Archive for the ‘Princesses’ Category

Theme Park Headlines – New Frontiers

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska, Star Tours is getting a sequel, and WDW’s Fantasyland is being majorly expanded.

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

I officially and truly appreciate Twitter.

I was skeptical to the idea of it at first, but then as I started to use it to post Disney news and view more Disney information from others, I began to “get it.” However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I absolutely, positively was VERY glad that I was a Twitter user.

If not for Twitter, I would have never experienced the jittery excitement I have felt as I excitedly click “refresh” repeatedly to view the live tweets from Disney fans as they report from the D23 Expo.

There was another significant announcement yesterday (Friday, September 11, 2009) at the Disney Cruise Line presentation. Disney previously posted some online videos of Donald Duck and Goofy trying to find out where the Disney Cruise Line was headed to next. Disney answered this highly-anticipated question yesterday, revealing that in summer 2011, Disney Cruise Line is going to . . . Alaska! The breathtaking scenery of Alaska is sure to be a wonderful pairing with a Disney cruise vacation. You can view details at DisneyCruise.com/2011.

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska in summer 2011. Image © Disney.

In other Disney Cruise Line news, on August 31, Disney announced some changes coming to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island that most Disney cruises make a stop at. Changes include a larger family beach, a new lunch spot, and new water play areas, to be finished in summer 2010. On top of that, two additional Disney cruise ships are currently being built – the Disney Dream (setting sail in 2011) and the Disney Fantasy (coming in 2012).

This morning (Saturday, September 12, 2009) Disney fans (both present at the Expo and those that would read the reports later), were in for some huge surprises from the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation.

Many topics were discussed, including an expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland that will include several new lands (including Toy Story Land); some details about World of Color, a nighttime water show debuting at Disney’s California Adventure in spring 2010; and the new Cars Land, opening at Disney’s California Adventure in 2012.

Then, the first major shocker was revealed – Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland is going to get a massive expansion, growing twice as large as it currently is. It’s going to be amazing.

Some of the outstandingly exciting changes to Fantasyland include two identical Dumbo rides to speed up the wait (complete with an interactive queue) and a new area based on Pixie Hollow from the Disney Fairies movies. Additionally, there seems to be a large emphasis on the princesses, especially in new, unique ways that guests are going to be able to meet them. It seems that each princess character greeting specific to each princess’ personality. For instance, guests will be able to dance with Cinderella, celebrate a party with Aurora, and experience storytelling with Belle. (I’m guessing this is the already-open Storytime with Belle, just relocated?) I think it’s a very creative idea to try out different character greeting formats other than traditional meet & greets.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is getting an interactive queue in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

There are also going to be several expansive new attractions added to Fantasyland. A new ride based on The Little Mermaid is going to be built called Ariel’s Adventure, and will be similar in style to other Fantasyland attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It will take guests into Ariel’s world to tell her story, and is going to be like another Little Mermaid ride coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

Ariel’s Adventure will be a new ride based on The Little Mermaid, and will open in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

Additionally, the Imagineers are building two new restaurants based on Beauty and the Beast – Gaston’s Tavern and Be Our Guest Restaurant. Be Our Guest will be located inside the Beast’s castle, a new area where guests will be able to eat in several themed settings directly from the movie. This place seems like it’s going to be awesome!

However, a down side of the Fantasyland expansion is the unfortunate closure of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. One of my favorite areas in the Magic Kingdom, Toontown opened as a temporary land to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday in 1988, and was later decided to be a more-than-temporary addition to the park. Some of the attractions in Toontown are Mickey’s Country House, Minnie’s Country House, Donald’s Boat, and The Barnstormer. Some good news is that The Barnstormer might be staying despite the Fantasyland changes. It will certainly be sad to see Toontown leave. It’s one of the most cleverly themed and detailed sections of the Magic Kingdom and it will definitely be missed.

The first phase of the Fantasyland expansion (including the princess elements) will open in 2012, while the Pixie Hollow section will open in 2013.

Lastly, there was one more significant announcement at the Parks and Resorts presentation, but it was delivered with the help of Darth Vader and 50 storm troopers. Coming in 2011 to both Disney’s Hollywood Studios (in Walt Disney World) and Disneyland is Star Tours 2, which is sure to delight many Star Wars fans. The attraction will replace the currently-existing Star Tours simulator ride, and will be a new 3-D experience.

I don’t think there have been many events that have been so jam-packed with exciting Disney news like the D23 Expo. I’ve had such joy reading reports that others have posted about the fun happenings that have occurred so far. The Disney Cruise Line Alaskan voyages, Fantasyland’s expansion, and the new Star Tours 2 are all sure to be guest-pleasing experiences. Those Imagineers know how to dream.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 12, 2009. All images © Disney.

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DVD Review – Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition

November 22, 2008

Walt Disney’s third princess arrives on 2-disc DVD set in stellar fashion, filled with exceptional digital restoration and plenty of bonuses to keep Disney fans busy for hours.

By Blake

Originally posted November 22, 2008.

