GETTING BACK TO NATURE
Posted on Oct 22 2010 by Greg
Walt Disney's True-Life Adventure series began with Seal Island
, one of many ideas he had that seemed crazy at the time -- a genre of film in which massive amounts of nature footage was edited to tell a story. The series was a long running success, leading to an endless parade of shorts, features and, more than anything else, TV shows featuring animals.
There were also some controversies. Some animal specialists and other critics were not pleased with how these films created an "anthropomorphosis" for the animals, attributing to them thoughts and motivations created through the editing and narration rather than real life events. You know, like reality TV (so does that make Snooki the new Perri?)
However, that was part of the entertainment value of the films, and what made them so memorable. It's to the credit of those who create films either produced or released by Disneynature to acheive a similar quality with a keener eye for nonfiction.
They also have an advantage early nature documentarists never dreamed of -- high-definition photography and fascinating gadgets like remote helicopter-like cameras and deep-sea devices.
These developments and more are put to extremely effective use on both new Disneynature Blu-ray and DVD releases, Disneynature: Oceans
and Crimson Wing-The Mystery of the Flamingo
. These two features each offer spectacular footage never before put on film.
In place of the paternal Winston Hibler
or the folksy Rex Allen
, who did so much of the early Disney nature film narrations, Oceans
is told with a combination of awe and matter-of-fact assertion by Pierce Brosnan
. Listening to him narrate, I couldn't help wondering how many other commercials and films I had heard with his voice, but not realizing it.
Oceans is a dynamic, but fairly straightforward tour through the seas, showcasing the familiar, the strange and of course, the endangered (Disney Channel pop stars Demi Lovato
and Joe Jonas
add their "Friends for Change" note with a song over the end credits that is also a music video).
The bonus features examine the filmmaking techniques and also promote the Disney Corporate environmental initiatives, which might seem a bit self-serving to some but is a largely sincere and highly accomplished effort by those involved who are seriously dedicated to these issues. Disney's a big company and it's a business, but it also brings these issues into the mainstream and allows costly research to take place. And it gets films like this into the mainstream, too.
Of the two films, Crimson Wing
is the most unique. Told in a lyrical style, it's more of an epic poem on film than a documentary. The images are often surprisingly abstract -- like visual puzzles that disorient the eye before revealing what they are. In one sequence, for example, the flamingos glide over a lake surface so calm you can't tell where the birds are until the ripples appear.
The narrator of Crimson Wing
is Mariella Frostrup
, well-known to BBC watchers and listeners. To me, her narrator conjured up memories of the original Living Seas film at Epcot
("And it rained, and rained and rained...the deluge"). The whole film has that quality. So if you're a vintage Epcot fan, you'll get a kick out of Crimson Wing
in a way that the filmmakers never intended, I'm sure.Oceans
and Crimson Wing
both take the viewer out of the everyday and to a larger plane of existence, a bigger picture, as it were, of our existence and that of the creatures around us. It can't hurt to be reminded that there's a lot more to the world.
BESIDES 'MAD MEN," THIS IS THE SMARTEST SHOW ON TELEVISION
Posted on Oct 15 2010 by Greg
The creators of Phineas and Ferb have exactly what I always expected from watching the show -- a lot of creative freedom. The show started quietly and gained its audience on its own, not because of a business plan, but because they were largely left to make a funny, smart show. This new DVD
contains the recent PHINEAS AND FERB CHRISTMAS VACATION episode plus four more: Interview with a Platypus; Oh There You Are, Perry; Chez Platypus
and Perry Lays an Egg
. All are great examples of how this series weaves its storylines with grace and panache, loaded with lots of quick asides in the spirit of other great comedy cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle.
There's an extra episode in the Bonus Features called "Doof Side of the Moon" preceeded by a 12-minute feature about how the creative team writes and performs their original songs and how one of their favorite episodes "Spongebob"veteran Dan Povenmire, comedy writer/performer Martin Olson, Jon Colton Barry (son of legendary songwriter Jeff Barry) and Jeff "Swampy Marsh" whose is the grandson of bandleader Les Brown.
I mention the musical connections especially because Phineas and Ferb is very music-generated and again, not just by committee-engineered pop tunes by by comic effect, from rock to big band, Broadway to Bollywood. Many of the songs written for the show have been released on CD, including a new holiday favorites album. Most of the music and songs came from the above team, with the able help of musical director Danny Jacob.
The interactive menu is really
interactive, not just called by that heavily-used term. Clicking various objects results in quick appearances by characters. One in particular takes you to a video in which the show staff conspire to cover a co-workers office with post-it notes.
You can tell from the bonus features on the new PHINEAS AND FERB: A VERY PERRY CHRISTMAS DVD
that the creative forces behind the show are relatively free of the
interfering words: "Well, I don't get that joke and neither do my
associates, so the whole world won't so therefore kill it dead and let
me watch is fester, rot and bleach in the sun." Well, maybe not in those
words, but I can just imagine how a song like "Squirrels in my Pants"
might die in a corporate approval process.
Let's hope the recent phenomenal success of Phineas and Ferb continues to thrive in relative autonomy. But somehow even if it does happen to a degree, we can probably look forward to a sly spoof of the internal ordeal, so veiled it may pass over the tops of the Herman Miller head rests.
'THE BOYS," "WALT & EL GRUPO" & "WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY" FOR ONE PRICE
Posted on Oct 09 2010 by Greg
Just got a message that Disney is offering all three of these long awaited documentaries on DVD in a three-for-one price offer.
These were only shown theatrically in selected cities (and to paraphrase David Letterman, my city was not usually selected).
They're being sold together with a special 49.95 offer here
The offer also includes special 8x10 lithos. FYI.
BEAUTY AND THE BLU-RAY
Posted on Oct 05 2010 by Greg
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
has become the quintessential animated musical, chock full of moments that have become iconic -- even to the point of parody -- since its smash debut in 1991. It was the ultimate connection of consummate talents, some who were already legendary and many of which who have become industry giants.
This is the first time in seven years that Beauty and the Beast has been issued on home video, this time in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo
that kindly for DVD owners, still offers the superb audio commentary by producer Don Hahn
, composer Alan Menken
and directors Kirk Wise
and Gary Trousdale
and three versions of the film, as they appeared on the Platinum Edition.
Once again, this Diamond Edition offers yet another reason to get a Blu-Ray Player if you want to see how great the digital restoration is in all its glory. (As far as I can tell, you can't buy the DVD without getting the Blu-ray discs as well.) If you want to see some new features such as an Alternate Opening, a Deleted Scene, new games, new documentary features and a new music video. You might want to hang onto your Platinum DVD because there are a few features, including some games, that do not appear on the new edition.Beauty and the Beast
is one of those Disney classics that transcends its release date, the age of its audience and the tinge of its lesser imitators. Somehow it all works, and as the artists say themselves, even they didn't know whether it would all work but somehow it did. That's the fascinating, elusive nature of great artistry.
BBC RADIO PROGRAM ABOUT WALT DISNEY THIS WEEK
Posted on Oct 03 2010 by Greg
BBC Radio is presenting a short panel discussion about the life and work of Walt Disney
that is available for a limited time by clicking here
As part of the series "Great Lives," the half hour features artist Gerald Scarfe
, who actually worked for the Disney company as the production designer of Hercules
; Who Framed Roger Rabbit
animation director Richard Williams
and major entertainment historian Brian Sibley
(whose also wrote the current BBC Radio 2 documentary series, The Musical
, which is hosted this week by Whoopi Goldberg
The program approaches its subject with a wry, detached style, with some controversies addressed, but overall the impact of Walt Disney on the world is met with awe and respect.
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