Paul McCartney – The Music and Animation Collection

Everyone knows Paul McCartney from his time in the Beatles, and afterwards, his own efforts and popular work with Wings. He has also dabbled in scoring movies and writing classical music. Enough for anyone, right?

Enter the Paul McCartney – The Music and Animation Collection:

McCartney DVD Cover

Enchanted Animated Tales with Original Music

This set contains three original animated tales featuring one famous bear (who is not named Pooh), one book adaption, and one completely original effort (my favorite!)

But before we go on, below is some information about the two men who led the teams that created these wonderful pieces:

McCartney McCartney McCartney Dunbar

The Collaborators

McCartney was definitely the man behind the music but equally important was the man behind the animation, Geoff Dunbar. Between them, I believe they produced some Oscar-worthy material!

McCartney Title Page

Introduction Screen

Here you can select to play all three animated films in sequence, or select them one by one. There are also many extras to choose from, which we will touch on later.

McCartney Menu

Main Menu

You can choose from Rupert & The Frog Song (1984), Tropic Island Hum (1997), and Tuesday (2002).

Let’s have a look at each in turn:

McCartney Rupert Title Card

Rupert Bear is a children’s comic strip character created by the English artist Mary Tourtel. He first appearing in the Daily Express newspaper on 8 November 1920. Rupert was a childhood favorite of McCartney and a natural selection for his first foray into animation.

McCartney Rupert Bear

Rupert Bear

Perhaps not as well know outside of the British Isles as Winnie the Pooh or Paddington Bear, Rupert is still a very popular character.

McCartney himself introduces the tale:

McCartney Intro

The book he is dusting off is presumably his own childhood copy of the original children’s book.

McCartney Frog Song

Shush! ‘The Frog Song’ is about to begin…

The Frog Song, actually called We All Stand Together, happens only once every 200 years or so, so listen now for you won’t have a chance to hear it again! It was released and  reached number three in the UK Singles Chart in 1984.

This animated film about Rupert stumbling upon the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of hearing The Frog Song is animated in a simplified style but with beautiful imagery. The highlight of the film, however, is the music.

McCartney Imagery

Psychedelic!

One scene of the frogs swimming to the music is reminiscent of some of the work done for Disney’s Fantasia. Given how both collaborators praise Disney in the Special Features section, this homage is not surprising!

I just wonder why McCartney never did any more of the Rupert Shorts?

The next film is:

McCartney Tropic Title Card

McCartney TIH Intro

Disney-like Animation

A squirrel is saved by a hot air ballooning frog and taken to a tropical island where animals of all sorts have gone to escape slaughter by man. Upon arriving, the two new friends are welcomed with a song.

McCartney TIH Elephants McCartney TIH Cake McCartney TIH Villain McCartney TIH Love

Love

Tropic Island Hum is a catchy, imaginative, animated musical romp! By far my favorite of the set. The single of the title song reached #21 in the UK. The animated Short accompanied Disney’s Hercules movie in theaters in 1997.

The final film in this set is:

McCartney Tuesday Title Card

This film is based on a children’s book by David Wiesner but contains no words, only images to convey the story. Other than croaking and a few comments from confused humans at the end of the story, and a final piece of narration by Dustin Hoffman, the film pretty much follows that storytelling device.

McCartney Tuesday SC 1 McCartney Tuesday SC 2

Flying Lilly Pads

The story takes place on a Tuesday around 8pm. Frogs are lifted into the air, much to their surprise, and enabled to fly. They do so, right into town, where they cause all sorts of mischief.

McCartney Tuesday SC 3

Like knocking on windows…

McCartney Tuesday SC 4

… and crashing houses to watch TV.

McCartney Tuesday SC 5

The town is left littered with debris and lily pads. The mystery is never solved. But this is not the end! It seems that this occurs every Tuesday, but not just with frogs:

McCartney Tuesday SC 6

Even pigs get a turn to fly!

And why now pigs? The closing narration tells us:

The events recorded here are verified by an undisclosed source to have happened somewhere, U.S.A.. on Tuesday. All those in doubt are reminded that there is always another Tuesday.” So… why not, I guess?

The Special Features are interesting:

McCartney SF

This is a nice collection of extras that round out the DVD collection. The set comes with a 16-page booklet with details about the production:

McCartney Booklet 1 McCartney Booklet 2

COOL FACTOR: 5/5

I love Paul McCartney’s music. I love animation. So having the two together is just amazing! The quality of animation is Disney-worthy and the soundtracks and original songs are obviously good. McCartney himself provides most of the voices for all three films with an assist by wife Linda for one female character.

