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FEBRUARY 1-15, 2007: NEWS ARCHIVES
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February 15, 2007 - In our 543rd and latest DVD review, Aaron Wallace wraps up coverage of "The Golden Girls" with a critique of the recently-released Complete Seventh Season box set. In its final year, NBC's long-running sitcom isn't quite at its strongest, but it remains hilarious and in top form dramatically. The 3-disc set scores points for the inclusion of a new 15-minute retrospective feature. It also boasts the series' best picture quality to date, albeit with a few curiously and mildly matted episodes. Click here for the full review.
A booklet inside Peter Pan: Platinum Edition confirms that, after October's The Jungle Book reissue, 101 Dalmatians will be the next Disney animated classic to receive Platinum treatment. The 1961 film is scheduled for a remastered 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD to arrive in early March 2008. Another trailer on the set reveals that the theatrically-released 2002 sequel Return to Never Land will be returning to DVD in the undetermined near-future. Finally, a promo for The Aristocats: 2-Disc Special Edition makes mention of a Virtual Kitten game and a newly-rediscovered song. Perhaps posing more reason to upgrade is the likelihood of a 16x9-enhanced matted widescreen transfer, which the letterboxed preview suggests.
Bridge to Terabithia, the new film from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, opens in theaters tomorrow and we've got an advance movie review today. Adapted from Katherine Paterson's best-selling 1977 novel, Terabithia is not the effects-laden fantasy it's being advertised as. In fact, it's heavily grounded in imperfect real life, telling the story of two fifth grade outsiders (played by Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb) who form a friendship and pool their vivid imaginations to transform a forest into a magical kingdom all their own. Though the movie isn't what the marketing campaign foretells, it is a winning adaptation, thanks to solid performances, even direction and the wise text that is faithfully tapped here. Read our full, spoiler-free review, which includes six pictures from this PG-rated film.
February 14, 2007 - Never a studio to miss a promotional opportunity, Disney has issued four greetings in honor of Valentine's Day which feature characters from the forthcoming CG-animated release Meet the Robinsons:
February 13, 2007 - It's been thirteen weeks since "DuckTales": Volume 2 was released, and our long-delayed review has finally been posted. The 1980s cartoon -- one of Disney's earliest, most successful, and greatest animated TV series -- made a return to DVD last November in a 3-disc box set resembling the previous year's collection. This one delivers 24 episodes at an appealing sale price that amounts to a dollar per episode. Among the offerings, essentially the series' second quarter, are the show's five-episode pilot and another 4-part arc. Once again, bonus features are nowhere to be found, while picture and sound quality fall short of perfection, but surpass most of the series' kin. Read the full review.
February 12, 2007 - Late last week, Disney announced that it would be changing the name of its 22-year-old television branch from Touchstone Television to ABC Television Studio. This affects most of the predominantly primetime TV programming that emanates from Disney these days, such as "Desperate Housewives", "Lost", "Grey's Anatomy", "Scrubs", and "Ugly Betty."
No Touchstone Television series has been treated to as many season sets on DVD as "The Golden Girls", which sees its run come to an end tomorrow with the release of The Complete Seventh and Final Season. Meanwhile, long-running sitcom "Home Improvement" will become the Touchstone series with the second-most season sets to its name on May 15, 2007. This is, according to Amazon.com, when Buena Vista Home Entertainment will issue The Complete Sixth Season. The 1996-97 season of Tim Allen's ratings king will arrive, like past seasons, in a 3-disc box set. However, if Amazon's listing is accurate, the set will carry a list price of just $24.99, $15 below what past seasons have retailed for. You can now preorder "Home Improvement": Season 6 for just $17.99. Meanwhile, BVHE has made it known that on the same week, it will be lowering the price tags on "Home Improvement" Seasons 1 and 2, presumably to the $39.99 SRP that Seasons 3-5 currently hold.
February 11, 2007 - New high-res cover art has been posted for "Dinosaurs": The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt.
February 10, 2007 - In the wake of news of a live action Aladdin, Variety is reporting that Disney is looking to tap another popular animated subject for live-action big screen treatment. Nicolas Cage and Todd Garner will produce The Sorcerer's Apprentice as a feature film for Walt Disney Pictures. The project -- working on a script by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner (the screenwriting duo behind Disney's Mighty Joe Young and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes, among others) -- is inspired by Johann Wolfgang's Goethe 1797 ballad, which was earlier adapted for the most famous segment of Fantasia. The movie is being developed as a possible starring vehicle for Cage, who will be seen later this year in National Treasure: The Book of Secrets.
