Oh, brother!: Comic cutups with the fraternal trio from the Jonas series.
Disney’s video team has certainly
mastered the trick employed for many years at the movie division, in
which certain evergreen titles were reissued every seven to 10 years
for a new generation of bijou box-office customers. So the Mouse House
has likewise been pumping out the classic cartoons and musicals for
close to 30 years, first on Beta and VHS tapes (remember them?), often
with double- or triple-dipping into the same lucrative well of video
reissues. Now with DVD as the prime format, the company has learned
that people aren’t necessarily going to buy another disc of the same
movie unless a spiffily restored version plus a host of new extras are
all part of the package.
Meanwhile, the FCC’s 2009 mandate to
boot analog signals from the airwaves, thus rendering thousands of
television sets obsolete (OK, unless you’re a cable subscriber, that
is), has forced many Americans to pony up for high-definition boob
tubes. And such a harmonious convergence has proven a boon for the
Blu-ray DVD industry, which has lowered prices on models (some
bare-bones gizmos are in the $100 neighborhood) to lure more customers.
But what to do about the video-crazy consumer who doesn’t have that
Blu-ray player and is perfectly content with his piles of just-as-good
Disney figured out that conundrum by
piggybacking both standard DVD and Blu-ray combo packages for that next
DVD generation guy who hasn’t yet taken that upgrade plunge. The
company began this releasing method in October 2008 with Sleeping Beauty and has since issued the cartoons Bolt and the hubba-hubba Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, the Adam Sandler farce Bedtime Stories, Dwayne Johnson’s remake of Race to Witch Mountain, the Miley Cyrus big-screen spinoff Hannah Montana: The Movie and The Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience,
with only the Blu-ray disc boasting the three-dimensional effects. The
Disney-Pixar catalog is getting the Blu-ray treatment, too: Monsters, Inc. received a combo pack reissue at the same time this year’s instant classic Up hit video-store shelves.
The combo packs are really scoring with the 2009 reissues of the animation all-timers Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The high-def visuals of Snow White
are truly eye-popping, which left one bowled-over viewer (full
disclosure: It was me) literally drooling in a Sam’s Club aisle while
watching sequences on a 50-inch flat screen. Granted, the retail price
for the combo runs a bit higher than if you purchase the standard or
Blu-ray disc separately, yet some consumers are citing the value of
such a double bill, with the standard DVD getting ported to the soccer
mom’s SUV video player for more spins.
For more budget-conscious gift givers in a holiday mood, there’s Mickey’s Magical Christmas, a collection of four yuletide cartoons of various vintages that includes the 1983 Mickey’s Christmas Carol,
which is also part of another DVD as the lead-off to the seventh volume
of cartoons from the “Animation Collection: Classic Short Films”
series. The previous six volumes feature an hour’s worth of cartoons
from the 1930s and 1940s, keepers such as Mickey and the Beanstalk, The Three Little Pigs, The Prince and the Pauper and more, plus a collectible litho print in each box. Other recent DVD releases include two Disney musicals from the 1970s, Pete’s Dragon and an extended cut of Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Discs devoted to the usual sitcom fodder from the Disney Channel include the mother of all crossover episodes, Wizards On Deck with Hannah Montana, a 68-minute bonanza (minus bathroom breaks, natch) geared to the tween demographic, and Jonas: Rockin’ the House, Vol. 1, seven episodes of the Jonas Brothers comedy, which at least strives for the sort of silliness achieved 40 years earlier in The Monkees TV show.
And to witness what tweens grooved to
during the I-Like-Ike era, check out this year’s lavish installments of
the “Walt Disney Treasures” series: two separate volumes of Zorro,
collecting 78 half-hour adventures from the Disney-ABC series’ 1957 and
1958 seasons. (TV shows back then had 39-episode seasons.) Guy Williams
cut a dashing, grinning hero throughout the serialized story arcs, and
the sharp visuals of the restored black-and-white prints enhance all
the athletic swashbuckling. There are extra goodies inside each
jet-black tin case, including a certificate of authenticity (only
30,000 sets have been produced of each volume), a publicity still and
even a nifty tie pin.
Getting away from all things Mouse
House, Buena Vista has also issued a number of complete TV seasons of
recent ABC series, from the canceled lone season of Life on Mars, to the third season of the currently struggling Ugly Betty (a new time slot in January may perk up the ratings) to the first season of the crime yarn Castle, which has acquired a following in its second year. More hefty stocking stuffers include full seasons of hour-longs like Brothers and Sisters, Desperate Housewives and Lost, while the syndicated Legend of the Seeker, a fantasy mix from executive producer Sam Raimi, has a 22-episode five-disc box set.
Perhaps this year’s most intriguing DVD development is Buena Vista’s release of the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men
in a three-disc special edition box set one year after the single-disc
version of the Academy Award winner sold about $50 million worth of
DVDs. The first disc has the same behind-the-scenes featurettes as the
earlier incarnation, while another disc offers one of those digital
copy options that is becoming increasingly common in the video
industry. The extra disc has more featurettes and TV interviews, but
don’t expect a Coen commentary track in this package. Still, with the
bad-hair-day image of Javier Bardem’s psycho hit man lingering in the
mind, No Country for Old Men just might be the Christmas ticket for that special someone’s stocking.
Masked marvel: Guy Williams as Zorro, part of the Walt Disney Treasures box-set series.
Heigh ho!: An image from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, now in a Blu-ray presentation.