Sunday, March 29, 2015

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 221 - James and the Giant Peach

This week the DFPP team has a hankering for a hunk of peach and sets out to track down the biggest one they can, but discover that it’s infested with giant bugs and small children in the 1996 animated James and the Giant Peach.

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Show notes:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Into the Woods Blu-ray Review

Into the Woods is a musical written by Stephen Sondheim that was was recently adapted by Disney into a movie that was released this past holiday season.  Having never seen the play I had stayed away from trailers and other material about the film before seeing in the theater and I came away liking it very much.  The story, by James Lapine, intertwines a handful of fairy tales into a single tale that is magical, mysterious, funny, curious, dark, and whimsical.  Now available on Blu-ray for you to take home and enjoy.

One of they key elements of Into the Woods is that it is a musical, and a great creator always tries to enhance his work.  For the movie, Sondheim wrote an entirely new song for the Witch, played by Meryl Streep, called “She’ll Be Back” - a song about denial and loss.  And the entire piece, while filmed and edited, was eventually cut from the film.  Had it remained it, it would have been sung right after Rapunzel leaves the witch alone at the fallen tower after telling the witch she never wants to see her again.  The entire piece can be watched on the Blu-ray.

There’s Something About The Woods has the cast and crew of the movie talk about the woods themselves and how they set the mood for the story.  It goes into how they recreated parts of the woods as a set that encompasses all the parts of the woods where they designed the trees there to have shapes that make them “dance” along with the story and music.  Sondheim talks about woods near his property where he wrote the songs for the play and how he designed them to enhance the story.  The cast discusses how Rob Marshall was a perfect choice due to his love of film, musicals, and the play itself and how the costumes are designed to evoke each fairy tale on it’s own and yet mesh together.

In The Cast As Good As Gold the cast talks about what it was like to become and be a part of the cast for Into the Woods.  Rob Marshall talks about bringing the cast together as a family, and how important that is to him in his creative process.  The cast themselves keep coming back to that same point as well as discussing how much they all enjoyed working together and their characters.  Even the cow.

There is a section on the Blu-ray called Deeper Into The Woods which contains some material that was released prior to the film with some edits, additions, and changes:

  • From Stage To Screen is a discussion about how both Sondheim and Lapine worked to adapt the play, both the music and the story, in order to better serve the way a movie carries a story differently than stage.

  • The Magic Of The Woods talks about how the music carries the story as a whole, and how much of a challenge this was for the cast to live up to because it’s Sondheim.  We also learn how the music was enhanced by moving to a 60 piece orchestra for recordings.  As well as how the songs we hear are all mixings of on and off stage recordings that use of editing to combine disparate elements.

  • Designing The Woods delves into how “The Woods” itself is a character in the film and how important that is to set the mood.  We learn how the crew handled the integration of the real woods with the stage woods they created on a soundstage.  And how together The Woods they created encompasses the various parts of the story and brings it all together.

  • The Costumes Of The Woods is about Colleen Atwood and her ability to create perfect costume pieces.  They explain how each grouping of costumes represents a different time period and how each character’s costume has a theme.  For example, how the Witch’s costume is designed to “be the woods”.  We also learn that it was Johnny Depp said he wanted to play Tex Avery’s Wolf in a Zoot Suit, and how that concept was adapted to his costume.  There is also some information on Peter King and Roy Helland bringing the perfect hairstyles and makeup to enhance the costumes.

In addition there is also an Audio Commentary track for the film, which can be both watched and subtitled in a numerous array of languages.  For fans of the songs, there is a section titled Music & Lyrics where you can watch just the songs of the movie without having to fast forward all of which have special subtitles so you can sing along.  The Blu-ray also has a quick trailer for the upcoming DCOM Descendants.

As you can see from above, this Blu-ray is well designed to attract both new and old fans of Into the Woods.  You can learn so much about how the stage production was adapted into the movie.  And newer fans who might not yet know the songs as well as fans of the musical, can spend the time learning and enjoying them.  This is a very well packaged Blu-ray and is a welcome addition to my collection.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 220 - The Vanishing Prairie

This week the DFPP team investigates the dwindling nature of of… well… nature and how the animals therein have their own mysterious ways that define existence rather than defy it in the 1954 documentary The Vanishing Prairie.

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Show notes:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 219 - McFarland, USA

This week the DFPP team beats feet as they try to keep up with a fledgling cross country team trying to outrun their pasts to create their futures as they fight their way to the finish in the 2015 sports drama McFarland, USA.

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Show notes:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast Review

The Disney Fairies franchise was born 8 years ago when Tinker Bell was brought modernized from her origins in Peter Pan in the movie Tinker Bell. The movies tell the adventures of her and her friends, each one of them a fairy with a special talent just like Tinker Bell’s ability to Tinker. As the popularity of the series has been growing the past few years, it has attracted better and stronger talent to work on them. And that growth and maturity of the series has recently made a tremendous showing in the new Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast.

As has been a trend in the last few of the Disney Fairies movies, Legend of the NeverBeast centers around one of Tinker Bell’s friends rather than herself. In this case its the Animal Talent Fairy Fawn. Starting with this movie she is voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin who Disney fans may recognize as Mary Margaret / Snow White on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. While the story focuses primarily on Fawn with Tinker Bell and her other friends playing a secondary role, it also continues the trend of introducing new fairies by bringing aboard a new Scout Talent fairy named Nyx.

To keep the story quick and brief, and not too spoilerish, this story is, as you may have guessed, about the NeverBeast, or as he comes to be named in the movie Gruff. A green comet streaks through the sky one night and awakens Gruff. Eventually, Fawn discovers him and as an Animal Talent fairy she becomes instantly enamoured with him and tries desperately to become his friend. Meanwhile a green glow an clouds starts to surround Neverland. During this, Nyx is trying to discover Gruff with the help of other Scout Talent fairies in order to protect Pixie Hollow as she feels that Gruff is trying to destroy Neverland. One thing leads to another and Gruff eventually saves everything and everyone, earning the gratitude of Nyx and all the other fairies.

The movie is centered around some very strong themes for what is essentially a children’s movie direct to video release. Curiosity, exploration, love, pain, betrayal, growth, and loss. As I said above the series has truly begun to transcend it’s “child directed” origins and become something much more. Pet lovers young and old beware, you will be in tears through much of the last part of this movie. It’s that strong and powerful a moment, captured magnificently.

Strong writing, strong talent, and an extremely solid and focused story are what make this movie fantastic. That’s what makes this the best of the Disney Fairies movies yet, and that’s not just because it’s the newest. It reminds us that a good children’s movie doesn’t just have to be for children. Parents will enjoy watching this movie with their children, and should note that their kids may have a few questions about the ending. I’m very glad I spent the time to both watch and review Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 218 - Strange Magic

This week the DFPP team gets down with the strange when they head out to find the secret of sugar plum magic and learn that with a little pop opera of love you can open up all sorts of doors in the 2015 animated Strange Magic.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Disney Film Project Podcast - Episode 217 - Charley and the Angel

This week the DFPP team is in search of a mischievous angel who is set on changing the course of a mans life to show him that its better to live and love life then to simply spend it in the 1973 comedy Charley and the Angel.

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Show notes: