Thursday, May 31, 2012

John Carter Blu-ray Review

If ever there was a movie that likely has the Walt Disney Company disappointed in returns it is John Carter. In Episode 64 of our podcast we discussed not only the movie, but that the marketing for the movie focused on the wrong things, which did not help the movie’s success.  Sure not every movie is successful, but a movie that is advertised to the degree of John Carter usually does much better than shown at Box Office Mojo.  

For my last few Blu-ray reviews I felt that Disney simply wasn’t using the Blu-ray platform to its fullest. So when Disney offered me a review copy of John Carter, I jumped at it.  Done right, this disc would help Disney achieve a larger return for the movie, so it needed to be good.  It needed to stand out and bring something new to the table.

When the Blu-ray first starts up you are presented with a choice of language  English, English Descriptive Video Service, French, or Spanish.  These are the same language choices presented on the Set Up menu which can be reached from the Main Menu.  You can also later choose to enable subtitles that are English, French, or Spanish.  Once you choose the language you are presented with an ad for Disney Studio All Access, as well as trailers for Avengers and Frankenweenie.

The visual on the Main Menu is actually quite good.  It’s the map of all the research done by the John Carter character in his later years connected by red yarn tying it all together as seen in the movie.  And you jump from fact to fact, following a thread of yarn.  I thought this was clever, and really wanted to read those facts.  I later discovered that this disc has two features that are Second Screen enabled.  The first is the ability to watch the movie using Second Screen, however the second is the ability to be able to “Explore John Carter’s Journal”. This is a genius feature to add to the disc, and I look forward to trying it once the Second Screen app is released.

There are also several other bonus features, including some deleted and modified scenes as well as the original opening sequence that was later broken out across the movie.  Edgar Rice Burroughs fans will enjoy the “100 Years in the Making” which tells the story of both Burroughs himself and of how the movie came to be.  The bloopers reel is cute, but not laugh-out-loud funny.  You can also watch the movie with audio commentary by Director Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins.

For those who don’t know a lot of what occurs on a production set, there is a feature called “360 Degrees of John Carter” which covers production on a day they shot scenes for the battle in the “Palace of Light”.  Some of the cooler stuff you’ll get to see is Willem Dafoe acting on stilts where he passes along his feelings that no matter what the end result will be, even if digitally replaced, you give the role your best.  There’s also a lot of detail about intricate detail of the tattoos in the movie that some might really enjoy.

The John Carter Blu-ray release brings it to bear.  Combined with Second Screen there are, in English, 4 different ways to watch this movie.  As well as plenty of additional content to keep any fan engaged.  There is a lot to enjoy on this Blu-ray, and you can really see that despite that this movie was unsuccessful at the box office, it has a good chance of helping to make up for that in the home market.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Princess Diaries & Princess Diaries 2 10th Anniversary Blu-Ray Review

Previously the Disney Film project podcast learned how to throw down like a princess when they reviewed The Princess Diaries back in Episode 31, and more recently they traveled to Genovia to review The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement in Episode 72.  These movies tell the story of a your girl named Mia and her transformation from a awkward teenage girl into the Princess and then Queen of the country of Genovia.  The movies star Anne Hathaway as Mia and Disney Legend Julie Andrews as her grandmother, the Queen.

Recently Disney provided me with a preview of the 10th Anniversary Blu-ray release set of both movies to review.  I was pretty excited to be getting this set, considering it being a 10th Anniversary edition, and its tie in with the Julie Andrews and Disney hosting National Princess Week back in April.  After all, there’s a lot of opportunity to be had, considering that even with both movies on the Blu-ray, there’s plenty of space left for extras.

Unfortunately the opportunity was missed.  There were not even any Trailers for other movies on this release, not even on insertion of the Blu-ray disc into my player.  You simply arrive at the Main Menu, which shows just a few quick scenes from the movie.  The movies come with 3 audio and subtitle tracks: English, French, and Spanish.  And scene selection is mismatched, with 27 selectable scenes in The Princess Diaries, but only 12 for Princess Diaries 2 - which is not a divergence from either DVD release.  Playing the movie is fairly straightforward as well, with no special pausing features outside of scene selection.

The only actual bonus features on the Blu-ray are a series of outtakes and bloopers for both movies which had appeared on the DVD releases.  Gone are the other DVD extras that filled those releases like Deleted Scenes, music videos, audio commentary by Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway, etc.

