It's getting more and more difficult for Blu-Ray resisters to resist getting Blu-Ray, now that
are available in crystalline clarity. The new Snow White Diamond Edition has so much new material, that when you combine it with the previous Platinum Edition (which still has some features not included on the new release), it can almost be thought of as "The Art of Snow White, Volumes 1 and 2."
offers an interactive Magic Mirror feature, an immersive visit to Disney's Hyperion Studio, where Walt and his staff worked until Snow White's huge success made the Burbank location affordable.
But my favorite, and if you've read my earlier reviews you know where I'm going with this, is the audio commentary. Animation historian
book among other important works, provides a diamond mine of information -- with none other than
providing his own comments through interviews.
. Walt describes in a vivid, straightforward manner (frequently punctuating with a Jack Benny-like "ya see") his feelings about his artists and their relative skill levels, his insecurity about his status as a "cartoon maker" rather than a filmmaker and his unabashed excitement about new gadgetry.
You can even hear Walt admit that he actually hated Snow White for a while because he wearied of living in its shadow and having every subsequent project compared to it. That's the sort of frustration you may not have thought about in hindsight, since Walt did so much since, but it underscores the importance of this film -- perhaps the one project that made everything after it possible. You also get a real feel for how much of Walt Disney's personality and performance are in
Canemaker points out that Snow White paved the way for feasibility of the film fantasy genre, leading to
, and also the technicque of weaving story with songs in a seamless narrative, usually credited to Broadway's
There are two Blu-Ray discs included, loaded with the features, plus a standard DVD of the feature as well. The commentary appears on both formats (and was included on the Platinum Edition and most likely the laserdisc).
But if you're on the fence about Blu-Ray, this is a chance to compare the two and decide. If you'd prefer the whole thing in DVD, it is apparently going to be released on
, but of course without the interactive technologies only possible on the new format.
DVD Review: WALL•E and THE PIXAR STORY
Posted on Nov 18 2008 by Greg
This Special Edition of WALL•E
is actually two feature-length films in one--even though The Pixar Story
is listed almost as if it's a short bonus feature, it's actually the highly-acclaimed full-length documentary that had limited theatrical release this year. It's really worthwhile to have both films to enjoy.
, of course, is the latest in Disney and Pixar's unbroken string of box-office and critical successes. This is the first one, to my knowledge, to elicit a bit of a controversy among a minority of viewers who felt it was somewhat unsubtle in the environmental / consumer excess message in its second half.
Like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
and 1978's Superman The Movie
seems to divide itself into two different movies with separate thematic and stylistic approaches. The first act of WALL•E
is one of the most brilliant masterpieces of filmmaking, sound design, storytelling, pantomine and direction ever created, every bit as Chaplinesque as critics have raved.
Once WALL•E and Eve reach the gigantic space ship Axiom, the story goes into an epic spin on Silent Running
, in which mankind has devolved into blobby, passive receptors for corporate manipulation--and where have all the flowers gone? Some people watching this film in a theater thought, perhaps incorrectly, that the movie was aiming its satire squarely at them, since they were sitting in comfy chairs, watching this film at the behest of a mammoth corporate marketing machine.
Based on his earnest commentary, director Andrew Stanton
had no idea of such a message, much less anything malicious. After all, he directed the lovable Finding Nemo
. As he describes he and his team's detailed, meticulous consideration of absolutely every part of the story as it developed makes one wonder if someone, sometime might have considered how it might be interpreted. Nevertheless, the bonus features make it clear that the first act was airtight and the rest of the film went through a bumpy development process.
