Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blu-Ray Reviews: Tarzan, Hercules, Three Musketeers, Ichabod and Toad

Mitchell Stein- With the debut of five classic Disney features last week on Blu-Ray, we're here to review all of the releases and see if they stack up with their previous home releases, in technical aspect and in special bonus features.


Tarzan is by far one of the most brilliant well-done Disney movies of all-time and very much under-appreciated, blending beautiful stunning animation, spectacular story, wonderful music and great characters into the mix creates a terrific instant Disney classic which remains one of the greatest to this day. Chris Buck (who will later go on to direct Frozen) and Kevin Lima take the helm to direct, and Phil Collins lends his talents to supply the wonderful music to the movie.

Sadly, there's not much bonus features to be found in this new Tarzan release. The bonus features are lazily recycled from the old VHS features, and still lack in picture quality. The features remain great, but without any new exclusive Blu-Ray features, this release doesn't hold up.

(Read Ryan's Animated Review on Tarzan right here)


In my personal opinion, following the high standards that films like The Lion King and Aladdin set before it, Hercules doesn't stand-up as a very memorable Disney film and is easily forgettable. The story is rushed, the characters are boring and the relationship between Meg and Hercules feels forced.

Regardless, the movie still earns it's spot in the Disney movie family and has a major fan-base. But those fans will be disaappointed to find out that no new Blu-Ray bonus features can be found in this release, and just like Tarzan, it blandly recycles old bonus features from VHS, along with the grainy footage it always had. With lack of bonus features and an mostly under-appreciated film, this release doesn't hold up either.

(Read Ryan's Animated Review of Hercules right here)

The Three Musketeers: 
Disney's Fab Five star in a fun adventure with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy at the helm playing the roles of The Three Muskateers. There's really nothing too major about this film, besides it being another fun film from the famous and ever so popular mouse. Just like the other re-releases of this month, bonus features are lacking and there's not much extra entertainment to be found, with the exception of "Get Up and Dance" and a few Deleted Scenes and Sing-Alongs. A fun film, but seriously Disney, that's three releases in one day without any worthwhile features. Please get you act together and set this straight for your next upcoming features on home release.

The Adventures of Mr. Ichabod and Toad/ Fun and Fancy Free/The Reluctant Dragon 
An odd pair-up indeed, but I'm glad that these obscure forgotten Disney films are finally making their way to Blu-Ray. While not the most legendary and popular Disney films, Fun and Fancy Free stands up to be a fun entertaining film, pairing up the stories of Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk during the Second World War to keep the studio afloat.
Ichabod and Toad hit theaters in 1949 and still remains just a fun entertaining film, but not much more. It's easy to understand why these two films are forgotten easily, but it's good to finally see them get the Blu-Ray transfer. The only great bonus feature on the disc is the Disney forgotten classic The Reluctant Dragon and a great behind the scenes look at the making of Fun and Fancy Free...from 1997. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the Blu-Ray transfer for the films look nice, but it still seems empty with old features.

(Ryan's Animated Reviews of Ichabod and Toad, review of Fun and Fancy Free)

Hercules, Tarzan, Ichabod and Toad and the Three Musketeers and now available wherever Blu-Rays are sold. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

111 Awesome Disney Songs, Part 4

Ryan Dosier - Hello, Disney fans! First off, an apology for the lack of updates to this series lately. I just moved across the country, so my life has been hectic as all get out. But I've found some time to settle in and listen to some of my favorite Disney music and continue 111 Awesome Disney Songs! Here's Part 4...

34.)   "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" from Cinderella
Of all the magic numbers produced by Disney animated films, the incredibly hard to spell "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" may just be the finest. The Fairy Godmother bounces and bobs her way through this delightful ditty, with some nonsensical lyrics and joyful fun. Though the Fairy Godmother's appearance is incredibly brief, the song makes it endlessly memorable. Favorite Lyrics: "Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo/Put 'em together and what have you got/Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo/Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo/It'll do magic believe it or not/Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo."