It’s a shame that more wasn’t done with the opportunity presented by this release.  After all there could have been a better tie in with National Princess Week instead of the two seeming like separate events, additional commentaries, etc.  The quality of the movies themselves is great, and really the only reason to get this Blu-ray update.  Fans may want to hang onto the DVD copies or they’ll lose all the DVD extras as effectively these are just remastered versions of the movies on DVD, with no additions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 73 - Star Wars Weekends Vacation

This week the DFPP team heads to Orlando for a hard earned vacation together during Star Wars Weekends join them as they discuss some of the movie related attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Review of The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray Release

Listeners to the Disney Film Project Podcast might recall that we talked about the movie The Secret World of Arrietty in Episode 60.  It was originally released under the title “The Borrower Arrietty” in Japan by Studio Ghibli and is based on the book “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton.  Without a doubt the movie is one of the most visually stunning hand drawn animation pieces to be released in a number of years.

So it goes without question that I was excited to receive a review copy of the Blu-ray release of the movie to see what sort of fun might be found within.  Knowing full well that The Muppets Blu-ray release, which was exceptional in its features, would be a hard act to follow.  And while there’s nothing really outright wrong with The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray release it does have a very DVD feel to it, and doesn’t take full advantage of the Blu-ray platform.

Inserting the Blu-ray, you are immediately presented with a Disney All Rewards Access advertisement.  This is intended to be Disney’s future answer to Netflix, and some features are already available through Disney Movie Rewards online movie access features.  However I feel that this add, while well done visually is not really good at explaining what the service is, or rather, will be.  This ad is followed by a Brave preview and then another about the Cinderella Blu-ray Diamond Edition release.

After that you reach the Main Menu, and I was sort of disappointed with this feature.  As I implied above it was very old school and could have been more spiced up.  The moving images really screamed a need for interactivity.  The “Play Movie” choice starts the movie from either the start or where you left off.  Like many Blu-ray releases there is a pause feature, this one allows you to jump between the 12 scenes in a manner similar to that presented in the “Scene Selection” menu item.  Using the “Set Up” menu, you can pick from 3 audio languages: English, French, and Japanese.  Also available are subtitles for English, English for the hearing impaired, and French.

There are a number of Sneak Peeks available on this Blu-ray that can be watched from the “Sneak Peeks” menu.  These include the 3 startup advertisements (with slightly different interstitials) as well as an ad for Disney Movie Rewards.  Followed by Austin & Ally, Secret of the Wings, Planes (where you can clearly see the infamous 113 on a plane), the Blu-ray release of Aristocats, and something I’m super excited for: the 35th Anniversary edition of The Rescuers on Blu-ray which will also include The Rescuers Down Under.

The most interesting of the “Bonus Features” on the Blu-ray is the ability to watch the entire movie, not as an animated feature but rather using the original storyboards combined with the full audio track.  Admittedly this is not something for everyone, but the bit I did watch sold me on the idea completely.  Next up are a series of Trailers & TV Spots all of which are Japanese versions with English subtitles.  And there are a lot of them, shifting between different versions of “Arrietty’s Song” and various storm noises.  I was very jealous of the offering in Japanese markets of a free mini-book if you bought advance tickets.

The Blu-ray offers you to view the music video for Cécile Corbel’s “Arrietty’s Song”.  This song is a very haunting melody and really isn’t for everyone, but it really speaks to me personally.  I think this is why Disney Channel star Bridgit Mendler was asked to do the song “Summertime” and why they also include this music video on the Blu-ray as well.  It’s a very simple music video that has Mendler walking around at the size of a Borrower.  If you’re interested in knowing how the “Summertime” music video was made there is a clip that had been on Disney Channel that has Mendler talking about how it was made.

Overall, if you’re a Studio Ghibli fan who hasn’t seen this film, or, like me, really love the visual appeal of The Secret of World Arrietty, then this Blu-ray is for you.  If you like to play with new and nifty special features of a Blu-ray I can only recommend trying to watch the movie in sketch form.  Otherwise there are no stand-out features on this Blu-ray, and I wish there had been more to play with.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Motor Mania

Yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that Disney in the late 40s and early 50s seemed to be an alternating stream of Donald Duck and Pluto shorts.  So when I saw a new Goofy short on the upcoming list, I got excited.  I got even more excited when I saw what it was – Motor Mania.  This is a short that I’ve seen many times before, but it never fails to entertain.  But now I’m a jaded reviewer, right?  Having watched so many shorts, this one had to be less impressive, or was it?

Absolutely not.  Motor Mania holds up today as a prime example of how cartoons can be used as a comment on life and a mirror to our existence.  If that sounds too deep for a Goofy cartoon, just watch it.  The entire short is about the craziness that people are overcome with once they step behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  I dare anyone to watch this short and not see parallels of themselves or someone they know.  It makes it instantly relatable and accessible for adults, but remains funny for kids.

