This past week, Disney released two of their animated films on Blu-Ray for the first time, so I thought today’s Disney Review would be a good time to double up and check the both of them out.
HOME ON THE RANGE
There is probably nothing about Home on the Range that I can say that hasn’t been said already. Truth be told, I had never seen this movie before I received my review copy. I remember first seeing previews for it, back when it originally came out, and having absolutely no interest whatsoever in it. The litany of bad reviews and press that followed sure didn’t help either. But seeing the film now, ignoring all the preconceptions I had of it, I actually found it to be quite enjoyable.
Set in the old west, Home on the Range is the story of a mismatched trio of dairy cows – brash, adventurous Maggie, prim, proper Mrs. Calloway and ditzy, happy-go-lucky Grace (voiced by Roseanne Barr, Dame Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly respectively). Maggie has recently been relocated to Patch of Heaven, an idyllic farm where other barnyard animals live their life peacefully. Her arrival is timed with the foreclosure of the ranch, so the three bovines set out to capture the infamous cattle rustler, Alamida Slim, to collect the bounty on him in order to save the farm. Grace also has a second agenda of revenge, seeing as how it was Alamida’s fault that her original home was foreclosed as well.
While the story itself is pretty one-dimensional, I did find it to be very enjoyable. Like any film, there are certainly slow parts to it, especially around the second act, and when the film comes in at only 72 minutes, it’s at these moments that the film really drags. But the rest of the film is lively and entertaining.
The film is also notorious for being the LAST traditionally animated film that Disney did, until The Princess and the Frog came along in 2009, and for that alone, is well worth looking at. The transfer over to Blu-Ray makes the film stand out, and some of the backgrounds are just breathtaking. There are spots when the traditional animation does seem a little fuzzy on this high-def transfer, but overall, it’s a beautifully animated and brightly colored film.
I pretty much loved the entire voice cast (despite her reputation for being annoying, I most definitely have a soft spot for Jennifer Tilley), aside from Grace herself. I’m not sure what it was, but I just found it very distracting to have Roseanne’s voice coming out of a cow. Though her personality certainly fit the character of Grace, I just didn’t like her performance and found it borderline irritating. Another minor nitpick was Buck. Cuba Gooding Jr. was a good fit for the glory seeking horse, but I sometimes confused him for Chris Rock (seriously, he sounds almost exactly like Rock’s Marty the Zebra in the Madagascar films at certain points). And finally, Steve Buscemi was wonderful in his all too short cameo at the end of the film as a greedy cattle buyer.
The music is billed as being written as the same team from Aladdin, though that’s only true because Alan Menken composed the songs. Glenn Slater aids him for some of the song writing duties. Overall, they did a pretty good job. I found the songs to be catchy and fit into the story quite well. I’m actually kind of surprised that some of them haven’t made it into the mainstream collective like some other Disney films, because they do have a distinctive old west flair that is memorable. Obviously, the stand out among them, both lyrically and visually in the film, is Randy Quaid’s Alamida Slim singing Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo. I went back to watch that sequence a few times, just because I enjoyed it so much!
The special features are all presented in standard definition, and are the usually Disney fluff. The one stand out among them is Trailblazers, the “making of” featurette. This one goes a little more into detail than most Disney films “making-ofs,” and I found it to be a fascinating look behind the scenes of a seriously underrated movie.
If you have seen the movie already and disliked, chances are you won’t be picking it up this time around. But if you’re willing and able, I would definitely give it another shot, especially if you have young kids. For what it was, it was definitely an enjoyable movie, and definitely one I will watch again.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year, Treasure Planet is another underrated, yet enjoyable, Disney film. It is a science fiction adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure novel Treasure Island set in space in an attempt to modernize the story for today’s audiences. Though a complete box office bomb (it grossed only $38 million in the US & Canada, but cost $140 million to make), it still has the makings of a wonderful film.
I won’t go into details to rehash the plot, as it is a loose adaptation of one of the greatest adventure novels of all time, but I will say that young Jim Hawkins sets off on a quest to find the infamous Treasure Planet in an attempt to turn his troubled life around.
The film itself, especially on Blu-Ray, looks absolutely stunning. It employs what was a ground breaking technique for its time by using hand-drawn 2D traditional animation set atop 3D computer animation. It makes for a distinct visual flair that isn’t seen in most animated films, and it most definitely adds to the dimension and depth of its look. Though, at times, I found myself distracted by looking more at the background and animations than the story itself (but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
I found the voice cast here to be spot on, with no one seemingly out of place. Brian Murray plays John Silver as a lovable pirate captain, but can easily switch to the menacing scoundrel he needs to be at the drop of a hat. He was the perfect choice to counteract Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Jim. The two seem very natural together, and their developed relationship seemed quite believable, even in this animated form. Much like Home on the Range, there is another stand out role here that doesn’t come into play until the final third of the film, and left me wanting more; Martin Short as B.E.N., the abandoned, whimsical robot who has lost his mind.
Some of the extras here art ported over from the original DVD release, but there are some new ones. For a behind the scenes junkie like me, the visual commentary that you can run alongside the film was a real treat. Hearing and seeing folks talk about the action unfolding on screen added to the experience for me, and definitely well worth sitting through the film’s running time again.
Again, if you haven’t seen this film before, I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you didn’t like it the first time around, it’s been ten years. Give it another shot. The story isn’t perfect, sure, but it’s a great steam punk meets space update of this classic tale.
By Jeff Heimbuch
The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
Other places you can find George and Jeff:
- The 626 (Jeff)
- ImagiNERDing (George)
- From the Mouth of the Mouse (Jeff)
- Everything Walt Disney World (George)
You can also see us EVERY week on Communicore Weekly on the Mice Chat Youtube Channel.
Tickets are now on sale for the
COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!
Come celebrate EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat’s Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat’s Dusty Sage, Kevin Yee, and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.
Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT’s World Showcase for this one of a kind event!
Your ticket includes:
- Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
- Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
- Decadent dessert reception!
- Short scavenger hunt hosted by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
- Prizes, giveaways and more!
- The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
- Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
- Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!