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The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

theswordinthestone

“The Sword in the Stone” is a fun, adventurous and a lighthearted family film from Disney about believing in magic and hope. “The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition” on Blu-ray is the definitive version of the film to own on video!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 79 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS-HD HR 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

Story by Bill Peet

Book by T.H. White

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by George Bruns

Edited by Donald Halliday

Art Direction by Ken Anderson

Featuring the voices of:

Sebastian Cabot as Sir Ector/Narrator

Kari Swenson as Merlin

Rickie Sorensen as Wart

Junius Matthews as Archimedes

Ginny Tyler as Little Girl Squirrel

Martha Wentworth as Madam Mim/Old Lady Swuirrel

Norman Alden as Sir Kay

Alan Napier as Sir Pellinore

Richard Reitherman as Wart

Robert Reitherman as Wart

Disney proudly presents the 50th anniversary edition of a spellbinding and beloved animated classic. Conjure up magical family fun with the humor, adventure, and Academy Award-nominated music (best score – adaptation or treatment, 1963) of The Sword In The Stone – on DVD and now on Blu-ray combo pack for the first time ever! Take an amazing journey with a young orphan named “Wart” and the extraordinary wizard Merlin. According to legend, only someone with the purest character and inner strength can pull the enchanted sword from the stone and claim the throne of England. Armed with newfound confidence and the power of friendship, Wart discovers his destiny and learns the best magic is the kind you find inside yourself!

In 1963, the 18th Walt Disney Animated Classics film “The Sword in the Stone” was released in theaters.

Based on the novel of the same name by T.H. White, “The Sword in the Stone” was the sixth highest grossing film of 1953 and was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Score – Adaptation or Treatment”.

While the film may not be well-known to today’s audiences, back in 1963, the film entertained families and received very good ratings worldwide, especially in the UK.

With a re-release in theaters in 1972 and 1983, for its 50th Anniversary, “The Sword in the Stone” will be released on Blu-ray featuring new digital restoration.

“The Sword in the Stone” begins with the introduction that in 6th Century England, the king, Uther Pendragon had died and there was no heir to the throne.  And without a king, “the land would be torn by war”.

A “Sword in the Stone” mysteriously appears in London proclaiming that those who can pull out the sword from the stone will be the next king of England.  But no one has been successful and England entered the Dark Ages.

We are the introduced to Merlin the legendary wizard and Archimedes (Merlin’s smart but also fussy owl who can talk) and Merlin talks about waiting for a 12-year-old scrawny boy to arrive at the his home.  He is not sure who the boy is but he knows that fate will direct him to Merlin’s home and Merlin’s responsibility is to guide him to his place in the world.

We are then introduced to Arthur (a.k.a. “Wart”), a 12-year-old orphan who is training to be a squire.  He accompanies his older foster brother Kay on a hunting trip but prevents his brother from killing the deer.

As Arthur goes to retrieve the arrow, he falls and lands inside Merlin’s home and immediately, Merlin becomes Arthur’s tutor.  When Merlin escorts Arthur back home, he meets Sir Ector, Arthur’s foster father who tends to punish Arthur quite often.

Merlin tries to talk to Sir Ector that he wants to tutor Arthur, but Ector does not believe in magic.  So, in order to make him believe, Merlin creates a blizzard but instead of getting permission, Ector will not allow Merlin to train Arthur.

Meanwhile, Sir Pellinore comes with news for Merlin that the annual jousting tournament will be held on New Year’s Day in London and the winner will be the new king of England.  As Sir Ector trains Kay for the tournament, Merlin ends up training Arthur.  But not on weapons or fighting but to learn from animals.  Merlin transforms Arthur into a fish to learn about physics, a squirrel to learn about gravity and to a sparrow in order to learn how to fly.  But when Arthur is attacked by a hawk and flies down the witch Madam Mim’s chimney (she and Merlin are enemies), she uses her magic in order to find a way to kill Arthur.

But with all this trouble happening, will Merlin be able to train Arthur before the tournament?

VIDEO:

“The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition for the very first time. For a film that is 50-years old, two things you will notice about the picture quality is how much cleaner this copy of the film is.  It’s important to note that there was quite a bit of DNR utilized to clean this film up and this is where those who who are against DNR will have a problem with this film’s loss of grain as opposed to those who feel the film looks better without it.

No white specks, dust or any problems can be seen with this new digital restoration.  Colors are much more vibrant, backgrounds tend to show much better clarity and I didn’t notice any banding issues.   The animation has a sketched style in which the line art is well-done, no jagged edges.  Art backgrounds look like watercolors and have a distinct art style compared to other Disney animated films.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Dolby Digital 2.0, French DTS-HD HR 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1.  While “The Sword in the Stone” is presented with a lossless soundtrack, dialogue and music is crystal clear but it’s primarily a front channel driven film.  There is surround sound usage but primarily to compliment the musical soundtrack.  But I didn’t notice any hiss or crackling considering the film is 50-years-old.

For the most part, this is the best soundtrack available for “The Sword in the Stone” on video at this time and fans of the film should be quite pleased with the overall lossless audio soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Opening: Where Wart Meets Merlin – (4:02) A short featurette’s about one of the alternate opening of when Wart meets Merlin.
  • Games & Activities – Merlin’s Magical Academy – An interactive remote game in which a player can earn merits.
  • Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers – (6:00) An old featurette featuring the Sherman brothers discussing the writing for the music of “The Sword in the Stone”.
  • Disney Song Selection – Featuring the music portions of the film with optional lyrics: “The Legend of the Sword in the Stone”, “Higitus Figitus”, “That’s What Makes the World Go Round”, “A Most Befuddling Thing”.
  • Backstage Disney – All About Magic (Exerpt) - (7:20) A classic black and white special hosted by Walt Disney who talks about magic.
  • The Sword in the Stone Scrapbook – Look at various images and concept art from the film using your remote (or via keyboard).
  • Film Facts - Text based facts about “The Sword in the Stone”.
  • A Knight for a Day – (7:05) A classic Goofy animated short featuring Goofy as a knight and taking part in a tournament.
  • The Brave Little Tailor - (9:01) A classic animated short featuring Mickey Mouse, who is a tailor enlisted to fight against the big giant.

EXTRAS:

“The Sword in the Stone: 50th Anniversary Edition” comes with a slipcover.  Also, include is a DVD and digital copy version of the film.

It has been a very long time since I watched the “Sword in the Stone”.  The last time I remember watching it was when I was a child and my mother would take us to the local Fox Theater which was having a summer Disney screening.

But having watched this film in 2013, it’s a film that many people can get into as the character of Arthur is an underdog.  Because he is not seen as a warrior, hunter and more or less a squire by his family, not much is expected of this young 12-year-old.

But for Merlin, he has seen the future and that he will be responsible for directing this child and preparing him for the chance to pull out the sword from its stone and become the next King of England.

Of course, this is a Disney film and a family film, so what Disney animated film would it be without the animals.  In the case of “The Sword in the Stone”, the story of Merlin the wizard, the young Arthur and the talking owl Archimedes take part in a variety of adventures as Arthur undergoes training.

From being turned into a fish and learning about physics, Arthur is attack by a pike.  Turned into a squirrel to learn about gravity, he is attacked by a wolf.  And as Arthur is turned into a sparrow in order to learn how to fly, he is attacked by a hawk.  And it opens up to a confrontation between Merlin and his nemesis, the witch Madam Mim.

The film is not about war or battling but how a young naive boy (who is often in trouble by his foster family) but a story of one believing in oneself, believing in magic and for the most part, watching this timid boy go through adventures through his transformations alongside Merlin.  Possibly one of the most interesting segments of the film is when both Merlin and Arthur are turned into squirrels and both are targeted by female squirrels who have chosen them as mates.  While the female squirrels divert their love towards the male squirrels they have fallen for, it’s an interesting scene to watch and see Arthur having to break the little girl squirrel’s heart.

Overall, “The Sword in the Stone” may not be the most memorable or most popular Disney animated film but it was an animated film that gave Disney its take on the legend of King Arthur.

The characters are memorable, the story is uplifting and the for the most part, fans of the film or those who grew up with the film and are wanting to introduce it to a new generation of Disney fans, will find “The Sword in the Stone” to be fun, adventurous and a lighthearted family film about believing in magic and hope.

