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DVD REVIEW: Jungle Book 2 Blu-ray
Blog, Movies, TV
Posted on Mar 29 2014 by Greg

This is actually the second sequel to Walt Disney's 1967 animated hit, The Jungle Book. The first sequel was released in 1969. It wasn't an animated film, it was a Disneyland record album called More Jungle Book, co-written by and starring Phil Harris. The story was no great shakes, but there were some nice new songs, including a few from the Sherman Brothers.

It might have been nice if the makers of Jungle Book 2 were aware of the album, if only for a few of the songs and tweaks here and there. Both are not much more than retreads of the first story with nearly identical scenes (the Kaa and Shere Khan sequence is almost a direct lift).

The 1969 record focuses primarily on Baloo, who is depressed because he misses Mowgli. He goes to the man village. Bagheera and King Louie follow him and meet Mowgli. Louie tries to touch fiery coals and burns his hand. Baloo is captured but his friends rescue him. Baloo and Mowgli have a nice reunion in the jungle, but Mowgli goes back to the man village, promising to return once a week.

2003's Jungle Book 2 focuses more on Mowgli and his two new friends, including Shanti, known only as "The Girl" in the original film. Baloo pretends to play with Mowgli in scene spoofing Cast Away's Wilson. Baloo goes to the man village, Shere Khan follows, panic ensues. Mowgli and his friends enter the jungle. Kaa, the vultures and the monkeys return to do pretty much what they did in the last film. I won't spoil the ending, just guess.

Popular as The Jungle Book is -- and tempting as it had to have been to make into a sequel -- it's the story that is the major challenge. The first film, which clearly met and surpassed the challenge, was a celebration of great characterization in voices, music and animation. The sequel has lines like "You can take the boy out of the jungle but you can't take the jungle out of the boy."

Like a pair of new Manolo Blahniks, the sequel is slick and technically superb as direct to videos go, but there must have been long meetings about "what can we do once they reunite?" They can't open a restaurant or solve crimes (unless it's a Disney Afternoon series). So almost everything in the sequel is repeated from the first film, albeit with much more technical virtuosity. I have to wonder if the film makers themselves wanted to expand the story but were hampered by meddling that forced them to take the "surefire" approach.

With respect to Walt Disney Animation Australia, which turned out consistently great work (TV animation too often gets a bad rap, frankly), this may be one of the least satisfactory of the direct to video sequels. The best that can be said is that it's an opportunity to spend some time with favorite characters again.

Bonus Features
Backstage Disney:
Synopsis of the Original Movie The Jungle Book
The Legacy of The Jungle Book

Deleted Scenes:
"I Got You Beat"
Music and More:
Sing Along with the Movie
Music Videos

DVD REVIEW: Doc McStuffins - Mobile Clinic
Blog, TV
Posted on Mar 28 2014 by Greg
Doc McStuffins is one of those children's shows with such a clear-cut, logical premise that it makes one wonder why no one thought of it years ago. Kids love to play with their toys, kids love to pretend to take care of them, kids love to act like authority figures, yet they want to be reassured about fears, social issues, the unknown, facing pain and so on.

This series deals with so many of these things with such seamless skill, only a few of the messages seem less than subtle. Charm and warmth don't seem synthetic -- Doc has a loving, supportive family and wants to be a doctor like her mother. It's as if Marcella of the Raggedy Ann books was more of a mover and shaker, but in a nice way.

(Trivia note for Brady Bunch fans: the voice of Stuffy is Robbie Rist, who played the infamous, shark-jumping Cousin Oliver.)

This is a new collection of episodes from seasons one and two (the series has already been renewed for a third). Each half hour show contains two 11-minute stories:

Season 1 / Episode 2
Out of the Box / Run Down Race Car
March 23, 2012

Season 1 / Episode 9
Rescue Ronda, Ready for Takeoff / All Washed Up       
April 3, 2012

Season 2 / Episode 11
Rest Your Rotors, Ronda! / Keep on Truckin
April 5, 2012

Season 2 / Episode 27
Doc McStuffins Goes McMobile / Chip Off the Ol' Box
September 6, 2013

Season 2 / Episode 22
Doc to the Rescue / Don't Knock the Noggin
October 24, 2013

DVD REVIEW: Springtime with Roo & Recommendations
Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, Music
Posted on Mar 21 2014 by Greg

While practically every cartoon character ever created has, at one time or another, saved Christmas, there are precious few animated specials or direct-to-videos with a springtime, Easter or even an Easter Bunny.

