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JULY 16-31, 2006 NEWS ARCHIVES

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Click here for Tuesday's New Release and Bargain Chart

July 31, 2006 - Well, four months was longer than anyone expected, but we can all celebrate now that Amazon.com has ended its unexplained era of pricing all Disney DVDs at (or close to) full list price. Upcoming releases have been repriced with 30% discounts, while in-stock titles have returned to a standard range of 7-25% off SRP. Remember, when you buy anything through one of this site's Amazon links (literally, anything, and that now includes non-refrigerated grocery items), you show your support for what we do at UltimateDisney.com at no extra cost to you. This financial support has helped keep UD going for the past 5½ years without forcing us to resort to intrusive and/or pop-up advertising. Thank you all for your ongoing mindfulness of this.

This Week's Bargains
• Hot-selling Disney DVDs are up to 53% off at
Overstock.comicon: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearlicon ($10.96), The Sword in the Stoneicon ($10.96), Hocus Pocusicon ($7.01), Flight of the Navigatoricon ($7.01), Newsiesicon ($10.96), High School Musicalicon ($14.91), The Three Musketeersicon ($7.01), The Apple Dumpling Gang: Special Editionicon ($7.01), The Little Mermaid: Platinum Editionicon ($19.85), "Lost" Season 2icon ($39.91)
• Hundreds of Disney DVDs are on sale for $5.99 & $11.99 (40-60% off) at J&R - JR.com
• Amazon.com's Hot List (Amazon's most popular DVD deals)
BestBuy.com Bargains (Support Ultimate Disney: buy online, free in-store pickup.)
• Save big on recent (non-Disney) films' DVDs: $3.99 and up (titles include Spider-man 1 & 2, Men in Black 1 & 2, Peter Pan (2003), Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Meet the Fockers, War of the Worlds (2005), Mission: Impossible, Fantastic Four, Nanny McPhee, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and many, many more)
• Buy 3 Classic Cartoon Favorites volumes for $25 (excludes Holiday volumes)
• Preorder Lost, Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy, save $10 on Season 1
• Preorder The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition and save $5 on any Disney DVD
• Select Disney/Pixar/Touchstone/Miramax DVDs are 50% off ($14.99 each)
• "Home Improvement" Seasons 1-3 are just $24.99 (38-50% off SRP).

Disney's most significant new DVD this week -- The Shaggy Dog (2006) -- is the subject of our latest review. As producer, uncredited writer, and star, Tim Allen headlines this contemporary spin on the man-turned-dog premise. Allen's workaholic lawyer gets bit by a 300-year-old Collie and begins to see things differently, from a dog's perspective. Occasionally clever but all too often conventional, this new filming neither lives up to the studio's past big screen Shaggy flicks nor works the magic of past Allen/Disney collaborations. The DVD delivers pristine widescreen and fullscreen versions (which aren't redundant due to the Super 35 process) and includes a surprisingly enlightening commentary alongside insignificant video extras. More...

July 30, 2006 - Aaron Wallace returns for "That's So Raven": Raven's Makeover Madness, the recently-released compilation which houses five episodes from the hit Disney Channel comedy's unprecedented fourth season. Introducing some much needed change to the series, these episodes find the psychic teen balancing a fashion design internship with her everyday duties. Click here for the full review.

Cover art has been posted for Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior and "Hannah Montana": Livin' the Rock Star Life!. Click here for both.

Amazon.com devotees will want to take advantage of soon-to-disappear 30% discounts on upcoming Disney and Buena Vista DVDs "Hannah Montana": Livin' the Rock Star Life, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, "Alias" The Complete Fifth Season, and "Alias" The Complete Series (29-Disc Set. In addition, the Blu-ray disc of The Haunted Mansion is on sale for $23.95, 32% off its list price.

July 28, 2006 - Four months is becoming the normal time window for Disney Channel Original Movies to make their way to DVD. That's how long it will take Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior to land on disc. The Brenda Song-headlined adventure will arrive on October 24th, with a never-before-seen extended ending, the featurettes "Homecoming Warrior in Training" and "Cast Connections with Brenda Song", and a special episode of Song's sitcom "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody." On the same day, one of Disney Channel's newest comedy series, "Hannah Montana", will make its prompt DVD debut in a four-plus-one episode compilation called Livin' the Rock Star Life!. Its disc will include a never-before-seen episode, star Miley Cyrus' audition tape, a Hannah Montana music video, and an interview with Cyrus called "Miley on Following Your Dreams." Each DVD will carry a $19.99 list price and offer fullscreen/Dolby 5.1 feature presentations.