The short details the conflict inherent between Goofy when he is walking, as Mr. Walker, and his driving self, known as Mr. Wheeler.  There’s a Jekyll and Hyde transformation when he sits down in the car that is so well done they use it twice!  It’s everything you are looking for in this sort of comedy.  It’s over the top yet it’s fairly accurate to things you will see in every day life.  That’s the best kind of satire that doesn’t make you feel like you’re being preached to in any way, but just makes you laugh.

This is Goofy in his “everyman” period, when instead of being the loveable Goof he is instead thrust into the role of playing you or I.  It works well because the gags are so relatable.  Watching a fellow motorist get Goofy in his sights on the car hood, I flashed back to trying to escape the Citrus Bowl a few years ago, when someone sped up to try and run down my wife and I.  These things really happen, and they’re not funny when they do, but in cartoons, we can see the inherent silliness of things we do every day.

Using the omniscient narrator to tell the story, Disney managed in this short to show how amazingly insane some of our simplest behaviors can be.  It’s the same contrast they used in the Goofy “How To” shorts, but instead of poking fun at the Goof, the finger is now pointed at the audience, even if it’s indirectly.  It’s this brilliant yet subtle change that makes Motor Mania one of the standout shorts of Goofy’s career.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Puss Cafe

It seems at this point in 1950, Disney was passing release slots back and forth between Jack Hannah’s team working on the Donald Duck shorts and Charles Nichols’ team creating the Pluto shorts.  That’s not a bad thing when the shorts are good, but it does lead to lots of repetition when you are watching them in succession the way I am.  As such, Puss Café, which is a good cartoon, comes off as a little worse than I think it actually is.

Pluto is not really the main character in this short.  That honor goes to the two cats that are trying to invade his suburban paradise.  The cats are not named in the short, but Disney history names them Milton and Lucifer.  I’m not entirely sure which is which and I’m also not entirely sure it matters.  What does matter is that they take the lead here, as they see the milk on the back porch, the fish in the pond and the birds in their nest as an all you can eat buffet in Pluto’s yard.

This leads to some very funny moments, as the cats devise various ways to consume this bevy of treats.  The very first scene shows them improvising a waiter pouring a fine wine, but instead of aged grapes it is a bottle of milk being poured down the gullet of the other cat.  It continues later when one of the cats is sent under the water of the fish pond with a picnic basket, and “picks” the fish out to go in the basket, like picking apples off a tree.  Each of these gags is new and different than we have seen in past shorts.

What’s not different is the chase scenes and interactions with Pluto.  There’s no new ground covered in how Pluto is used in this short, and that’s okay.  It mainly just makes the parts with Pluto seem much less amusing than the two cats by themselves.  Based on watching this short, I’d rather see a new Milton and Lucifer short than more Pluto, at least based on what is in Puss Café.  Pluto’s character is limited to that of antagonist, which is not a familiar role for him, and not necessarily one he is suited for.

I did especially like the twist ending of Pluto running into a cat that’s just as big and mean as he is.  That’s not a bad thing to add to the mix of Pluto’s repertoire, that there could be someone besides another dog that is a menace to him.  I left this short thinking that the comedic potential of Milton and Lucifer was much greater than that of Pluto.  It’s interesting to see Disney trying out new characters even in 1950, when the shorts program was less and less of the business.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ratatouille Tweetwatch - Tonight at 8:30p ET

Pixar's Brave is coming to Theatres on June 22, so to get ready, Tweetwatches for the next month are the Pixar films that Mark Andrews, director of Brave, was involved in before.  Tonight, it's time for Ratatouille, the Brad Bird directed film that Andrews served on as story supervisor.  Join Remy as he begins his culinary journey, and we will chat about the movie as it goes along.  

If you've never joined Tweetwatches before, it's super easy to do. Here's the plan:

1. Get the DVD or Bluray so you can watch with us. Netflix, Redbox, whatever you need to do.
2. Tonight at a little before 8:30, head over to our Friendfeed room.
3. At 8:30p ET, I'll tweet out the signal to push play, and we'll watch the movie together, while I fill you in on some of the little known facts about each film.

It is tons of fun, and I really enjoy doing them, so make sure you join the fun tonight at 8:30p ET.  Look forward to seeing you all there!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 72 - The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

This week the DFPP team heads to Genovia for a coronation, and through a strange series of awkward moments they realize that it’s all about progress in the 2004 comedy The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Primitive Pluto

As we have discussed previously in this space, Pluto is a difficult character to get a handle on, because he doesn’t talk.  That puts the burden on the animation and story teams to create interesting situations for Pluto to get involved in, as well as forcing the character to display emotions and situations more visually than through his dialogue.  So it’s difficult to get Pluto right, but in Primitive Pluto, the Disney team found a good way to make the dog work.

