra)
Imagine
An Unkind Word
That's What Friends Are For
Ode to a Rat
End Title, including "Wunderhorn" (Orchestra & Chorus)

The voice cast is not star studded, but rather filled with the superstars of Hanna-Barbera and cartoons in general, like Janet Waldo, Michael Bell, Joan Gerber, Pamelyn Ferdin, Fritz Feld, Frank Welker and others. Stage star Margery Gray (spouse of Fliddler on the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick) voices Heidi.

On the celebrity side, Lorne Greene bellows nicely as Grandfather and Sammy Davis Jr. brings the film to an even higher level with the excellent "Ode to a Rat," a spectacular example of design, animation and especially the dazzling brass section so associated with Hanna-Barbera theme songs.

The rat sequence near the film's end, as well as the nightmare sequence near the beginning, could be scary for the very young children. Therein lies the dilemma with films like Heidi's Song, Annie and others with a primary appeal for girls but not for boys. Knowing this, HB's team added the darker moments as well as the dog, cat, and monkey mayhem. This only makes it harder to decide if Heidi's Song works for everyone.

It sure does for me, because I love it when Hanna-Barbera reached higher than the usual level of TV animation. Personally, I think Charlotte's Web was their crowning achievement in theatrical films, but each one is a fascinating experience.

Heidi's Song makes a particularly great listening experience. The 1982 K-Tel soundtrack album, released on vinyl, was a story record that emphasized dialogue and edited the music. A full-fledged musical soundtrack album was not released.

Now that this DVD is available, it's like having a soundtrack album. Okay, the movie can be as sticky as microwaved Jujubees, but c'mon now, that "Wunderhorn" tune is pretty magnificent in full stereo! Maybe if this DVD-R does well enough, the picture can be fully restored for Blu-ray.







CINDERELLA: DREAMS (AND STEP-NIGHTMARES) ON BLU-RAY
Blog, Movies, Music, Records
Posted on Oct 08 2012 by Greg
What's the most nightmarishly terrifying scene in movie history? The shower scene in Psycho? Sure. Tippi and those pesky birds? Maybe. Moviedom's got an endless parade of horrors, most of them supernatural, many of the inhuman sort.

But I would venture that few movie viilains can quite match the level of cruelty contained in what is also one of the most beloved family classics of all time. It's that scene in Cinderella, in which the stepmother incites the stepsisters into ripping Cinderella's dress to shreds -- while she's wearing it. Moments earlier, we saw her all happy in anticipation of going to the royal ball and perhaps being treated more as a peer by her family.

Am I overdramatizing? Perhaps. But the story of Cinderella is eternal because so many of us identify with her. We've been in situations that allow others to inflict cruelty on us. Call it bullying, call it abuse, physical or mental. What Walt Disney's Cinderella did was to take a bare bones story and make us worry that it might not end happily, even though we know full well that it does. Walt Disney and his amazing artists did it by making the characters seem so real, this familiar fairy tale becomes downright riveting.



As a character, Cinderella is extraordinarily likable, a feat that cannot be said of all Disney animated feature lead characters. Usually we identify with the sidekicks -- and the Disney version has lots of them in the form of compassionate mice -- but in this film, they only reinforce our kinship with the leading lady.

As a film, Cinderella was crucial in reviving the Disney studio's postwar doldrums, so much so that its creators did as much as possible to assure its success, even to cutting the live-action model footage to match exactly what the animators had to produce, with little wiggle room (except for Ward Kimball, who apparently had relatively free rein with the mice and Lucifer, the cat).

Speaking of Lucifer, the meows and shrieks were provided by the radiant June Foray in her feature film debut. She just turned 95 last month.

The voice cast benefits also from Lucille Bliss as Anastasia (she was also Smurfette on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon), and Rhoda Williams as the stepsisters, Eleanor Audley as the stepmother (who also played Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion attraction), Verna Felton as the Fairy Godmother (also the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and star of TV's December Bride among countless others) and even narration by Betty Lou Gerson (Cruella DeVil in 101 Dalmatians).

2012 Blu-ray Bonus Features:
- Diane Disney Miller Introduction
- Personalized Digital Storybook "Bibbidi Bobbidi You"
- Behind the Magic - a New Disney Princess Fantasyland
- Tangled Ever After short
PLUS All the bonus features from the 2005 2-disc DVD except:
- Cinderella Stories Presented by ESPN
- A Dream is a Wish Video - DChannel Circle of Stars
- The Making of the Music Video
- Every Girl Can be a Princess video montage

2102 DVD Features:
- Diane Disney Miller Introduction
- Behind the Magic - a New Disney Princess Fantasyland
- Tangled Ever After

The Cinderella original sound track album has also been reissued in a Special Edition one-disc album and a two-disc Collectors Edition CD set that includes brand-new renditions of "Lost Chords" deleted songs.













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