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Disney, known the world over for their stunning animation, as well as their penchant for retiring movies to their vault in ten year rotations, seems to be giving a reprieve with the release of many of their movies on Blu-Ray. Or maybe it just seems that way but either way a whole slew of old friends are making their way to Blu-Ray this month and I going to start with some double features with “The Rescuers/Rescuers: Down under” 35th Anniversary 2 pack, and “Pocahontas/Pocahontas 2” 2 pack. All these films are pretty well known so it’s more of a much enjoyed trip down memory lane for the most part.
THE RESCUERS (1977) / THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER (1990)
“The Rescuers” premiered in 1977 and starred the voices of Bob Newhart and Ava Gabor as Bernard and Bianca, mice who work for the organization Rescue Aid Society built to help, and rescue orphans. Penny, a young girl is in danger and being used by the wicked Madame Medusa to try and recover some old treasure that only Penny’s tiny self can get to. Enter Bernard and Bianca and their misfit friends they meet along the way as they go on an adventure that takes them from New York City to the Bayou. “The Rescuers” is classic Disney adventure, is also the first Disney animated film to receive a sequel, and was re-released twice in 1983 and again in 1989 just before its sequel in 1990.
“The Rescuers: Down Under” continues the adventures of Bernard and Bianca as they set out to the Australian Outback to save a young boy being used by poacher Percival C. MacLeash to catch a giant Golden Eagle. Bernard and Bianca have some help from local Kangaroo Mouse Jake in their adventure, and more new friends are made, including Wilbur the Albatross, brother of Orville from the first film, and voiced by John Candy. “The Rescuers: Down Under” is a true sequel and holds the distinction of being the second film to start the Disney Renaissance after “The Little Mermaid.”
Both films were stunning in 1080p and the sound is crisp. It really was like watching these films again for the first time, and I can’t think of a better way to introduce new viewers. For special features there’s a deleted song “Peoplitis” that was okay, and a few classic Disney productions like the Silly Symphony Short “The Three Blind Mouseketeers” and “Water Birds” a Disney True-Life Adventure. These give a glimpse into what Disney used to put out, with the Silly Symphonies being musical nursery rhymes and shorts, and the True-Life Adventures being like a “Nature” documentary. There’s also a making of “Down Under.” These additions really bring back the feeling of classic Disney entertainment and add to the release.
POCAHONTAS (1995) / POCAHONTAS II: JOURNEY TO THE NEW WORLD (1998)
“Pocahontas” was released in 1995 and won an Academy Award for Best Original Musical and Best Original Song with “Colors of the Wind.” Telling the story of Native American princess Pocahontas and her meeting with the settlers, the film explores not only her curiosity with the Englishmen, but her growing love for Captain John Smith voiced by none other than Mel Gibson. But the greedy Governor Ratcliffe has one thing on his mind, gold, and he will stop at nothing to get it, even if it doesn’t exist. Continuing the tradition of feisty animal companions Pocahontas has Meeko the raccoon, Flit the hummingbird, and finally usurps Percy, Ratcliffe’s dog as they try to stop her tribe from going to war with the English. With some of the most beautiful imagery in any Disney movie and stunning animation, “Pocahontas” should not be missed. It also has a very positive role model for young girls in Pocahontas, as she is a very strong willed character.
“Pocahontas 2: Journey to the New World” was released direct to video in 1998 and continues the story of Pocahontas, and tells of how she met the man she historically married, John Rolfe, voiced by Billy Zane. The character of Smith returns briefly, voiced by Mel Gibson’s brother Donal. I’m not a big fan of the direct to video sequels of most Disney movies personally. In most cases I think it cheapens what made the original great, with the “Lion King” and “Aladdin” Franchises being notable exceptions. This is a paint by numbers fish out of water story. The songs aren’t memorable and the relationship with Rolfe seems forced, and it’s just plain awkward when Smith reappears. Ratcliffe returns as the chief antagonist, with a misled King James being a secondary foil. As part of a two pack this movie is fine, but definitely not on par with the original film.
The “Pocahontas” Two Movie Collection has what you’d expect for special features, a deleted song, “If I never knew,” and a documentary on the award winning music. But what is also becoming a staple on these Disney releases is a look into the past, with classic shorts or Disney productions. This time we are treated to “Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story of Hiawatha.” This is accompanied by a “Little Hiawatha” cartoon short. “The Lost Story” is actually a documentary on a Disney film about the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem and great Iroquois leader that was never made. It did however inspire some of the art for “Pocahontas” and I must say it would’ve made a stunning film. Presented as a story with pictures that are actual storyboards for the proposed film, the documentary does a fabulous job of presenting what could have been.
So with Disney pumping out their movies on Blu-Ray now is the time to go snatch up some classics for both yourself and the kids. Disney movies never get old, and now with amazing clarity to the picture and sound you can experience them again for the first time.