The idea is that Pluto has long ago been domesticated, and his wild side is itching to break free.  It’s an interesting concept, because we have seen Pluto’s evolution following that of Mickey, as he moved from the farm dog into the city and the suburbs along with his master.  So commenting on that move is a bit of meta-commentary that plays extremely well in this short.

Before Pluto and his id ever leave the cabin where they open the short, we get to see that Pluto is not ready for the wild.  He is literally eating milquetoast, dressing in ridiculous doggie sweaters with bells and generally just not ready for the outdoors.  You have never seen a dog so accustomed to the indoors as Pluto, which makes the rest of the short absolutely hilarious.  As Pluto’s id drags him outside, there is no doubt it will be to a bad end.

Sure enough, things go horribly wrong outside, as they do in all good Disney theme park rides and the best shorts.  Pluto, rather than getting a rabbit to eat, as his primitive self wants, ends up getting entangled with a bear instead.  It’s nightmarish for the little inside dog, even as he tries to embrace things like tracking and hunting.  The short really gives a humorous touch to the conflict between Pluto’s reason and his desire to go out for more primal pursuits.

When it ends up with the bear scaring them back inside, we see the end results as the primal Pluto devours the milquetoast.  The roles have switched:  the primal version that lived inside Pluto is now content with the indoor life, and Pluto is feral and wild, trying to corner his smaller self.  It’s a brilliant storyline that executes perfectly on screen, creating one of the better Pluto shorts in years.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trailer Horn

As excited as I was to see Disney trying something different with The Brave Engineer, it was disheartening to see that Trailer Horn, the latest Donald Duck short of 1950, would be the same Chip and Dale battle that we have seen before.  Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s a formula that seems to work, but I feel like there could be a better use of the animators’ talents than rehashing this same idea over and over again.

The difference in Trailer Horn is the setting.  As opposed to the Chipmunks invading Donald’s house, place of business or country cabin, it’s Donald who ventures into their territory.  Using what appears to be the same trailer from Mickey’s Trailer, Donald has ventured out into the woods for a time to commune with nature.  You would think by now he has learned that this is not the best idea, yet he continues to do it anyway.  So in some respects its his own fault what happens.

What happens is yet another showdown with Chip and Dale.  Just like in recent shorts, though, we are not given a reason why they should be at odds.  Chip and Dale merely wander down from their tree and start messing with Donald’s trailer, including the horn.  That wakes our favorite duck up from his nap, so I guess that’s the inciting incident, but it’s as flimsy an excuse as we have seen to start the back and forth shenanigans.

As usual Chip and Dale get the best end of the bargain, despite being hurled against a tree while stuck in a pie.  The gags in Trailer Horn are a little better than we have seen recently, including the pie gag as well as a bombing run by the chipmunks with pinecones being dropped into Donald’s trailer.  There are some retreads such as Donald and a diving board having a big altercation, but for the most part, it’s familiar territory.

I think at this point, having seen all the previous Chip and Dale shorts I think I suffer from fatigue at seeing them mix it up with Donald every time out.  There is definite humor and value in Trailer Horn, but it’s hard to see when you are looking at it through the prism of having seen the exact same thing last week.  I think the era of the late 1940s and 1950 (at least to date) is a creative lull in the shorts.  While there is good work being done, it’s mostly predictable fare, and hopefully new stuff will start to show up soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Avengers Review (Spoiler Free) by Briana Alessio

If you're one of the five people in the world who hasn't seen The Avengers yet, here's the final review from our podcast triumvirate.  Check out Todd's and my reviews (both spoiler free) as well, and make sure you join us Saturday for The Avengers meet at Downtown Disney AMC.  - Ryan

As you all know, we at the Disney Film Project have been amped to see this film since the year 1920.  Okay, I’m pushing it…maybe since 2011.  Before we knew it, May 4th arrived, which turned into one of my favorite days ever. 

I was like a child entering into the theatre.  I bounced happily into my seat and was prepared for the best.  Little did I know that not only would my expectations be met but they would exceed anything I had imagined.  For something we had discussed/referenced on the podcast for over a year, this was the longest geek-out session ever known to man.  The Avengers was directed and written by Joss Whedon, who is quite a brilliant individual.  Credit must also be given to the talent of Michael Baiardi, who wrote the interestingly cool song “Black Dirt” for the film. 