Frankenweenie – 4-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Frankenweenie” is an enjoyable, imaginative and creative film from Tim Burton and crew.  As a family film, it’s a safe film but younger viewers may be weirded out by the unusual look of the characters, while Burton fans will appreciate the look and creativity of this film.  Storywise, the film was good, just not great but fortunately, the Blu-ray release , its 3D and HD presentation along with its special features makes it a Blu-ray release worth owning. “Frankenweenie – 4-Disc Combo Pack” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Frankenweenie

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Violence, Language, Some Sexuality and Drug Content)

Release Date: January 8, 2013

Directed by Tim Burton

Based on an original idea by Tim Burton

Based on a screenplay by Leonard Ripps

Screenplay by John August

Produced by Allison Abbate, Tim Burton

Co-Producer: Derek Frey

Executive Producer: Don Hahn

Associate Producer: Connie Nartonis Thompson

Line Producer: Simon Quinn

Music by Danny Elfman

Cinematography by Peter Song

Edited by Chris Lebenzon, Mark Solomon

Casting by Ronna Kress, Jen Rudin

Production Design by Rick Heinrichs

Art Direction by Tim Browning, Alexandra Walker

Featuring the voices of:

Catherine O’Hara as Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl, Gym Teacher

Martin Short as Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgemeister, Nassor

Martin Landau as Mr. Rzykruski

Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing

Robert Capron as Bob

Conchata Ferrell as Bob’s Mom

Atticus Shaffer as Edgar “E” Gore

From Disney and creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes the hilarious and offbeat “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town learn that getting a new ‘leash on life’ can be monstrous.
Complete with electrifying bonus features, “Frankenweenie” is alive with enchanting excitement in eye-popping Blu-ray 3D.

Back in 1984, a young Tim Burton (who would go on to direct “Edward Scissorhands”, “Alice in  Wonderland”, “Corpse Bride”, “Batman Returns”, “Ed Wood”) created a short film titled “Frankenweenie” which paid homage to the 1931 film “Frankenstein”.

In 2005, Tim Burton would sign with Disney to remake “Frankenweenie” and by 2009, the screenplay for a feature film was written by John August and would reunite the crew that worked with Burton for “Corpse Bride”.

By 2010, Burton would work on one of the biggest stop-motion animation films (with a budget of $39 million) which require mechanical skeletons and feature over 200 puppets. The following year, he would reunite with musician Danny Elfman (“Batman”, “The Simpsons”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Corpse Bride”) who would score the film and the film would be released in theaters in September 2012.

The film would receive positive reviews from film critics and would go on to earn $66 million in the box office worldwide.  And in January 2013, the film will be released on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD.

“Frankenweenie” is about a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan).   He loves science and also making films with himself and his dog Sparky.  He loves to show his films to his parents Ben and Susan Frankenstein (portrayed by Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara).

One day while playing baseball, Victor hits his first homerun and Sparky who loves playing catch, goes after the ball and runs out into the street.  But when Sparky goes to bring the ball back, he is hit by a car and killed.

Suffice to say, Victor is very depressed without his canine friend until he hears his science teacher Mr. Rzyruski (voiced by Martin Landau) showing how electricity is able to cause movement with dead frogs.  This gives Victor an idea, what if he can bring Sparky alive?  So, Victor starts to begin his reanimating science project.

Victor digs Sparky’s corpse from its grave and brings the dog into Victor’s makeshift laboratory and during a major storm, tries to get Victor hit by lightning.  Expecting to see Sparky alive, Victor cries when it doesn’t happen.  But after a few minutes, Sparky comes back alive and reveals Sparky, who has sutures all over him to keep the dog’s body together.  Unfortunately, Sparky who is happy to be back alive, also loses his tail in the process, showing that his body is not all in one piece.  But Victor tells Sparky that he can fix that problem.

As Victor goes out to leave for school, he has Sparky stay in the attic.  Sparky goes to drink some water and water starts shooting out of his body and showing that though he is alive, he is not perfect.  He then sees a cat and starts chasing after it and escapes from the attic.

As Sparky goes outdoors on his own, Victor’s creepy classmate Edgar sees him.

When Victor arrives back from school, he finds Sparky in bad shape and nearly out of energy and uses a battery charger to bring more electricity into Sparky.  Edgar shows up to Victor’s home and begins blackmailing Victor that if he doesn’t tell him how he revived Sparky, he will tell everyone including his family.  So, Victor shows Edgar how he was able to revive Sparky.

So, Victor goes to show Edgar how he did it.  And so, they do a test on a fish.  But instead of reviving a dead fish, they are able to make the fish invisible through electricity.  Victor tells Edgar not to tell anyone, but Edgar has his finger crossed.

Immediately Edgar starts telling other kids about what he and Victor were able to do.  But with the upcoming science fair coming up, other kids want to win and what happens when others discover Victor’s reanimation project and wants to start performing their own?

But what happens when the other children start turning dead animals into monsters?

VIDEO:

“Frankenweenie” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  First, let’s take a look at the 3D version of the film.  This has got to be one of the best looking films from Disney or any company to be released on Blu-ray 3D so far.  It’s important to note that to play this 3D, you will need a TV that is 3D enabled and comes with its own 3D glasses (or purchase them separately in pack) and also a Blu-ray player that is 3D-enabled as well.

Created in stop-motion animation, presented in black and white, the film has wonderful contrast.  The 3D version of “Frankenweenie” shows more dedication towards depth.   So, you see more separation of the characters and objects with their surroundings.  This is not the kind of 3D that tries to reach out to you, but more of showing how characters and surround areas have depth.

The picture quality looks amazing with black levels dark, grays and whites are gorgeous and edges are refined.  There is no banding, no aliasing or artifacts, this is a gorgeous film with amazing detail and stop-motion animation, whether you are watching in 3D or not.

For the most part “Frankenweenie” is a gorgeous film on Blu-ray and its use of depth in 3D is quite impressive!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Disney doesn’t disappoint at all with the lossless soundtrack for “Frankenweenie”.  The film is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA and English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 7.1 DTS-HDHR and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language track.  The film is definitely immersive when it comes to the thunder and natural ambience of the film.  Especially with the dogs and cats, it’s great how the film captures those sounds of creatures to the talent show at school. Dialogue is crystal clear, surround channels showcase the ambiance of the film and LFE is utilized during different parts of the film.  The 7.1 lossless soundtrack for “Frankenweenie” is fantastic and the music by Danny Elfman also sounds wonderful in HD!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Frankenweenie” comes with the following special features:

  • All New Original Short: “Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers”—(2:25) An all-new short featuring Victor and Sparky’s home movie.
  • Miniatures In Motion: Bringing ‘Frankenweenie’ To Life”—(23:06) Viewers get an in-depth tour of the London set that includes never-before-seen footage showcasing the hundreds of artists who worked on the film.  Interviews with producer Allison Abbate, executive producer Don Hahn and fillmmaker Tim Burton.
  • “Frankenweenie” Touring Exhibit—(4:37) Producer Allison Abbate and Executive Producer Don Hahn along with director Tim Burton talks about how they wanted to showcase the puppets and sculptures and what best than a “Frankenweenie: Touring Exhibit” and footage of the exhibit at San Diego Comic-Con 2012.
  • “Frankenweenie” Original Live Action Short—(30:02) Burton’s original live-action black and white Disney short film created back in 1984 with talent Shelly Duvall, Daniel Stern, Barret Oliver, Paul Bartel, Sofia Coppola and Jason Hervey. (note: This is the same feature that was included with “Nightmare Before Christmas”).
  • Music Video — (3:55) “Pet Sematary” performed by Plain White T’s

EXTRAS:

“Frankenweenie – 4-Disc Combo Pack” comes with the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy of the feature film.  Also, included is an embossed slipcover case.

When it comes to Tim Burton films,  you generally expect to see a dark style to the characters.

From “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to “Corpse Bride” and now with “Frankenweenie”, the characters of “Frankenweenie” look creepy and odd.  The character of young Edgar is a hunchback with a gangly face with three teeth; Weird Girl (one of Victor’s classmates who thinks she can give psychic predictions of her cat, Mr. Whiskers), has a very tall neck and round head; Nassor looks like Boris Karloff; even Sparky the dog doesn’t look so cute with its scars and stitches all over its body.