For all the promotional consumer products she’s on, all the hype she gets in character meet & greets, and the three of her castles that reign at Disney parks worldwide, Princess Aurora ironically hardly appears in the movie that carries her namesake. Granted, she’s asleep for about the last third of it, but overall the Sleeping Beauty herself is only featured in about 25 minutes of her own movie.

Though that certainly hasn’t kept the 1959 Disney animated movie Sleeping Beauty from being one of the company’s most cherished films and being entered last month into the beloved Platinum DVD Collection. The new Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD comes with two discs’ worth of superlative bonus features and I was actually surprised at how well the set is presented. Usually on DVDs there’s either a lot of lame bonuses or just a few great ones. Though here, there’s a lot to see, and not much of it disappoints. Highlighting the positives are a very entertaining audio commentary, an informative making-of documentary, and an extremely awesome look into some backstage secrets of Walt Disney Imagineering.


Disc One

Total Approx. Running Time: About 315 minutes (about 5 hours and 15 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Sleeping Beauty feature film
Highlight Runner-Up: Audio Commentary

The film (about 75 minutes) is a work of art itself. Polished with beautiful background art and striking character animation, it’s no wonder Sleeping Beauty took eight years to produce. All throughout the film, it’s sometimes hard to pay attention to the story because you can get so enveloped in marveling its stunning picture.

The plot tells of Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, who are betrothed once Aurora is born. However, at the celebration of Aurora’s birth, Maleficent, an evil fairy, casts a spell on the young princess that will cause her to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and die. To prevent the terrible curse, three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, change the irreversible spell so that instead of dying, Aurora will fall into a sleep until awoken by a kiss from her true love. The three good fairies take the princess to live with them in the woods so as to keep Maleficent away, attempting to prevent the situation as much as possible.

In addition to Aurora barely being in it, the film is also surprisingly a little frightening. Although there are happy moments, much of the length of the movie is loomed under the knowing that Maleficent’s spell will come true soon, or mourning over the spell indeed having come true. This might be due to the fact that Maleficent herself is just plain scary, and is often said to be the ultimate Disney villain. Going on decades later to be the antagonist in The Kingdom Keepers novel series by Ridley Pearson, she’s simply creepy, and certainly adds a sense of darkened fear to Sleeping Beauty.

The movie’s music is either extremely memorable or extremely disposable, depending on what you’re listening to. Most of the songs seem to stream together, with the only real memorable tune being “Once Upon a Dream,” the song that Disney often associates with the movie in promotional devices. Additionally, the score contains many fanciful tunes based on the work of Peter Taichovsky, written years before the movie was made and later used in the hit entertainment spectacle Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams at Disneyland.

If the film’s art was great before, it’s simply excellent now. With the new DVD set comes a new digital restoration containing a sharper, clearer presentation of the film and, for the first time ever, presents the movie in its original desired form: using supreme a widescreen format to lengthen the many attractive “sets” of the movie. This version of the film has not been seen since its original 1959 theatrical run and it’s definitely nice to finally see it here.

The audio commentary (about 75 minutes) is newly recorded and features the thoughts of John Lasseter, Andreas Deja, and Leonard Maltin. Now, those are some pretty big names in the world of Disney and I knew I was in for a pleasurable time when I saw their names listed as the contributors to the commentary. John Lasseter is Chief Creative Officer at both Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, and the director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, and Cars; Andreas Deja is a well-known Disney animator who did the supervising animation for Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, Scar in The Lion King, Lilo in Lilo & Stitch, and several others; Leonard Maltin is an animation historian and the host of the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD collection/series. Obviously, watching Sleeping Beauty with three big names such as these brings a sense of vast knowledge and experience with it. They’re all keen to acknowledge details throughout the film. Deja tells personal stories and interactions he’s had with many of the animators and voice performers that were involved in the film. Lasseter comments on how he studied much of the work of the film and taught under the eyes of its animators while he was a student at CalArts and subsequently as a young Disney animator. Maltin mainly discusses his memories of how he remembers the film as a child and how it affected him later on in his career.

Additionally, Lasseter, Deja, and Maltin’s comments are occasionally interrupted by small clips of audio from animators and supervisors (including Walt Disney) about creating the film. Unlike past audio commentaries for classic Disney movies, this one doesn’t seem choppy – most likely because its contributors were all present together in the same recording session. It was nice to not go back and forth between many different discussions. It was certainly one of the most enjoyable commentaries I’ve sat through in a while and had me not wanting to pause or turn away for a moment. You can tell by watching it that the three contributors all also had a pleasurable time watching the film again.

The Princess Fun Facts (about 75 minutes) are a collection of pop-up facts that appear during the film as you watch it. Appearing about once every minute, they partly have to do with some statistics and numbers of what went into creating the film, but mostly include some facts about what real-life princesses would do in medieval times. Oddly enough, the facts appear rather blurry when they pop up on the screen. They’re still readable, but they’re certainly not crisp and clear. Aimed more at families than fans, this feature is easily skippable.

