Walt Disney deserves its reputation for making magic on a regular basis, starting with the black and white shorts of the 1930s all the way through their current hits on their cable channel. They’ve managed to spread the supernaturally wonderful touch to cartoons, films, television, theme parks, and tons of merchandise. The joy is looking back, seeing the progress as Disney and the Nine Old Men, the master animators, learned the tricks of the trade, refining them and then owning them, setting them apart from all.
The 1950 release, Cinderella, is one of those films where all the elements come together. It possesses a classic story, told with verve and humor, coupled with fluid animation and memorable songs. Disney has spruced the film up, debuting it this week as part of its Diamond edition series of films.
Watching this classic feels fresh thanks to the restoration efforts. The songs sound better, the characters feel funnier, and you grin happily all the way through. The fairy tale was nicely adapted as the young girl found herself trapped in her role as scullery maid to the wicked stepmother and her homely, but favored, two daughters. She makes her wish to attend the ball and is greeted by the lovable but somewhat daffy Fairy Godmother. There’s the ball, the price, the dancing, and the glass hoe left behind as the clock strikes twelve. It’s all there, well-paced and crafted, with natural movements to the humans, saving the exaggerated antics for the anthropomorphized mice that were Cinderella’s friends from the outset.
You root for Cinderella, hiss at the step-mother, and giggle at the slapstick. It’s all done well and is a perfect family film that endures.
One of the highlights of Disney’s Diamond releases is seeing how much improved the video image is and Cinderella does not disappoint. The high-definition restoration is amazing, with bright colors and sharp clarity, making the film all the more magical. Accompanying the improved look is amazing sound, which enlivens the overall experience.
Disney rarely skimps on the extras for these special releases and once more, this disc comes chockfull of goodness. The Blu-ray and DVD come nicely packaged in an embossed case but that’s just starting the fun. There are tons of extras that show the history of the film, the filmmaking process, and the usual assortment of excellent featurettes taking us into the magic behind the screen. Thankfully, the Classic Backstage Disney section repurposes all the content from previous editions.
“The Real Fairy Godmother” (12:00) is fascinating in that it is a tribute to Walt’s wife, the inspiration for the supporting player. Daughter Diane Disney Miller appears here along with an optional video introduction to Cinderella. A new Tangled short appears in “Tangled Ever After”, which was in theaters with the last rerelease of Beauty and the Beast but acts as the lead-in to the Cinderella.
In a nice bit of cross-promotion, Snow White, that is Once Upon a Time’s Ginnfer Goodwin, takes you on a tour of the revamped Fantasyland at Disneyland, as “Behind the Magic: A New Disney Princess Fantasyland” (8:00) emphasizes the Princesses that have proven a marketing juggernaut. More promotion can be found in the focus on designer Christian Louboutin in “The Magic of a Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story” (10:00).
For Blu-ray fans, there’s the DisneyView option, spotlighting the art of Cristy Maltese, in case those black bars on the sides bother you.
If anything is less than stellar, it’s the Disney Second Screen, accessed via your mobile device or computer, lacking the usual breadth of secrets from the Disney Vault.
It’s beginning to appear as though we’re moving away from one of the pillars of superherodom, the secret identity. Even though this movement started back in the early 1960s with The Fantastic Four, it’s moved slowly up to the breakthrough moment in the first Iron Man movie.
Of course, that was telegraphed a few years before by my pal Mike Grell during his run on the comic book, but Marvel squeezed that back in the tubes where it sat until the movie people showed them Mike was right in the first place.
Such pettiness aside, I welcome the departure from tradition. The secret identity was almost always a stupid idea. Clark Kent became Superman to protect his friends and loved ones from harm? Okay, fine. I can appreciate that even the Man of Steel can not keep an eye on Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lex Luthor (well, they used to be friends…), Linda Lee, Lionel Luthor, and Leslie Luckabee simultaneously, 24/7. But let’s do a little reality testing here: all Toyman has to do is grab Agnes Applebee off of the streets and hold a gun to her head and Superman is in the exact same pickle.
There were worthy exceptions. I can see why Bruce Wayne covers up: he doesn’t want all those people inconvenienced by the Dark Knight’s activities to sue the poo outta him. Going back to the dawn of the pulp era, the incredibly wealthy nobleman Don Diego de la Vega was committing high treason every time he dressed up as Zorro: to the natives of California he was a hero, but to the Power he was a terrorist. Even then, Zorro revealed his identity at the end his first tale, The Curse of Capistrano, but author/creator Johnston McCulley overlooked this aberration in his five-dozen subsequent stories.