But that’s the charm of Tim Burton animated films.  These films have their own style of animation and are unique for its own style that is never duplicated.  Imaginative, creative and entertaining!

While for some people, stop-animation makes one thing of a film such as the “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “Frankenweenie” is a different style of stop-animation film with gigantic monsters, wonderful models of human characters, vehicles and surroundings.  The amount of detail and the expressions that these characters have are wonderfully done and even the monsters are well-modeled.

And I’m sure for Tim Burton, just seeing how his original short film came to life with “Frankenweenie” must have felt great. His original short film made over 28-years-ago while he was working as an animator at Disney, was considered to macabre for a remake and Disney didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  Considering that Tim Burton films have been successful and for Disney, Burton gave the company its 12th highest earning film of all time, suffice to say, it’s great to see that Disney gave the green light for this film to be made.  But the idea of creating stop-motion began when Burton was a child and he would create stop motion via his Super 8.

While I felt the film was not too sentimental (as one usually expects from a Disney film), I try to remind myself that while its released by Disney, it’s a Tim Burton film and the film does a good job at stop-motion but also creating this world of weird looking characters within the confines of a Frankenstein world.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and 3D for this Blu-ray was wonderful.  Picture quality, the film shows a lot of detail and the film is sharp and well-contrast.  The 3D is not the type that will grab after you but in terms of depth, I was impressed with the overall depth of the 3D presentation.  Lossless soundtrack is very good thanks to Disney giving audiophiles that 7.1 lossless soundtrack.  Great ambience from crowd sounds to surround ambiance sounds great coming through the surround channels and also with the amount of action featured, there is also good LFE.  But dialogue and music is crystal clear!  And also included are several special features that will keep viewers busy for awhile.

And with this 4-disc combo pack, you get the film in Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and via digital copy.

While I have given many positives for “Frankenweenie”, especially when it comes to presentation and sound, if I found any problem with the film, its overall execution.  The plot is simplistic and the ending was also simplistic and quick.  I suppose that you expect to see some major climax or even a heightened tension for Tim Burton films but the way the film ended seemed a bit too quick for my taste.  But I’m sure that is subjective to the viewer.

Overall, “Frankenweenie” is an enjoyable, imaginative and creative film from Tim Burton and crew.  As a family film, it’s a safe film but younger viewers may be weirded out by the unusual look of the characters, while Burton fans will appreciate the look and creativity of this film.  Storywise, the film was good, just not great but fortunately, the Blu-ray release , its 3D and HD presentation along with its special features makes it a Blu-ray release worth owning.

“Frankenweenie – 4-Disc Combo Pack” is recommended!

The Aristocats (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Aristocats” is an easily accessible film for children and it’s not too long (at 78-minutes).  Safe, fun and a family film that will entertain generation after generation, “The Aristocats” is a classic Disney animated film that looks and sounds great in HD via Blu-ray.  For Disney collectors or parents wanting a fun family film, “The Aristocats” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: The Aristocats

MOVIE RELEASE DATE: 1970

DURATION: 78 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G

DVD RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2012

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

Story by Larry Clemons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Eric Cleworth, Julius Svendsen, Ralph Wright

Based on the Story by Tom Mcgowan and Tom Rowe

Produced by Winston Hibler, Wolfgang Reitherman

Music by George Bruns

Edited by Tom Acosta

Production Design by Ken Anderson

Featuring the Voices of:

Phil Harris as O’Malley

Eva Gabor as Duchess

Sterling Holloway as Roquefort

Scatman Crothers as Scat Cat

Paul Winchell as Chinese Cat

Lord Tim Hudson as English Cat

Vito Scotti as Italian Cat

Thurl Ravenscroft as Russian Cat

Dean Clark as Berlioz

Liz English as Marie

Gary Dubin as Toulouse

Nancy Kulp as Frou-Frou

Pat Buttram as Napoleon

George Lindsey as Lafayette

Monica Evans as Abigail

Carole Shelley as Amelia

The exciting tale takes place in the heart of Paris where a kind and eccentric millionairess, wills her entire estate to ‘Duchess,’ a high society cat, and her three kittens. When the bumbling butler Edgar tries to pull off the ultimate catnap caper in order to secure the fortune for himself, it’s up to alley cat Thomas O’Malley and his band of swingin’ jazz cats to save the day. “The Aristocats” features the voice talents of Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, Sterling Halloway and legendary French singer Maurice Chevalier, who performs the film’s titular opening song. The legendary Disney songwriting team of brothers, Richard and Robert Sherman, get the joint jumping with the jazz-inspired musical numbers “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat,” “Scales and Arpeggios,” and “Thomas O’Malley Cat.”

“The Aristocats”, one of Disney’s cute, fun, classic animated films that will no doubt entertaining generation after generation.

In 1970, the 20th Walt Disney Animated Classic was released in theaters.  The film, “The Aristocats”, would be known as the last film project that Walt Disney approved before his death in 1966 and a film that would feature Disney’s longtime legendary talent known as the  “Nine Old Men”.

Featuring talents such as Eva Gabor, singer Phil Harris and English actor Roddy Maude-Roxby, the film would be an enormous success that year. Budgeted at $4 million, “The Aristocats” would earn over $55 million in the box office.

And now, the classic Disney animated film will be released in HD for the first time on Blu-ray in August 2012.

“The Aristocats” is a film that is set in Paris 1910 and revolves around a mother cat named Duchess and her three kitten, Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse who live in the mansion of a retired opera singer named Madame Adelaide Bonfamille.

One day, she is expecting her lawyer Georges Hautecort to discuss her will.  Her plan is to leave her fortune to her cats until their deaths, and then her fortune will go to her English butler Edgar.

Edgar hears the conversation between Adelaide and Georges and immediately is disappointed that because cats live long lives, it will be too late for him to inherit Madame Bonfamille’s fortune.

So, he decides to take action by plotting to kill the cats, so he can get the full inheritance.

Edgar sedates the cats by putting sleeping pills in their food and then drives them off to the countryside where he plans to drown them in the water.  But while en route to the location where he will be killing the cats, he is greeted by two hound dogs named Napoleon and Lafayette and the dogs go after him.

This leads the basket of cats falling off the car into the countryside.  And now Duchess and her kittens are stranded in the countryside, knowing that they must get back to Paris.

And fortunately for the cats, they have an alley cat named Thomas O’Malley who knows the roads and agrees to guide her and the kittens to Paris.

And while the cats are returning back to Paris, the adventure leads them to many troubles.  But have no fear, O’Malley is there to watch over them and it leads to Duchess and O’Malley to getting close with one another.  For O’Malley, he would love for Duchess to marry him, but for Duchess, she feels that she and her children must return to Madame Bonfamille.

But as the Duchess and the kittens have taken a liking towards Thomas O’Malley and some of the kittens can see Thomas being a good father, will the Duchess stay with him or will she and the kittens return back to Madame Bonfamille?

VIDEO:

“The Aristocats” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  This is one of the classic Disney films to feature Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men” and has a unique style as the characters look as they are hand drawn, as the outlines of the pencil strokes can be seen on the cats.

The detailed and beautiful backgrounds also reflect a sketch style mostly evident indoors, but outdoors, it’s Disney magic as the backgrounds look fantastic!  These outdoor animated scenes are where you can see most of the detail and the vibrancy of the film.  While the film does seem like an older animated film in presentation with its hint of softness, this is the best version of “The Aristocats” that I have seen so far.

The picture quality is quite clean, there are no blemishes, artifacts or dust that I saw when I was watching the film.  Overall, I was impressed by how great this film looks on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Aristocats” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music-driven and thus more center/front channel. Dialogue and lossless audio is crystal clear with a little use of the surround channels but there is use of LFE (as it can be heard a bit clearly during the train sequence). But overall, the lossless soundtrack is good and I hear no pops or any audio problems during my viewing of the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Aristocats” comes with the following special features:

  • The Lost Open – (9:31) Richard Sherman talks about the deleted character Elvira and two deleted songs which are presented in this special feature.
  • “Oui Oui Marie” Music Video – (1:53) A modernized remix featuring little cat, Marie’s quotes.
  • Classic Deleted Song: “She Never Felt Alone” – (7:56) A featurette on how the Sherman Brothers came up with “She Never Felt Alone”.
  • The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs – (4:20) A featurette on the Sherman Brothers and their collaboration with Disney.
  • The Aristocats Scrapbook – A gallery of images from “The Aristocats”.
  • The Great Cat Family (Excerpt) – (12:51) An animated short on “The Great Cat Family”.  Original air date on Sept. 19, 1956.
  • Bonus Short: Bath Day – (6:39) An animated short featuring Figaro.
  • Play Movie with On-Screen Lyrics – Ability to have a karaoke-style singalong during the film (for music segments only).
  • Disney Song Selection – (10:44) Featuring the song selections for “The Aristocats”, “Scales and Arpeggios”, “Thomas O’Malley Cat”, “Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat”.
  • Disney Virtual Kitten – Adopt your own Virtual Kitty.  Featuring two mini games and your very own printable adoption license.
  • The Aristocats Fun with Language Game – Play along and learn the names and sounds of a variety of musical instruments.