February 9, 2007 - A press release has been posted for "Dinosaurs" The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons. The announcement mainly reiterates what we told you last month: the ambitiously-produced Michael Jacobs/Jim Henson sitcom will return to DVD on May 1st with the show's final 36 episodes spread across four discs. Announced bonuses are two audio commentaries led by producer Brian Henson, the music video for "I'm the Baby, Gotta Love Me!", and the featurette "Creatures With a Cause" on the series finale and the show's tackling of issues. See the full press release for more information.
Blu-ray Disc versions of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest have been made available for preorder. The two highest-grossing Disney-branded live-action films of all-time can each be purchased for $24.99, 29% off SRP. They'll be in stores on May 22nd, three days before the theatrical release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. The Amazon listings suggest the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbusters may be treated to BVHE's first two-disc Blu-ray releases. As always, more information on the first 10 Disney Blu-ray releases is available here.
Disney has finally issued a press release for Jump In!, the highest-rated Disney Channel Original Movie in history, which leaps to DVD on April 3 with music videos, Double Dutch instruction, and a featurette. Clearly, the studio is hoping to recreate some of the phenomenal numbers put up by star Corbin Bleu's previous outing, High School Musical. More...
A just-posted article by Variety confirms yet again that Toy Story 3 is being developed for theatrical release in 2009. This time, the news arrived from a Disney Investors Conference, as Disney Animation president Ed Catmull revealed that Toy Story 2 co-director and longtime Pixar editor Lee Unkrich will be alone helming the much-anticipated sequel. The film is being written by Michael Arndt, whose debut screenplay -- Little Miss Sunshine -- has him nominated for one of this year's writing Oscars.
The conference also confirmed that Disney story artist Chris Williams (Mulan, The Emperor's New Groove) has taken over direction of American Dog, which is planned for release in 2008. The movie was conceived by Chris Sanders, who recently left the studio after bowing out of the director's chair.
Another report from Variety reveals that a film titled Haunted High School Musical is planned for 2008 theatrical release. This will apparently be a third feature-length entry to a canon which began in January 2006 with the record-smashing Disney Channel Original Movie and will continue this August with the made-for-TV sequel High School Musical 2. It won't be the first time Disney Channel characters have wound up on the big screen; 2003's The Lizzie McGuire Movie provided closure for what was, at the time, the cable network's most popular series. There is no word yet on the plot, but all original cast members are said to return.
In one last Variety-spawned story, Walt Disney Pictures is set to begin production this August on Bedtime Stories, a live action family comedy to be directed by The Pacifier's Adam Shenkman. The film, from first-time writer Matt Lopez's script, centers on "a harried architect...whose lavish bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew begin to come true." Among the other projects being developed by Shankman's Offspring Entertainment: a live-action Aladdin film being written by Bill Kelly (Blast From the Past and Disney's upcoming Enchanted).
In a recent interview with San Francisco radio station KGO AM 810, John Lasseter made it known that a DVD collection of all of Pixar's shorts is in the works for release in the future. Thanks to JS for passing along this info.
February 8, 2007 - Each fall, the end-of-the-year DVD blitz keeps us from the normal site-keeping we do year 'round. By the time the new year rolls around, many of our listings pages have grown out-of-date. In the past weeks, we've been quietly working on upating various sections of UD. Among the most recently revised pages are Different Types of Disney DVDs, Direct to Video, Animated Classics, Other Animation, Recent Live Action, and Classic Live Action, TV Movies: Wonderful World of Disney '97-Present, TV Movies: Disney Channel Original Movies (and all corresponding printable checklists). Don't worry if your favorite UD section remains in need of reworking -- we hope to bring everything else up to speed in the upcoming weeks as BVHE's schedule slows down considerably. We're even working on introducing a few new sections based on popular demand. So keep checking back!
Illustrating the scarcity of Wave 6's Walt Disney Treasures, Amazon.com has already run out of stock on the most popular of last December's four titles, More Silly Symphonies. The print run -- 65,000 copies of each were produced -- was the lowest in the line's six-year history.
February 7, 2007 - Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 3 is the subject of our latest DVD review by Albert Gutierrez. More 1930s, '40s, and '50s cartoons set around the globe arrive in another bonus-less, sub-hour budget compilation. The six shorts here offer hijinks with Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto in such idealized locales as India, Mexico, Hawaii, the Swiss Alps, and Great Britain. The disc's most substantial 'toon is the Johnny Appleseed portion of Melody Time, which looks different (and dirtier) than its movie's Gold Collection presentation. Read the full review.
