Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monsters University Collector's Edition Review

The Pixar movie of the year was Monsters University, a look at the origins of the characters of Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan and how they got to be the friendly, loveable monsters we first met in Monsters, Inc.  If you’ve listened to our podcast, then you probably know that this is the sort of movie and story that is right in my wheelhouse.  This story about how they met in college, first became rivals, then partners, and finally the great friends we know and love is an almost timeless treasure.  Released today, October 29, 2013, I got to take a sneak peek at the Collector’s Edition which includes a Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy.  

This release is chock full of so many bonus features that they couldn’t all fit on the main movie Blu-ray, and they had to include a 2nd bonus features disc.  On the main disc you’ll find the cute and sweet tale of how umbrellas can find true love even in a rain slicked city, The Blue Umbrella.  As well as Audio Commentary by Director Dan Scanlon, Producer Kori Rae, and Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann.

Being the technical wizard that I am, one of my favorite features on the bonus disc are the Set Flyovers.  These are seamless, animated camera explorations through the sets of the movie.  They contain no monsters, just the sets themselves.  It really gives you a great in depth look at each of the locations: The Campus, The Scare School, Frat Row, and finally The OK House where you can even make out a Mickey Mouse ear hat tacked up on the wall (I hadn’t noticed this when I originally saw the movie).  There’s also Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective a discussion about the calculations and physics behind animating fur/hair.  How much things had advanced from 5 furry monsters in Monsters, Inc. to 250+ in Monsters University

In what I imagine will be a much talked about set of clips, the Deleted Scenes are introduced to us by Dan Scanlon, where he explains to us that movies are an evolutionary process.  He first discusses with us the scene called Rivalry that was designed to pay homage to the “You've been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade. ... looks since the fourth grade” line from Monsters, Inc. and why it was removed from the movie.  Next is Recon where we learn how monsters make their information files on children through “Bedroom Recon”.  In Movie Night  and Drama Class we see elements that are brought us instead as part of the final scenes of the movie.

There are many more features that you’ll find in this Blu-ray set, including an Art Gallery with many pictures and sketches and other artwork from and for Monsters University.  If you get the Collector’s Edition you’ll also get DVD and Digital copies of the movie, and many will be happy to know that Disney has branched out beyond just Digital copies from Apple’s iTunes Store.  Monsters fans will enjoy this Blu-ray release, as it will offer then several hours of solid entertainment from which they could learn some truly interesting tidbits about Monsters University. 

Rivalry - Monsters University BTS on Disney Video

Monday, October 28, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 147 - Return from Witch Mountain

This week the DFPP team are in Los Angeles while tracking down a strange disturbance in the force when they are lead by a goat to a Plutonium plant that is under siege by a mad doctor in the 1978 adventure Return from Witch Mountain.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 146 - Escape to Witch Mountain

This week the DFPP team receives a strange phone call from a man claiming to live in Hazzard county which leads them on the trail of two alien children and a widower who like to go flying in a Winnebago in the 1975 adventure Escape to Witch Mountain.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales DVD Review

Gravity Falls is the story of Dipper and Mabel Pines as they visit their “Grunkle” Stan for the summer.  He lives and runs in a fantastic sideshow institution known as the Mystery Shack.  This relatively new animated series premiered back in June 2012.  And now, after the conclusion of its first season of episodes, on October 15th, Disney is releasing 6 episodes of the series titled Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales.

The 6 episodes are:

  • Tourist Trapped
  • The Legend of the Gobblewonker
  • Headhunters
  • The Hand that Rocks the Mabel
  • The Inconveniencing
  • Dipper vs. Manliness

And while I won’t go into the specifics on each episode, I do want to discuss something near and dear to hardcore DVD owners… DVD Easter Eggs.  There are just a few on this DVD and here is how to access each of them (all of which are available from the Main Menu):

  • Moving up from “Play All” will produce a bunch of levitating Lil Gideon related items
  • Moving down from “Fast Play” will lead to a Rainbow Puking Gnome
  • Moving right from Episode Selection shows an owl clock which hoots and it’s 5 o’clock
  • Moving left from Set Up causes Mabel’s zombie boyfriend Norman to stumble across the screen
  • Moving right from sneak peeks causes a “Grunkle” Stan bobblehead to appear

Fans of the show may be wanting more of the episodes available on DVD, and while that is probably happening some time in the future I will remind that more gravity falls can easily be found online.  The DVD episodes themselves are crisp and clean quality, and that plus the Easter Eggs might be the reason to purchase it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 145 - Moon Pilot

This week the DFPP team is called in to help kickstart the lunar program when they discover that benevolent aliens have arrived and are trying to help us with the race to space so they have someone out there to sing to in the 1962 adventure Moon Pilot.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

It’s been quite some time since the Disney Film Project Podcast took a look at The Little Mermaid back in Episode 7.  Ariel’s adventure as she finds her way through her dream of living on land and finding true love is probably one of the most well known animated films of all time.  The scope of the impact the film has had on so many is one of those thing you hear about constantly.  As a result, The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition is probably one of the most highly anticipated and welcomed Blu-ray releases from Disney.