EXTRAS:

“The Aristocats” comes with a slipcover case and a DVD version of both films.

When I first watched “The Aristocats” as a child, I think anyone who watched it, just felt the cats were so cute, especially hearing little Marie talk and sing or seeing oldest kitten, Toulouse trying to be a tough kitten, while little Berlioz is shy.   But for the most part, it’s a straightforward story about a cat and her kittens lost in the middle of nowhere, in the countryside outside of Paris.  And the hero, Thomas O’Malley willing to help Duchess and her kittens get back home.

But during the process through their adventures of returning home, Thomas and Duchess fall in love and even the kittens start to take a liking towards Thomas, as if he was their father.

“The Aristocats” is a fun, yet short animated film that families will love.  Granted, it is a little dark when you read that Edgard the Butler is trying to kill the cats, but the way it is presented in the film, it’s more comical and there is no scenes that show any violence.  If anything, Egard is quite inept, so aside from the cats falling off the car and being stranded in the countryside, there are no scenes of any abuse that parents need to worry about.

It’s a safe, straightforward family film that a new generation of fans or the young at heart can enjoy.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks absolutely wonderful in HD.  This is an older 1970 animated film and while there is a hint of softness which is appropriate for a film this old, the film also showcases a unique style to it.  From the heavy strokes outside of the characters and everything looking sketched but yet colorful and well-detailed when it comes to objects and scenery, “The Aristocats” looks great on Blu-ray and dialogue and music are crystal clear.  The Blu-ray release also features quite a few songs and featurette including a bonus animated short of “Bath Day”.

Also, included along with this Blu-ray release is a DVD version of the film, which is great for vacation time and parents wanting to keep their kids occupied at home or during a commute.

Overall, “The Aristocats” is an easily accessible film for children and it’s not too long (at 78-minutes).  Safe, fun and a family film that will entertain generation after generation, “The Aristocats” is a classic Disney animated film that looks and sounds great in HD via Blu-ray.  For Disney collectors or parents wanting a fun family film, “The Aristocats” is recommended!

Geek Charming (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s one thing to review “Geek Charming” and enjoying the film but when you add ten episodes of “Shake It Up” as extras to this DVD release (which is unheard of when it comes to Disney releases), all I can say is that “Geek Charming” fans are getting their money’s worth. A solid DVD release that is definitely recommended for Disney Channel fans!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Geek Charming

DURATION: 98 Minutes + 10 Episodes of “Shake It Up”

DVD INFORMATION: Full Screen, Dolby Digital – English Stereo, Closed Captions

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2012

Geek Charming

Directed by Jeffrey Hornaday

Screenplay by Hilary Galanoy, Elizabeth Hackett

Based on the Book by Robin Palmer

Executive Producer: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Paul E. Shapiro

Music by Nathan Wang

Cinematography by Robert Brinkmann

CAsting by Natalie Hart, Jason La Padura

Costume Design by Rebekka Sorensen

“Shake It Up”

Directed by Shelley Jensen, Joel Zwick, Eric Dean Seaton

Written by Chris Thompson, Rob Lotterstein, Eileen Conn, David Tolentino, John D. Beck, Ron Hart, Jenny Lee, Ron Zimmerman

Executive Producer: Frank Pace, Chris Thompson, Rob Lotterstein

Co-Executive Producer: Eileen Conn

Associate Producer: Steve Sandoval, Brenda Teague, Trevor Kirschner

Consulting Producer: Howard J. Morris, Ron Hart, Ron Zimmerman, John D. Beck

Music by Michael Corcoran, Eric Goldman, Zed Kelley

Cinematography by Bryan Hays

Edited by Kris Trexler, Kelly Sandefur

Casting by Howard Meltzer, Suzanne Goddard-Smythe

Production design by Greg Richman

Set Decoration by Daryn-Reid Goodall

Costume Dsign by Jessica Replansky

Cast of “Geek Charming”:

Sarah Hyland as Dylan Schoenfield

Matt Prokop as Josh Rosen

Sasha Pieterse as Amy Loubalu

Jimmy Bellinger as Steven

Jordan Nichols as Asher Dumetz

Vanessa Morgan as Hanna Mornell

Lili Simmons as Lola Leighton

David Del Rio as Ari

Andrew Airlie as Alan Schoenfield

David Milchard as Farley

Kacey Rohl as Caitlin

Andrea Brooks as Nicole Paterson

Brenda Crichlow as Nicole Paterson

Brenda Crichlow as Guthrie

Erica Van Biel as Amber

Cast of “Shake It Up”:

Bella Thorne as Cece Jones

Zendaya as Rocky Blue

Steve Monroe as Ralph

Davis Cleveland as Flynn Jones

Roshon Fegan as Ty Blue

Adam Irogoyen as Deuce

Kenton Duty as Gunther

Caroline Sunshine as Tinka

R. Brandon Johnson as Gary Wilde

When Dylan Schoenfield (Sarah Hyland), Woodlands Academy’s top girl, accidentally drops her expensive “it” handbag into the mall fountain, she is surprised that film geek, Josh Rosen (Matt Prokop), retrieves it for her. In exchange for rescuing her bag, Dylan must agree to be the subject of Josh’s documentary film. Dylan hopes the film will help her campaign for Blossom Queen – she claims that winning is her only life goal. Josh plans to make a hard-hitting expose about popularity, but, as he gets to know Dylan, he learns that the real Dylan is much more interesting than the persona she’s created. At the last minute, Josh decides that his film should introduce this awesome girl to the world, but how will Dylan react when she sees it?

It’s double the fun with Disney’s double DVD release of the 2011 Disney Channel Original Movie “Geek Charming” and 10 episodes of Disney Channel’s hit sitcom “Shake It Up”.

“Geek Charming” made its debut on November 11, 2011 and was watched by 4.9 million viewers, the fifth largest number for a cable show that entire week.  The film is an adaptation of Robin Palmer’s book “Geek Charming” and is directed by Jeffrey Hornaday (“Shout”, “Madonna: Ciao, Italia! Live from Italy”) and written by Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy.

The film stars Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) as Dylan Schoenfield, a rich, spoiled, self-centered and popular girl at Woodlands Academy.  She and her friends love sporting the latest fashion but also dislikes anything that isn’t cool.  Sarah’s goal is to become this year’s “Blossom Queen” and with her popularity, she hopes she can win!

One day, while Dylan and friends were going to eat lunch, film club president and fellow student Josh Rosen (played by Matt Prokop, “High School Musical 3: Senior Year”, “Furry Vengeance”) accidentally runs into her and needless to say, all three girls get food all over them.

Sarah cries out that popular people should not have to be in the same school as geeks.

Meanwhile, Josh is in a lot of pressure as he needs to submit his film/documentary for the school’s film festival.  After watching and observing Dylan, he decides to create a movie about the life of a popular girl and to explore if she’s actually that shallow of a person.

Dylan is delighted to be a star of a film but sees it as an opportunity for her to get more votes and be crowned Blossom Queen.

As the two try to make a film, Josh is turned off by her diva-attitude as they both fight over who’s move it is.  As Josh fires her, he eventually reconsiders when he finds out that Dylan had watched the sci-fi film “Flight of the Navigator”.

Despite Dylan feeling that popular girls and geeks can’t co-exist, like cats and dogs are too different, the two start spending more time each other while making the movie.  And that is when Josh starts to see the true Dylan, a teenager who is driven to win the “Blossom Queen” because her dead mother was also “Blossom Queen” back in high school.  She admits to Josh that she feels more of a connection to her mother when she accomplishes similar things that she did.  And being “Blossom Queen” makes her feel more connected to her mom.