News has begun to pour in regarding The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, the hundred million dollar Disney/Walden follow-up to their 2005 blockbuster The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We've updated our preview of the movie, which is set to begin filming this month, with some casting news.
With the much-discussed promotional insert inside Cinderella III now available to the general public, Disney has opened up an official website for The Aristocats: 2-Disc Special Edition. While about as vague as can be, the single-image site does contain our first glimpse at cover art for this date-to-be-determined re-release. We've added the artwork to our Upcoming Cover Art page.
Speaking of websites, the highly-touted new Disney.com opened yesterday. After some frustrating redirects initially experienced, international surfers are said to now be able to access the site, which is heavy on promotional videos and designed to showcase the company's hottest and newest franchise-ready properties. Money well spent or a letdown? You can discuss the relaunch on the UD Forum.
February 6, 2007 - Cinderella III: A Twist in Time is now available on DVD. Be sure not to miss our review and interview with director Frank Nissen. This DisneyToon Studios sequel is currently among the top sellers at Amazon.com, where it can be purchased for 40% off list price.
February 5, 2007 - With the DVD re-release of Peter Pan, the ninth title in Disney's prestigious Platinum collection, just four weeks away, the company has treated the film to an exclusive two-week engagement at its lavish Hollywood cinema, the El Capitan Theatre. In his UD debut, Scott Wolf turns in a special report on last Thursday's opening night festivities. With nearly 20 pictures and a descriptive article, he recreates the experience for those who missed it. Costumed characters, a discussion panel comprised of those who lent their voices and likenesses to the 1953 classic, excerpts of the DVD's bonus features, a musical performance by T-Squad, even a Tinker Bell spotting complete with pixie dust. It's all inside "Return Flight: Peter Pan's Opening Night at El Capitan."
Our newest review looks back at an older DVD of a British film unceremoniously distributed in the US. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, simply titled The Wind in the Willows in theatrical release, is a live action adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's novel written, directed by, and starring Monty Python comic Terry Jones. Despite a distinguished cast -- which includes Eric Idle, Steve Coogan, Nicol Williamson, and cameos from John Cleese and Michael Palin -- and favorable reviews, a lawsuit split the film's American rights, leaving Sony to give a very limited theatrical release in 1997 to spite Disney's eventual home video release. If not a full masterpiece, this diverting jaunt is plenty of fun and deserving of a larger audience and better treatment than what it's been dealt. Sadly, Disney's disc offers a non-anamorphic transfer, no bonuses (in stark contrast to international DVDs), and a lackluster stereo track. Read the full review.
February 3, 2007 - The subject of our latest DVD review is Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 4, an upcoming addition to Disney's long line of animated shorts compilations. This disc holds just five cartoons, three of which are no longer in print elsewhere. Most notable is The Reluctant Dragon, the 20-minute adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's witty tale, which is plagued with a poor transfer. Its companions -- a pair 'toons finding Goofy and Donald out of their atmospheres, Silly Symphony The Goddess of Spring, and non-series outing The Little House -- benefit from Treasures restorations. As usual, though, the greatest appeal is for the casual fan. Read on...
February 2, 2007 - May 1st has been set as the release date for "Dinosaurs": The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons. In addition to the extras we mentioned earlier this week, the 4-disc set will contain the behind-the-scenes featurette "The World According to 'Dinosaurs'" and audio commentaries on select episodes by executive producer Brian Henson, writers, producers, cast and crew. This set is now available for preorder at 30% off from Amazon.com.
As you might have already expected, The Aristocats: 2-Disc Special Edition will not be making the March 27th release date announced in an insert inside Cinderella III. BVHE has yet to set a new date, but a spring release is still possible. The DVD's first video preview will be found on Peter Pan: Platinum Edition next month.
Review copies of the second/final wave of Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun have come in. Volume 3 holds Tiger Trouble (set in India), Hello Aloha (Hawaii), The Fox Hunt (Great Britain), Pueblo Pluto (Mexico), Alpine Climbers (Switzerland) and Johnny Appleseed (U.S.A.). Volume 4 offers For Whom the Bulls Toil (Mexico), Polar Trappers (South Pole), The Little House (U.S.A.), The Reluctant Dragon (Great Britain) and The Goddess of Spring (Greece). Each disc carries a $14.99 list price, no bonus features, FastPlay "enhancement", and a February 13th release date. See the fact sheets for more information and look for our full reviews in the near future.