If you are a Disney fan, an animation fan, or a music fan, this collection is for you! If only to hear Tropic Island Hum. Man, that’s one catchy tune! See for yourself:

DVD Review: Walt Before Mickey – A “True” Story

“The true story of a boy whose dreams built a kingdom” is the tag line for this production which seems pretty inspiring. But with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 20% you know this movie isn’t destined to be a classic. Read my DVD review to see why…

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Nice concept. Bad execution.

This movie was loosely based on ‘a true story’ as recounted in the book of the same name as the movie, to wit:

original-book

Synopsis: This film is about Walt Disney’s early years. For ten years before the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney struggled with, failed at, and eventually mastered the art and business of animation. Walt Disney worked in a variety of venues and studios, refining what would become known as the Disney style. This film captures the years 1919 – 1928, creating a portrait of the artist from age seventeen to the cusp of his international renown.

Hopefully Timothy S. Susanin did a better job of researching the facts in his book than the movie did! The forward for the book was written by Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, so you naturally assume the content is legit. Well, the book may have been closer to the truth, but thankfully she wouldn’t have seen this movie (as it was released after her passing) as I’m certain she wouldn’t have approved (even though some sources give her a writing credit). As an example, one scene has Walt eating a sandwich out of a garbage can while obsessing over a mouse he had found in his studio. When the mouse runs away, Walt is depicted as almost having a mental breakdown over its loss. I find that hard to believe! However, the movie does depict Walt’s excessive smoking accurately.

From my negativity, you no doubt have guessed that I don’t like nor appreciate this movie? Please read on for my main reasons why:

The movie starts off well enough with only slight deviations from the truth which are forgivable to achieve a more streamlined plot. But about half way into things the facts become the enemy and artistic license rules the day!

Anyone watching with no knowledge of this time in Walt’s life will come away with entirely the wrong idea about the man, the events, and how they shaped the Walt Disney Company we know today. Although Walt had his bad points, this movie makes him a completely unsympathetic character with very few redeeming qualities. Even his determination to succeed and unwavering optimism is implied to come from others and not himself. And don’t get me started on how Roy is handled.

young-walt

Thomas Ian Nicholas a.k.a. Walt Disney

The production values were good on a television movie level or for direct-to-video release, so kudos to director Khoa Van Le for that much. The acting was fair but the editing was choppy and some details of the plot were poorly relayed making for some confusing moments. Here is the trailer:

Vision Films – 2015 (107 mins.)

About the only thing I can say that is positive about this movie is that the cover art on the DVD packaging is awesome!

Cool Rating: 2/5

DVD Review Summation: The movie had the proper bone structure (basic facts) but entirely the wrong skin (or details) over top.

I will keep this movie in my Disney media collection because I’m a completist but I won’t likely revisit it anytime soon. You can check out the official website here to review their promotional materials or order a copy of the DVD for yourself.

I purchased a copy of this movie for review. No compensation was received.

Walt Disney’s Cinderella Special Edition DVD Gift Set

I’d like to start by saying that the promises of Blu-ray have been overstated and under-realized. The claim of better picture quality and sound along with increased storage capacity were supposed to bring a whole new world to home entertainment.

The reality has been a marginal increase in presentation quality and, in most cases, less extras than we previously enjoyed on DVD. Much less if you compare today’s Blu-ray releases with yesterday’s Platinum 2-disc DVD Editions! And as you will see in this post, there simply is no comparison when you look at the Collector’s DVD Gift Sets:

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Cinderella Collector’s DVD Gift Set

  • 2-disc Special Edition DVD (Platinum Edition)
  • 8 Exclusive Character Portraits
  • Collector Book
  • Film Frame from the movie

I have three of these Disney collectible DVD sets and I continue to be amazed at the value they yield. Let’s start with the Platinum Edition DVD:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 004

Remember when the DVD case came in a cardboard sleeve with an opening cover? Remember that once you opened the DVD, you found a booklet inside describing what was on the discs, with navigational flow charts? Remember when ‘hours of extras’ meant hours of extras, not just 2 hours, if you were lucky? Then you remember the Platinum series of DVD’s!

The gift sets gave you this version of the DVD along with exclusive extras, like:

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A Dream Come True ‘making of’ Storybook

As you can see from the picture above right, the illustrations in this publication are amazing! You’ll also find behind-the-scenes pictures and stories of production.

