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You Can Fly - Peter Pan: Sing Along Songs DVD Review

Buy Sing Along Songs: You Can Fly! from Amazon.com You Can Fly! - Peter Pan
Sing Along Songs DVD Details

Running Time: 27 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Original Release Year: 1988

Song List: "You Can Fly!" (Peter Pan), "The Beautiful Briny" (Bedknobs and Broomsticks), "Colonel Hathi's March" (The Jungle Book), "I've Got No Strings" (Pinocchio), "Little Black Rain Cloud" (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree), "The Merrily Song" (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), "Step In Time" (Mary Poppins), "When I See An Elephant Fly" (Dumbo), "You Can Fly!" Reprise (Peter Pan)

1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French)
Subtitles: English (Enhanced for Hearing Impaired); Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 3, 2006
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase
In the late 1980s, having finally begun issuing its animated classics to home video, the Disney studio sought to make new waves in the lucrative VHS market. And so, the Sing Along Songs line was born, providing half-hour compilations of animated lyrics-accompanied musical numbers from Disney films (and later elsewhere) in places where there previously had been none. Appropriately enough, the series was launched with a volume titled Heigh-Ho and inspired by Walt Disney's first animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, taking its title from the never-released-to-video-in-the-U.S. animated/live action hybrid Song of the South, came second. Two others soon followed - The Bare Necessities and You Can Fly - with song names and cover imagery taken from two of the more popular Walt-era animated classics, The Jungle Book and Peter Pan. Eighteen years after debuting on VHS, this last pair is resurfacing for its first appearance on DVD, where new entries to the Sing Along Songs canon are now
issued on a rather infrequent basis. Apparently, Disney feels that now is the time to revisit these dated Sing Alongs from the past two decades. Just over three months ago, four park-themed volumes made a fairly low-key DVD debut and now four movie song compilations are doing the same.

Despite what the front cover art and extended title would have you believe, Sing Along Songs: You Can Fly! - Peter Pan is not the next best thing to tracking down an out of print Special Edition or Limited Issue disc of the 1953 animated classic. "You Can Fly!" is the only song from Peter Pan and it's also the only one of the eight selections that can be readily given "classic" status. The rest are bound to be remembered by the serious Disney fan and are likely at least partially familiar to anyone who was ever a movie-watching kid. By and large, though, they just fall among the middle to lower tiers of the songs from their respective Disney films. Half of the tunes were penned by Richard and Robert Sherman, Disney's legendary songwriting siblings, but their four contributions ("Colonel Hathi's March" from The Jungle Book, "Little Black Rain Cloud" from Disney's debut Winnie the Pooh short, Mary Poppins' "Step in Time" and "The Beautiful Briny" from its tonal and mixed-medium cousin Bedknobs and Broomsticks) would not likely find their way onto a "Best of the Brothers Sherman" CD unless a second or third volume was produced.

"You Can Fly!" is both the first and last song of the program, making it as valid a title choice as anything, I suppose. Ludwig von Drake is your host to the Sing Along Songs festivities.

The remaining three numbers are: Pinocchio's internationally flavored puppet show song "I've Got No Strings"; "The Merrily Song", the lone diegetic musical element from "The Wind in the Willows" half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad; and the bouncy Dumbo crows' grammatically questionable but melodically sound jazz finale "When I See An Elephant Fly." The fact that that last one contains the word "fly" and that "Little Black Rain Cloud" references honey-driven flight seem to be the only thing tying any of the selections together with the title song, which is reprised as a concluding track. There otherwise seems to be no real rhyme or reason to the lineup, besides the obvious reality that they all originate from completely or partially-animated Disney films that many people know and love.

Like the other Sing Along volumes from this era, You Can Fly! opens with a toe-tapping introduction which features Professor Owl and his pupils from a pair of early '50s musically-themed shorts. The Professor then turns the show over to Ludwig Von Drake, the egomaniacal early-'60s creation who serves as host, introducing each song from a variety of locations and then narrating the old school post-credits promotional push which encourages you to discover the other first three volumes of the line. Throughout the program, lyrics appear for viewers to sing along with the songs, though as is true of many of Disney's Sing Along volumes, they puzzlingly disappear at certain times. A few show inspiration in the way lyrics look, move and keep pace, but for the most part, it's a bouncing ball or changing colors on lyrics you likely either know or don't care to learn. This observation is true for most Sing Along Songs, but it seems especially relevant here, based upon the hard-to-spot theme and somewhat lackluster roster of tunes.

Ooh, a bouncing Pooh on a ball - just what I wanted for Christmas! You and I may not really know what "briny" means, but David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury seem to.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As expected, the program is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen despite the wider theatrical aspect ratios of the two part live action works. Hey, this was the '80s and VHS never took to letterbox the way the laserdisc did and DVD does. Plus, if you look at You Can Fly! as a production of its own (rather than a hodgepodge of unrelated Disney songs), 1.33:1 is its
original aspect ratio. The minor cropping (and at 18 years old, it can vote this November!) doesn't offend the way it does now, especially since most people don't expect the Sing Alongs format to reproduce the theatrical experience - hence, we don't balk at those distracting lyrics.