Grand Canyon (about 29 minutes) is a Walt Disney nature documentary featurette that very nicely displays, you guessed it, the Grand Canyon. Recycled from the 2003 Special Edition DVD version of Sleeping Beauty, it features marvels including the Canyon itself, its furry animal inhabitants (who will earn a few “Awwww”’s from you, and at times, caused me had to turn away from due to predators in “action”), its beautiful clouds, its thunderstorms, its wonderful snow, and its amazing sunset. The featurette is set to the music of the “Grand Canyon Suite.” It really is magnificent to see God’s amazing untouched natural environment like this with its true beauty and majesty. It really makes you think of what an amazing planet we live on. Although younger audience members might get a little bored early on, Grand Canyon will mostly satisfy its viewers. What really makes me puzzled here, though, is why exactly Grand Canyon is included on the Sleeping Beauty DVD. I suppose it might be because both features were created in Cinema Scope widescreen format, but other than that I can’t find any similarities between the two.

Again recycled from the 2003 Special Edition, The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (about 49 minutes for one version, about 98 minutes if you watch both) is an episode of the classic Disneyland television series and was the first ever television program to be broadcast in widescreen format and have a simulcast. Two versions are offered, and the only difference between the two is that the first one includes instructions for how to set up the stereo systems to make the simulcast play, while the other doesn’t and instead features replacement visuals. Anyway, the first 30 minutes of the program mostly tell a re-enactment of sorts of the biographical life of Peter Tchaikovsky, the composer whose work inspired the Disney animators while creating Sleeping Beauty and whose story seems rather depressing. The narrator of the program seemed to me an awful lot like the “Ghost Host” from The Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The last 20 minutes include clips from Sleeping Beauty. I was actually surprised at how much of the film was shown on TV at the time of the movie’s release, as the clips shown lasted about a third of the film’s length and gave away the entire plot, all the way up to the very end. They certainly weren’t shy about giving away any spoilers. All in all, the Tchaikovsky part of the program I found to be a bit dull, and the rest of it were clips from Sleeping Beauty that I had already seen by watching the film.

Disney Song Selection (about 8 minutes) heralds back to the days of Disney Sing-Along Songs VHS tapes, by playing the film’s five songs – “Once Upon a Dream (Main Title),” “Hail to the Princess Aurora,” “I Wonder,” “Once Upon a Dream,” and “Sleeping Beauty” – all together with the lyrics for each of the songs appearing at the bottom of the screen.

The “Once Upon a Dream” Music Video by Emily Osment (about 4 minutes) shows the Hannah Montana co-star in a contemporary city setting alongside a woodland setting singing the classic song, though much of this version’s lyrics are entirely new. It isn’t stellar, but this is definitely one of the better adaptations of Disney songs put to contemporary music videos that I’ve seen in a while.

Disc Two

Total Approx. Running Time: About 138 minutes (about 2 hours and 18 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction
Highlight Runner-Up: The Making of Sleeping Beauty

Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game (time varies) is actually a set of two different games. One is a dancing game in which a sequence of dance steps are performed by animals on the screen and the player has to remember which order the animals danced in. I could definitely see youngsters getting frustrated with themselves in this one. The next game is a waltzing game where you play as either Prince Phillip of Princess Aurora and the narrator teaches players how to waltz properly. More interactive and better set up than most Disney DVD games, I’d give this particular set of activities a thumbs-up.

Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game (time varies) is another installment of the Fun With Language Games that seem to be popping up more often on Disney DVD’s lately. They are clearly aimed at the pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade set who are just learning to read. They involve a narrator speaking veeeerrrryyyyy slllooowwwwlllyyy and teaching the players what different objects are (such as a cloth, mop, and ribbon) and then players will choose the image on the screen when the narrator calls out the term. Unlike previous versions of the game, however, this one includes objects that children should be familiar with and should positively help them learn to spell. However, I still stand by what I said earlier – the narrator gets annoying very quickly and I honestly don’t think many people pop in a Disney animated classic to be grammatically educated.

Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty (about 43 minutes) is a very nicely done and well put together new documentary including many interviews with animators and voice actors that worked on the film, as well as today’s current animators and animation historians that give their insight on how the film was made. Original story development, animation, background art, voice acting, music writing, and the film’s legacy are all topics that are covered, making this one of the best making-of’s that I’ve seen Disney put together.

Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art (about 8 minutes) is a short mini-biography of sorts about Eyvind Earle, the man/animator who is responsible for the wonderful background art pieces throughout Sleeping Beauty. Coming from a harsh childhood and literally making his way across the world before he wound up at Disney, he started working for the company in 1951 and went on to have a successful art career beyond Disney, into his own art pieces.

Sequence 8 (about 5 minutes) tells of the huge amount of time, effort, and costs went into creating the film, particularly “Sequence 8”, a.k.a. the forest/“Once Upon a Dream” scene. That particular scene was masterfully directed by Eric Larson and took an entire year to complete.