Next, this set has something truly special:

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 008

Film Frame: Cinderella on the staircase

But wait, that’s not all! You also get:

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Cinderella DVD Gift Set 012  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 013

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 014  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 015

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 016  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 017

Cinderella DVD Gift Set 018  Cinderella DVD Gift Set 019

8 Exclusive Character Portraits by:

Ollie Johnston and Andre Deja

This set sold for upwards of $50.00 CAN when it first came out, and they are hard to find today, even on eBay. And when you do, the price is usually quite high. I’m glad I picked this up when I did!

So the next time you hear a commercial extolling the virtues of Blu-ray, remember this post, and the great Platinum DVD and Collector’s Gift Sets of yesterday.

The Grasshopper and the Ants Record Reader

From WDP comes a Capitol Records release of a truly entertaining Silly Symphony: The Grasshopper and the Ants. Released in 1934, this was one of Aesop’s fables, reimagined by the animators of Walt Disney.

Silly Symphonies Record 001

A Capitol Record-Reader was a cherished item for any child of the pre-TV era. They came with two double-sided 78″ (unbreakable) records which enabled the child to hear the story being read by announcer Don Wilson while reading along by turning pages when the sound of a bell was heard.

Grasshopper and the Ants 003

Pinto Colvig was the voice of the grasshopper, whom you might better remember as the first voice actor behind Goofy. His distinctive voice is clearly heard here, along with Goofy’s signature song ‘The World Owes Me a Living‘. But the Grasshopper sung it first! Goofy wouldn’t warble the tune until 1935 in the Disney Short entitled On Ice.

The record-reader is filled with many illustrated full-color pages, such as these:

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Grasshopper and the Ants 006 Grasshopper and the Ants 007

Just as an aside, the ants sound a lot like Chip and Dale. And if you think about it, maybe this silly symphony was on the minds of the animators at Pixar when they thought up A Bug’s Life. There we have the similar theme of industrious ants storing up food for the winter, and lazy grasshoppers who just want to have fun, leaving the hard work of preparing for the winter to others. Of course, the outcome is different, but the bones are there!

Grasshopper and the Ants 002

Walt Disney Treasures released a complete DVD collection of the Silly Symphonies on December 4th, 2001.

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You can find The Grasshopper and the Ants on disc one under the heading of Fables and Fairy Tales.

I found this record-reader at a local antique shop and was able to purchase it for just $30.00 CAN. It is in near-mint condition with only natural yellowing of the paper. It was released in 1949, so a little yellowing is to be expected, and I doubt a better copy exists! There are some scratches on the records, but none that cause the records to skip.

Here is an image of the original poster for the theatrical release in 1934:

Theatrical Poster

If you’d like to further research this particular Silly Symphony, you can read a condensed version in the 360-page coffee table book Walt Disney’s Mickey and the Gang: Classic Stories In Verse (2005, Gemstone, ISBN: 1888472065). On pages 14 and 15, you can read the history of the film, and of its place as the first installment of the Good Housekeeping series of full-page illustrated versions of the classic Disney films (1934-1944).

GH Grasshopper Page 001

Each version of this fable is different, although all rendered by Disney animators and artists. The most detail is found in the film version, of course, but one detail is added in the record-reader: The Queen offers the Grasshopper a chance to join the ant colony and work along with them, living with them through the long winter. She does not do this in the theatrical version. He refuses, is reminded of his poor choice later, where he admits his mistake. The Good Housekeeping version strips the tale of almost all details, leaving only the basic moral in tact.

DVD Review: Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey

A Puppeteer’s Journey

Elmo 001

Elmo 008     Elmo 009

This documentary on Kevin Clash, the man behind, or underneath, Elmo, was very interesting. It was done in 2011, just one year before allegations against him would bring about his resignation from Sesame Street. But I don’t want to focus on that, instead, I’ll be restricting my review to the DVD and its contents.

The story of Kevin Clash and his rise to fame as a performer with Jim Henson, the Muppets, and of course, Sesame Street, is one to warm the heart! He came from humble beginnings with just a dream and raw talent to propel himself forward. I’ll let you watch the DVD to learn all of the details.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the film is Kevin’s recollections of Jim Henson’s last days. They visited Walt Disney World together in 1990 for the TV special The Muppets at Walt Disney World:

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Elmo 005

And they appeared together again on The Arsenio Hall Show:

Elmo 007

One of Jim Henson’s last appearances

Clash speaks of Jim complaining of a sore throat during this broadcast, and just 10 days later, Jim Henson was dead. The DVD shows a moving moment from the funeral which ‘starred’ many of the Muppet performers singing a song in Jim’s honor, including Kevin Clash as Elmo.