Now, I do not read comic books.  I have never had the desire or the attention span for that.  However, since May 4, my world has changed.  I now anxiously want to sit down and read comic books about Captain America and how he came to be, then re-watch the film to compare.  Perhaps I might blog about that at some point as well. 

This is two hours and 23 minutes of pure awesomeness.  Each character brings his own flavor.  The commercials seriously do not do the film justice.  They are exciting, yes, but nothing like the actual film itself.  Although Stark’s humor rings throughout, The Avengers is so much more than that.  Action, violence, and comedy are indeed the main themes of this film, but none out-do the other.  They balance out beautifully and evenly to produce quite an epic masterpiece.

As much as I love the entire cast, my absolute favorite character in the duration of the film is Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.  He is beyond fantastic and words cannot describe how much I appreciate his acting ability in this film.  However, I also think Mark Ruffalo did a wonderful job as Bruce Banner/Hulk, while Scarlett Johansson also proved her worth as Black Widow.  I have not seen such a well-cast film in a very long time.  Kudos to the entire crew of this amazing film.  Each character has a tremendous amount of depth which certainly shows itself through the actor’s dedication.

My two favorite films are The Little Mermaid and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.  After seeing The Avengers, I can now say that I have THREE favorite films.  Thank you, Joss Whedon, for your intelligence and for listening to your heart when writing this film.  I cannot wait for Saturday to be able to sit down with my fellow co-hosts and producer so we can enjoy the fun together.  Friends assemble!

Pssst...when you listen to The Avengers podcast episode, be sure to keep an ear out for our future Twitter hashtag.  Conspiracy theories rock!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 71 - The Avengers

And there came a podcast, a podcast unlike any other, when DFPP's wonkiest sluices found themselves united to watch a movie. On that day, Marvel’s The Avengers was reviewed. Heed this geekfest, then - for now, they assemble! Yea verily!

Listen, download, etc.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wonder Dog

One of my pet peeves around the Disney community is the long held belief that Walt Disney was a man of uncompromising principle who never cut corners, never did sequels and always did things that were completely original.  It’s not only not true, it does a disservice to the man.  Walt was a brilliant, creative man, but he also knew when he needed to push boundaries and when he needed to play it safe.  Look at the package features or today’s short, Wonder Dog.

At first glance, a short about Pluto trying to impress Dinah the Daschund but falling into a fight with Butch the Bulldog is already unoriginal.  We have seen this before from the Pluto series, and while entertaining it is nothing new.  This short follows some similar paths that other Pluto shorts have while managing to put a different twist on things.  This time, Pluto is attempting to woo Dinah by showing that he can do all the things that the circus dog, Prince the Wonder Dog does. 

This leads to a bevy of scenes with Pluto using junkyard objects to try and imitate Prince the Wonder Dog.  And since he’s performing circus tricks, you need circus music, right?  So Disney turned to their most famous circus performer, Dumbo, and took the music completely from the circus scenes in the film.  Yes, Pluto here performs to the music from Dumbo and the similarities are rather noticeable. 

During the scenes where the music is playing, it honestly feels mismatched.  Even though Pluto is doing circus style moves, the music oversells the moves and makes the gags feel less important.  That’s really a shame because the animation on this short is quite funny.  Pluto ends up impressing Dinah not because of the moves he is trying to make, but instead because of what Butch is doing to him, trying to shake him off a ladder or tossing him in the air.

Despite the reuse of the Dumbo music (as well as bit from the Flying Gauchito short), Wonder Dog turns out to be wildly entertaining.  It’s probably the best Pluto short in years, really.  But it’s another example of how the Disney company in Walt’s time was opportunistic, knew how to use things and reuse them, and pursued profits.  And that is not a bad thing, it’s just the truth.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crazy Over Daisy

For years, I have listened to Disney Parks music.  On streaming Internet radio, on CDs from various Disney parks and just while I am in the parks, I can’t get enough of the sounds of the parks.  One song I have listened to always makes me smile, which is the song with the lyric “I’m walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA.”  I don’t know the title (I could probably find it, but it doesn’t really matter to me), but the song always brings light feeling to my heart.  In the end, though, I have wondered how the song relates to Disney.

In Crazy Over Daisy, the latest Donald Duck short from 1950, I got my answer.  Set in the same turn of the century setting as Main Street USA, we get Donald Duck on an old time bicycle riding through the middle of town on his way to court Daisy Duck.  And while doing so, the background music is that very song.  That immediately vaulted this short to one of my favorites. 

