COULD THREE COWS SAVE THE FARM...AND CEL ANIMATION?
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
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.
JOHN CARTER...WAS IT REALLY A MISFIRE? YOU BE THE JUDGE
Posted on Jun 19 2012 by Greg
By now most everyone knows that Disney's John Carter
, after a long history of on-again, off again adaptation to the big screen that spans almost as many years as the stories themselves, was pummeled at the box office. However, as some correctly predicted, it was a big hit overseas -- and premiered at #1 on Blu-ray and DVD last week
One must wonder how many formed their opinions about the film based on the widely reported lack of ticket sales. There has been lots of finger pointing for the losses, but perhaps the fault wasn't the film so much as with the timing. Did theater audiences want
another scifi-fantasy epic franchise? Who knows?John Carter
is not a perfect film, but it is very far from a catastrophe. Visually, the stunning imagery, especially on Blu-ray, cannot be denied. The years of work and the big budget shows on screen. Meticulous details abound that make the film very rewatchable. I was struck by the clear glass in the air ships -- it was uneven, as if the glass was hand-made. The look combined high tech with the 19th century (which did remind my wife of Treasure Planet
, another very good Disney feature that fizzled in theaters).
The film's shortcomings are so well-documented, you don't need me to recount them. On the positive side, there is some humor, especially the "Virginia" running gag. One of the best characters in the film is James Purefoy
as Kantos Kan (yes, it's hard to keep track of the names and I had to look it up), who amusingly forces his own capture in a climactic battle scene.
The toughest roles are the leads, and Taylor Kitsch
fares no better than the more well-known Jake Gyllenhaal
in Prince of Persia
. Neither actor can be held totally responsible when they're shouldering such a massive movie. The princess role, which proved problematic to the filmmakers, who had trouble reconciling her 100-year old persona with contemporary expectations, is handled with deft skill by Lynn Collins
The film has some great shape-shifting villains offering lots of potential for future adaptations. There is also a fascinating parallel narrative centering on Edgar Rice Burroughs
as a character in the 19th century, learning the secrets of Carter as he unknowingly dodges the bad guys (I would have liked to have seen more of this story thread).
The point is, John Carter
is a rousing spectacle that is a must-see for action, scifi, fantasy and adventure movies in the Spielberg/Lucas style. Whether we'll ever see more of this world, in perhaps an animated TV version, is certainly unlikely from where the property stands today.
But the same could have been said for Tron
. Just by reading the many amazon reviews, ta lot of passionate fans are already championing the movie. Maybe more time will tell...
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