The first feature on the Blu-ray that caught my eye is titled @DisneyAnimation - which some might recognize as the Twitter handle for the Walt Disney Animation Studios.  John Musker and Ron Clements, the writers and directors of The Little Mermaid, discuss what it’s like to work for the studio.  There are also a number of other Animators at Disney who discuss how The Little Mermaid drove their careers and continues to inspire them today.  We get to see them working on the upcoming Disney film Frozen as well as the short Paperman.  There are some interesting Tilt Shift videos of the studios along the way.

There’s a piece titled Under the Scene: The art of Live-Action Reference where Clements, Musker, and others discuss how they returned to the roots of Disney animation to create The Little Mermaid.  They used live action to create scenes intended for the movie that were filmed and reviewed in order to study and recreate the movements in the animated movies.  The idea is to help make the characters believable, a practice that goes all the way back to Snow White.  You get to see Sherri Stoner and Joshua Finkel, the live action models for Ariel and Eric, performing these scenes and how they are recreated in the movie.

Howard’s Lecture is a narration by Musker and Clements about the late Howard Ashman.  They talk around bits and pieces from a lecture he gave to other animators where he discussed his beliefs about how to make a great musical by truly integrating the music into the musical itself.  This piece is very interesting and well done though a bit sad when you are reminded of the great talent that was lost with his death.

There’s also a new Disney Intermission titled Crab-e-oke Sing-a-long.  As you might have guessed this is a series of karaoke songs hosted by everyone’s favorite crab Sebastian.  The only real problem with this feature is that the narration voice for Sebastian is terrible.  The songs themselves are directly from the soundtracks - however the animation behind them is a combination of some new animation with re-worked animation clips from the movie.  The songs covered are:

  • Under the Sea
  • Kiss the Girl
  • Poor Unfortunate Souls
  • Les Poissones
  • Part of this World

Also on the Blu-ray you’ll find:

  • “Part of Your World” Music Video featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, which is a live action video that contains many real world counterparts to objects found in Ariel’s treasure cave in the movie.
  • Part of Her World: Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland, an overview of a trip by Jodi Benson and her family to Walt Disney World and New Fantasyland.  They also show her signing a picture of Ariel that is now part of the chandelier in the Art of Animation Resort lobby.
  • Deleted Character - Harold the Merman, a look at a character that was storyboarded but never made it to the movie.
  • Classic DVD Bonus Features

The Diamond Edition set continues to be top of the class when it comes to Blu-ray releases.  They always seem to contain just the right amount of additional features to go along with each feature.  And The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition is a perfect example of that.  I have no doubt that this will be a very popular item as we head into the holiday season.  Not to mention the High Definition remastering of the film is well done and helps really enhance viewing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 144 - The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men

This week the DFPP team is summoned to the forest by a whistling arrow where they find a trail of flour that leads them to an encampment inhabited by a band of mirthful fellows in the 1952 action adventure The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men.

Listen, download, etc.

Show notes:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel DVD Review

There’s no question that I am a world class comic book and superhero fan.  I read at least 1 comic book most days (if not more). Along with that I’m a huge fan of animation in general; as I write this I’m watching the latest episodes of the Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble animated series.  However, when it comes to animation it’s not only superheroes that I like, which is why the series Phineas and Ferb has not escaped my attention.  In fact, previously I’ve reviewed Phineas and Ferb: Animal Agents DVD Review.

So imagine my delight when I first found out there was going to be a Phineas and Ferb episode co-starring some of Marvel’s most popular superheroes.  For me it like that first time you discover the awesomeness of chocolate and peanut butter combined.  The whole idea spoke volumes to me.  There is a quirkiness in the relationships between the superheroes they picked: Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man.  One that would fit in well with the universe of Phineas and Ferb.

The “Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel” DVD showcases the Phineas and Ferb episode of the same name along with the following additional episodes:

  • Fly On The Wall
  • Sidetracked, Parts 1 & 2
  • Primal Perry, Parts 1 & 2
  • Backyard Hodge Podge
  • Knot My Problem
  • Mind Share

At a price point around $15 the DVD will save a few dollars when you consider that each of the 9 episodes would cost $2 digitally.  There is no additional bonus content on the DVD itself, but along with it comes a bonus comic which also contains an interview with Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh - the creators of Phineas and Ferb. Inside the comic you will also find a poster of Super Perry just in case you were wondering, “Where’s Perry?