35.)   "The Phony King of England" from Robin Hood
One of the major highlights of Robin Hood is its delightful soundtrack. Most of the songs are handled by the rooster minstrel Alan-A-Dale, but the best song in the film is absolutely the jazzy tune performed by Little John. Phil Harris, who did the voice of Baloo in The Jungle Book and Thomas O'Malley in The Aristocats returns for his third Disney animated feature in a row as Little John and delivers this deliciously silly and fun tune. Favorite Lyrics: "He sits alone on a giant throne/Pretending he's the king/A little tyke who's rather like a puppet on a string."

36.)   "A Guy Like You" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This song, performed by the three gargoyles of the film, Hugo, Victor, and Laverne, is vastly different than any other song in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Yet, it still fits (in my opinion). It provides a moment of levity in the middle of some pretty hefty darkness. The gargoyles are fun and bouncing and the song is the same. I adore this number so much. Favorite Lyrics: "Paris, the city of lovers, is glowing this evening... True! That's because it's on fire, but still, there's l'amore."

37.)   "Sugar Rush" from Wreck-It Ralph
Ah, Wreck-It Ralph, how I adore thee. Absolutely one of my favorite Disney animated features. Wreck-It Ralph has so much fun going on per second that it's incredible. The theme song to the candy-coated kart racer "Sugar Rush" is a blast. It's clearly influenced by many factors, including 8-bit music, Japanese anime themes, and pop music. I love it. Favorite Lyrics: "S-U-G-A-R, jump into your racing car, it's Sugar Rush! Sugar Rush!"

38.)   "When I See an Elephant Fly" from Dumbo
Perhaps one of the most racially divisive moments in any Disney animated film, but it really isn't bad as many casual fans assume it is. The Crows in the film are all voiced by an actual African American scat band and are portrayed as heroes of the film. They raise Dumbo up and allow him to fly. The song they sing pokes fun at poor Dumbo, but it's so fun that it's hard to be too upset. Favorite Lyrics: "I seen a peanut stand/I heard a rubber band/ I seen a needle that winked its eye/But I be done seen about everything when I see an elephant fly!"

39.)   "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" from The Aristocats
Although Disney animation took awhile to find its foothold again after the passing of Walt Disney, this moment in The Aristocats, the first animated film released without Walt's input, showed signs that things would be okay. This jazzy classic song is a perennial favorite for many folks who grew up loving The Aristocats--including myself. Favorite Lyrics: "Ev'rybody's pickin' up on that feline beat/'cause ev'rythin' else is obsolete/A square with a horn makes you wish you weren't born/Ev'ry time he plays/With a square in the act, you can set music back/To the caveman days."

40.)   "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid
"Ariel, listen to me. The human world? It's a mess!" Darn right, Sebastian. I don't think there was anyone, young or old, who has seen The Little Mermaid and who didn't immediately want to jump ship and go live under the water after seeing this Oscar-winning song performed. Simply one of the finest musical numbers ever put on film, with color and charm, an endlessly catchy tune, and insane lyrics, "Under the Sea" is the best of the best. Favorite Lyrics: "Darling it's better, down where it's wetter/Take it from me!/Up on the shore, they work all day/Out in the sun, they slave away/While we're devoting, full time to floating/Under the sea!"

41.)   "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid
Sebastian's two songs from The Little Mermaid right in a row? Yup. Blame iTunes shuffle. Anyway! "Kiss the Girl" is one of the most soulful and wonderful Disney love songs there is. The slow Caribbean beat and Samuel E. Wright's vocal work as Sebastian is astounding. Plus, it's a great motivator for taking a chance with that girl (or guy or sandwich) you really like. Favorite Lyrics: "Now's your moment/Floating in a blue lagoon/Boy, you better do it soon/No time will be better."

42.)   "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from Cinderella
Probably the most famous song from Cinderella, which marked a major turning point for Disney animation, saving the studio after World War II ravaged the funds. This little song is what opened this great film and set a tone for the rest of the film and the rest of Walt Disney's career in feature animation. It's beautiful. Favorite Lyrics: "A dream is is a wish your heart makes/When you're fast asleep/In dream, you will lose your heartache/Whatever you wish for, you keep."