The Alternate Opening (about 3 minutes) includes the townspeople and citizens celebrating and singing at the arrival of the new baby Princess Aurora, proclaiming that her birthday shall be “a holiday.” The song is accentuated by animated storyboard pieces and I suppose was deleted due to the filmmakers wanting a more majestic feel to the film instead of a typical Disney song. The scene particularly reminded me of “Belle,” the opening song sequence for Beauty and the Beast.

Deleted Songs (about 13 minutes) offer three songs that were unused in the final version of Sleeping Beauty. “I Happen to Have a Picture” is sung by King Hubert and King Stephan, each singing of their young children. It was to be put at the beginning of the film right after the (deleted) opening number “It’s a Holiday” (which was shown in the alternate opening) and seems to be a different version of “Skumps,” a song that was used in the final cut of the film.

The next deleted song, “Riddle Diddle,” was to be sung by the three good fairies as they clean up the house. It seems to be along the lines of “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and “The Working Song” from Cinderella. Coincidentally, it has been said that this particular deleted song (along with the two other aforementioned working songs) were used in preparation for “Happy Working Song” when it was created for the movie Enchanted in 2007.

The third and last deleted song is “Go to Sleep,” and was to be simply a replacement of the title song “Sleeping Beauty.” It was originally going to be in the same place that the title song was put in the film, where Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are putting the kingdom to sleep.

Storyboard Sequences (about 4 minutes) show a comparison between two finished scenes in the film and their respective storyboard art pieces. With an introduction explaining the storyboard process by current Disney animator Andreas Deja, it really is neat to see just how much of the final film was planned out far in advance by the storyboards that were drawn beforehand. The two scenes shown here are the one where the three good fairies put the citizens to sleep and the scene where Maleficent surprises Prince Phillip.

Live-Action Reference (about 2 minutes) is a short but sweet look at rarely seen footage that shows the acted-out live-action scenes that animators studied as they drew the film.

The Art Galleries (time varies) feature a vast array of original art pieces that were created in the development of the film. There are a TON of great art pieces featured here. And I mean a TON!!! It really seems to go on forever. In addition to being some of the most unique art pieces for any Disney animated film (since the movie’s art style was distinctive and more elegant than any other), a very helpful added bonus to this particular art gallery is that, unlike almost all other DVD art galleries, this one actually allows the viewers to go through all of the art pieces within each category at one time, instead of reverting back to the previous page at the end of each small set of art pieces.

Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through Attraction is a real treat for any Disney fan. Very much like the “Under the Sea Adventure” virtual ride-through on The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition DVD, here we’re given a complete walk-through of a former Disneyland attraction that, in the form shown here, has been closed for 30 years. It’s just getting ready to re-open in a slightly different form, but it’s simply great to see the story of Sleeping Beauty conveyed in a museum-like atmosphere with a plethora of special effects that were ingenious for their age, originating to 1957 (which, ironically, was two years before Sleeping Beauty was even released in theaters).

There are several versions for the attraction. First, you can simply Walk Through with no narration (about 8 minutes). Then, you can watch the Audio Commentary with Imagineer Tony Baxter (about 20+ minutes). Not only does Baxter comment with a hoopla of trivia facts and little tidbits of fun info, but throughout the tour, every time the silhouetted icon of the blue good fairy, Merryweather, glows up in the bottom left corner of the screen, click on it and the tour will be paused briefly so that Baxter, along with fellow Imagineer Chris Merritt, will reveal some additional secrets about how specific effects were created or elaborate a little more on the how the scene was built. One of the highlights of the entire DVD set for me, I was certainly captivated by this feature.

As if those two options weren’t enough, there is a third feature involving the Castle Walkthrough, the History of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough (about 10 minutes), which involves a detailed look that includes many interviews with former and current Imagineers about the various versions of the walkthrough throughout the years. From its original opening day featuring a ceremony with Shirley Temple, to its destruction and different form, to its closure, and even to its upcoming reopening and what it took to recreate the original attraction, everything is fully covered in brilliant fashion.

Next up is Publicity (about 6 minutes), which features original teaser & theatrical trailers from 1959, as well as a re-release trailer from 1995. The 1959 trailers especially show their age, especially with the advertisement that states Sleeping Beauty was “The FIRST exclusive Premiere Engagement with CONTINUOUS PERFORMANCES so that you can see it at times best suited to YOUR convenience.” Hehehe.

Rounding up the disc is “Four Artists Paint One Tree” (about 16 minutes), a featurette that was mostly likely released theatrically and is really like a sort of mini episode of Disneyland. Recycled from the 2003 Special Edition DVD version of Sleeping Beauty, here we follow animators Marc Davis, Joshua Meador, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy as they create their artwork for the then-forthcoming Sleeping Beauty, and then as they each draw a different variation of the same oak tree in a field. Although somewhat dull, it’s still nice to get a look at some of the classic Disney animators of Walt’s time that we often don’t get to see and I imagine it could be very helpful to any artist or aspiring artist to see an instructional, step-by-step look at how the Disney pros do their work.