But as she continues to film the movie, her popular boyfriend and her popular friends start to distance themselves away from her because she is spending more time with a “geek”.  Dylan feels so comfortable around Josh, but at the same time, she doesn’t want to lose her status as the most popular girl in school.

What will she do?

Disney’s “Shake It Up” is a sitcom which premiered back in November 2010 and was created by writer/producer Chris Thompson (“Laverne & Shirley”, “Bosom Buddies”, “The Larry Sanders Show”).

The film series focuses on two friends CeCe Jones (played by Bella Thorne, “My Own Worst Enemy”, “Dirty Sexy Money”, “Big Love”) and Rocky Blue (“Frenemies”), both are stars of a local show known as “Shake It Up Chicago” and somehow these two tend to get into a bit of trouble on and off the set.

Together with their friend Deuce Martinez (played by Adam Irogoyen), the three have big dreams of becoming professional dancers and with being hired on “Shake It Up, Chicago!”, they want to go big!  Meanwhile, CeCe’s little brother Flynn (played by Davis Cleveland) and his antics tend to get them into some trouble and are often in competition with brother and sister dance duo, Gunther (played by Kenton Duty) and Tinka (played by Caroline Sunshine).

A total of ten episodes (of the 21-episode first season) are included in the “Geek Charming” DVD release.

Included on this DVD are:

DISC 1:

  • Season 2, Episode 24A: A Shake It Up, Up and Away (Part 1) – CeCe and Rocky are touring but during a stop, CeCe and Rocky end up taking the wrong bus and the two including Flynn are stuck in Texas.
  • Season 2, Episode 24B: Shake It Up, Up and Away (Part 2)  – CeCe and Rocky agree on taking on a Texas performance but they find out their performance will take place in air.
  • Season 2, Episode 28: Double Pegasus It Up – CeCe and Rocky are excited that their idol, choreographer Theodore Vangorious  and creator of the dance move, the “Double Pegasus”, is a person that Deuce delivers pizza too.
  • Season 2, Episode 23: “Three’s a Crowd It Up” – A dancer named Julio comes to perform on “Shake It Up, Chicago!” and Rocky, CeCe and Tinka fall for him.

DISC 2:

  • Season 2, Episode 25: “Beam It Up” – Ricky and CeCe attend a Halloween party at the “Shake It Up, Chicago” and both CeCe and Rocky meet guys at the party.
  • Season 2, Episode 26: “Doctor It Up” – Rock’s father, Dr. Curtis Blue, returns from his trip overseas and is unhappy to find his daughter dancing on television.
  • Season 1, Episode 21: “Throw It Up” – CeCe and Rocky have the opportunity to perform a dance number with the English dance crew, “The Highlighters”.
  • Season 1, Episode 19: “Twist It Up” – CeCe and Rocky start a new dance craze and also start organizing Dina’s birthday party.
  • Season 1, Episode 10: “Match It Up” – Deuce and Savannah are in love but when Savannah finds someone who makes more money, she dumps him.
  • Season 1, Episode 6: “Age It Up” – Rocky and CeCe get the opportunity to dance with teen star, Justin Starr.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Geek Charming” is presented in widescreen 1:78:1 – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions and audio is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital.  The film looks good on DVD and considering it’s a newer film, picture quality is good especially since there are a good amount of outdoor scenes, and scenes are are well-lit.  Picture quality is also good for   “Shake It Up” which is comparable to the quality of series such as “Hannah Montana” and “Sonny with a Chance” and what one can expect from a DVD release.

Subtitles are presented in English sDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Geek Charming” comes with 10 episodes of “Shake It Up”.

“Geek Charming” is charming, heartwarming film, but be prepared to laugh but also shed some tears!

When I first began watching “Geek Charming”, the first thing that came into my mind was “is this another ‘Mean Girls’ type of film?”.   After all, the film focuses on a popular, self-centered girl who could care less about those who are not popular and her friends are the same.

But things start to change when the popular girl Dylan and the passionate film fan Josh (who Dylan thinks is a “geek”), decide to work together.  For Josh, he needs to submit a film before deadline and for Dylan, this is her chance to earn some points in order to become this year’s “Blossom Queen”.

The film is a high point in the career of “Modern Family” actress Sarah Hyland as it gives her the opportunity to play a character with a variety of emotions.  While in school, she does take the “popularity” diva-ish attitude to the extreme, it’s when she allows Josh into her life and he starts to discover that outside of school and her popular friends, she’s a kind, intelligent girl who wants to feel a connection with her mother that died years ago.

I enjoyed how the film transitioned from Dylan’s more obnoxious side to showing a more kinder and gentler person, and we see how she changes through her time spent with Josh, despite her thinking that popular people and geeks can’t get along.

But “Geek Charming” may seem like your typical banal teenage film, popular girl falls for geek guy and vice versa, but it’s how things come together for both people that I found heartwarming and endearing.

And as for the DVD release, this is what makes “Geek Charming” much more enticing and its the fact that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment included not one, not two but ten episodes of  Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up”.

I’ve been reviewing Disney video releases for a long time and you never get a DVD release which includes more than 2 bonus episodes, and the fact that you get ten episodes from season 1 and 2 of “Shake It Up”, definitely makes this DVD release even more enticing.

Granted, it would have been nice to have special features of some kind with the talent of the show but Disney made up for it by including these bonus episodes.

As for “Shake It Up”, it’s actually an interesting TV series.  Whereas “Hannah Montana” focused on a teenage pop star living two lives and hanging out with her best friend, “Shake It Up” features two dancers who dream of making it big!  And when both are cast for the local teenage dance show, we see the crazy antics that happen on and off camera. And similar to “Hannah Montana” which had Miley’s brother and Rico often being the clowns of the series with their crazy antics, “Shake It Up” has Ty Blue and Deuce who often get into trouble at the local pizza shop where they work at.

The episodes are fun, but also a bit farfetched as one episode features Cece and Rocky being strapped to an airplane while performing dance moves.    But at the same time, these episodes are full of humor and dancing that children will definitely enjoy this series.

Overall, it’s one thing to review “Geek Charming” and enjoying the film (as I do feel it is a good Disney Channel Original Movie) but when you add ten episodes of “Shake It Up” as extras, which is unheard of when it comes to Disney releases, all I can say is that “Geek Charming” fans are getting their money’s worth. Because this is a pretty solid DVD release.

Double the fun!  Disney’s “Geek Charming” + “Shake It Up” is a fun and exciting combination and a Disney DVD release worth recommending!


Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (a J!-ENT Children’s Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

An enjoyable holiday family film featuring the characters of the hit animated film “Beauty and the Beast”!  “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas”  is the midquel to the first film as Mrs. Potts reminds everyone of how Christmas was brought back to the castle.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 71 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Walt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: G

Release Date: November 29, 2011

Directed by Andrew Knight

Written by Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus, Bill Motz and Bob Roth

Produced by Susan Kapigian

Music by Rachel Portman

Edited by Daniel Lee

Production Design by Brad Graham

Art Direction by Julie Eberley, Clive Powsey

Starring:

Robby Benson as Beast

Paige O’Hara as Belle

Jerry Orbach as Lumiere

David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth

Bernadette Peters as Angelique

Tim Curry as Forte

Haley Joel Osment as Chip

Frank Welker as Phillippe

Jeff Bennett as Axe

Kath Soucie as Enchantress

Paul Reubens as Fife

Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts

Celebrate the most magical time of the year with this Special Edition of the irresistible holiday movie inspired by Disney’s beloved classic. For the first time in spectacular Blu-ray High Definition this captivating gem reunites the original voice cast!

Share the wonder as Mrs. Potts recounts another “tale as old as time” about a Christmas past that almost wasn’t – thanks to the scheming of former court composer Forte, who is determined to keep Belle and Beast apart forever.

This enchanting adventure boasts exciting bonus features, delightful songs, spellbinding visuals and enduring themes of hope, friendship and love. Your family will enjoy the spirit of the season all year long with the timeless magic of Beauty and The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.

In 1991, Walt Disney Animation Studios debuted their 30th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics line and the film would achieve commercial success as it earned over $377 million worldwide and was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the film also received six Academy Award nominations, winning an award for “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song”.

