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"PLANET" CERTAINLY IS A TRAY-ZURE, ESPECIALLY IN BLU-RAY
Blog, Movies
Posted on Jul 16 2012 by Greg
Hopefully someday, when they make a sequel to the excellent documentary to Waking Sleeping Beauty (Waking Pocahontas maybe?), we'll see how Treasure Planet figured into the behind-the-scenes nachinations of the post-Katzenberg Disney animation division. One can't help but wonder whether Treasure Planet fell victim to some of these politics, or, as perhsps it was with John Carter, the public just didn't want a scifi/space version of Treasure Island.

The film itself is jaw-droppingly impressive. Few films from any studio have blended cel animation with CG as perfectly, created such vivid, vulnerable characters and such breathtaking, detailed panoramas. Seeing it on the new Blu-ray is almost like seeing it for the first time, unless perhaps you saw it in IMAX. Every line and every miniscule object or person in the distance can be seen in razor sharp clarity.



Maybe the visual scope and tech detail overwhelms the characters and the narrative, as some suggested was the case with Sleeping Beauty. However, there's some superb acting here, including the now-A lister Joseph-Gordon Levitt as Jim Hawkins, Brian Murray as Silver, Martin Short as BEN, Emma Thompson as Captain Amelia and the always dependable David Hyde-Pierce as Doppler (a character that suggests those Duckburg "dog people" from vintage Disney comics).

The generous bonus features, pretty much the same ones from the earlier DVD release, are very copious. Instead of an audio commentary, there is a vast "Visual Commentary" that starts and stops the film with supplemental information, stretching the experience out well over two hours. A feast for animation fans.

My son loved this movie when he was seven and he loves it today. It was an attempt to grab the non-Princess audience for Disney features, and while it would never attract the "Hot Tub Time Machine" older males, it's great stuff for younger kids.

Be sure to show your kids Walt Disney's original Treasure Island to compare and contrast the storyline. The relationship between Silver and Hawkins is more from Walt and less from Stevenson. And hey, reading the classic book is nice, too!








COULD THREE COWS SAVE THE FARM...AND CEL ANIMATION?
Blog, Movies
Posted on Jul 13 2012 by Greg
When Home on the Range was first released, for some reason the fate of 2-D or "traditional" animation was resting on it, as Disney was still in a tempestuous internal swirl and did not yet own, nor at the time have hope to stay attached to, the formidable Pixar -- who to this day, have had an unbroken string of films with strong, and usually gigantically successful openings.

It seems odd now to pin such hopes on such an unpretentious film, one that revels in its non-CG-ness and harkens back to the sunny Disney vistas of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and the lesser-known Saga of Windwagon Smith.

The performance of Home on the Range at the box office is less a refection of its quality than simply that there wasn't much of an audience for cartoon westerns starring cows in 2004. When you strip away its history and look at the film on its own (and many will today when they watch the new Blu-ray/DVD), you have a highly entertaining romp with fun characters, a loose story, some magnificent artwork and top animation.



Most of all, there some really fine songs, especially "Little Patch of Heaven" and the haunting "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again" (the latter been inspired in part, according to composer Alan Menken, by the despair following 911).

While the leading cast received much attention, one of the nicest things about Home on the Range is that it also employed such talented actors as SCTV's Joe Flaherty as Jeb, the goat, and, in particular, Carole Cook as Pearl. Cook was a close friend and protegé of Lucille Ball and played Bessie in the beloved film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Watching and listening to the generous bonus features, it is evident that a great deal of skill and creativity goes into a film like this, so it cannot be dismissed as mere fluff, though it certainly does not leave you with the same glow as Beauty and the Beast. Nor it is intended to do so.

The most comical thing in retrospect turns out to be that a lighthearted animated movie about cows could be held up as the deciding factor in the future of cel animation. Of course, it didn't happen that way, and there have been other traditional features since, including last year's well-received and exquisite Winnie the Pooh.








NOW IT'S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE...DON GRADY
Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Jun 29 2012 by Greg
Some folks who remember Don Grady as Robbie Douglas, the teen-turned young husband on the long running TV sitcom My Three Sons, may not also know that he was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, joining the series later in its run under his real name, Don Agrati.



With his untimely passing this week, he not only leaves behind two iconic TV personas, but also an extraordinary music career that in sheer volume and scope, eclipses his onscreen work.