Other "DCOMs" expected on DVD by the end of the year are the recently-debuted Read It and Weep and the soon-to-air sequel The Cheetah Girls 2.

Also due on October 24th: Baby Einstein: Baby's First Moves, the 22nd volume in the interminable series for toddlers. This one will seek to encourage and celebrate milestones in motor skills.

We've updated our preview of Pixar's eighth and next feature film, Ratatouille, to include new plot specifics and three new voice cast members. Click here to read.

July 27, 2006 - Mark Probst makes his UD review debut with The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, one of the 19 DVDs that has first appeared in Region 1 as a Disney Movie Club Exclusive. Walt's second entirely live-action film (shot in early-'50s England), Robin Hood comes in the barest of barebones discs, lacking not only extras (outside of an opening for "The Wonderful World of Disney", an anthology incarnation this movie never aired under yet one which dominates the packaging) but also chapter stops. The feature presentation of this "lively and good-natured" filming also leaves plenty to be desired. Read on...

Pleasant but far from unexpected news out of Hollywood today informs us that traditional 2-D animation has risen from the dead at Walt Disney Feature Animation. Veteran directors John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, et. al.) have been tapped to helm Frog Princess, a female spin on the classic fairy tale of the Frog Prince. While release is easily a number of years away and hurdles remain to be cleared, this development bodes well for a format once proclaimed dead upon weak reception of films like Atlantis, Musker and Clements' Treasure Planet and Home on the Range. Further putting Frog Princess in the successful Disney 2-D tradition is word that composer Alan Menken is attached to handle the film's music.

July 26, 2006 - Tonight's new DVD review looks at "Commander in Chief" Part 1. Poised to become ABC's fourth hour-long hit in two seasons, this Geena Davis presidential drama changed executives thrice in a matter of months. Troublesome scheduling and dwindling ratings eventually overshadowed the show's good buzz and Golden Globe, yielding a premature cancellation. The network's axe has also led Buena Vista to curiously split the complete series run into a pair of two-disc sets. Albert Gutierrez critiques the first, which holds ten episodes (a mix of two separate showrunners) but no extras. More...

Disney has released the colorful official poster artwork for The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause.

Austin and Belle have noticed that Disney's official Brother Bear 2 website now holds four clips from the forthcoming direct-to-video sequel.

July 25, 2006 - The subject of tonight's new DVD review, Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition was one of the end-of-2005 releases that slipped by the UD staff amidst Buena Vista's holiday blitz. In a critique that was well worth the wait, Renata Joy revisits Miramax's 2002 Best Picture Oscar winner, which is given splendid two-disc treatment. High praise is in order for both the movie ("fast-paced, full of energy, and an absolute delight") and DVD, which includes a variety of extended/alternate musical performances plenty on the film's theatrical predecessor. Click here for the full review.

Disney's official Muppets website has opened a poll enlisting fans to help pick out the show's Season 2 DVD cover art from three Miss Piggy-themed designs. Consistency suggests voting for #3, though sticklers will note that even this is not perfectly consistent to the Season 1 box art, since that clearly does not depict Piggy's chestal region. Though this survey launches promotion for the DVD, the 4-disc collection of episodes from the 1977-78 season isn't due until sometime in 2007.

July 24, 2006 - Today wouldn't be complete without a new update on the Narnia double-dip. We now have high-resolution artwork from the Four-Disc Extended Edition and gift set contents: click here to view. In addition to everything mentioned in the press release, the set will include a 10-page companion guide, a certificate of authenticity, and a $10 mail-in rebate for current Narnia DVD owners to ease the pain of upgrading.

