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Disneymania in Concert DVD Review

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Concert & DVD Details

Directors: Christopher B. Pearman, Jim Yukich

Performers: Raven-Symoné, Jesse McCartney, The Beu Sisters, Stevie Brock

Running Time: 54 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Studio: Universal Music
Release Date: February 15, 2005
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $9.98
Black Keepcase


Review by Aaron Wallace

Disneymania began as a CD project in which the biggest pop stars today put their own fresh spin on the most well-known and loved Disney classics. The concept seemed to be a success for Disney and they quickly followed it with a second installment on CD
and to promote it, Disneymania In Concert. Though it was released on the same day as and marketed with the third volume of the CD line, there are no songs from the newest album release performed on the DVD.

Your host for the one-hour evening is none other than the new face of Disney herself, Raven. Not only does she emcee, though, she also performs... three times! Though her spoken introductions can be a bit high-strung at times and are laden with plugs for Radio Disney, when performing, she commands immense stage presence and the best choreography of the night. Joining her are Jesse McCartney and Stevie Brock, young and talented on-the-rise pop stars who not only sing Disney tunes, but a few of their own chart-toppers as well (as does Raven). The attractive and talented Beu Sisters also offer two performances. All the acts are well-choreographed, with the exception of Jesse McCartney, whose attempts at dancing in place aren't necessarily bad but seem awkward at times. Recording artists Ashanti, her sister Lil' Sis Shi Shi, and the Disney Channel Circle of Stars are also featured in supplementary interviews and videos.

While I don't want to make any outright accusations without solid evidence, it seems apparent that the "live" performances on this DVD are achieved by the use of lip-synching, or are at the very least relying heavily on the original vocal tracks, throwing in their own live voices only occasionally. Polished performances that never vary from the original recordings, hands and mics held closely to mouths, the absence of any back-up singers or bands, and what occasionally looks like a lack of synchronization of lips and words all point to the possibility of such an infraction. In fact, during his last performance, Stevie Brock only bothers with a microphone when he's not busy doing something else.

If this is indeed the case, then it's not only disappointing, but it's downright dishonest. To tout a performance as "live," as the back of the case does, and then offer nothing more than a glorified soundtrack certainly seems deceptive. One would hope that the guests at Disneyland Resort's California Adventure, where the concert was filmed, knew what they were cheering for, but the in-store consumers certainly do not, prior to purchasing and opening. It may not make a difference to some, but to others it likely will. As the infraction is common among all the featured artists, grievances should lie with Disney, not the performers. Raven is the only artist who looks as though she may actually be singing live, perhaps made possible by a lifetime of acting. If Disney hasn't received complaints for this already (and I suspect they have), then they likely will soon, and probably should.

It's worth noting that prior to this release, Disney offered a "Disneymania Music Video DVD" exclusively at Best Buy that consisted of four performances from this concert ("True To Your Heart," "The Second Star To The Right," "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," "Anytime You Need A Friend"). The DVD came in a shrinkwrapped cardboard sleeve and was free with select purchases (though there have been reports of it being given away with other purchases as well). This DVD can still be found at most Best Buy locations.

Aside from possible lip-synching, the actual content of the set is entertaining and its presentation acceptable, even if not always fully satisfying.

SET LIST

"True To Your Heart" - Raven (Originally from Mulan)
Introduction
Welcome from Raven
"The Second Star To The Right" - Jesse McCartney (Originally from Peter Pan)
Backstage Interview with Jesse McCartney
"Beautiful Soul" - Jesse McCartney
Behind The Scenes of "Anytime You Need A Friend" Music Video with the Beu Sisters*
"He's A Tramp" - The Beu Sisters (Originally from Lady and the Tramp)
Backstage Interviews with The Beu Sisters
"Anytime You Need A Friend" - The Beu Sisters (From Home on the Range)
Studio recording, interview, and film clips from Ashanti and Lil Sis Shi Shi's Colors of the Wind (Originally from Pocahontas)
"Best Day of My Life" - Jesse McCartney
"Shine" - Raven (from "That's So Raven" - not included on any Disneymania CDs)
Studio Interview with Stevie Brock
"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Stevie Brock (Originally from Song of the South)
Disney Channel Circle Of Stars music video: Circle of Life (Originally from The Lion King)
"All For Love" - Stevie Brock
Backstage Interview with Stevie Brock
Grand Finale: "Supernatural" - Raven (from "That's So Raven" - not included on any Disneymania CDs)
Closing from Raven/Credits