Arguably the first costumed hero (Spring-Heeled Jack was a villain, and was further disadvantaged by being ostensibly real) was the Scarlet Pimpernel, created 14 years before Zorro by Baroness Emmuska Orczy in 1905. He had the same excuse as Don Diego: he was committing treason, in this case against the French Revolution. He and his 19-member legion ran around rescuing their fellow aristocrats from the best of times, the worst of times. So, sure, he had a good reason for his secret identity.
But Superman? Not so much. Wonder Woman? Give me a break; army nurse turned Second Lieutenant Diana Prince was wasting her powers as anything other than Princess Diana. The X-Men? They had no lives; did they need masks because “Hey, Beast!” sounds better than “Hey, Hank!”? Doctor Strange didn’t have a secret identity; in real life, he was Doctor Strange. If the wrong people got the right idea, he’d mystically brainwash them. Spider-Man? C’mon, we’d be better off without Aunt May.
The man with one of the most famous secret identities of all time – or, perhaps, two – in fact didn’t have a secret identity at all. Were he to be unmasked, he would be nothing.
I’ll tell you about him next week.
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Talks About Mike Gold’s Old Boss
Hugh Jackman stars in Real Steel, out on home video this week, and the native Australian is best known to ComicMix fans for his work as Wolverine in X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand before spinning off into X-Men Origins: Wolverine and cameoing as the canucklehead in X-Men First Class.
In the fall of 2009, Jackman made a return to Broadway in the Keith Huff-penned A Steady Rain.
On February 22, 2009, Jackman took on the prestigious role of hosting the 81st Annual Academy Awards live from the Kodak Theater, he wowed those in attendance and helped ABC score a 13% increase in viewership from the previous year. Previously, Jackman served as host of the Tony Awards three years in a row, from 2003-2005, earning an Emmy Award for his 2004 duties at the 58th annual ceremony and a nomination for his 2005 appearance at the 59th annual ceremony.
In 2008, Jackman was seen in Twentieth Century Fox’s Deception opposite Ewan McGregor and the romantic action-adventure epic Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann.
Jackman has also starred in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Woody Allen’s Scoop. He has lent his voice to the animated features Happy Feet and Flushed Away. Other films in which he has had leading roles include Someone Like You, Swordfish, Van Helsing and Kate and Leopold, for which he received a 2002 Golden Globe nomination.
For his portrayal of the 1970s singer-songwriter Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, Jackman received the 2004 Tony Award® for Best Actor in a musical as well as Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World awards.
Previous theater credits include Carousel at Carnegie Hall, Oklahoma! at the National Theater in London (Olivier Award nomination), “Sunset Boulevard” (for which he won a Mo Award, Australia’s Tony Award) and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Mo Award nomination). (more…)
Walt Disney has released their classic Beauty and the Beast in 3-D, hoping to capitalize on the success of their Lion King in 3-D release. We here at ComicMix think it’s merely a cash grab since the up-conversion doesn’t really add anything new to the story or songs but for those dwindling few who still buy into the current 3-D fad. Still, it does allow Disney to give us Tangled Ever After, the followup short to 2010’s surprisingly charming film.
And look, here’s another trailer to Finding Nemo in 3-D because you can’t just have enough re-releasees in 3-D.
What will you do while awaiting the second season of HBO’s stellar adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones? Well, there’s that slightly overdue fifth book in the series coming in a matter of weeks then there’s today’s announcement that the first novel is being adapted for comics.
NEW YORK, NY – June 29th, 2011 – Bantam Books, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, announced today Alex Ross and Mike S. Miller as the cover artists for the comic adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.
The series will be illustrated by Tommy Patterson and adapted and scripted by Daniel Abraham, the award-winning and bestselling author of The Long Price Quartet. The first issue of the monthly comic-which will be published by Dynamite Entertainment-is planned to release in September 2011, with compilations of the comics in graphic novel form to follow under the Bantam imprint.
“It has been fifteen years since I first edited A GAME OF THRONES, and it is a genuine joy to be revisiting and adapting this landmark novel into a format that suits it so perfectly,” says Senior Editor at Random House Anne Groell. “George’s writing has always been highly visual, painting rich, detailed and striking images in the reader’s minds and hearts. And now seeing such a talented group of artists bringing that so vividly to life is truly exciting. I couldn’t be more pleased with everything I have seen so far–and I can’t wait for what is yet to come!”
“It’s a real privilege and a treat to be involved with reinterpreting Game of Thrones,” says writer Daniel Abraham. “It’s a brilliant piece of work, and watching the strength of that story come into a visual medium is fantastic.”