43.)   "Circle of Life" from The Lion King
Is there any better opening to a film than "Circle of Life" in The Lion King? No. No there isn't. The stunning animation, the impeccable Swahili vocals, and every element adds together for something that will never be repeated. Perfection. Favorite Lyrics: From the day we arrive on the planet/And blinking step into the sun/There is more to see/Than can ever be seen/More to do than can ever be done."

44.)   "Gitchee Gitchee Goo" from Phineas and Ferb
I love Phineas and Ferb, unashamedly. It's so delightfully fun and inventive and bountiful. The music in every episode is flawless, and this early rock and roll ditty that Phineas performed is phenomenal. I could listen to it forever. Favorite Lyrics: My baby's got her own way of talking/Whenever she says something sweet/And she knows its my world she's a-rockin'/Though my vocabulary's incomplete/I know it may sound confusing/Sometimes I wish she'd give it to me straight/But I never feel like I'm losin' it/When I take the time to translate."

Disney Animation Reviews #42: Lilo and Stitch

Disney Movie Review: 42/52 - Lilo & Stitch

Ryan Dosier - Lilo & Stitch (2002) does not boast any big-name celebrity voices or classic fairy tale or legend backstories. It is a wholly original tale that relies on expert storytelling, outstanding character development, and amazing comedy to make a resonating, beautiful, meaningful film. It stretches the boundaries of Disney animation more than any feature since Aladdin.

The film combines elements of great sci-fi movies with bountiful Hawaiian culture, mixes in some stunning animation, and careens along with an excellent sense of humor. Lilo & Stitch also heavily and impressively features the music of Elvis Presley. The King’s music accentuates the film in so many wonderful places and adds another layer to the story. The original Hawaiian-influenced music is masterful and gorgeous. It is a delight to listen to and perfectly fits the setting. 

From a design standpoint, Lilo & Stitch is at the top of the class. The designs of the countless alien creatures at the beginning of the film are dynamite, and the rest of the characters look fantastic as well. But the true design highlight of the film is the backgrounds, which are all painted using watercolors and are all perfect. This is one of only two Disney animated features that use watercolor backgrounds (the other is Dumbo) and the effect is soft, light, and beautiful.

Lilo & Stitch has some of the most likable, realistic, and funny characters of any Disney feature. Stitch is a riot right from the start and carries a lot of the emotional weight of the story very well. He is surprisingly impressive for a rabid, animalistic character. He becomes more and more enjoyable and impressive as the film goes on.

But far and away my favorite part of the film is Lilo. This beautiful, wonderfully weird, deceptively funny little girl is a spectacular creation. Animated by the amazing Andreas Deja, Lilo is perfection. Lilo is every weird, misunderstood little kid and I absolutely adore her. She feeds peanut butter sandwiches to a fish that controls the weather, attempts voodoo on her friends, listens to Elvis records, and has a book titled “Roadmaps of Iowa.” Lilo is an amazing character and she’s impossible not to love.

Lilo’s older sister, Nani, is another fantastic character. She is realistic looking, realistic acting, and cares for her little sister more than anything. Their relationship is the real soul of Lilo & Stitch and it works on every level. They are such a realistic, impressive representation of siblings. It’s truly amazing how well the filmmakers captured their relationship. 

Much like The Emperor’s New Groove, Lilo & Stitch creates an entirely new tone for Disney animation and animated comedy period. The film is unending excitement, fun, and humor. There is dialogue comedy, physical comedy, visual comedy, and so much more. My favorite sequence is the montage of Lilo trying to turn Stitch into a model citizen—especially when he hits on the little old lady. Positively hysterical.

But, unlike Emperor’s, Lilo & Stitch is much better at balancing the comedy with real, powerful emotional moments. The whole story is very sad and emotional when you consider that Lilo and Nani’s parents have died and that Stitch has no family. Stitch brings them together and makes them a family again while creating a family for himself. The story is powerfully moving and increasingly surprising. It’s hard to see the last act coming, but it all comes together so well.

It is really, really hard not to adore Lilo & Stitch. The film is sweet, funny, and tugs your heartstrings the entire time. The Hawaiian influence is breathtaking with the backgrounds and the music and the entire culture. Stitch may have become a hugely popular Disney character, but the entire film deserves a lot more appreciation. There is enough charm and heart in Lilo & Stitch to fill most of the past handful of Disney movies.