This Week's New Release and Deals
Baby Einstein: Baby's Favorite Places: First Words - Around TownThe 21st volume in the best-selling Baby Einstein series, Baby's Favorite Places: First Words - Around Town introduces toddlers to 20 new words in multiple forms, from how they sound to how to sign them.Buy from...
• Amazon.com ($19.99)
• BestBuy.com ($15.99)
• Buy.com ($14.88)
• DVD Empire ($14.45)
• Overstock.comicon ($14.41)
• Wal-Mart.com ($16.99)
• eBay.com (range)
This Week's Bargains:
• Save big on Disney DVDs (up to 53% off SRP!) at Overstock.comicon: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearlicon ($10.96), The Little Mermaid: Platinum Editionicon ($19.85), The Parent Trap & The Parent Trap II: 2-Movie Collectionicon ($7.01), The Sword in the Stoneicon ($10.96), Hocus Pocusicon ($7.01), Flight of the Navigatoricon ($7.01), Newsiesicon ($10.96), Miracle (2-Disc Set)icon ($7.01), The Three Musketeersicon ($7.01), The Apple Dumpling Gang: Special Editionicon ($7.01), "Lost" Season 2icon ($39.91)
• Hundreds of Disney DVDs are on sale for $5.99 (60% off) at J&R - JR.com
BestBuy.com Bargains (Support Ultimate Disney: buy online, free in-store pickup.)
• Buy 3 Classic Cartoon Favorites volumes for $25 (excludes Holiday volumes)
• Preorder Lost, Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy, save $10 on Season 1
• Preorder The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition and save $5 on any Disney DVD
• Buy Eight Below or Lady and the Tramp II and save $3 on any Disney DVD
• Select Disney/Pixar/Touchstone/Miramax DVDs are 50% off ($14.99 each)
• "Home Improvement" Seasons 1-3 are just $24.99 (38-50% off SRP).
• Amazon.com's Hot List (Amazon's most popular DVD deals)

July 23, 2006 - It seems like not even a day can go by without more news eking out regarding the upcoming (brace yourself, tedious bolding ahead) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: Four-Disc Extended Edition. Thanks to Disney's official website for the film, we now have a tiny look at the cover art and packaging for this calculated double-dip due December 12th. BVHE has also issued an official press release, which provides a complete list of specs: Disc 1 will hold all extras from the single-disc release (bloopers, Narnia Fun Facts track, and two commentaries) plus the new extended cut of the movie (which boasts approximately seven new minutes of footage and a new DTS 5.1 Home Theatre Mix soundtrack), Disc 2 appears identical to the second disc of the Collector's Edition, Disc 3 will offer only the feature-length film C.S. Lewis: The Dreamer of Narnia, and Disc 4 will deliver the all-new "Visualizing" featurette, a new "Anatomy of a Scene" piece, and an art gallery. For more information, see the full announcement.

July 22, 2006 - While Comic-Con is now offering an in-person preview, those far from San Diego can also take pleasure in learning about the forthcoming 4-Disc Extended Edition DVD of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, thanks to Home Media Retailing. The industry publication reports that ΰ la the DVD treatment of the Lord of the Rings movies, Disney will re-release Narnia in both the 4-disc extended edition alone (carrying an SRP of $42.99) and in a gift set (list price: $79.99) on December 12, 2006. (Something BVHE could have thought to tell fans beforehand, like New Line did with Rings.) Among the new extras pegged for the sets are the feature-length film C.S. Lewis: The Dreamer of Narnia and the featurette "Visualizing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience." It is unclear whether all of the Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition supplements will be carried over, but the article does mention "fun facts, bloopers, commentaries from the filmmakers and stars, as well as behind-the-scenes...featurettes" suggesting many holdovers. The gift set will include all the same, plus a pair of heirloom quality bookends from creature-designers WETA Ltd. Each set will remain in print for only seven weeks, officially being discontinued at the end of January 2007.

With the 25th Anniversary Edition re-release of The Fox and the Hound less than three months away, we've now gotten all the details for you. Check out our Upcoming Cover Art page for a look at the slipcovered package artwork and see our new Fact Sheet thread for: a full list of bonus features (exciting additions include an art gallery and the featurette "Passing the Batons" on Disney's Golden Age animators and the artists they schooled), a shot of the main menu, links to preorder at a discount, and a place to discuss all aspects of the just-announced DVD. More...