“George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is the best book series I’ve ever read,” says cover artist Mike Miller. “Not just in the fantasy genre, but in ANY genre. Just as I hear people saying Game of Thrones is the best series on TV, I’m sure they’ll be saying the same about the comic book. You can’t find a better writer anywhere than George, and I was very excited to get the opportunity to draw covers for the comic book adaptation.” (more…)
The climb back to not only respectability but creativity was a long painful one for Walt Disney Studios but you could see bits and pieces of improvement throughout the 1980s. [[[The Little Mermaid]]] in 1989 was the first serious indication that the animators found their mojo. As a result, audiences were primed and ready for 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. What they didn’t anticipate was just how magical and wonderful the film would be.
Clearly, one of the crown jewels, the studio has polished their gem to a bright luster in the just-released Diamond Edition. There are a variety of formats including the combo pack which has the movie on standard DVD plus two Blu-ray discs chuck full of goodness.
First of all, you get three versions of the movie: the original theatrical release, the extended edition (containing the number “Being Human”) and the work-in-progress print which was screened in New York a year prior to release that gave everyone a hint at how special this film would be. While the animation shines in DVD, it’s glorious in Blu-ray, complete with spectacular sound. If anything, the high definition images are too clear so you actually see animation flaws here and there. Watching the film lets you lose yourself in the finely crafted story with lush visuals and lovely tunes.
The classic tale was reimagined in England under a different creative director and when the first 18 minutes of storyboards were presented, the Disney executives, including Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, didn’t think it was quite right. They trashed six months of work and reassigned roles. At that point, it was also decided to add music and that is when the creative problems plaguing the story got solved.
Fortunately, the team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were fresh off The Little Mermaid and stepped in. Ashman was ill, dying before Beauty was released, but did some of his finest work. The finished results had all the Disney magic generations had come to expect and added at least one new generation to its collection of believers. The story of Belle and the Beast is dramatic, emotional, humorous and touching. There are wonderful supporting characters, memorable songs, bits of business for adults and plenty of action for all. No wonder it received a Golden Globe and was nominated for Best Picture, forcing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create a separate category.
Japan’s nicest bad boys are, as one of their new album cuts says, causing “Trouble,” out on their first world tour, appearing to frenzied fans. And they’re stopping at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom for only the second time in their 6-year history of music-making together on Saturday, October 9th to rock our world.
The concert is part of a weekend here that begins with their
appearance at NYAF on Friday 10/8 at 4:30 p.m. Long associated with the genre,
Hyde, via L’Arc and solo, can be heard on the opening themes to popular animes such as Fullmetal
Alchemist (second season’s opening, “Ready, Steady, Go!”), Moribito (“Shine”), and Blood+ (second season’s opening,
L-Arc~en~Ciel’s HYDE and Oblivion Dust’s K.A.Z. are back as Vamps, with their second full album together, Beast. The album is more of what the guys of this Japanese supergroup are famous for over their decade of music making… from the
delicious crunch of the darkest cuts from Hyde’s 2006 solo album (his first
full-collaboration album with K.A.Z., who was co-producer on HYDE’s 666 in 2004), Faith,
such as “Jesus Christ” and “Countdown,” with the trebly, joy-filled,
optimism of “Season’s Call,” and pure emotions of “Evergreen” on new
tracks like “Devil Side,” “Angel Trip,” and “Get Up”. They are driven by
K.A.Z.’s guitar that is very much in the world of U2’s The Edge, with a
rhythm section that is at once lyrical and full of quirky cross-rhythms
things interesting, all very tight and energetic. And above it all soars
snarls, with promises worthy of a vampy vampire that True Blood’s Lafayette might describe as “sex on a stick,” is
Hyde’s unmistakable voice that just gets better with age – he’s
40-something and is a tattooed, leather-clad, pouty Peter Pan, in perfect
shape, lately sporting blond hair that is at once striking and strange. Darkly
fey. K.A.Z. is all spikey hair, sunglasses, and guitar hero.
The chemistry of
this collaboration is totally apparent and fun to see and hear on the tracks
and production and live-concert videos. This album may not be my favourite of
Hyde’s work to date (that’s still Faith
and L’Arc cuts such as “Ready, Steady, Go!” and “Shine”). Lyrically, it’s not
up to the power and beauty of past work and the English can be rather raw,
though some of the playful double-entendres
do tempt and tease as they ought. Nonetheless, it is a fun album, a dancin’,
jammin’, party album, worth having in a fan’s collection and a good entry piece
for those new to the HYDE-K.A.Z. multi-verse. I anticipate an electric atmosphere
for the show with NY audiences who rarely get to hear their fav J-Rockers live,
stoked and hungry and rarin’ to go!