4.5/5 Weather-controlling Fish

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

John Perrucci Reviews...A Bugs Life

This article was written by reader and contributor John Perrucci

John Perrucci- Flik is an individual ant and would-be inventor, who lives in an ant colony, led by Princess Atta and her mother, the Queen. Flik is different and always unappreciated because of his problematic inventions. The colony is oppressed by a gang of marauding grasshoppers led by Hopper who arrive every season demanding food from the ants. When the annual offering is inadvertently knocked into a stream by Flik's latest invention, a harvester device, the grasshoppers demand twice as much food as compensation. 

Given a temporary reprieve by the grasshoppers, the ants trick Flik into accepting his plan to recruit "warrior bugs" to fight off the grasshoppers. While Flik actually believes in the plan, the other ants see it as an opportunity to get rid of Flik and save themselves trouble. Making his way to the "big city" (a heap of trash under a trailer), Flik mistakes a group of circus bugs, who have recently been fired by their money-hungry ringmaster, P.T. Flea, for the warrior bugs he seeks. The bugs, in turn, mistake Flik for a talent agent, and agree to travel with him back to his home, at Ant Island.

My favorite character is Flik, because he is a likeable character. My favorite parts, or at less some of them, are when Flik flies through the air on a small piece of dandelion, and when the ants make and use a fake bird to scare the grasshoppers away later on in the film.

The cast brings great life to the characters, with Dave Foley playing Flik, as well as the cast of Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Joe Ranft, and John Ratzenberger.

It is similar to the Dreamsworks film, Antz, and both films's bad guys are voiced by actors who have played Lex Luthor in live action Superman films. Gene Hackman as General Mandible in Antz, and Kevin Spacey as Hopper in a bug's life.
The final product of both films are generally perceived to contrast one another in tone and certain plot points. Antz carries a dark tone, featuring moderate violence and death, as well as social and political satire, geared more towards teenagers and adults, while A Bug's Life is more family-friendly and lighthearted.

Antz was moved from March 1999 to October 1998 to compete with Pixar's release of A Bug's Life.

The movie is has some fun moments, great animation, with some good quotes being heard here and there, and a really good story, which is why I give it 4 stars.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #41: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Disney Movie Review: 41/52 - Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Ryan Dosier - Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) is a film that is hard to categorize and discuss. It is an action-adventure period piece while also being a mythical sci-fi fantasy. The idea to pair these genres is a noble one, but unfortunately for the most part the execution in Atlantis just does not work. It lacks the excitement of the action in Tarzan or the solid humor in The Emperor’s New Groove and makes for an overall disappointing film.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some strong aspects to Atlantis, because there are a few. The voice acting is very good for each character. The large cast allowed for many talented voice actors to show their chops. Michael J. Fox stars as Milo Thatch and he is unsurprisingly great. Though all of the voices (really, all of them) are great, my favorite is Jim Varney, who voices the chef Cookie. Varney (best known as his character Ernest) also voiced Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story films and he brings his unbridled down-home country humor to every role. Cookie is hysterical and has the best lines of any character. The great Leonard Nimoy even voices the king of Atlantis and handles it deftly (as only Nimoy can). 

The background design and character design is also spectacular. The backgrounds become exceedingly breathtaking as the film dives deeper and deeper into Atlantis. The design work done on the Atlantean city, language, and artwork is outstanding and is truly the highlight of the film. The characters also look great and strikingly different from any other human characters from Disney. They have well defined features and realistic muscles and bone structures. It is quite impressive.

One of the first problems that Atlantis encounters early on is its scope. It is simply too big to contain in one hour and a half long film. There are so many characters and so much to explore that the surface is barely scratched in the movie. The large cast of characters is especially problematic. Though all of them have their likable traits, they all outshine one another in a rampage of one-liners. Too many funny supporting characters water down the humor and Atlantis is a prime example of this.