There are so many elements here that work beautifully beyond the music, though.  We have the concept of a shared universe at work, as we see Donald cycling through town waving at Mickey and Minnie who are driving around, at Goofy who is making deliveries, and finally running into his nemeses – Chip and Dale.  Having all the characters together in one fell swoop is fantastic.  It really builds the world of this short quickly and had me drawn in right away.

The main failing of this short is Donald’s rivalry with Chip and Dale just frankly makes no sense.  In the other shorts where these three have battled, there was a clear reason for it.  The chipmunks were trying to steal food for the most part, but there was always a good reason why they fought Donald.  Here it seems like they are just picking on him, trying to derail him from visiting Daisy.  It makes them come off in a bad light, at least to me.

The ending of the short, though, makes up for it in sheer comic brilliance.  With Donald harnessing the chipmunks to power his bicycle, he thinks he has solved the problem and makes his way to Daisy.  But when his lady fair sees what he’s done to those “adorable” chipmunks, she is shocked and appalled, and leaves him in the dirt in front of her house to comfort the chipmunks.  It makes for a fun, breezy short that left me wanting to immediately head to Disneyland and walk down Main Street.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Brave Engineer

I’ve been whiling away the year of 1950 and much of 1949 on this blog wondering if and when Disney would try something different with animation.  Cinderella was one aspect of that, going back to the full length fairy tale that made the company.  It was a wild success, so it didn’t surprise me to see them go to a non-established character in Casey Jones for the latest short, The Brave Engineer. 

Very loosely based on the song about Casey Jones, The Brave Engineer tells the story of a train that is late to deliver the mail.  That is about where the story ends so far as similarities between the story of Casey Jones and this short.  Whereas the real Casey ended up perishing while trying to keep his train from colliding into a stalled freight train, the cartoon version of Casey is nowhere near as grim.

So how is the short?  Is it a departure from the by-the-numbers nature of the Donald Duck and Pluto onslaught we have seen from the late 1940s?  A little, but not much.  The lead character of Casey is definitely appealing, and bears more than a slight resemblance to the lead in Casey At the Bat.  His fierce determination to bring the mail in on time is admirable, as is the way he fights off all adversaries.

The gags in this short are what make it worth your time, though.  Casey battles nearly every imaginable train derailing scenario you can think of, and most of them in a humorous and enjoyable way.  There’s a girl tied to the tracks by a villain, bombs blowing up a bridge, robbers trying to hijack the train and so many more.  They just keep coming at him, but Casey is resolute and swats them away.  The fast paced, gag a minute nature of this short is something we haven’t seen from Disney in a while.

In the end, it works out, as Casey finds a way to get into the station on time with the mail, even though it’s pretty much a wreck of a train that gets him there.  What is key about this is that we love Casey despite the fact that he doesn’t speak in the short.  The entire story is told through Jerry Colonna’s narration, so Casey doesn’t have his own voice.  All the emphasis is on the animators who make the character appealing through action.  Not enough shorts or films reveal characters through action, but The Brave Engineer does a great job of it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So you did our Avengers Tweetwatches, you saw the movie, and you just can't get enough of superheroes!  Plus, you're looking forward to the Pixar summer movie, Brave.  So why not join the fun tonight with THE INCREDIBLES Tweetwatch.  Mark Andrews, the director of Brave, was story supervisor for The Incredibles, so it's time to see his earlier work.  

If you've never joined Tweetwatches before, it's super easy to do. Here's the plan:

1. Get the DVD or Bluray so you can watch with us. Netflix, Redbox, whatever you need to do.
2. Tonight at a little before 8:30, head over to our Friendfeed room.
4. At 8:30p ET, I'll tweet out the signal to push play, and we'll watch the movie together, while I fill you in on some of the little known facts about each film.

And while you're getting ready for the Tweetwatch, you need to make sure that you are planning for our very first Disney Film Project meet!  That's right, all four of us will be at Walt Disney World on Saturday, May 19, and you can join us to go see Avengers at Downtown Disney.  Check out all the details here on Plancast and book your trip now.  It's the first weekend of Star Wars Weekends as well, so you don't want to miss this!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bolt Review by Briana Alessio

For those of you who know me well, you realize that out of the many things I am passionate about, three of these are toward the top of my list: Disney, dogs, and superheroes.  When these are blended, Bolt from 2008 appears.  You would think I would pretty much be won over.  However, there were many aspects I did not care for about this film.  Although it was quite endearing and lovable, it left me somewhat empty inside.