No matter where you stand on this issue, if indeed there is an issue at all, you have to marvel at the way Pixar continues to top itself with sheer imagination and spectacle that never takes a back seat to story and character. This is even more evident in the accompanying short, Presto
, which packs a feature's worth of character and memorable moments into seven minutes. I especially liked how the titles resembled vintage Disney cartoon titles with the textured red background. It's a gem among gems.The Pixar Story
, written, produced and directed by Leslie Iwerks
' granddaughter and also the producer/co-author of The Hand Behind the Mouse
), is a brilliant testimony to how creativlty can triumph over organizational morass, particularly in the sequence in which the creators of Toy Story
describe how they were forced to make the first demo of the film "edgy" and how Woody's character became dark and unpleasant. When they made the film they had originally envisioned, it changed history. It's also the story of having faith in something special, as Steve Jobs
continued to back the Pixar team despite desperate losses in the early days.
More than anything, The Pixar Story
parallels the Walt Disney story in that it's about visionaries who always strive for something better each go 'round. The similarities are astounding when they are presented in this film--and the extraordinary body of work Pixar has created over the last several years is staggering when you see it presented one after another, much like Walt's first golden age of features.Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal
and other stars offer their comments and the whole thing is ably narrated by Stacy Keach
Like a Ginsu knife offer, that's not all you get with this Special Edition
! The cool drawer-style package includes three discs, one for a digital download of the movie, and the other loaded with extras like an audio commentary (thank you!), deleted scenes, lots of behind the scenes featurettes (one in particular paying much-deserved tribute to sound design legend Ben Burtt
), extra animation bits with WALL•E and Buy n Large Corporation and a new short called BURN•E
, an amusing story that takes place during the WALL•E
story, but from the viewpoint of a long-suffering maintenance robot. (I also found an Easter egg on disc two: the original development test of WALL•E.)
DVD Review: TINKER BELL
Posted on Nov 05 2008 by Greg
It would be very easy for traditional Disney fans to dismiss a direct-to-video, CG-animated feature in which the iconic Disney character talks. As a matter of fact, it's been dismissed months before the film came out in some circles. Come to think of it, there were probably many traditional champions of the original James Barrie Peter Pan play that had a problem with Walt Disney's vision of the fairy (I recall one snarky critic referring to her as being "too long at the sugar bowls." Reee-err!
Put that all aside, watch this Tinker Bell feature
, and you may be pleasantly surprised. First of all, the art direction is so strong the entire feature really should have been released in theaters. This was not a hastily-made, get the money and run movie slapped together by hacks, it was clearly inspired by people who loved the source material. (And according to some reports, it was a long and bumpy road getting the little sprite to the direct to DVD screen, with scripts and careers scattered along the way.)
The story is simple. We see how fairies are born -- when a baby first giggles -- and how Tink finds herself in the fairy pecking order. We meet her cohorts and of course, she learns a lesson. The sweetest moment comes at the end, when she brings the music box... no I won't spoil it, but it was nicely handled. The Peter Pan story lingers in the background with subtlety rather than it being reduced to the sitcom levels we might have seen in decades past.
Mae Whitman is a marvelous choice for Tinker Bell's voice, your garden variety Disney lady, and the cast is also well suited to their roles. It's especially nice to have Angelica Huston bring stately grace to the Fairy Queen. My wife was especially delighted to hear Loreena McKennit as the narrator and singer at the opening. The score, by the way, has a light Irish folk lilt that won't quickly date in the years to come.
I can appreciate the challenge of bringing such a beloved character into a new "franchise" and admire how satisfying it turned out -- and the next one looks promising too -- my kids can't wait.
The DVD release is not brimming with extras, making me wonder if a "special edition" looms ahead, but there is one short feature well worth mentioning. I don't know if it was made for the DVD or perhaps created as a "sizzle piece" to create the mood for the Disney Fairies marketing initiative. No matter why it was made, it was a gem in which children and adults find magic and wonder in little things like a rainbow in a lawn sprinkler or grass growing between sidewalks, as the fairies linger in the periphery.
To me that little film captures what I remember about being a kid. You can live in the suburbs, the city, the country, wherever, but kids can find wondrous things anywhere if their imaginations are cultivated. It's why, when kids are surrounded by their newly-opened presents, they often play with the big cardboard box they came in. I was happy to be reminded of that fact.