Over all, this was a nice documentary, which won 13 awards! I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. For some, the unfortunate allegations against Clash might make this DVD something to avoid, but I see it as a piece of history. It very well chronicles the world of puppeteering and specifically the world of Jim Henson’s Muppets and their performers.

Really, a must-see for any Disney fan.

ABBA the Movie featuring… Mickey Mouse?

As many of my readers know, I have varied tastes. But I’m always on the lookout for that elusive Disney tie-in in whatever I’m watching! And just recently I was watching ABBA – The Movie and found a familiar Disney star waving to the camera.

But before we get to that, here is the aforementioned movie:

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I’ve always enjoyed ABBA’s music, so I knew I would enjoy this movie! But the Disney fan in me just couldn’t help but geek out when I saw this:

Abba the Movie 001

The Moomba Festival Parade, Melbourne, Australia (1977)

In the movie, ABBA comes out onto the balcony of the Mayor’s office to overlook the parade and the crowds. In an interview segment on the disc, I learned that the vast majority of the people were there, not to see ABBA on the balcony, but because of the parade! OH fame, how fickle thou art!

But Mickey wasn’t the only Disney character to ride past the four Swedes:

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Cinderella riding a Fairy Godmother float

Moomba’s musical performers have included international acts such as ABBA, Neil Diamond and AC/DC as well as a number of smaller local acts.

You owe it to yourself to follow the link above to the Wikipedia site about the Moomba Festival. The word ‘Moomba’ is supposed to mean “let’s get together and have fun!” But… it is based on an Aboriginal word that actually (may) mean “Up Your Butt Hole!” Again, follow the link above if you want a good laugh!

Hmmm… it’s hard to believe Mickey Mouse would attend such a festival…

DVD Review: No Ordinary Family – The Complete First Season

I picked this up recently because I liked the concept (superheros are my kryptonite, ha ha) and because it starred Michael Chiklis (who gets super strength and invulnerability) from The Shield and the first two Fantastic Four films.

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And it has the Disney/abc tie-in

So here, from Wikipedia, is the rundown on this short-lived series:

No Ordinary Family is an American television series that aired on ABC and CTV in Canada. The one-hour science fiction comedy-drama was produced by ABC Studios for the 2010–11 television season. The series ran from September 28, 2010, to April 5, 2011, on Tuesdays at 8:00 pm ET/PT. The show centers on the Powells, a typical American family living in fictional Pacific Bay, California, whose members gain special powers after their plane crashes in the Amazon, Brazil.

Julie Benz (Mom, who gets super speed), Kay Panabaker (the daughter, who can read minds), and Jimmy Bennett (the son, who becomes super smart) complete the family. Guest stars included Lucy Lawless, Cybill Shepherd, Rick Schroder (remember him?) and Robert Picardo (for all you Star Trek fans) to name but a few.

No Ordinary Family 002

This was a fun superhero romp in the vain of The Incredibles with writing reminiscent of Heroes and Lost. The characters try to master their new powers while still balancing their somewhat flawed family. With others trying to learn their secret and more super powered humans popping up every day, most of them bad, the Powells have a lot on their plates!

Will they succeed? Will they keep their secrets? Will they save the world? We’ll never know for on May 13, 2011, ABC announced that No Ordinary Family had been cancelled due to low ratings. Although it was fun, it was a mature theme watered down for a family audience, which was likely why it couldn’t find a larger audience.

However, I still give it a 3.5 stars out of 5. The special effects were surprisingly good for a TV show budget and the acting was top-notch. It did have a sitcom feel at times. But without more episodes to watch, it’s hard to say if the premise would have carried into multiple seasons.

Other places you can find the cast:

  • Julie Benz – played Rita Bennett on Dexter (2006–2010), for which she won the 2006 Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress. She is currently starring as Mayor Amanda Rosewater on the Sci fi series Defiance.
  • Kay Panabaker – breakout role came when she starred in Summerland as “Nikki Westerly”, in the 2004–05 season. Also did voice work in Monsters Inc.
  • Jimmy Bennett – He is known for his roles as a child actor in Daddy Day Care, Hostage, Poseidon, Orphan and as young James T. Kirk in the 2009 film Star Trek. He has been nominated for Young Artist Awards five times.

The African Queen/Jungle Cruise Comparison

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The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel. The screenplay was adapted primarily by James Agee. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar) and Katherine Hepburn.