And to capitalize on the success of the film, Disney would release the two midquel’s of the “Beauty and the Beast” trilogy: “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” (1997) and “Belle’s Magical World” (1998).  The films would take place when Belle was being held inside the mansion of the beast and both trying to get to know each other.

For “The Enchanted Christmas”, Belle and Prince Adam are throwing a Christmas party in the castle for the local villagers.

Lumiere and Cogsworth get into an argument of who brought Christmas back to the castle, and in order to settle the squabble, Mrs. Potts explains the true story behind Christmas’ return to the castle.

During the flashback, the story takes place after Beast saved Belle from a wolf pack.  As Belle is excited about Christmas, the castle servants tell Belle that Christmas is not allowed in the Castle as the Beast has forbidden it.

But Belle decides to throw Christmas in the castle and when she along with Lumiere and Chip go to the castle attic, they meet Angelique, one of Lumiere’s previous lovers who is against Christmas being reintroduced to the castle.  We learn that the Beast hates Christmas because the curse that turned the Prince into a Beast happened on the day of Christmas.

But despite the Beast being against Christmas, Belle continues to do all she can to bring Christmas to the castle against the Beast’s wishes.

What will happen when the Beast finds out that Belle has been planning Christmas in the castle behind his back?

VIDEO:

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1:78:1).  For a direct-to-video “Beauty and the Beast” midquel, the production was obviously higher budget with the use of CG.  Even the animation is much more fluid, colors are more vibrant, more detail and shadowing are utilized in “The Enchanted Christmas” and utilizes CG similar to the original animated film.

I saw no artifacts, no white specks and scratches.  For the most part, picture quality is very good considering this is a direct-to-video release and it being released in 1997.  It’s unfortunate that this quality didn’t transfer over to the third film in the trilogy “Belle’s Magical World”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital French and Spanish language tracks.  Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

This film is primarily dialogue and musical driven and the audio comes clear through the center and front channels and music also is utilized through the surround channels.  There are some mild action sequences, especially towards the end of the film which does utilize the surround channels but for the most part, this is a dialogue and music driven soundtrack.

Subtitle are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” comes with the following special features:

  • Disney’s Sing Me a Story With Belle: “Stick To It (Don’t Give Up)” - (22:54) A hybrid live/animated short feature featuring a non-animated Belle with cuts of animated and puppet-based characters.  Belle inspires children to keep trying and never give up.
  • Disney’s Sing-Along-Mode – While watching the film, you can sing-along with the film (ala Karaoke style) during the musical portion of the film.
  • Disney’s Song Selection - Select you favorite song from the film to sing-along to.
  • Behind the Scenes Featurette - (15:48) The making of “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas”.  While watching the featurette,  when a Mickey symbol shows up during the featurette, it will show additional information about the film.
  • Music Videos: “As Long as There’s Christmas” - (3:20) Featuring a music video of “As Long as There’s Christmas” by Play.
  • Enchanted Environment - Bring the castle’s crackling fireplace into your home.
EXTRAS:
“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” comes with a slipcover case plus a DVD presented in widecreen (1:78:1), 5.1 Dolby Digital English, French and Spanish with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

Enchanting and an entertaining continuation to the “Beauty and the Beast” animated film.  “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is a wonderful family film for the holidays featuring the fun and vibrant characters of Disney’s popular animated film.

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is the midquel to the popular animated film and an answer to the many fans who have wanted to see Belle and the Beast once again!  It is no surprise that the film would receive a sequel or midquel as the original film literally made over $300 million in the box office, especially considering the original film only cost $25 million to make.  So, it was great to see “The Enchanted Christmas” made but also to incorporate the beautiful painted backgrounds, the vibrant colorful characters, wonderful animation including the CG animation that made the animated film so enjoyable, but incorporating it to the direct-to-video film.

“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is a holiday film that brings the cast back together again and one of the enjoyable moments of this film is that we get to see how happy everyone as humans (post-spell) and seeing how Belle and the Prince are so happy together, but also a story that shows what happened during the Holidays when Belle was still being held captive inside the castle and seeing how she was able to bring Christmas back into the castle despite the Beast being against it (as he was turned into a beast on Christmas day).

A big question is if one should upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray.  I would say yes, only if you are a big fan of the film.  The Blu-ray definitely brings out the colors of the animated film, especially the detail.  Everything looks much more clearer and the banding issues that were on the DVD aren’t in the Blu-ray version.  The Blu-ray version of “The Enchanted Christmas” looks very good and to hear the soundtrack via lossless is also another plus.  If anything, the film looks and sounds great in HD and is definitely worth the upgrade.

Overall, “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted” Christmas is a wonderful holiday film for the entire family.  And because it comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD, parents or grandparents can definitely benefit from watching this film via a long holiday commute or keeping the young one’s occupied during the Winter break.

But if you are a “Beauty and the Beast” fan and looking for an enjoyable family Holiday film, “The Enchanted Christmas” is for you!

Toy Story 3: 4-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Magnificent!  “Toy Story 3″ is everything you can ask for in a Blu-ray release… Perfection in every category…picture quality, audio quality and loaded with special features.  A five-star release!

Images courtesy of © Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Toy Story 3: Special Edition

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 DTS Master Audio, French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English 2.0 DVS, Subtitles: English SDH, French & Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Pixar/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (General Audiences)

RELEASE DATE: November 3, 2010

Directed by Lee Unkrich

Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Standton, Lee Unkrich

Screenplay by Michael Arndt

Executive Produced by John Lasseter

Produced by Darla K. Anderson

Music by Randy Newman

Casting by Natalie Lyon, Kevin Reher

Featuring the Voices of:

Tom Hanks as Woody

Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear

Joan Cusack as Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl

Ned Beatty as Lotso

Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head

Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head

Blake Clark as Slinky Dog

Wallace Shawn as Rex the Green Dinosaur

John Ratzenberger as Hamm the Piggy Bank

Annie Potts as Bo Peep

John Morris as Andy

Michael Keaton as Ken

Jodi Benson as Barbie

Emily Hahn as Bonnie

Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s Mom

Bud Luckey as Chuckles

Beatrice Miller as Molly

Javier Fernandez Pena as Spanish Buzz

Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants

Lori Alan as Bonnie’s Mom

Charlie Bright as Young Andy

Kristen Schaal as Trixie

Jeff Garlin as Buttercup

Bonnie Hunt as Dolly

Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch

Toy Story 3 marks Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich’s feature directorial debut and the return of Pixar’s favorite composer Randy Newman, with the addition of Academy Award®-winner Michael Arndt’s (Little Miss Sunshine) compelling original screenplay. Tom Hanks (Angels & Demons), Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Joan Cusack (Confessions of a Shopaholic), John Ratzenberger (Up) and Don Rickles (Toy Story 2) reprise their roles as the voices of the iconic characters Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head, respectively, and are joined by new characters voiced by Michael Keaton (Herbie Fully Loaded) as Barbie’s romantic foil Ken, Timothy Dalton (Hot Fuzz) as the thespian hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants, and Ned Beatty (Rudy) as the cuddly Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, among many others, as the toys face a new adventure as Andy prepares to go off to college.


“Toy Story”, the film that would earn animation company Pixar Animation Studios the reputation of being the finest animation studio in the world and would literally bring Walt Disney Studios to enter new generation of animated films created entirely in CGI but also would earn the love and praise not only from the critics but the fans who wanted more and more.

Released in 1995 and budgeted at $30 million, the first film would go on to make $351 million worldwide (and still making money with the recent Blu-ray release).

In November 1999, the sequel “Toy Story 2″ was released in theaters and the $90 million dollar film like its predecessor did extremely well in the domestic and worldwide box office making over $485 million.

But it has been more than a decade since the release of a “Toy Story” film and 15 years since the first film, fans have been clamoring for a new “Toy Story” film and sure enough, Disney/Pixar released the third and final film of the trilogy, “Toy Story 3″ in June 2010 and not only did it surpass the box office returns of the first two films combined, earning over 1 billion dollars, the second Disney film to earn over a billion after “Alice in Wonderland” (also released in 2010).

“Toy Story 3″ literally shattered box office records and became the 5th highest grossing film of all time worldwide and the 9th highest grossing film in the US (and obviously the highest grossing film of 2010) and is an ultimate success for Disney/Pixar.

