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Beach Party at Walt Disney World:
Sing Along Songs DVD Review
|Beach Party at Walt Disney World
Sing Along Songs DVD Details
Director: Gary Halvorson
Running Time: 30 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated / Video Debut: June 30, 1995
Song List: "Celebration", "Set Your Name Free", "Surfin' Safari", "Three Little Fishies", "A Pirate's Life", "Part of Your World", "Hot, Hot, Hot", "The Hukilau Song", "Pearly Shells", "Limbo Rock", "Slicin' Sand"
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
By Aaron Wallace
In 1976, just five years after its grand opening, the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida made its first attempt at a water park for the public, River Country. Thirteen years passed and two new resort parks opened before the South Mouse decided to try its hand at another outdoor water park; Typhoon Lagoon opened in 1989. It was around this same time that Disney was finding success in the home video market, where its popular film properties could be put to a whole new use. Sing Along Songs and Mickey's Fun Songs, two series of interwoven musical segments packaged on VHS with on-screen lyrics, emerged as a successful part of the company's experimentation in that market in the 1980s and '90s and they have become a staple of the Home Entertainment branch ever since.
When Disney World opened Blizzard Beach in 1995, its third and most recent water park, it saw yet another opportunity to work its synergetic magic, resulting in the release of Beach Party at Walt Disney World, a Mickey's Fun Songs production that made use of both Typhoon Lagoon and the then-brand new Blizzard Beach in much the same way that Campout at Walt Disney World had done with River Country and the Wilderness Lodge hotel one year prior. And though River Country is currently closed and sadly dilapidating in a forgotten corner of the resort, the two parks that are the subject of this production still stand ten years later, as Beach Party (which was later renamed as part of the Sing Along Songs series, a title it retains today) makes its way to DVD.
Eleven songs and an opening number (the original "Mickey's Fun Songs" theme of yore) comprise the little more than a half-hour of entertainment. As the first performance -- "Celebration" -- makes clear, the set list challenges the traditional notion of a "Disney song." Only two tunes decisively fall into that category. Peter Pan's swashbuckling "A Pirate's Life" brings a little piracy to Walt Disney World and Ariel makes a shore-side appearance with the young female cast members to belt out "Part of Your World," both of which stand out as the more memorable segments. Other favorites include "Set Your Name Free" and "Surfin' Safari." These not-so-Disney numbers are made a little more enjoyable by the addition of character vocals ("Hot Hot Hot" deserves honorable mention solely for Goofy's performance), even if it wasn't the best idea to include more songs of this variety than of the classic Disney kind.
Those expecting highly commercial profiles of theme park highlights will be surprised. Most of the action is set against nonspecific backdrops, mostly void of attraction names and trademark insignia. In fact, there's very little park-specific footage at all. The astute viewer will pin the opening scene as taking place in the Disney-MGM Studios park, those who have stayed near the Seven Seas Lagoon might recognize the Electrical Water Pageant, and water park fans will generally be aware of the surroundings. But for the most part, the video really does come off as a beach party with Mickey and friends. Well-maneuvered dance numbers match the oversized park characters (who show up in abundance) and cast of children with the music admirably and the whole thing makes for a modest dose of nostalgic fun.
VIDEO and AUDIO
In spite of all that works against it, Beach Party at Walt Disney World looks pretty good on DVD... for a ten-year old direct-to-VHS release with a presumably low budget. As is to be expected, the nature of the original production leaves the video often looking excessively soft, but in light of the apparent lack of any significant enhancement, this must have been a fairly strong effort to begin with, made even better by the benefits of its new digital home on DVD.
It wouldn't be a Sing Along without lyrics on the screen, and Beach Party doesn't fail to deliver. Like others of its ilk, though, it loses its captions from time to time when the producers assume you've already caught on... not the most helpful decision for those who haven't.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is surround sound in name, but only barely qualifies in delivery. There's only the faintest support from the extra speakers, but that doesn't take away from what is an otherwise wholly acceptable presentation. The track was likely expanded to appeal to the DVD enthusiast, but it's better than nothing (where "nothing" means "just two channels"), I suppose.
BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN
It's doubtful that anyone is expecting a wealth of bonus material from these Sing Along Song reissues, so it should come as no surprise that nothing of the sort is included at all. The nicely animated 4x3 menus are exciting, though. Musical notes dance to an instrumental version of the theme song while the disc awaits your selection. The Cinderella: Platinum Edition trailer kicks off the disc, followed by previews for Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin and Disney Princess: A Christmas of Enchantment, as well as the promising new Chicken Little trailer. The main menu offers additional trailers for the Disney Learning Adventures, Disney Princess, and Disney Princess Fantasy Game DVD releases.
Even at such a low price, a half-hour DVD seems almost inexcusably sparse these days. That doesn't make it a complete disappointment, however. When viewed alongside Campout at Walt Disney World, Beach Party comes off as the better of the two, and the audio and video treatment is fortunately not too shabby. While it may not be the most solidly entertaining of the studio's home video output, it suffices as a quick Disney fix and packs a taste of 1990s charisma too. Avid theme park fans certainly won't want to miss out, and those with fond memories of the original VHS release might also take interest. For the new generation, Beach Party and the three similar discs released along with it have this much going for them: they're much better than the Sing Along Songs volumes Disney puts out today.
Sing Along Songs: Campout at Walt Disney World
Sing Along Songs: Flik's Musical Adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Sing Along Songs: Disneyland Fun - It's a Small World
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
Reviewed October 1, 2005.