This made-for-TV Disney Winnie the Pooh animated feature is one of the few. It makes sense for spring to be a cherished part of life in the Hundred Acre Wood, with its rolling landscapes, shady trees and colorful flowers.

There is so much niceness among Pooh and his pals -- and this is a good thing in this age of "edgy" cynicism, even in children's entertainment -- we can still look to Eeyore for lovable, relatable gloom and to Rabbit for lovable, relatable angst and neuroses. In other words, they're for us adults in throws of life's drama.

Rabbit adopts a Scrooge-like role in this story, which features original songs and overall is a very attractive production. David Ogden Stiers is a marvelous narrator, by the way. Very Sebastian Cabot.

Only one extra feature is basically a song player -- I would have liked to see a few episodes from the Emmy-winning "New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" series.

Other recommendations for Springtime family viewing:
***** Here Comes Peter Cottontail - Danny Kaye (All-time fave)
***** It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
***** Easter Parade - Judy Garland and Fred Astaire (MGM classic)
****   The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town
***     The First Easter Rabbit - Burl Ives, Robert Morse (Mad Men)
**       Yogi The Easter Bear - Hanna-Barbera

DVD REVIEW: The Red Skelton Show - The Lost Episodes
Blog, TV
Posted on Mar 13 2014 by Greg
Red Skelton is a giant of comedy. Like many comic masters who rose up from stage to movies to radio to television, he is among several greats who should be celebrated more today, instead of reducing a description to his idiosyncracies.

Many in the industry, including fellow comedians, believed that only Skelton could laugh during and sketch and make it work. Harvey Korman also made it work on The Carol Burnett Show in his sketches with Tim Conway. Most recently, both Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, now heading their own late night hits, were able to pull off laughing in sketches. When it's done correctly -- and often it is not -- the laughs draws the audience into the gag. And it saves cornball jokes.

Skelton was a master mime, as you can see in this collection, particularly in the monologues. These programs are edited because of music rights (the theme song, "Holiday for Strings," is not included) but the funny parts are there. Even if you've never seen Skelton's show, you will be drawn into his style within a few shows.

His characters have subtle differences, but they are indeed not all the same. George Appleby is a mild-mannered suburbanite drawn into Twilight Zone-style predicaments, his wife played by guest stars like Vivian Vance and Eve Arden, San Fernando Red is a dishonest Senator Claghorn (or Foghorn Leghorn). Clem Kadiddlehopper is a dimwit who finds himself in important positions. And his signature character, Freddie the Freeloader (based on his father's clown character) is a hobo who makes the best of life in surreal ways.

This is pure, silly, escapism. There are some tame political jabs (from the Kennedy era in these episodes) but overall the material is like a classic cartoon, complete with gags involving gadgets built into the sets.

Relax, chill out and chuckle. Everybody can use some silly old laughs.

DVD REVIEW: Minnie-Rella
Blog, TV
Posted on Feb 27 2014 by Greg
Well of course it had to happen eventually--Minnie Mouse doing the glass shoe thing. Actually, Minnie has played a princess before, like in the classic short "Brave Little Tailor." But this is the context of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so Minnie and Mickey have to ask the viewer a lot of questions...then pause...the resume the story.

There's just no way this DVD can miss with kids who love princesses, especially fans of Sofia the First. It's a half-hour segment from Season Four, which is reportedly the last season of the series. Fortunately, it's uniformly well done, as is the rest of this high-quality preschool series.

Each of the episodes has something to do with fairy tales:
Minnie-Rella (February 14, 2014, Season Four)
Pluto's Tale (January 20, 2012, Season Three)
Mickey and the Enchanted Egg (November 20, 2009, Season Two)
Daisy's Pony Tale (April 15, 2013, Season Four)

In addition, there are ten short "interstitial" episodes from season 2 of "Minnie's Bow-Toons." Also, there is a nice little Castle play set to unfold and put together. They can't do that sort of thing enough.
I find "Daisy's Pony Tale" to be the most amusing thanks to the extra comedy provided by the dependable Professor Ludwig Von Drake, voiced by the extraordinary Corey Burton. The voice cast, by the way, is a Hollywood who's-who: Russi Taylor, April Winchell, Will Ryan, Bill Farmer and so many more.

As per the series' style, there is a lot of visual gimmickry through wacky contraptions, a fine balance of adventures so each character gets to shine, and of course all that interaction that kids do play along with (I've seen it and it's adorable).

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