“Toy Story 3″ begins with a young Andy playing with his toys in one of the adventures with Woody, Buzz, Jesse and friends.  And his mother shoots him on video and we see how Andy has grown up and used to play with his toys all the time.

But that was then.

Now, Andy is a 17-year-old preparing to leave college.  He has since outgrown his toys and keeps them in his toy trunk.  Woody and friends come up with one final plan for Andy to play with them before he goes to college but the plan doesn’t work.  Woody tries to keep everyone optimistic that perhaps when they travel with Woody to college and when he gets married, his own children will play with the toys.  If anything, Buzz mostly cares that everyone stays together no matter what.

But as he plans to leave for college and his sister will be moving to his bedroom, he needs to separate what is going with him to college, what is going to the attic, what toys will be donated to Sunnyside Daycare and what is going in the trash.  Of course, Woody tries to keep them optimistic that Andy would never throw them away but when he grabs all the toys and puts them in the trash bag and Woody is the only one to be put in the box for college, the toys start to worry that they will be separated.

But as Woody watches Andy, he learns that Andy plans to put them in the attic but as he goes to help his sister carry her toys that she will be sending to Sunnyside Daycare, he leaves the trash bag with his toys on the ground and his mother mistakes it for toys that Andy wants to trash.

Andy’s mother puts his toys to the curb to be trashed and Woody immediately goes to rescue them but with quick thinking, Buzz and friends manage to escape just fine and hop into the box that Andy’s sister was donating and are headed to Sunnyside Day care.  As Woody tries to explain to them that it was a mistake, it is too late and Buzz, Jesse and friends are on their way to the daycare and feel that they rather go to a place where they will be played with instead of being stuck in an attic.

And immediately, the group are excited about their new home as they see many toys all around.  Could this be a toyland where toys can live and be happy?  Meanwhile, Barbie finds herself attracted to Ken (and vice versa) and the group learns that the toy that is responsible for making the decisions at the day care is Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear (aka “Lotso”), who tells them of how great a place Sunnyside Daycare is.  As Woody finds his way to the Daycare and tries to have all his friends come home with him, unfortunately, they feel that their place is at the Daycare where they know they will be played with.

As Buzz and the group are excited about their new home, they anxiously await to be played with by the children.  But they soon learn that the room they are staying at is a daycare class for the very young children who don’t care about the toys and do whatever with them (including destroy them).  As for Woody,  seeing that no one wanted to leave with him, now he must find a way back home from the Daycare and it’s not going to be easy.  But fortunately he is found by a young girl from the daycare named Bonnie who takes him home.

At the daycare, Buzz and the group realized that Sunnyside Daycare is not what they expected and at this rate, they will be abused, tortured or destroyed.  So, the group decides that they want to be transferred to a new room with older kids and as Buzz goes to to talk to Lotso about transferring them, they are caught by the toys of Sunnyside and brought to Lotso.

As Lotso hears Buzz out, he agrees to accept Buzz as part of his team but not the others.  Buzz refuses to leave the others behind and seeing how dark and cold Lotso is, he tries to escape but in the end, he is captured and his memory is reset and now, Buzz is back to his original space ranger mode.

Woody learns from the other toys (who were rescued by Bonnie at the daycare) that Sunnyside is actually a toy prison that is run by Lotso who is ruthless and has no sympathy towards the other toys because his original owner had lost and replaced him.  And thus, he has run Sunnyside Daycare with an iron fist.  And now, Woody knows he must rescue his friends.

As for his friends, they try to escape from the Daycare but are caught by Lotto’s henchman including the newly reset Buzz Lightyear and are imprisoned.

Will Buzz be able to get back into Sunnyside Daycare and rescue his friends and return back to Andy’s home?

VIDEO:

When I watched “Toy Story 1″ and “Toy Story 2″, I easily noticed how CGI had improved between 1995 and 1999, especially with how fabric started to show more detail and we started to see more of a surface to Mr. Potato Head and T-Rex.

But “Toy Story 3″, eleven years later, you would expect CGI to take a dramatic leap forward and needless to say, “Toy Story 3″ is visually impressive.

Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), the first thing you notice with “Toy Story 3″ are the vibrant colors and then overall detail.  Everything shows detail and as we learn from this Blu-ray release, the animators wanted to make sure that the characters themselves do not look like toys, that they wanted to make sure the characters and toys are distinguished and the animators succeeded in every way possible.

Mr. Potato Head, you literally see the surface like the actual toy, down to its seams.  Look at the hardwood floors in Andy’s room, so much detail on the floor that it looks realistic, even some outdoor scenes look photorealistic (especially the animation and CG shown during Lotso’s past, wow!).  And the fabric of the clothing, you can see the threading, the weaves and how much detail went into the clothing. One scene with the monkey, it looks like a stuffed monkey with its detail, the detail of it’s clothing and scary eyes, these models look fantastic!  Also, see the dirt and grime on the animals, that was awesome how they captured that in the film.

The hair even was well-done, the wear and tear that the toys go through at Sunnyside Daycare is evident through the nicks and scratches and also looking at Andy’s trunk and seeing the little chips on the trunk to the paint and we can see the brush strokes on the walls, “Toy Story 3″ just looks magnificent on Blu-ray and I don’t see how any videophile can say anything negative about how this film looks on Blu-ray.

And facial expressions of the human characters such as Andy, his sister, his mother to Bonnie, these were well-animated and rendered.

I did notice some banding but times I did see it were short.  For example, when Woody is back at Sunnyside, he is holding the red phone receiver and the banding is evident in that one scene but again, the scenes you do see it are seconds long and does not distract you from how fantastic this film looks.

This is the best looking Disney/Pixar film to date!  Vibrant, detailed and everything about the picture quality is going to make videophiles swoon!  It’s that impressive and easily a reference quality Blu-ray release for picture quality!

As for the accompanying DVD, the DVD is presented in Widescreen (1:78:1).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Toy Story 3 ” is presented in English 7.1 DTS Master Audio and English 5.1 DTS Master Audio.  Also, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital EX is included as well as English 2.0 DVS.

All I can say is that “Toy Story 3″ sounds magnificent.  The first action scenes that startoff the film will show you how awesome this film sounds in lossless.  From Mrs. Potato Head’s voice coming from the surround channels, sounds coming from the rear surround channels, LFE being utilized for the evil Dr. Porkchop’s laser beam or when Mr. Potato Head has Slinky Dog turn on its force field and Jesse calling on T-Rex, this is just impressive to hear the sound coming from all channels.

Dialogue is crystal clear and music is just as clear!  And you then hear how the sound is utilized during the children’s rush to get the toys as they slam them all over the place, the garbage dump as everything is being compacted and you can hear flames pattering, the garbage truck coming from the distance, tiny footstep sounds throughout the room… really, there are so many sounds that are well-utilized throughout this film, it’s very impressive!  Sure, the film is not 100% action-based but action and non-action scenes, the film sounds fantastic on Blu-ray and I didn’t even notice a lot of these sounds at the theater when I watched this film this past summer.

So, you really experience a  great, immersive soundscape with “Toy Story 3″ from all channels, especially via LFE. Not only is picture quality hitting the high marks for reference quality, the lossless audio is just as magnificent and audiophiles should be happy with this Blu-ray release as well!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.  For the special features, some extras have other subtitles included.

As for the accompanying DVD, the DVD is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and 2.0 DVS.  Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Toy Story 3″ includes the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Day and Night Theatrical Short – (5:58) The Day and Night short animated film that was shown before “Toy Story 3″ in theaters.
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure – (4:25) Buzz teaches Hamm and T-Rex about space and people working in space to benefit science on Earth.
  • Toys! - (6:38) The crew guess of how many toys are in this film.  And also an introduction of the new toy characters in “Toy Story 3″.

