Blu-ray Shopping Bag: Hercules, Tarzan, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2014
When Walt Disney opens the vault, film aficionados, collectors, and parents usually take note. Now mix that with releasing titles on Blu-ray for the first time and Mania cannot just look away. Today Disney is releasing, for the first time on Blu-ray: TARZAN, HERCULES, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, the 10th anniversary of MICKEY, DONALD, GOOFY: THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD. For this critic and fan of what the mouse brings to the theatre, it was a chance to revisit a few films and see others for the first time. There is a lot of ground to cover here so let’s get started.
First up, let’s jump into the best of the lot. Not only do you get two timeless classics which have been released before on DVD, but you get them for one price. Disney has combined THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD and FUN AND FANCY FREE on one Blu-ray. Yet the true kicker to this collection is that The Reluctant Dragon, the complete film, as a bonus feature.
A perennial favorite in my home is the THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD (1949). This was required viewing every Halloween. Not only are these some of Disney’s best animated tales, but each story is narrated by a film legend. Bing Crosby handles both the story and the singing for our tale about Ichabod, whereas Sherlock Holmes himself, Basil Rathbone, narrates Mr. Toad’s story from “The Wind and the Willows”. Disney might have bigger films and releases out there, but Ichabod and Toad are Halloween musts!
It had been years since I had seen FUN AND FANCY FREE (1947) in its entirety. Growing up with the Disney Channel in its early days, features like this were often cut up. Bits and pieces were screened on various programs. Jiminy Cricket is our host and regales us with tales of Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. Mickey and the Beanstalk is then told to us by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Hands down, a great collection of Disney masterworks on one Blu-ray.
I mentioned getting The Reluctant Dragon here as well. It is only on the Blu-ray release and was Walt Disney’s way of telling people how a cartoon gets made. This 1941 film (it is 74 minutes long) features Robert Benchley as a man who takes a story idea to the Disney Studios. There, he learns all the secrets as to what goes into the making of a cartoon. You have probably seen the The Reluctant Dragon. If you have never seen the full version, you’ll be presently surprised.
The next one, I am sad to say, I never saw before. BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971) is a strange combination for Disney these days. Back then, it was just the proper way to tell Mary Norton’s story. The tale of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS involves war orphans from London who get placed with a witch (Angela Lansbury) in rural England. They have to hunt down a chestier, Emelius (David Tomlinson), so they can retrieve the last spell needed for Lansbury’s witch to complete her witchcraft studies. There is a cat named Cosmic Creepers, an animated soccer match, and it culminates with with our cast of characters battling Nazis. I thought I would need a child’s eyes to enjoy the film, not the case. It was great fun and refreshing to see no punches pulled. The Blu-ray doesn’t reveal too many camera tricks either. Perhaps that is because one gives themselves so easily to this whimsical film.
Outside of these classics mentioned above and all their goodies, Disney released three modern day films on Blu-ray as well. It might not be fair to call these last three titles modern as the youngest is 10 years old.
1999’s TARZAN is a strange enigma when it comes to Disney movies. The film is beautifully animated. The songs by Phil Collins are more memorable than ones in Frozen (sorry to anyone under 10, but it is true). The film did a spawn an animated series, but yet it remains one of the less memorable Disney animated films. It is fair to say that the story itself is just predictable. We know the story of Tarzan and his origins. It is what happens next that needs to be enticing. The second that Clayton (Brian Blessed) appears on screen, you know he is the bad guy and a big fight will ensue between him and Tarzan. We also know that Tarzan will have to prove himself to his stepfather, Kerchak (Lance Henriksen). We also know that Tarzan will fail the first time. Wrap this paint-by-numbers story in catchy songs and it becomes one big long music video.
HERCULES (1997) was Disney’s lighter film after the not so happy Pocahontas (1995) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). So this take on greek mythology is a weird mixture of show tunes, Disney references, and James Woods hamming it up. In all honesty, Wood’s portrayal of Hades ranks up with there with Robin Williams’ Genie from Aladdin (1992). It was a role he was born to play. This makes it one of the rare instances when the villain is more interesting than the hero. Whoever thought that Tate Donavan would make great leading man had never seen him in any of his movies. It was clearly a mistake, much like giving the Muses so much screen time. It will be fun for the kids to watch. HERCULES does have some great battles and monsters. In the end, however, they will pick another film every time this one is offered.
The baby in this big release is MICKEY, DONALD, GOOFY: THE THREE MUSKETEERS (2004). Placing these classic characters in Alexandre Dumas’ universe gives you better understanding then them playing Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. In fact, the Disney Trio is saved by those Musketeers at the beginning and it starts their lives on Musketeer career path. Sadly, they only become janitors at Musketeer headquarters, but hope one day to go further. The film, which is only 86 minutes long, has a lot of filler. There is character that inadvertently becomes the narrator. Micky, Donald, and Goofy do in fact save the day, but Peg Leg Pete has a plan B prolonging the story. This is one for the little tykes. It is packed with classic Disney blundering scenarios and a few ridiculous sword fights. If the little ones are under 6 they will love it.
This is great mix of classics, “modern” Disney films, and something for every Disney fan at home. All the Blu-ray Combo Packs come with DVD, Digital HD Copy and those ever so important Disney Reward points for Disney’s mobile app. Check out all the details and special features HERE on Mania.com.
Top 5 Picks of the Week:
1. Young Justice: The Complete First Season
2. Batman: Assault on Arkham
3. Bedknobs & Broomsticks 1971
4. Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad / Fun & Fancy Free
5. Island Of Dr Moreau
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
Breakheart Pass 1975
Decline of an Empire
Girl in Gold Boots
Tekken: Kazuya's Revenge
The Unforgiven 1960
The Wild Geese 1989
Beyblade: The Classic First Season 1, Volume 1
Fantasista Doll: Complete Collection
From the New World: Collection 2
Shuriken School: The Complete Series
Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad / Fun & Fancy Free
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Dragon Hill: A Dragon Adventure
Looney Tunes: The Platinum Collection 3
Young Justice: The Complete First Season
Out Of The Past
Viva Las Vegas 50th Anniversary
Love Streams 1984
A Haunted House 2
Bloodsucking Freaks 1976
Blood Orgy of the She Devils
THE BUTTERFLY ROOM
Crawl Or Die
Cry Wilderness / In Search of Bigfoot
Dark Space 2013
Eko Eko Azarak: The First Episode of Misa Kuroi
Island Of Dr Moreau
The Midnight Game
Motel Hell 1980
Seed of Darkness
The Toxic Avenger 1984
SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY
Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising
Bedknobs & Broomsticks 1971
Master Of The World
Power Rangers Megaforce a Battle to the Finish
Turtle Power: Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Blacklist: Season 1
Bitten: Complete First Season