Wrapping It Up

To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much from the new Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD when I initially purchased it. It had seemed that the Platinum titles were slowly but surely decreasing downhill in value, though I was pleasantly surprised to find more than enough quality work on this Sleeping Beauty set to exceed my expectations entirely. Although the Disneyland episodes included do tend to be a bit dull for today’s modern audiences, the rest of the set delivers a worthwhile abundance of excellence. Those who own the 2-disc Special Edition version of the film that was released in September 2003 might want to consider upgrading to this newer edition for its dazzling digital restoration, its fun and informative audio commentary, its delightful making-of featurette, and its simply wonderful Castle Walkthrough presentation. If this is the way Disney wants to continue to produce their animated classics on DVD, then I absolutely can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for future releases. Taking eight years to fully complete and requiring the lengthy work of Walt Disney and his animators, Sleeping Beauty worked hard to earn its place as a Disney classic, and I think you’ll find it a welcome addition to your DVD collection.

How do I rank Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD? (Bolded is my choice.):
Good movie + Brilliant bonus features =
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8)

By Blake; originally posted November 22, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – “Enchanted”

March 22, 2008

Image © Disney.


The movie itself still blows me away and its first ever DVD presentation delivers bloopers, deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, and a new animated segment, but still leaves viewers thirsty for more.

By Blake

Originally posted March 22, 2008.


Every time I enter a local theater to view a new Disney movie, I expect to at least be entertained by the film I’m attending. Do I usually expect to have my socks knocked off? Of course not. I’m just there to have a good time, no matter if the movie isn’t the next cinematic masterpiece. However, each time I do see a new movie in theaters, I can’t help but feeling the tiniest inkling of hope that it will be the next classic. Sure, this is usually not realized, and that’s OK. But every once in a while, a film rolls along that has Pixie Dust sprinkled all over it and has that amazing “WOW” Disney experience and I know that the film is something special. Enchanted gave me one of those occurrences.

In the film, Disney pokes fun at itself when a clueless, animal-befriended princess-to-be, Giselle (Amy Adams), is thrusted from her safe animated world into the place “where happily-ever-afters don’t exist,” New York City, by the evil queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). As Giselle’s fiancé, the even-more-clueless and goofy Prince Edward, searches for her, Giselle befriends a divorce attorney named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and takes the city by storm as she enchants it with her touch of the fairy tale world.

Giselle (played by Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) in the “That’s How You Know” sequence of Enchanted. Image © Disney.

The first ten or so minutes of the film herald back to the golden age of Disney animation with hand-drawn sequences reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. Once Giselle enters New York, the film changes gears and switches to live-action for the duration of the movie, at which point it’s just scattered with all sorts of references to Disney films. Everything from “name-recycling” of Mr. and Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins to cameo appearances by the voices of Ariel, Belle, and Pocahontas make the film a pleasure to hunt around to find references like these. Additionally, Amy Adams’s Golden Globe-nominated lead role performance is many references in itself, seeing as Giselle is a combination of Ariel’s red hair with a dash of Belle and Snow White in her personality. And I must say the opening scene is probably the cleverest transition between a company logo and the beginning of a movie that I’ve ever seen.

Additionally, the music of the film is phenomenal. The songs follow the cutout of most past Disney animated features, complete with an “I Want” song, a cleaning song, a showstopper, a love ballad, and a contemporary final song, this time performed by Carrie Underwood. Written by the legendary Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, the film’s songs even received three Academy-Award nominations for Best Song, the first Disney feature to reach that number in that category since 1994’s The Lion King.

Bonus Features

Unfortunately, the single-disc compilation is the only option as Enchanted rolls along to DVD. It’s definitely more thorough and enjoyable than most single-disc Disney DVDs, but still has room for improvement.

“Fantasy Comes To Life” is a set of three brief featurettes displaying the creation of some of the most memorable pieces in the film. They include the processes of each scene’s conception, on-the-set filming, and post-production tweaking and feature interviews with several of the film’s key players.

The “Happy Working Song” portion (about six minutes) deals mainly with the technical aspects of creating the quirky cleaning tune. It shows how a rig was built as a substitute for birds twirling Giselle’s dress, the creation of the CGI street animals that helped Giselle clean, plus how several of the animals were actual live creatures that were trained to perform in the song.

The next featurette (about six minutes) deals with the shoot of “That’s How You Know,” the massive production number that includes dancers, gymnasts, and even stilt walkers performing in New York’s Central Park. Interviewed here are several choreographers who give us their insight on what it was like to create such an immense number as this.

Amy Adams as Giselle in “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted. Image © Disney.

The third and final featurette, “A Blast At the Ball” (about five minutes), mainly takes us through the special effects that were used to create the climax of the movie. While fascinating, I can’t help but think these three featurettes are leaving something out. While we do get plenty of technological and choreography-related secrets of several of the film’s songs, we just hear a little bit from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz concerning how or why they were written. In any case, the three featurettes collectively provide about seventeen minutes of entertainment.