I’ll return with a review of
the show and backstage goings-on sometime after the event. Stay tuned!
On Tuesday, the eagerly-awaited Blu-ray edition of Beauty and the Beast finally comes out and Walt Disney has been making certain we all know it. Yesterday, we presented a chat with Alan Menken, who helped make the music sound so wonderful. Today, we hear from Paige O’Hara, the talent voice actress who made Belle a memorable heroine.
Question: Did they incorporate any of your features when they drew Belle?
Paige O’Hara: Oh yeah. The eyes and cheekbones and the way she raised her eyebrow and pushed her hair out of her face—that was me. Little things and expressions. When I looked at the wall, there were pictures of Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn up, and my little funny picture was there too. The fact that she wasn’t so perfectly beautiful made the film that much more successful. She is a little odd. Of course that’s the character and I identified with her. I was odd as a kid. I was into Gershwin. I definitely identified with Belle. More girls than not feel that way I think.
Question: How excited were you to be part of such a legendary Disney title?
Paige O’Hara: You know, Mary Poppins is my favorite film and I loved Bambi and all the other Disney animated films. I was always an artist as well so I appreciated the animation too. Playing Belle was a dream come true.
Question: The film won two Academy Awards. Tell me what it was like being there.
Paige O’Hara: Oh it was incredible. It is the only animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture so it holds that stature as well. I was really excited. We had heard rumors about the songs being nominated and there was a lot of discussion about celebrities performing our songs, but Mr. Eisner and Mr. Katzenberg insisted that the original artists get to sing their songs. That was really, really wonderful. It was the only time I sang with Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach. Angela introduced me at the Academy Awards. I remember we were backstage and of course I was going to be singing live which was scary so I was shaking. She was shaking too. She patted me on the butt and said if, “I had your voice, I wouldn’t be shaking. Don’t be nervous.”
Question: What else do you remember about the experience?
Paige O’Hara: It was fun being a part of the parties. Honestly, the worst part about the Oscars was that I didn’t like my dress—the one I performed in. They told the designer to put me in blue and it was this blue and white dress that looked more like Bo Peep or Dorothy. It was way too frilly and not very “Belle-y.” It was a checkerboard pattern. I had to perform in that dress, but afterwards I got to change into a beautiful Bob Mackie teal green gown. I even made one magazine’s Top 3 Best Dressed list!
In case you missed it, Walt Disney is finally releasing their wonderful Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray this coming Tuesday. The movie, which earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture, is getting the full PR treatment and they provided us with this interview with composer Alan Mencken, whose work with the late Howard Ashman re-energized the films during the 1980s and 1990s.The combo pack will include the Blu-ray, a standard DVD and a digital copy for your personal use.
Alan Menken has composed huge hits such as THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, HERCULES, POCAHONTAS and ENCHANTED and has won more Oscars than any other living person. He sat down for the following interview.
Question: You have been involved with so many wonderful Disney films, what does BEAUTY AND THE BEAST mean to you?
Alan Menken: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has been a perennial favorite of people who love Disney animation. They have a continued appetite to know more about it and to see it enhanced. That is incredibly gratifying. I love the film too. I just watched it again and it is gorgeous. It is possible that it is even more beautiful than it was when it debuted. It is very gratifying to have this “Diamond Edition”.
Question: Can you explain what it was that you did musically with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST?
Alan Menken: All Howard and I did was to tell the story, which is very romantic. The setting is timeless and I just went to my gut, which is what I always do. With this one, Howard was in his last days, although at the beginning I didn’t know that, but by the end of working on it, I knew that this was a great artist’s last creation. I am sure that emotion informed what we did. We worked with a palette of French and classical and Broadway music and it was a culmination of a certain kind of emotion for us. Also all these projects we do – whether it is THE LITTLE MERMAID OR BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or ALADDIN – are homages. This one is an homage to the most romantic parts of the Disney canon. Maybe I was channeling something special I don’t know, but it was clearly romantic and timeless and I credit Howard with a lot of what we came up with.
Question: The music has everything: from poignancy, to humor and ultimately joy, how did you convey that spectrum of emotions?
Alan Menken: That is what we always aim to do. As an ideal, the Disney musical is always a combination of things that are joyful and things that are wistful and scary too and BEAUTY has all those elements. I can only be as good as the stories I am telling and the characters that I am bringing to life. And with this film we were bringing some powerful things to life.