Don Grady was part of Yellow Balloon, a feel-good late '60s pop group at the same time as he was still performing on My Three Sons. He has written numerous scores for stage, TV and video (including a lot of Disney video bonus materials and games) and an acclaimed Las Vegas show called EFX.

The items most overlooked in his various obits are some Disney albums that literally millions of families have listened to for years: Disney Princess Tea Party and, ever more notably, Disney's Princess Christmas Album.



Both albums feature the magnificent voices of such greats as Lea Salonga, Paige O'Hara, Judy Kuhn and Jodi Benson -- plus arrangements, production and original compositions by Don Grady. These albums will never really become dated and will surely be reissued in one form or another for untold generations. We can never know how many scores of children will be delighted by this fine work.

That's a mighty impressive legacy.







HEY...WHERE'S PERRY? HE'S ON THIS NEW DVD
Blog, TV
Posted on Jun 21 2012 by Greg
If you've never watched, the Disney Channel animated hit Phineas and Ferb, you're missing some inspired cartoon fun, expertly dished up. Speaking analytically, each half hour show generally consists of two story self-contained segments, each with two or more original (and very eclectic) songs.

Each segment has at least three story angles: brothers Phineas and Ferb come up with a very elaborate idea/enterprise/invention and their sister, Candace, is the "Mrs. Kravitz" who tries to expose them, while at the same time their pet playtpus, Perry, gets a mission to save the world in his secret identity as "Agent P" to thwart evil but feeble Dr. Hans Doofensmirtz's plan to conquer the world (and/or the tri-state area).

That's a lot to get into a short cartoon, but with the kind of wit, savvy and pacing that made Rocky and Bullwinkle a classic, the creative team does it amazingly well -- tying the subplots together in either cleverly surprising or knowingly coincidental way.

The new DVD, The Perry Files, is a collection of seven show episodes -- so fourteen individual cartoons in all -- that best showcase the adventures of Agent P. My favorite is called "Misperceived Monotreme," which is highlighted by a Yellow Submarine-like surreal sequence with more inventive touches than some TV shows have in an entire season.

I would have liked another fun documentary or a commentary in the bonus features, but there is a nice "Tour Inside the Playbus" and a collection of clips called "Nerves of Teal."



Inside the DVD package is a neat little "Activity Pack" containing character stickers with a background scene, a postcard, a "find the clues" card, mood magnets and even a 48-piece mini jigsaw puzzle! There's also a digital copy so you can watch on your mobile device.







WALT DISNEY CLASSIC "SUMMER MAGIC" HITS THE MUSICAL STAGE
Blog, News and Events, Movies, Parks
Posted on Jun 20 2012 by Greg

If you're a fan of the beloved 1963 Hayley Mills / Burl ives movie -- and happen to be in the Morristown, Tennessee area this weekend (it's an hour's drive north of Knoxville) -- you might get to experience the world's first musical stage adaptation of Walt Disney's Summer Magic: Flittering from Film to Footlights.

 

The original 1963 Summer Magic was a warm family comedy/drama highlighted by songs by Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The show's creators, Jerry Maloy and Jim Hollifield, adapted it into a full musical by expanding the original score of seven tunes (including the worldwide favorite, "Ugly Bug Ball") to 24 songs, including selections from the Sherman classics, The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.

 

But here's the thing: after this weekend it may disappear forever! Disney Theatrical Group has granted permission to produce Summer Magic as a nonprofit, limited staging in cooperation with the Newport Theatre Guild and the Morristown Theatre Guild. So these may be the only performances.

 

Special events are also part of the excitement. This Friday, June 22 at 7 p.m. the Summer Magic performance will be preceded by a special panel hosted by Stacia Martin. Friday's special guests will be Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman and film star Eddie Hodges, sharing behind-the-scenes memories. Richard's lovely wife, Elizabeth, Disney Legend Mary Costa (voice of Princess Aurora), Disney author/artist Russell Schroeder and Disney author/vice president Howard E. Green are also scheduled to attend on Friday evening.

 

Saturday, June 23 at 7 p.m., Richard Sherman will kick off the evening with a lively Q&A session, followed by the live show.

Starring in all three weekend performances, (including a Sunday 2:30 p.m. matinee) will be Kathy Garver (Cissy of TV's Family Affair) on stage in the role of Mother Carey!

Walt Disney's Summer Magic: Flittering from Film to Footlights will appear at the Morristown campus of Walters State Community College. For ticket information, call 423-586-9260 or visit morristowntheatreguild.com.











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