The deleted scenes (about eight minutes) include six portions that were cut from the film. Included is an extended opening in Andalasia, a different introduction to Robert, a scene at Nancy’s design studio, a scene where Giselle orders a hot dog, a section where Nathaniel confides in Pip, and an extended version of the climax in which two older women commentate on the action. Interesting though brief, the most fascinating piece we come away from these deleted scenes with is a little bit of trivia: the last name of Nancy (Robert’s girlfriend) is “Tremaine,” the last name of Cinderella’s stepmother!

Bloopers are always a welcome addition to any DVD set, and the outtakes presented here (about two minutes) are certainly fun to watch.

“Pip’s Predicament: A Pop-Up Adventure” (about six minutes) is a questionable spinoff of the original film that borrows elements from Jack-Jack Attack and The Lion King 1 ½ to create a story-within-the-story. Narrated by a woman who has an uncanny similarity to Maleficent, it tells of how the chipmunk Pip saved Prince Edward when he was under an evil spell and told him that Giselle was missing. What really bothers me about this was the animation. It isn’t hand-drawn like the animated portion in the film, but rather a collection of still images of a book (hence the “Pop-Up” in the title). At least there’s a cameo appearance by Pumbaa.

The bonus features’ DVD menu is somewhat difficult to navigate. The menu is set in Times Square, meaning the screen very busy and you often can’t tell what feature you’re highlighting on the screen. Aside from that, your selection onscreen appears as a colored highlight of the selections, which is already difficult to distinguish even without a busy menu.

Easter Eggs

Although fairly obvious, there are two DVD “Easter Eggs” on the disc, both on the bonus features menu. An “Easter Egg” is the term used to describe a DVD bonus feature that’s not flat-out labeled, and often requires some searching for (such as pressing certain buttons on certain menus) to find. On Enchanted, however, both of the Easter Eggs can be accessed by merely moving along the selection of supplements on the bonus features menu. If you click on the highlighted music note, you’ll see the full music video of “Ever Ever After” performed by Carrie Underwood. I think the video is a bit cheesy, but was still glad to find it here, since it was advertised as being exclusive to the Blu-Ray edition of the film.

The other Easter Egg can be viewed if you click the Mickey ears on the bonus features menu. It’s a small peek of what’s to be found on “The D-Files,” a special feature on the Blu-Ray version of the movie that points out references to Disney films throughout the entire movie. It’s intriguing, but I’m still holding off on a Blu-ray for now.

Wrapping It Up

By now, I think it’s definitely safe to say that Enchanted has secured a deserving spot along the line of wonderful Disney classics and is bound for Disney theme park or Broadway presence sometime in the future. It captures the true essence of what it means to be a Disney masterpiece, while at the same time playfully poking fun at its own genre. With a hilarious story, charming hand-drawn animation, and sensational songs, there’s hardly anything to criticize about the film itself. The supplemental features that are included on this set certainly provide a marvelous look into how the film was made and add on to the original story, but I just feel like a film that’s been this successful would have pulled out all the stops on a lavish, more in-depth set. For now, the one disc is a nice compilation of bonuses, but later on down the road it might be pleasant to see a more thorough release of the movie.

James Marsden as Prince Edward in Enchanted. Image © Disney.

So, to be brief, Enchanted is a truly marvelous, magical, Disney masterpiece that’s a more than welcome addition to any DVD collection.

How do I rank Enchanted DVD? (Bolded) is my choice:
Brilliant movie + good bonus features =

  • Aaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Enchanted DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Young Adults – Adults

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By Blake; posted March 22, 2008. All images © Disney.

Silver Screen Review – ‘Enchanted’

November 23, 2007

The latest Disney Princess flick combines live-action and traditional 2-D animation to blend together a simply wonderful film, and an immediate classic.

By Blake
Originally posted November 23, 2007.

Disney fans everywhere rejoiced Wednesday, November 21, 2007, when the highly-anticipated new film Enchanted debuted in theatres. And they’ve got good reason to celebrate: the movie marks the first time Disney has implemented 2-D hand-drawn animation on the big screen since early 2005 and the first time award-winning music team of Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz have collaborated since 1996. So . . . this flick had pretty high hopes. Fortunately, these anticipations weren’t hogwash. The film delivers what fans expected, and goes over the top to provide audiences with the next Disney masterpiece production.

The film opens with about 15 minutes of 2-D traditional hand-drawn animation, where we’re introduced to Andalasia, a storybook land where a young woman named Giselle (Amy Adams) dreams of true love. However, she is thrust into the real world (rather abruptly) by Andalasia’s Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who doesn’t want Giselle to live happily ever after. Giselle winds up in New York City, where the pace of the film slows down a bit (and everything is reverted to live-action) as she’s kindly taken in by a man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his six-year-old daughter, Morgan. In an attempt to save Giselle, her fiancé Prince Edward (James Marsden) rushes to New York along with a few other storybook pals in a desperate search for her. Thus, mayhem breaks out as the fantasy characters rather comically struggle to fit in to the strange and bizarre ways of the real world, often confusing technological devices as magical creatures and breaking out into song whenever they feel like it.