DISC 2:

  • The Gang’s All Here – (10:46)  The voice talent and crew of “Toy Story 3″ reflect on the past and present and working on “Toy Story 3″ and reuniting with everyone and also bringing in new voice talent/characters.
  • Goodbye Andy – (8:02) A featurette about John Morris reprising his role as Andy and information on the animation and storyboarding of those Andy scenes.
  • Accidental Toymakers – (3:56) A story of how most toy manufacturers never wanted to take on “Toy Story” in the past and how the toys became a mega hit for a small toy company (Thinkway Toys) and the plans for making the toys for “Toy Story 3″.
  • A Toy’s Eye View: Creating a Whole New Land – (5:14) A featurette on bringing the “Toy Story” characters to the Disney theme parks and creating a new “Toy Story” land for the Disney theme park in Paris.
  • Epilogue – (4:23) The final epilogue from the film.
  • Cinexplore - (1:42:30) While watching the film, you get a picture-in-picture screen featuring the storyboard sketches, concept art and CG models with commentary by director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson.
  • Beyond the Toybox – (1:42:30) An alternative commentary track the Supervising Animators, Supervising Technical Director, Production Designer and Stor Supervisor of “Toy Story 3″.  Featuring leads from story, tech, art and animation.
  • Roundin’ Up a Western Opening - (5:42) A featurette about how the western opening was developed and what the original conception was for the film and how it changed in the final cut.  Also, how to reintroduce the characters and making the introduction action-packed.
  • Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story’s Roundtable – (6:26) A roundtable with director Lee Unkrich and crew in a roundtable and creating the Bonnie scene and the challenges they faced and the goals they wanted to accomplish.
  • Beginnings: Setting a Story In Motion – (8:13) An animated featurette on creating a script from scratch by “Toy Story 3″ screenwriter Michael Arndt and doing it the Pixar way.
  • Life of a Shot – (6:57) Producer Darla K. Anderson talks about modeling and how hundreds of people worked in this film and showcases various staff talking about colors, sets, painting, styling, animating, effects, shot lighting, music and more for “Toy Story 3″.
  • Making of Day & Night – (2:00) The creation of the “Day and Night” short animated film (which was screened right before “Toy Story 3″ in theaters).
  • Paths of Pixar – Editorial – (4:38) Featuring the editing staff at Pixar and what their jobs were in “Toy Story 3″.  From the story, cutting, adding and the various work done in the editing department and the various jobs by the editor and the control in filmmaking that they have and communicating with the director.  Also, learning how the staff began in their job and more.
  • Studio Stories: Where’s Gordon – (2:16) A story by a man named Gordon talking about working at Pixar and discovering a secret room (in which one must crawl through a vent to get through) and how that room became a party room at Pixar.
  • Studio Stories: Cereal Bar – (1:36) Life at Pixar and having a cereal bar at work and why cereal is important at Pixar.
  • Studio Stories: Clean Start -(3:05)  The crazy things that staff did near the final stages of “Toy Story 3″.
  • Toy Story Trivia Dash – A trivia based game featuring questions from  “Toy Story 3″ or “Toy Story 1-3″.  You only have a certain amount of time to answer and you use your number pad on your Blu-ray remote (or PC) to choose the correct answer.
  • Grab Bag – (4:00) Various publicity clips of the “Toy Story 3″ characters in how would “Toy Story 3″ would be in 3D?”.
  • Ken’s Dating Tips – (1:30) Short publicity clips for “Toy Story 3″ featuring Ken giving dating clips.
  • Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear Commercial 1 – (:30) A “Toy Story 3″ viral ad l featuring Lotso in a ’80s style toy commercial.
  • Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear Commercial 2 – (:30) A Japanese ’80s style toy commercial (viral ad) featuring Lotso.
  • Making of the Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear Commercials – (1:28) The making of the 1983 Lotso commercials and challenges they had in making the commercial.
  • Internet Chat - (1:00) A “Toy Story 3″ commercial featuring Buzz and friends using Internet chat.
  • Security Cam – (1:12) A “Toy Story 3″ commercial ala security camera.
  • Gadgets – (:58) A “Toy Story 3″ car commercial featuring the previous and new characters.
  • “Dancing with the Stars” at Pixar – (2:21)  A featurette on how the crew at “Toy Story 3″ worked with “Dancing with the Stars” dancers Cheryl Burke and Tony Dovolani for the dancing scenes.
  • TS3 Silence Trailer - (:40) A commercial promoting silence when watching “Toy Story 3″.
  • TS3 Antipiracy Trailer - (1:04) An anti-piracy trailer.
  • TS3 Teaser Trailer – (1:44)  The “Toy Story 3″ teaster trailer.
  • TS3 Trailer 2 – (2:21) “Toy Story 3″ theatrical trailer #2
  • TS3 Trailer 3 - (2:30) “Toy story 3″ theatrical trailer #3
  • TS3 Japan Teaser Trailer 1 – (1:02) Japanese teaser trailer (with English subtitles)
  • TS3 Japan Trailer 2 - (2:44) Japanese theatrical trailer (with English subtitles)
  • Character Intros – (2:00) Featuring several commercials promoting the new characters of “Toy Story 3″.
  • Poster Gallery – Using your remote, you can cycle through the various posters of “Toy Story 3″.

EXTRA:

Included in the “Toy Story 3: 4-Disc Combo Pack” is a DVD version of the film and a digital copy of the film.  The digital copy of the feature film works with iTunes and Windows Media Player.  Also, a slip over cover comes with this Blu-ray release.

I’m sure that “Toy Story 3″ hit people a lot harder emotionally than some viewers.  Some look at it as the next level of wonderful CGI graphics for Disney/Pixar animated films, others look at the film as another successful film for the studio but I’m going to go even farther and say that this film caught my attention, not because I grew up with the previous two films but the fact is that like the character of Andy, during my late teens, it was time to say goodbye to all the toys that I once owned.

Memories of having friends overnight to play with these toys, memories of opening the old department store catalogs and hoping my grandparents would get me the latest toy that I picked out and then to open it in Christmas morning.  Suffice to say, when it came to my toys… I was very fortunate to have such a memorable time playing with them and having caring family to help support that habit.  But unlike Andy, I did not have the moment to say goodbye, it was more like, turn 16 and my parents made the conscious decision to throw out all my toys and force me to sell all my comic books and prepare for graduation and SAT tests and so forth.

Needless to say, it was not necessarily a traumatic moment but it was a defining moment…OK, who am I kidding, it was one of the saddest moments in my life.

So, “Toy Story 3″ for me, was just a magnificent film that took me back to those old days of playing in my room and like Andy, having these wild adventures that I could conjure in my head and sooner or later, we grow older, become interested in different things and sooner or later, we say goodbye and prepare for our next stage in our lives as young adults.

I watched this film knowing that it was going to be successful and along with my wife, my son and my nephew, watched it in 3D the first day it came to theater.  But watching it on Blu-ray, without the usual audience distractions, my experience this time around was heightened.  Watching “Toy Story 3″ in 1080p, I was amazed by how vibrant the film looked, how much detail was showcased.  From the little tears in Andy’s toy chest, the clothing of the characters, the dirt and grime on the toys, the wonderful lossless audio and then for me to watch the special features in three days because there are a good number of them included, I can’t help but feel that this is truly a perfect release.

Yes, I am sure the videophiles will say there was banding on the picture quality but those banding moments were few and were short.  Really, everything you love about the film, you get that and more in the “Toy Story 3: 4-Disc Combo Pack”. It’s important for people to know that if you don’t need the accompanying DVD or the digital copy, you can also purchase the Blu-ray two-disc version as well.

Personally, I can’t find one significant flaw with this Blu-ray release.  There is something for everyone in this release, may you be a fan of the film, a person wanting to learn about the animation business and learn from the awesome team at Pixar, there is just so much to love about this release that it’s definitely one of the top 10 Blu-ray releases of 2010 and that is pretty tough as this year alone had many significant releases, especially coming from Disney.  If anything, Walt Disney continues to raise the bar for its Blu-ray releases and I suppose since this is finale farewell for the “Toy Story” series (which I would imagine is not set in stone because “Toy Story” made an insane amount of money for Disney and “Toy Story 3″ made over a billion dollars worldwide, I just can’t see this being a 100% final farewell), they had to go out with a bang for this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Toy Story 3″ is a film in which Pixar continues to their reign of innovation, their mark on quality of beautifully animated films and a well-written storyline that just pulls you in.  The Blu-ray release is not just for those who love “Toy Story 3″ but for those who loved the “Toy Story” trilogy.  If you loved the first two films, then this is a no-brainer, this is a must-buy release.

“Toy Story 3: 4-Disc Combo Pack” is magnificent and is a true 5-star release!  Highly recommended!

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