*The music video itself is not included but can be found on the Home on the Range DVD.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The concert appears to have been filmed in the 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio and is presented as such here. Disney likely had television in mind when filming this, but some of the more imaginative dance numbers leave one wishing it had been filmed in widescreen for the DVD and cropped for television. Some of the supplements included in the program, however, are in widescreen, such as Ashanti's studio session.

The video quality is superb and gives no reason for complaint.

The DVD presents the concert in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. On a product that so heavily features music, one might have hoped for a 5.1 mix and perhaps a Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix had Disney themselves released the disc. For the low retail price, though, that may be a bit too ambitious. Fortunately, the disc makes excellent use of two speaker channels, offering clear, crisp, and full audio with a considerable amount of appropriately powerful bass, which is heavier in some areas than others. The disc's menu features the most thunderous music and bass of the entire DVD.

BONUS FEATURES

The only bonus feature is Clay Aiken's "Proud of Your Boy" music video (2:20) from the Aladdin Platinum Edition DVD released in October 2004. This is the disc's one and only tie-in to "Disneymania 3" and is touted as such on the menu. The video is in widescreen and is presented with clean and clear audio, just as was found on the Aladdin DVD. A beautiful son-to-mother ballad, the song was written for an early version of the film and was abandoned when the creators went in another direction. The song still seems fitting, though, and Clay Aiken's rendition is masterfully performed.

Of course an additional bonus feature would always be welcome, but at such a low retail price, it isn't exactly expected.

MENU, DESIGN, and PACKAGING

An animated menu features a silhouette of Mickey Mouse in his composer gear making way for video clips from the concert and very loud, bass-heavy music. Two options are presented: "Play the Concert" or "Clay Aiken's bonus video."

Though there is no chapter selection screen (an egregious oversight for a DVD of this nature), the concert is divided into chapters by performance title for easy access.

Packaged in a single black keepcase with an orange and yellow cover that matches the cover of "Disneymania 2" and features the included artists' photos, the disc is a swirl of orange and yellow that matches the "Disneymania" CDs. The back of the case lists the included performances by artist and claims them to be "live." Packaged inside is a reprint of the front and back cover art that opens up to reveal a mini-poster of the artists. There is also a coupon for instant savings of $2 on either "Disneymania 3," "Disney Channel Hits," Christy Carlson Romano's "Greatest Disney TV & Film Hits," or the soundtracks for Princess Diaries 2, or "That's So Raven." (expires 8/1/2005)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The concept of "Disneymania" is a fun one and its incarnation on DVD is certainly welcome. The concert is aesthetically pleasing and engaging. While it doesn't include any songs from the newly-released "Disneymania 3," a concert version of that album is being advertised on Disney's website for television broadcast. Hopefully it will make its way to DVD and feature legitimately live performances.

One might have hoped for a widescreen, 5.1 presentation, but the DVD makes full use of a high-quality fullscreen, Dolby Stereo presentation. For an SRP of only $9.98, the quantity and quality of content seems appropriate. The only complaint is what looks like the use of lip-synching under false pretenses. Still, the low price tag invites even a casual Disney fan to engage in an hour's worth of entertainment. Therefore, the product earns a recommendation, especially for fans of the "Disneymania" franchise, though all consumers are urged not to take it too seriously... after all, Disney didn't.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Read Aaron's review of Disneymania 3 audio CD.

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Related Reviews
Aladdin: Platinum Edition
The Lion King: Platinum Edition
Home on the Range
Mulan: Special Edition
Peter Pan: Special Edition
That's So Raven: Supernaturally Stylish

Reviewed February 23, 2005.