5     Set below includes 8 Still Cards like this one

I just picked up an amazing Commemorative DVD Box Set about the movie:

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Senitype representing The African Queen (boat) as filmed in the Technicolor Process

You may recognize the style of boat from the above picture? It should remind you of a famous Disney attraction vehicle!

For Disney fans, the most interesting fact about The African Queen film is that it’s reported to have inspired The Jungle Cruise! Actually, there are said to be two sources of inspiration for the attraction, one being the 1955 True-Life Adventure film entitled “The African Lion,” about a pride of lions, and the film The African Queen. Imagineer Harper Goff referenced the African Queen frequently in his ideas; indeed, it appears his designs of the ride vehicles were inspired by the steamer used in the film.

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The small steam-boat used in the film to depict the African Queen was built in 1912, in England, for service in Africa. Let’s compare it to its Theme Park counterpart. First, let’s look at the steering:

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In the movie, Ms. Hepburn steers the boat from the rear using a tiller, but in the attraction, the Skipper uses a wheel in the front of the boat:

11     Uniform color seems the same though

At one time the original boat used as The African Queen in the movie was owned by actor Fess Parker, giving us another Disney tie to the movie. In December 2011, plans were announced to restore the boat. Restoration was completed by the following April and the African Queen is apparently now on display as a tourist attraction at Key Largo, Florida. So if true, this would make an awesome side trip for any Disney fan!

One more cool comparison is found in the 5′ long model used for filming in the movie:

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Any scene in the movie where the boat is filmed in a long shot, and in danger, it is actually this 5′ model. And if you like to play with toy boats, you can get your fix just outside The Jungle Cruise in Walt Disney World:

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So both The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise have little models of the boats made, but admittedly, WDW’s versions are smaller!

The boat in the movie is called ‘African Queen’, but the boats in the Jungle Cruise attractions have a variety of names. In Disneyland, the queue and station are themed as the headquarters and boathouse of a River Expedition Company, located in a (presumably British) colony of the 1930s. And I believe the names presently in use are:

  • Amazon Belle
  • Congo Queen (nudge, nudge)
  • Ganges Gal
  • Hondo Hattie
  • Irrawaddy Woman
  • Kissimmee Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn?)
  • Nile Princess
  • Orinoco Adventuress
  • Suwannee Lady
  • Ucayali Una (Wheelchair equipped)
  • Yangtze Lotus
  • Zambezi Miss

Names decommissioned in 1997:

  • Magdalena Maiden
  • Mekong Maiden

At Walt Disney World, the Jungle Cruise is set up as a depression-era British outpost on the Amazon river, operated by the fictional company, The Jungle Navigation Co., and their boats are named as follows:

  • Amazon Annie
  • Bomokandi Bertha (Wheelchair lift equipped)
  • Congo Connie
  • Ganges Gertie
  • Irrawaddy Irma
  • Mongala Millie
  • Nile Nellie
  • Orinoco Ida
  • Rutshuru Ruby
  • Sankuru Sadie
  • Senegal Sal
  • Ucyali Lolly
  • Volta Val
  • Wamba Wanda (Wheelchair lift equipped)
  • Zambesi Zelda

Retired boat

  • Kwango Kate (nudge, nudge a.k.a. Katherine Hepburn again?)

Keep in mind these lists are as accurate as I could make them. But now, onto the last bit of Jungle Cruise lore: Is there going to be a live-action movie of the attraction? Let’s read a Disney Press Release:

The Walt Disney Studios is excited to be in development with Mandeville Films and writer Roger S.H. Schulman on a feature film based on the Jungle Cruise, one of the most iconic attractions in Disney theme park history. The film will pair up Tim Allen and Tom Hanks in their first live-action project, after their previous collaborations in the Toy Story trilogy.‬ (Original announcement in 2012, source updated in 2014)

Since this original announcement, talk has died down with no new, er… news. If it does go ahead, it likely will take on a much lighter tone than The African Queen film (set in the first World War) opting instead for comedy, more in line with the Jungle Cruise attraction speils and jokes. And with Tim Allen and Tom Hanks on board (pun intended) that seems logical.

6     Reproduction of book by Hepburn

This great little reproduction (the size of the DVD box) was included in The African Queen Commemorative Box Set and chronicles Ms. Hepburn’s adventures while filming the movie. In a nutshell: It… was… Hell. Actually filmed in Africa, the cast and crew had to deal with disease, injury, and a total lack of comforts and amenities. Let’s hope that if Disney does go ahead with a Jungle Cruise film, it will go better for all involved!

So what do you think: Are there enough similarities to justify a connection between The African Queen and The Jungle Cruise?