So, that’s the premise for Enchanted, and the formula works out beautifully, because for the first time Disney actually gets to makes fun of their own previous films. The film is brimming with comedy and it is simple hysterical to see sissy storybook characters getting bashed in the real world. The movie is abundant with inside jokes, hidden “Easter Eggs”, and a plethora of other goodies that Disney fans will just have a field day trying to locate. Some are quite obvious, while others are rather subtle and call for a sharp eye.
The characters also strike personalities similar to previous Disney favorites. Giselle seems to be a combo of Snow White and Belle – Snow White because of the major storybook aspects, Belle because of her courage and bravery. Prince Edward seems to be a blend of all the princes, save Aladdin. And Queen Narissa seems to be Lady Tremaine (from Cinderella) and Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty) wrapped up into one.
The music is also a major plus. Alan Menken (known for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules) has composed the music and score, while Stephen Swartz (Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) has written the lyrics. The songs are filled with homage to other Princess films, and are easily toe-tappable. “Happy Working Song” has hysterical lyrics and Carrie Underwood belts out “Ever Ever After” quite brilliantly. And “That’s How You Know” is simply an absolute showstopper. Give the music a sample and you’ll easily be reminded of the early 90’s “golden age” of Disney animation – simply spectacular music accompanied by brilliant lyrics.

As for appropriate age appeal, it’s pretty much a well-rounded family film. I’d probably say the tween boy age group would enjoy it the least. Otherwise, I think you’re fine – younger kids will enjoy it, all girls will enjoy it, and adults will enjoy it. The film is rated PG for “some scary images and mild innuendo.” The “scary images” are mainly due to the villain Narissa, and even then it’s not too bad. If your kid can handle the other scary villains in Princess movies, then they can handle this. The “mild innuendo” label might raise your eyebrows at first sight, but it’s just slight mere humor.
Enchanted is classic Disney at its very best. Hilarious characters, a flood of puns, and sensational music, plus that touch of supreme Disney magic, are all components that make up this superlative film. Enchanted is sure to be placed on the shelf alongside some of the company’s most cherished works as the next Disney masterpiece.
How do I rank Enchanted? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Enchanted will most likely please: Disney Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Kids (ages 9-10) – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; originally posted November 23, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

Blake’s Picks – Top 12 Disney Animated Heroines

November 17, 2007

In preparation for ‘Enchanted’, let’s take a peek at some of Disney’s most memorable leading ladies.

By Blake
Originally posted November 17, 2007.

The part-animated, part-live-action Disney feature Enchanted is being released this week, and along with it comes a new Disney princess: Giselle. So, in preparation for this highly-anticipated film, I’m counting down the top 12 Disney animated heroines (I say “heroines” because not all of them are true princesses).

12.) Ariel, from 1989’s The Little Mermaid, voiced by Jodi Benson
Ariel is curious, insecure, and in love – the typical aspects of a teenage girl. However, there’s one trait Ariel has that makes her at the bottom of this list: spoiled. Don’t get me wrong, I think The Little Mermaid is a fantastic movie with an intriguing plot and wonderful music, but the main star herself is just downright pathetic. She’s already a royal princess, daughter of King Triton, yet she doesn’t appreciate the perks of a royal life and instead comes across as being bratty when you really analyze her personality. She’s willing to give up all her friends and family just because she has a crush on some guy (not to mention that that guy’s not even the same species as her).

Ariel

11.) Jasmine, from 1992’s Aladdin, voiced by Linda Larkin (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Jasmine shares several similarities with Ariel, but has a little more passion in her story than the mermaid’s. She is already a princess, and has all her needs. Though, the law states that she must be married to a prince by her next birthday. Jasmine, however, disagrees with the law and wants love to find her, not be forced upon her. To me, Jasmine seems semi-spoiled, but at least she, unlike Ariel, has a logical reason for feeling trapped.

Princess Jasmine

10.) Bianca, from 1977’s The Rescuers, voiced by Eva Gabor
Probably the littlest-known heroine on this entire list, Bianca is a Hungarian mouse that is a member of the Rescue Aid Society, a group that helps rescue needy children. She proves her bravery as she helps save a kidnapped little girl, Penny, from the clutches of the hideous Madame Medusa and her fiendish pet crocodiles. Bianca seems wealthy, but certainly isn’t haughty because of her riches. And when she has her pick of any dashing male critter to accompany her on the voyage to save Penny, she chooses plucky janitor Bernard.

Bianca

9.) Jane Porter, from 1999’s TARZAN®, voiced by Minnie Driver
Adventurous and very curious of her surroundings, Jane Porter journeys from England to the jungles of Africa to explore animals. Jane is intelligent, resourceful, and, when you think about it, a lot like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She falls in love with Tarzan, who isn’t your average Prince Charming. Jane, also like Belle, isn’t intimidated by haughty, stuck-up male contenders (only she turns down Clayton, not Gaston 🙂 ).