It costs over two million dollars to get a 30-second commercial aired on CBS during Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast. Disney has shelled out that kind of cash for a half-minute ad promoting Meet the Robinsons, the latest CGI film from Walt Disney Feature Animation. However, you don't have to wait until Sunday night and you don't have to feel flabbergasted at how much advertisers are willing to spend on your time and attention. That's because the same spot is now online and can be viewed via QuickTime and Windows Media. For more on the film, check out our preview.
Recent Disney DVD Reviews:
• "Higglytown Heroes": Heroes on the Move - This disc offers five episodes of the mid-range Playhouse Disney series plus a bonus installment of "JoJo's Circus." Arranged randomly but all finding the central boys, girl, and squirrel out and about Higglytown, this compilation is technically fine but a questionable purchase.
• Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies (Volume 2) - Though many of the most famous shorts in Disney's 1929-1939 series were part of the long-discontinued first volume, there's a great deal of interest among the remaining 38 vintage cartoons presented here, from seasonal medleys to famous fairy tales. Picture and sound are not perfect, but reflect sufficient restorative efforts. The two-disc set also includes a mixed bag of commentaries on more than half the shorts, a featurette, some unearthed footage of Disney animators, three extensive galleries, and an Easter Egg.
• "Higglytown Heroes": To The Rescue - Five-episode compilation of Playhouse Disney's computer-animated series doesn't talk down to kids, boasts songs with creative lyrics, and regularly offers celebrities in guest voice roles. The disc, which earns fine marks on picture and sound, also serves up an episode of "JoJo's Circus."
• Cinderella III: A Twist in Time - A huge improvement over Cinderella II and one of Disney's best sequels, this follow-up takes viewers back into the world of the original 1950 classic, with its twist being that the glass slipper fits stepsister Anastasia instead. This adventuresome and fresh outing's DVD meets present-day DTV standards, delivering dazzling picture and sound but only a few bonus features, most notably a piece on a similar Disney Cruise Line musical. Related Interview with Cinderella III director Frank Nissen
• Read It and Weep - Sisters Kay and Danielle Panabaker star in this Disney Channel Original Movie, adapted from Julia DeVillers' book and debuted to high ratings last summer, about a high school freshman whose private journal accidentally gets entered into a contest and subsequently published. Familiar material ensues in a typical, clique-filled environment, with a slightly schizophrenic twist: the story's protagonist begins dictating things. Though clearly framed for two ratios, this "Zapped Edition" presents merely the fullscreen version broadcast plus some behind-the-scenes shorts and a music video by Jordan Pruitt.
• That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana - Record-setting three-episode crossover yields interaction between the worlds of Disney Channel's most popular series: "That's So Raven", "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", and "Hannah Montana". The disc also delivers a Hannah Montana concert music video, a neat "Raven" trivia game, and a bonus never-before-seen episode of "Suite Life." Related Interview with Suite Life of Zack & Cody star Brenda Song
Recent Touchstone, Miramax, and Buena Vista DVD Reviews:
• The Guardian - PG-13-rated tale of two United States Coast Guard rescue swimmers -- one, a cocky rookie (Ashton Kutcher); the other, a legendary veteran (Kevin Costner) -- does not make a strong case for the recently-downsized, 23-year-old Touchstone branch's future. Composed of three uneven stretches that are uniformly familiar and uninteresting, this action/drama from director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) drags on well over two hours without offering much beyond enthusiasm for the rigorous Coast Guard training program. The DVD includes a funny alternate ending, four deleted scenes, two short featurettes, and a dry commentary.
• Step Up - In Touchstone's PG-13-rated summer sleeper, a tough delinquent teen teams up with a ballet student to collaborate on an art school's senior dance project. Despite the public's warm reception, the movie offers little that hasn't already been seen before. The DVD provides a 4-party audio commentary, 7 short deleted scenes, a featurette, music videos, a brief blooper reel, and a number of features on the movie's MySpace dance contest.
• Winter DVD Roundup - Capsule reviews are given to "Power Rangers Mystic Force": Volume 2 - Legendary Catastros, "Power Rangers Mystic Force": Volume 3 - Fire Heart (4-episode compilations of the boy franchise's latest incarnation), The Night Listener (Miramax's R-rated psychological thriller starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette), Grand Theft Auto: Tricked Out Edition (a 1977 action/comedy directed by and starring Ron Howard, and The Cry Baby Killer & The Little Shop of Horrors: Back-to-Back Jack Edition (which pairs up two of Jack Nicholson's first film roles in a Roger Corman double feature).
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