Bolt is the story of a canine actor.  He always plays a dog in films with mighty powers, and does not want to believe that he is actually an ordinary pooch who does not have any powers to begin with.  The storyline is fantastic.  The directors, Byron Howard and Chris Williams, orchestrated this film very well.  Howard also directed one of my personal favorite Disney films, Tangled.  Williams worked as a writer for Mulan and Brother Bear among others.

Quite the variety of actors assisted in voicing the characters for this film.  John Travolta voiced Bolt himself, while Miley Cyrus voiced Penny, Bolt’s fellow actor/human owner (and later to be actual owner).  Malcolm McDowell voiced the evil Dr. Calico while the great Mark Walton helped out for Rhino, the adorable hamster.  Although these may sound like awesome names to many of you, I did not hear a large amount of dedication and drive through the characters.  Cyrus and Essman (who portrayed Mittens) left me simply picturing the human instead of molding them together to become the actual character.  That brought me right out of the entire plot.

Here is my issue with the film.  It is an absolutely personal issue, so you should probably not let this affect your decision as to whether or not you watch this.  But I have to share my thoughts.  The first scene opens to an animal shelter, where Bolt sits as a puppy with a toy carrot in his mouth, and he endearingly looks upside down at Penny, who is coming in his direction.  Believe it or not, this is the first scene I cried at.  Why, you may ask?  Because my dog, Daisie, was also a lovable, stark white puppy who looked at me adoringly when I saw her for the first time.  It brought back a flood of memories, and to look at her at the ripe age of 11 years old made me realize how fast time is going by.  It is a very bittersweet feeling.  I am excited to see what lies ahead in life, but I never want to lose Daisie.  That being said, I cried just as hard at the very last scene, where the dog is seen again in his older years, with the same toy, looking at Penny with the same lovable eyes which stared at her years before.  Anyone who has a pet or has had one in the past will absolutely connect with these scenes and remember how they felt during those important moments in life.

It is very rare for me to choose the main star as a favorite character.  However, this is the case.  I love Bolt, who he is, and everything he stands for.  He wants to be more than what he really is, and that actually represents every single person in this world.  We all want to do more than we can, and that is not easy in the least.  My favorite scene is very brief, but it takes place toward the beginning, inside of Bolt’s trailer when Penny is trying to get Bolt to play with her.  She rolls a ball toward him, and although he is looking straight ahead, his eyes glance at the ball rolling past him, but he continues to stare ahead.  I laughed out loud, as this once again reminds me of my own diva dog who will only play when she is good and ready to.

The majority of the scenes are absolutely captivating and I do not want to steer anyone away from seeing this.  Please see Bolt.  I ask this of you.  The road trip which Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino go on is so sweet and as I mentioned previously, the storyline is great.  Bolt is completely worth it, and makes you realize just how important our pets are to us and how they are family.  Because the film affected me heavily the way it did, I will most likely not be interested in re-watching it again, at least anytime soon.  But I do encourage you to check this film out, especially if you want to see one which lovingly tugs at your heartstrings, which we all know is what Disney does best.

My Rating:  3/5

I’m going to beat your pancreas with your spleen!

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 70 - Bolt

This week the DFPP team and their friend Aaron Rittmaster are helped by the super powered antics of a small white dog while hot on the trail of the evil Dr. Calico only to discover that all is not what it appears to be in the 2008 superhero adventure Bolt.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Avengers Reviews - SPOILER FREE - by Ryan and Todd

One spot to see both my review and Todd's.  If you are wondering about Avengers, read this and let us help you make up your mind.  - Ryan

Ryan Kilpatrick's Review

It actually happened.  It’s only been hours since I saw Marvel’s The Avengers, but it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened.  Ever since seeing the extra scene at the end of Iron Man four years ago, I had my doubts that this film would really happen.  Sure, I tracked the progress of the Marvel films, and saw Joss Whedon, one of my pop culture heroes, was directing, but it still wasn’t real to me.  Until last night. 

The Avengers is not a perfect film.  Far from it.  If you are looking for a film that will change the way you view superhero films, this is not it.  If you want a new take on the power and responsibility of super heroic powers, look elsewhere.  If instead, you want to go to the movie theatre, see icons assembled together in one place, on the big screen, battling the biggest threats and facing down unbelievable odds in the biggest action adventure film in decades, then this is the film for you.

Being a huge Joss Whedon fan, I had huge expectations for the Avengers.  Probably unrealistic expectations, to be sure.  I wanted the deep characterization, profound metaphor and witty dialogue that Whedon made famous in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  I got two of the three, as there is nothing profound about this film.  But Avengers isn’t about that sort of thing, as I said above.