Jane Porter

8.) Megara, from 1997’s Hercules, voiced by Susan Egan
Megara, often called “Meg”, is confident, tomboyish, and is not fazed at all by the many males who constantly beg for her attention. Meg works for Hades, the leader of the Underworld. When ordered by Hades to attract the attention of muscleman Hercules to lure him to a fatal trap, Meg (after much ambivalence) eventually lets love conquer her contract to Hades and settles down with once-enemy Hercules. To me, Meg is one of the heroines on this list that has gone through the most out of anybody. Poor Cinderella, she has to do chores. Poor Ariel, she can’t have species change. Just look at poor Meg, who (as far as the audience knows) has no parents, and is forced against her will to do the work of Hades, one of the harshest bosses one could ever have.

Megara . . . you can call her “Meg.”

7.) Princess Aurora, from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, voiced by Mary Costa
Up next are three heroines in harsh and depressing situations, though they each have dreams they wish upon. The first is Aurora, also known as “Briar Rose” and “Sleeping Beauty”, who would be depleted a little more in my list, except Aurora doesn’t actually know she’s a princess until well into her story. Betrothed to a prince, she refuses to marry her suitor because she claims she’s already found someone else. Little does she know that that “someone else” is the one she’s betrothed to! Aurora has had a simple life until her love game enters the scheme of things and, of course, the nasty Maleficent shakes things up by attempting to kill the young maiden.

Princess Aurora dances with Prince Phillip.

6.) Cinderella, from 1950’s Cinderella, voiced by Ilene Woods
Cinderella, probably the most publicized and popular heroine on this list, is forced to do tend to her selfish stepmother and stepsisters. But her truly evil relatives don’t deter from her passion of her dreams. She gets through the day by singing happy melodies with her animal pals. Eventually Cinderella’s wishes are granted true when her Fairy Godmother comes to save the day and send her to the ball, where she experiences the power of her dream and the love of her life. To me, Cinderella is very deserving of her happy ending.

Cinderella

5.) Snow White, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, voiced by Adriana Caselotti
The “fairest one of all,” Snow White has a high-pitched voice and, apparent by her name, seriously needs to hop in a tanning bed. Snow White’s evil queen stepmother threatens to kill Snow White, just for the satisfaction of being fairest in the land. In my opinion, the queen seriously needs to get a life if her existence revolves around being prettier than a girl nearly half her age.

Snow White

In all seriousness, though, Snow White really does deserve something nice to happen in her life. Not only does she have to do chores for her stepmother like Cinderella, but her stepmother actually plans to kill her! Snow White longs for her prince to come rescue her from her misery. However, unlucky for Snow White, she has no Fairy Godmother or friendly mice friends to help her.

4.) Mulan, from 1998’s Mulan, voiced by Ming-Na Wen (speaking)/Lea Salonga (singing)
Now we enter 3 heroines who are courageous because they choose to be, not because they are forced to be. The first of these is Mulan, who desperately does not want her father to have to fight in the mandatory war. To resolve the issue, Mulan disguises herself as a male and enters the army, striving to honor her family with every move she makes. To me, Mulan is a very powerful individual who puts others way before herself, and will stop at nothing to please her family’s wishes.

Mulan

3.) Pocahontas, from 1995’s Pocahontas, voiced by Irene Bedard (speaking)/Judy Kuhn (singing)
Pocahontas is determined to settle the rift between her Native American family and the Englishmen that have suddenly begun to take over the Native Americans’ land. With the help of John Smith, an Englishman, she is able to conquer the disagreements between the two sides by following her heart and listening to the “colors of the wind.” Like Mulan, she puts others before herself, but still follows her personal internal conflicts, as well.

Pocahontas

2.) Nala, from 1994’s The Lion King, voiced by Niketa Calame (cub Nala)/Moira Kelly (adult Nala)
Betrothed to prince Simba at birth, Nala goes from a very fun, carefree, “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle to a troublesome and distressing one when the evil Scar forces prince Simba to run away forever. Seeking help after the kingdom is put into misery under Scar’s rule as king, Nala eventually finds the long-lost Simba, and stops at nothing to bring Simba back to restore peace to the kingdom. Nala is dedicated, determined, and heroic, making her #2 on this list.

Nala

1.) Belle, from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, voiced by Paige O’Hara
The ultimate Disney heroine in every sense of the word, Belle dominates all other competitors by a long shot. Not only does her story tell of bravery and courage, but also of true love conquering all. Belle, to me, is really the only princess that truly shows that anyone can be loved. I mean, really: Snow White and Aurora have a soul mate because a random guy smooches them to wake them up, Cinderella gets her prince by having a lucky shoe size, Ariel gets hers by having a species change, and Jasmine gets hers by falling in love with some guy in disguise. Belle falls in love with a hideous beast and, even when all her peers and friends turn against Beast, Belle sticks by his side to the end, breaking the spell on the Beasts’ castle. Wow.

Beast and Belle dance the night away.

So, with this look into some of history’s most endearing Disney animated heroines princesses, we can only hope that someday Princess Giselle will find her place among them. Enchanted is in theatres Wednesday, November 21, 2007.

By Blake; originally posted November 17, 2007. All images (C) Disney.