July 21, 2006 - It remains to be seen whether HD-DVD or Blu-ray (if either) will supersede standard DVD as the public's preferred home video medium. But the wait is now over to see what Disney movies will look like packaged in a new format. Click the image below to view preliminary artwork of the first four Disney titles scheduled to land on Blu-ray disc: Dinosaur ($29.99 SRP) and Eight Below ($34.99) due September 19th, plus The Haunted Mansion ($29.99 SRP) and Glory Road ($34.99 SRP) arriving October 17th. While some studios have yet to pick sides between the two recently-launched "next-generation" formats (and the overwhelming majority of consumers have yet to care), Buena Vista Home Entertainment has only announced its support of Blu-ray, which can (in theory, at least) hold nearly twice as much data as the competing HD-DVD and over eight times as much as normal DVDs.

A look at the preliminary packaging design for Disney's first four Blu-ray disc releases, due September and October 2006: (left to right) "Dinosaur", "Eight Below", "The Haunted Mansion", and "Glory Road."

After a relatively slow summer, Buena Vista Home Entertainment is packing the calendar for the month of September and beyond. We've just posted the studio's official sfact sheets/press releases and menus for several upcoming releases: Disney Princess Jewelry Gift Sets (September 19), "Scrubs" The Complete Fourth Season (October 10), Hollywood Pictures' Stay Alive (9/19), and from the soon-to-be-downsized Touchstone Pictures, Stick It (9/19) and Goal! The Dream Begins (September 12).

Want a look at the piece of concept art from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe that those attending the Narnia/Pirates program tomorrow afternoon at Comic-Con 2006? Then simply click here to see it, the first official confirmation of a forthcoming 4-Disc Extended Edition DVD of Disney/Walden's blockbuster, best-selling fantasy epic.

It's time for our latest DVD Roundup! Critiqued in capsule-reviews are Touchstone's military drama Annapolis starring James Franco; Miramax's small town drama An Unfinished Life directed by Lasse Hallstrφm and starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez; and Miramax's Tsotsi, the South African drama which won Best Foreign Film at this year's Oscars. Click here to read about all three.

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July 18, 2006 - Our latest review looks at "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody": Taking Over the Tipton, a 5-episode compilation of the one-year-old sitcom about pre-teen twins who live at an upscale Boston hotel. The formula for the success of the show, which is ranked second among all Disney Channel programs: take two charismatic boys (the male equivalent of Mary-Kate and Ashley), two slightly older girls, the premise of Kay Thompson's "Eloise" books (and Disney's telemovies), throw in some conventions from other popular tween-oriented live action comedies, and top it off with broad physical and verbal comedy. The result is far from cutting edge, but plenty diverting nevertheless. The DVD includes one unaired show and a decent behind-the-scenes featurette. Click to read the full review.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is soon getting into the next-generation home video market with its first output for the Blu-ray format. Home Media Retailing reports on the nine titles with which the studio will make its high-definition debut later this year. Five of the expected movies (which will likely carry $34.99 list prices) - Dinosaur, Eight Below, Glory Road, The Haunted Mansion, and Touchstone's Gone in 60 Seconds - will be accompanied by never-before-seen "Blu-Scape" shorts "inspired by the films, presented in 1080p and shot by renowned cinematographer Louis Schwartzberg" (who directed America's Heart & Soul). See the article for the full slate and release dates.

This Week's Bargains
•
Hundreds of Disney DVDs are on sale for $5.99 & $11.99 (40-60% off) at J&R - JR.com
• Amazon.com's Hot List (Amazon's most popular DVD deals)
BestBuy.com Bargains (Support Ultimate Disney: buy online, free in-store pickup.)
@ Buy both of this week's Disney Channel DVDs for $20
• Preorder The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition and save $5 on any Disney DVD
• Preorder Lost, Desperate Housewives, or Grey's Anatomy and save $10 on Season 1
• Buy Eight Below or Lady and the Tramp II and save $3 on any Disney DVD
• Select Disney/Pixar/Touchstone/Dimension/Miramax DVDs are 50% off ($14.99 each)
• "Home Improvement" Seasons 1-3 are just $24.99 (38-50% off SRP).