The story is simple and straightforward – Earth is under attack by Loki and his army and only an assemblage of heroes is enough to respond.  This is a film about those heroes, and the fact that there is no real reason that they should come together as a team, even with the unbelievable odds stacked against them.  In this world, there is SHIELD, armies and more, but the Earth needs heroes.  The entire first two acts of the film are about why this team shouldn’t exist, but yet it has to in order to save the world.

If you’re going into this film to see that process and see how these people come together, bruised, battered and broken, then you will be extremely satisfied.  Whedon answers all the questions you want to know going into a movie like this.  Why are Black Widow and Hawkeye on this team full of monsters and gods?  Why does this assembly follow the mortal Captain America?  Why would anyone trust Dr. Bruce Banner, knowing he will turn into the Hulk?  All those questions and more are answered.

The performances that Whedon gets out of the actors is, for the most part, extraordinary.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki is the centerpiece of the film.  If he doesn’t work as the main antagonist, the whole film would fall apart.  Hiddleston imbues Loki with lunacy, insecurity, ego and more, in a performance that ranks up there with the best villains in film history.  All the reviews I have seen rave about Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Banner and the Hulk, but to me, Hiddleston is the standout of the film.

Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow is the other standout.  This is a character that literally doesn’t need to be in the film.  No one is buying a ticket to see Black Widow, at least not before this movie comes out.  Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk are the attraction, but Black Widow steals the show.  In many ways, she has the most character moments and the best motivations of any of the characters.  This is a great performance by Johannson.

I have my share of criticisms, such as the clunky opening, but honestly, they are irrelevant.  The film is about heroism, and it expresses that by revealing character through action, but also putting the characters in a room and letting them breathe and talk.  The trailers have given you the action pieces, but it’s seeing them all together speaking that really shows the challenge not only of the characters, but also the filmmakers.  This is not a film that looks to recreate your concept of heroes, it is one that tries to show you why they are necessary.  Go. See It.  Now.

Todd Perlmutter's Review

Keeping quiet about having seen The Avengers more than a week ago hasn't been easy.  And as much as I've wanted to just dive right in and talk about the movie that I saw, I thought long and hard about a way to do this post without talking about the actual plot of the movie.  You see this is the movie that proves you can do a big budget superhero film that isn't based on a single character.  This is the movie that is going to make Warner Bros. rethink every aspect of their proposed Justice League movie - because this movie raises the bar so high on the concept of a multiple superhero movie that to make something less would be an epic mistake.

I can say with the utmost confidence that I am a huge superhero fan.  Those of you that listen to the podcast or happen to know me beyond that probably know that I'm about as geeky as they come.  And my knowledge and love of superheroes is something I pride myself on.  This movie brings me back to my childhood in ways that it's hard to describe.  There are moments that I dreamt of all those years ago, moments I never for a moment thought I'd see on the big screen, and there they were before my eyes.  And those moments brought tears of joy to my eyes.

If you think you've got the whole movie figured out from the trailers, or prior tellings of the tale this movie sets out to tell then I'm sorry to say, but you're probably wrong.  I was wrong. I went into this movie with extremely high expectations - setting myself up for a huge disappointment.  Instead what I got was something above even the bar I set.  Those trailers tell you nothing.  They spoil nothing.  The moments in them are both great and meaningless to the whole.  It's the moments before and after what you see in them that matter.

You will learn why this team of comic book heroes is considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and you will understand not just who they are, but why they work.  The character dynamics are true to the source material right down to the tiniest of details that pay homage all the way back to their very first comic book story.  All the actors reprise their prior roles with amazing success, and in a way where none of them take away from the others.  A greatly architected work.

The only change to the cast that bears mentioning is Mark Ruffalo who plays both Bruce Banner and the Hulk.  His take on the character is amazing bringing in aspects originally brought to the character by John Byrne, while also bringing us back to the days of the old Bill Bixby version of Banner seen in The Incredible Hulk television series.  He then takes the whole Hulk package, turns it on it's side, kicks it a little, and serves it back to us in a way that can only be described as finally getting the Hulk right on the big screen.

The heroes of this movie are not those they resemble in the Ultimates or the Avengers comic books. They instead take the best qualities from both sources and transcend them to become something more. The Man. The Monster. The Knight. The God. The Archer. The Spy. An unlikely group brought together with a common goal, learn together to become a team, and save the day.

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born..."  

That day is May 4th 2012.  Yea Verily!

Make sure to make plans to see Avengers with the Disney Film Project Podcast crew on Saturday, May 19 at Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World, and stay tuned next Monday, May 14 for our podcast on Avengers!