Anyway, as you could have guessed, this compilation hasn't received a dramatic remastering the way the featured films have received (or will) alongside DVD justice. None of the excerpts compare favorably in picture quality with their appearances on the full-length counterparts; even the not-so-hot-looking-on-Gold-Collection Mr. Toad seems even more cluttered with artifacts here. The video is generally lacking in sharpness and excessive in blurriness and grain. Even with about 12 minutes of previews, a French Dolby Surround track, and only a single layer of data, this DVD could have set a bitrate record with its paucity of content - but it clocks in at 5.32 Mb/s and takes up just 2.44 GB of space (barely over half of a DVD-5's capacity). Now, its many picture problems cannot be attributed to DVD compression or faulty techniques, just a complete overlooking of the program's need (and that word is used lightly) for restoration. But the ho-hum bitrate is indicative of an extreme lack of effort which marks this and Disney's other recently-reborn-on-DVD Sing Along Songs volumes. It's clear that they have are making a tardy format jump in a lackluster manner with little regard to the customer demographic that may actually want to buy them.

Your soundtrack choices are Dolby Digital 5.1 English and Dolby Surround French. Selecting French, of course, enables all of the on-screen lyrics to be presented in French as well, which suggests that at least a touch of effort went into this DVD (that's assuming the French version didn't already turn up in some market). Needless to say, there is next to nothing in the way of channel separation and you probably wouldn't know the default track was in 5.1 if it wasn't encoded as such and you didn't look or care for the information that said it was. The English audio presentation is serviceable, but barely. It doesn't offer crisp or particularly robust recordings, so if you demand quality sound with which to Sing Along, you'll again be disappointed.

Who wood-n't! Contain your excitement. It's only the Main Menu!

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN

Producers Harry Arends and Phil Savenick team up for an insightful screen-specific audio commentary. Of course they don't, I'm only kidding. The closest things to bonus features on this package are a two-sided insert and partly-colored disc artwork.

Like last September's park-themed volumes, this Sing Along Songs DVD features an animated 4x3 main menu in which musical notes featuring images bounce along and an instrumental version of Sing Along theme plays. In the background, Peter Pan and company take flight above the rooftops of London. The underpopulated sub-menus are universally without animation but accompanied by a different portion of the same instrumental theme.

Sneak peeks play at the start of the disc for Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, the February 2006 Disney Princess wave (encompassing Disney Princess Learning Adventures and Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 3), and the delayed pair of standard Disney Learning Adventures Winnie the Pooh: Shapes & Sizes and Wonderful Word Adventure. The menu holds more dated spots for Little Einsteins: Our Big Huge Adventure, Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition, Bambi II, and "JoJo's Circus" on Playhouse Disney.

For all you readers who will never see "You Can Fly!" for themselves, the crows offer an acceptable response to this review. This is about as creative as "You Can Fly!" gets.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Surely, some Disney fans could find value in Sing Along Songs: You Can Fly! for themselves in their offspring, but in today's cluttered DVD marketplace, a less-than-30-minute program had better be splendid to justify spending ten or more dollars on it. This is far from splendid, with the weakly-themed 18-year-old collection of fair-to-good Disney songs not having been satisfyingly restored, updated in any way, or accompanied by any bonus features or fellow Sing Along Songs volumes. With a lower price or paired with one or more of its three concurrently-released kin, You Can Fly might have eked out a recommendation, but on its own, it just seems like a needlessly barren and dated disc. There's something to be said about preserving an old
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video compilation untouched like this (The Lion King didn't last half as long without undergoing edits), but at the same time that something may be that DVD's regular offering of closed captioning, subtitles, foreign language options, and instant scene access have rendered less inspired Sing Along Songs volumes like this somewhat pointless.

If we can grant that this is a disc clearly intended for someone much younger than I, we must also then acknowledge the shortage of replay value it holds. Geared for an audience of short attention spans, they'll soon grow out of it and would almost certainly prefer to see the entire films sans animated lyrics. Nostalgic value might cover a couple of bucks, but you'd still be less burned if you were to wait for a price drop (which could be years off, if ever) or try to find cheap via second-hand selling. With so many worthwhile DVD choices for young viewers that will provide more and longer term entertainment, you'd have to have an immense DVD collection to consider spending money on You Can Fly!, in which case you'd be better off revisiting something worthier you already own.

More on this DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Sing Along Songs: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - I Love to Laugh
Peter Pan (Special Edition) Bedknobs and Broomsticks The Jungle Book Pinocchio
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Mary Poppins (40th Anniversary Edition) Dumbo Return to Never Land
Sing Along Songs: Sing A Song with Pooh Disney Princess Sing Along Songs: Volume 2 - Enchanted Tea Party
Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World Sing Along Songs: Campout at Walt Disney World

Related Pages:
UltimateDisney.com's Top 100 Disney Songs Countdown

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Sing Along Songs DVDs on the Direct-to-Video Page | January 2006's Disney DVD Releases

Reviewed January 4, 2006.