July 17, 2006 - Grand changes are afoot for the theatrical film division of the Walt Disney Company, following the record box office success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. In recent days, both Variety and The New York Times have reported that Disney will reduce the number of films released each year. To achieve this, the studio plans to trim its staff, cut back on adult-oriented output from Touchstone Pictures and take efforts to strengthen the Walt Disney Pictures brand, which has generated the most profitable fare in recent years (such as Pirates and its predecessor, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and a steady flow of Pixar-animated hits). After five months of modestly-performing small films, the dynamic duo of Cars and Dead Man's Chest has bolstered Disney close to a 2nd place market share for the year. The Company's $802.8 million total North American gross through 6½ months nearly rivals 2005's final earnings of $921.5 M. The effects of this anticipated reconfiguration will not likely be witnessed until 2008.

UD has learned the intended release date and obtained preliminary cover art for the DVD release of Cars, the seventh and latest collaboration of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. The G-rated CGI blockbuster, which has grossed over $215 million domestically to date, is expected to street on November 7th. Click here for a thumbnail of the colorful early cover art.

Though announced as ending on Saturday, the big $5.99/$11.99 DVD sale at J&R Computer World is still going on right now. Late to the party? Hurry so as not to miss out! Click here to save on hundreds of Disney/Buena Vista DVDs.

Many UD readers have been looking forward to the upcoming re-release of The Fox and the Hound, one of the more popular Disney animated classics not in the best-selling Platinum line. We've gotten in some underwhelming details on the 25th Anniversary Edition, which is now scheduled to street on October 10th. The new: the movie will boast digitally restored and remastered picture, an interactive "Forest Friendship" hide-and-seek set-top game, and a DVD storybook featurette titled "New Best Friends." In addition, the disc will include a sneak peek of forthcoming DTV The Fox and the Hound 2, a sing-along of "The Best of Friends", two bonus shorts, an all-important cardboard slipcover, and more to be announced. Those hoping for a feature presentation faithful to its 1981 theatrical exhibitions will be disappointed to know that preliminary specs peg the movie as being in 1.33:1 fullscreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. We'll have a full announcement for you soon.

July 11, 2006 - Our Summer CD Roundup is here and it brings reviews of the nine newest albums released by Walt Disney Records. Covered are soundtracks for Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Tarzan: The Broadway Musical, The Wild and High School Musical (2-Disc Special Edition), plus Lightning McQueen's Fast-Tracks, Disneymania 4, Disney's Karaoke Series: Disneymania, Volume 2 and the forthcoming Rock & Bop with the Doodlebops. Click here to read it all.

Walt Disney Records' nine latest albums get reviewed in our new Summer CD Roundup. Click to read it!

July 7, 2006 - Today, we bring you our long-awaited review of A Musical History of Disneyland, the deluxe box set soundtrack which Walt Disney Records released last year to mark the Anaheim theme park's 50th Anniversary. Six CDs provide nearly eight hours of audio from noteworthy attractions of the past and present, spanning five decades and all eight lands. The set, which carries a $100 list price in general retail, also contains an excellent hardcover book and a vinyl record reproduction of Walt Disney Takes You to Disneyland, the first park soundtrack and WDR's first album. From Pirates of the Caribbean to Splash Mountain, from Star Tours to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, from Main Street Electrical Parade to Fantasmic! -- they're all included, as are over 60 others and they're all terrifically preserved in full. Don't miss our detailed review, with pictures of this fantastic set and its slick contents.

Recent Disney DVD and Movie Reviews:
• Leroy & Stitch - The feature-length conclusion to the Disney Channel's popular "Lilo & Stitch: The Series" finds Lilo and her three closest extraterrestrial pals commended and ready to part, until the evil Dr. Hδmsterviel escapes prison and demands the creation of a red, evil version of Stitch who is countlessly cloned. This entertaining jaunt should delight fans of the show and while the disc skimps on extras (providing only a spotty game and a never-before-aired episode), it does well in the audio and video departments.
• Cow Belles - Crossover teens Aly & AJ star as spoiled sisters whose fathers put them to work on the family dairy farm for the summer. This Disney Channel Original suffers from a lacking script, a weak supporting cast, and other common flaws, but ends up in the middle of its class with a solid story and a surprise or two. The disc could use some improvement, with unexceptional picture and sound, just three brief bonuses, and an alternate ending which replaces the broadcast conclusion.

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