Itís a busy week for Buena Vista Home Entertainment with several new DVDís scheduled for release today. If you like high-seas adventure and squid-faced villains, give Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest a try (you might have heard about itóit did OK at the box office). If there are any tweenage girls in your life, you no doubt have gotten an earful about Cheetah Girls 2 (Raven and friends go to Spain; friends are forever; girl power rules).
Both DVDís are worth getting for different reasons, POTC especially (besides the amazing Mr. Depp, itís loaded with bonus features), but neither are the best Disney offering this week. That designation belongs to a series of short films that began with a bunch of seals flopping around on a remote Alaskan island and went on to entertain audiences and educate school children for decades.
Disneyís True-Life Adventures have come to DVD.
Originally released in theaters between 1948 and 1960, the True-Life Adventures set the standard for every nature documentary to follow. The Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the late Steve Irwin, among many others, owe a tip of the hat to these groundbreaking films directed by Disney Legend James Algar and narrated by fellow Legend Winston Hibler. True-Life Adventures brought education and entertainment together in a way never before seen. Of the 13 movies produced, eight would win Academy Awards.
Disney has meticulously restored these beautiful films and released them in four 2-DVD sets. Grouped by category, Volume 1: Wonders of the World includes White Wilderness, Water Birds, Beaver Valley and Prowlers of the Everglades. Volume 2: Lands of Exploration is the best of the series with The Living Desert, The Vanishing Prairie and Seal Island, the very first True-Life Adventure. On Volume 3: Creatures of the Wild youíll find The African Lion, Jungle Cat, Bear Country and The Olympic Elk. Volume 4: Natureís Mysteries completes the series with Secrets of Life and Natureís Half Acre.
The DVDís are rich with bonus features, many of them culled from past Disneyland and The Wonderful World of Color episodes, introduced by Walt himself, that promoted the True-Life Adventures series to TV audiences. Here, youíll find tributes to the creative and dedicated filmmakers who shot hundreds of thousands of feet of film in sometimes brutal conditions to bring the True-Life Adventures to reality (itís unfortunate Disney didnít take time to restore these episodesósome are very scratched and spottyóbut thatís a minor quibble). The DVDís are introduced by Roy Disney, who also appears in educational segments taped at Disneyís Animal Kingdom. Though he lacks the polish of Leonard Maltin, the current host of the ďDisney TreasuresĒ DVDís, itís good to have Roy back as a direct connection to the early days of the Walt Disney Studio (he actually cut his teeth in the movie industry as a film editor on the True-Life Adventures and later wrote the non-TLA nature doc Mysteries of the Deep, also included in Volume 1).
The True-Life Adventures DVDís are the first of the new ďWalt Disney Legacy Collection.Ē Later Legacy releases will include Destino, Waltís animated collaboration with artist Salvador Dali, and Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit.
Salty old pirates and perky young girls may be getting most of the attention, but this week it's an animal's life for me.