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Campout at Walt Disney World:
Sing Along Songs DVD Review

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Sing Along Songs DVD Details

Director: Gary Halvorson

Running Time: 31 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Video Debut: April 19, 1994

Song List: "Comin' Round The Mountain", "The Bare Necessities", "The Caissons Go Rolling Along", "The Happy Wanderer", "Oh, Susanna!", "Camptown Races", "By the Beautiful Sea", "Don't Fence Me In", "Turkey in the Straw", "Talent Round-Up", "Jeepers Creepers", "Mountain Greenery," "Country Roads", "If You're Happy and You Know It", "Goodnight Campers"

1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release: September 27, 2005
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase
   

By Aaron Wallace

Walt Disney Home Entertainment was instrumental in the advent of VHS as a popular consumer hobby in the 1980s and '90s. An industry leader from the very beginning, their video releases were favorites at retailers and video rental locations, which included the movies that made the company famous, collections of the cartoon shorts that gave it its start, and a whole new kind of entertainment tailor-made for home video: Sing Along Songs. The series often put their classic feature films and signature characters in the spotlight, but also occasionally ventured to the company's theme park division.

In 1994, Florida's Walt Disney World Resort opened the doors to the Wilderness Lodge, an elaborately-themed deluxe resort that emulates the forestry of historic Yellowstone National Park. That same year, Disney released Campout at Walt Disney World as their newest entry in the short-lived Mickey's Fun Songs line. It was later reissued under its current Sing Along Songs title. As you might have guessed, it takes place almost entirely at the Wilderness Lodge, with occasional theme park excursions. You never see much of the resort itself, with the majority of dance numbers utilizing the outdoor campgrounds, but fans of the hotel (and there are many) should be able to recognize the locale.

Mickey, Minnie, and young friends hope to make you a "Happy Wanderer." The retooled (and less disturbing) Country Bears costumes are on display for "Oh, Susanna!"

Despite the familiar logo and constant presence of park characters, the "Disney Sing Along Songs" here actually include only two Disney songs. "The Bare Necessities" comes in the early minutes of the presentation. After that and a round of "Comin' Round The Mountain," it's traditional campfire songs and reworked standards for the rest of the ride, which is its greatest drawback. (Okay, there's an old "Mickey Mouse Club" anthem, but not many are likely to instantly recognize it). Why the Disney of 1994 thought that the public would prefer fourteen routine renditions of everyday jingles to the Disney classics that would have made more sense is about as understandable as why the Disney of 2005 now sees "sing along" and "recycled princess footage" as synonymous. But I digress.

The dance numbers that correspond with the music are impressively choreographed, especially given that they involve multiple cast members in bulky costumes and a group of small children. And if you're going to listen to half an hour of songs you aren't dying to hear, the Disney fan in you will at least be pleased to have Mickey and the gang singing them along with you. A few of the stand-out numbers: "By the Beautiful Sea" (the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, that is), "Don't Fence Me In" (where you'll see some of the now-defunct River Country), "Jeepers Creepers" (part of a multi-song sequence involving a Frontierland talent show), and the "If You're Happy and You Know It/Goodnight Campers" medley that serves as a finale.

Eleven years after its VHS debut, this program makes its way to DVD in 2005 for a new generation of families and the Disney enthusiast. Its primary value is certainly its tour down memory lane, although I see no reason for today's children to be any less entertained by this set than the now-teenagers who apparently enjoyed it in their younger years were. Disney World has changed a lot in the last decade-plus, but that's not very evident from the footage archived here. There is, however, something distinctly '90s in the fashion and production styles exhibited herein and something distinctly Disney in its showcase of characters, offering some charm to balance the otherwise deterring packaging that is addressed below.

A bit of watersports, anyone? All gather 'round for a proper campfire farewell.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Yes, it was a direct-to-VHS production, yes, it's eleven years old, and no, it wasn't state-of-the-art even at the time, but believe it or not, Campout at Walt Disney World looks surprisingly good on DVD, given all the aforementioned limitations. That's mostly due to the nature of the digital disc itself, and what I assume was a fairly clean production to begin with, as it seems neither likely nor apparent that the video was treated with any extensive retouching. Many of the shots look a little soft, as they did the first go-round, which is only to be expected. While the proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio presumably goes without saying, you won't feel like you're watching your old VHS copy.

The promised Dolby Digital 5.1 track is delivered, but in modest fashion. There's only the slightest reinforcement from the surrounding channels, but that's fine, as the audio sounds entirely sufficient and won't leave you yearning for anything more. Truth be told, the bolstered audio track is probably unnecessary and a sales ploy, but it's appreciated nonetheless.

This is pretty much the pinnacle of the animated lyric graphics on display in "Campout at Walt Disney World." The animated main menu matches the disc's fellow new-to-DVD Sing Along Songs.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN

VHS rarely boasted supplemental extras of any kind, and that's true of this digital repackaging as well. That's more an observation than a complaint, because while one could reasonably ask for fewer wasted gigabytes, bonus features aren't really expected. In fact, the inclusion of anything worthwhile in this department for a release of this type would be more noteworthy than its omission is.

The 4x3 menus are rather lively, as animated musical notes dance to the instrumental theme of the video. The disc opens with the Cinderella: Platinum Edition trailer, a look at Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin and Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment, and the latest Chicken Little trailer. The main menu accesses trailers for the prechool-targeted Disney Learning Adventures, Disney Princess, and Disney Princess Fantasy Game DVD releases.

Dresses fly in this rowdy roundup. Disney personalities, ordinary '90s kids, and camping. What more could you want? Oh yeah, music.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Fun but dated, active but bland, and brief but long enough, Disney Sing Along Songs: Campout at Walt Disney World is worth consideration by those in its obvious target audiences: hardcore Disney fans, consumers who remember it from its VHS debut, and families with children who take note of its fanfare-less release. With fairly good audio/video presentation, this low-priced release embodies certain delectable aspects of 1990s Disney, even as it doesn't show much of the actual resort and profiles only two official Disney tunes. Even the original "Mickey's Fun Songs" opening is left intact.

The 32 minute runtime is more than plenty for this particular presentation, but it only scratches the surface of a DVD's capacity. As it's released with three other very similar Sing Along DVDs in the same week, one can't help but make the obvious observation that all four discs could have been compiled into one to the benefit of all parties. As it is, though, it's still almost as cheap as they come, and therefore not quite the rip-off a higher price tag would have made it.

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Related Reviews:
Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World
Sing Along Songs: Flik's Musical Adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom
The Parent Trap & The Parent Trap II: 2-Movie Collection
Sing Along Songs: Sing A Song with Pooh Bear and Piglet Too
Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 1 - Once Upon a Dream
Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 2 - Enchanted Tea Party
Walt Disney Records: Summer 2005 CD Roundup

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Sing Along Songs DVDs on the Direct-to-Video Page | September's Disney DVD Releases

Reviewed September 29, 2005.