The tradition started in the early years of the cinema. Before feature productions, a cartoon would play. These animated shorts grew into a proud tradition, especially at Disney, which built a media fortune on a mouse named Mickey.
Out for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, Disney is releasing its "Animation Studios Shorts Collection." The collection features a dozen three- to seven-minute shorts, each introduced by the filmmakers behind the stories.
The Oscar-winning "Feast," featured in front of last year's "Big Hero 6" and following the ever-evolving diet of a dog and his owner, is one of the more acclaimed films in the collection. Also featured is the Academy Award-winning "Paperman" produced by Kristina Reed and head of animation Patrick Osborne.
The earliest film is from 2000, the animated tale of "John Henry." The cartoon is produced like a patch-work quilt, building upon the fabric of American history and folklore of the steel-driving man and his personal challenge to beat a steam-powered machine.
Meanwhile, the newest part of the collection is last year’s "Frozen Fever" featuring sisters Anna and Elsa sporting new dresses and finding all the wonder in what gifts the ice queen gives her younger sibling for her birthday. Elsa gets a cold and ends up bringing life to hundreds of mini-snowmen that Olaf takes to the ice castle.
Comic T.J. Miller, known in Disney circles for being the vice of Fred in "Big Hero 6," moderates a short talk on animated shorts with producers and animators. He shares some insight into the pitch process and part of the culture at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Other shorts on the Blu-ray combo pack include:
"Lorenzo," the story of a cat who gets a hex on his tail.
"Get a Horse!," a celluloid classic of Mickey and Minnie that eventually breaking through the fourth wall and into the third dimension, spilling over into a movie theater itself.
"Tangled Ever After," which features our favorite horse Max and chameleon Pascal who go chasing after the rings needed for Rapunzel and Flynn’s royal wedding.
"Tick Tock Tale," which follows the personalities of different clocks in a shop and how the smallest and slowest one saves the day.
"The Ballad of Nessie," telling the story of the sweet monster that lives in Loch Ness.
"How to Hook Up our Home Theater," done in the classic how-to shorts style starring Goofy.
"The Little Match Girl," a sweet and sad tale done with only music and no dialogue.
"Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa," where Betty White lends her voice to Mrs. Claus and puts the starring two elves on a mission to help her with gift for Santa for Christmas.
The collection is also available in the cloud though Disney Movies Anywhere, and if you have young ones in tow, then you know the value of more content on a wireless device is priceless.
That's not the only case of Disney repackaging and refurbishing some old traditions this summer, however. Take for instance Disney’s "Descendants." From the mind of "High School Musical" director Kenny Ortega, "Descendants" follows the sons and daughters of some of Disney’s greatest characters, placed in a world of wonder and song and dealing with the shenanigans from the older generation.
The DVD, which includes never-before-seen bonus features and a free charm bracelet, was released late last month. The opportunity to screen and review the film comes at a time of late summer entertainment before children head back to school.
Broadway darling Kristin Chenoweth is the villain Maleficent, playing her much differently than Angelina Jolie did in last year's summer big screen hit. Chenoweth sets her daughter "Mal" on a quest to bring down the teenage son of Beast and Belle of "Beauty and the Beast" fame, who is ascending to the throne of an idyllic kingdom.
To pull it off, Mal – played by "Liv & Maddie" star Dove Cameron – enlists the son of Cruelle de Vil, the daughter of the Evil Queen from "Snow White" and the son of Jafar from "Aladdin" to help in the effort. Things go differently, however, when the innocent sons and daughters realize they don’t have to follow the same wicked ways of their parents.
This is a classic tale of right and wrong, told through song and dance that is the type of family-friendly entertainment we’ve come to know from the people working at Disney. The formula works for who the show is aiming for: young teens and preteens. For the rest of us in the family, it is fun to see the different takes on characters – both good and bad – that we’ve come to know and love in the media giant’s full length animated features.
This is one of the more pleasant ways to take some familiar characters, twist the story and tell new tales to a new generation that may come to love – or loathe – musicals.
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