The plot is also convoluted and extremely difficult to follow. Again, there is far too much story being told in far too little amount of time. So many scenes and plot points could have been edited down to be more simplistic but instead there are complicated magic rules, odd discussions about ancient customs, and many other confusing moments. The story is too densely packed to enjoy. Oddly enough, the great Joss Whedon is credited for some of the story of Atlantis, which at least explains some of the better dialogue. 

Atlantis is jam-packed with violence and action—perhaps the most in any Disney animated feature to date. There are literally hundreds of deaths in the film, which is jarring when watching a Disney film. This action-heavy style can work, of course, but only when the emotions balance it out. That is not at all the case with Atlantis. There is no emotional connection to any of the characters so all of this hard work and action goes to waste. The care and dedication put into the animated action sequences is astounding and breathtaking, but this same care and passion was not put into the story so it all feels fruitless.

Definitely one of the weaker Disney films, Atlantis: The Lost Empire never becomes anything wonderful. It has plenty of potential to be great, but with a weak story, massive cast of characters, and little emotional connection, the film falters. The great voice acting and the astounding visuals make Atlantis worth watching at least once, but after that don’t be surprised if it remains lost.

1.5/5 Flying Fish Things

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #40: The Emperor's New Groove

Disney Movie Review: 40/52 - The Emperor's New Groove

Ryan Dosier - Of the three films released by Disney animation in the year 2000, by far the sharpest, funniest, and strongest is The Emperor’s New Groove. Just saying the name of this film invokes laughter in the minds of some millennials. New Groove is one of the most distinct Disney films that is totally different from anything else ever produced by the studio. The humor, timing, and charm of this film cannot be denied or stopped. It is relentless.

The story in the film is an excellent buddy comedy. The evolving friendship between Kuzco and Pacha is wonderful. They are one of the funniest pairs in Disney history and deserve a lot more attention than they receive. The duo of David Spade and John Goodman is wonderful. I’ve never enjoyed David Spade more than in this role. He is truly suited for voice acting and clearly loved the role of the spoiled brat Kuzco. Goodman once again shows how adept he is at voicing lovable characters and he is absolutely terrific as Pacha. 

But the duo that completely steals the show is that of Yzma and Kronk. The villain and her hapless sidekick are absolutely phenomenal in this film. Yzma, voiced by the great Eartha Kitt, is one of the most hysterical and inept Disney villains and by far one of the most entertaining. Kronk, voiced by Patrick Warburton, is also excellent and adorable. Their interactions are ridiculous and magnificent—incredibly hard not to enjoy.

The Emperor’s New Groove is also the goofiest and zaniest Disney animated feature. The plot takes a back seat to quips and sarcastic jabs that totally steal the show. The dialogue is outstanding, the humor superb, and the gags phenomenal. New Groove never stops unloading joke after joke and great line after great line. The delivery and timing of everything in the film is top notch.

The design work in the film is also gorgeous. The influence of Incan culture can be seen all around Kuzco’s palace and kingdom. The crazy shapes and forms thrown around in Yzma’s laboratory and in the other creatures and characters and props in the film are truly awesome. No other Disney film has looked like The Emperor’s New Groove either. 

The animation is strong as always. Kuzco as both a llama and a human is animated beautifully. He has the funniest movements in the film. Yzma has outstanding facial expressions that elevate her comedy even further. She grimaces and grins and grouses in an outstanding way. Just watching her move is truly amazing. All of the characters are animated perfectly.

Humor is far and away the film’s strongest trait. It misses out on some of the emotional points seen in other Disney features, but it almost doesn’t matter since you never stop laughing. The relationship between Pacha and his wife and kids is amazing, but not given enough time in the film to truly develop into something that transcends the film. Kuzco and Pacha’s friendship is the emotional core and the end leaves us with a satisfying conclusion, but their friendship never reaches the high point of, say, Aladdin and the Genie.

On the whole, The Emperor’s New Groove is one of the funniest, most impressive, and most relentlessly entertaining Disney animated films. The amount of humor jam-packed into less than an hour and a half is truly amazing. The Emperor’s New Groove is, in my opinion, the most underrated Disney animated feature. It deserves more attention, more merchandising, and more laughter. Emperor Kuzco demands it.

4.5/5 Spinach Puffs

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Blu-Ray REVIEWS: Muppets Most Wanted, Bears


Mitchell Stein- Get ready to do it all again! Muppets Most Wanted is finally available wherever DVDs/Blu-Rays are sold, and you should be nothing but thrilled. When it was released back in March, we had no shortage of positive things to say about the film in both my own review and Ryan's review posted at our sister site, The Muppet Mindset. The film is a brilliant crime caper set which takes the Muppets on a world tour through Eurpoe only to get caught up in the nefarious plans of the World's Most Dangerous Frog and Number One Criminal, Constantine and his assistant, Dominic. It's filled with brilliant gags, incredible songs, tremendous and hilarious acting, and a really fun story. If you haven't seen the film yet, it's worth it to pick it up on Blu-Ray for the bare film on it's own.

Luckily there's even more to be offered on this home release, titled The Unnecessarily Extended Edition including nearly fifteen minutes of extra footage that was cut from the original theatrical film! All of the songs are the original extended versions that you can hear on the soundtrack but were sadly cut from the final version. There's a whole bunch more gags and cameos that also appear, and it's perfect. I'm so glad we can finally see some of these scenes, but there's still a few missing out there which I wish would get onto the Blu-Ray and you can see just a bit of it in the B-Roll footage.

Sadly, the Statler and Waldorf Cut was just a mere two-minutes and not a commentary throughout the whole film as most fans were hoping for. There's not really much in this feature and it's easily overlooked. "Rizzo's Biggest Fan" is a hilarious short video with features Rizzo the Rat writing an angry anonymous letter to the crew of Muppets Most Wanted for the lack of Rizzo. "The Longer, Longest Blooper Reel Ever in Muppet History (We Think)" is hilarious, and features nine minutes of wacky blunders and mistakes. I love seeing the Muppet performers ad-lib hilarious lines after they mess up on a scene. It's hilarious, but it doesn't add much to the Blu-Ray itself. It also has the "I'll Get You Anything You Want" music video starring songwriter Bret McKenzie.. In short, the bonus features are short and delightful but highly lacks what could have been even greater, especially after the amount of features that were on The Muppets Blu-Ray release.

Ending off, Muppets Most Wanted is a fantastic new release from Disney, but follows Disney's recent pattern of lacking bonus features. I do hope Disney gets back on track soon and delivers every one of their new releases with a larger amount of more original bonus features. Muppets Most Wanted certainly deserves your time and money, but could surely do better with some more features.

Muppets Most Wanted: The Unnecessarily Extended Edition is now available to own on Blu-Ray. 


Mitchell Stein- Disneynatures' Bears tells the incredible true-story of Skye, a brown Grizzly bear and her two-born cubs survival through weather, animals, and other obstacles that get in their way after heading back into the world after a winter of hibernating. John C. Reily is stationed as the narrator, giving over the story and hilarious content through the journey bringing so much fun comedy relief to the film. The movie manages to speak to it's audience on an emotional level and it's by far more touching than the previous Disneynature movies.

The shots and scenes in this movie are breathtaking, whether the bears are walking through a forest, an Alaskan mountain, or taking a swim, the filmmakers set up each scene from a new angle and make you wonder how they even filmed that. The end credits sequence show just a bit of the filming process but barely scratches the surface. Luckily, a feature called How Did They Film That? is included on the release and gives a great background on the process the filmmakers go through to film these scenes.

The other features are not just entertaining, but educational as well. A Guide to Living With Bears allows us a look at the team interacting with the animals and share a bit of info about them too. The Future for the Bears is a feature which reminds us the importance of protecting the wilderness to ensure the survival of the animals and humans alike. Plus, there's Welcome to Alaska which is also a feature showing the team heading to the Alaskan mountains to follow Skye and her cubs on their journey and finally a music video of Carry On by Olivia Holt.

This release is great on many levels. There's five great packed bonus features to go with this absolutely tremendous movie, and it's all fantastic, leaving the music video to be the only one easily overlooked. I highly recommend you make sure to give this release a look. It's very much worth your time as well.

Bears is now available wherever DVDs and Blu-Rays are sold.