Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rant: Where's That Other Disc?

Every time a Pixar film comes to Blu-ray, it gets the best possible treatment. On the first disc, aside from the main attraction, you'll get a few bonus features. Not just a commentary, but some featurettes and a few short films to top it off. Disc two? Tons and tons of bonus features about the story, production process, casting and almost everything else. The films get sets that are filled to the brim with bonus features.

Now, what about the recent films from the rejuvenated Walt Disney Animation Studios? All of them have one-disc sets with a minimal amount of features. That's right. One-disc sets with less bonus features, and ones that aren't extensive or detailed as much as the Pixar ones.

To start off: Meet The Robinsons can be excused, because Pixar's Ratatouille had a one-disc Blu-ray that year as well. Ratatouille's Blu-ray had just a few more bonus features than its DVD counterpart. The same happened with Cars' DVD debut, and its subsequent Blu-ray release isn't loaded either. Both sets have a satisfying amount of bonus features, particularly the brilliant Cine-Explore commentaries. Pixar returned to the two-disc set routine with WALL-E and the films that followed have two-disc sets, even the derided Cars 2.

Now that Pixar returned to that format and Walt Disney Animation Studios was getting back on track, you'd think that their 2008 release Bolt would have a good amount of bonus features. Right? The Blu-ray appeared in early 2009; only one disc. No second disc with more bonus features. What was on the disc? A few brief featurettes, some of which that focused on Miley Cyrus' minimal role in the film and its production. There's an also an art gallery on there, but that's about it really.

No commentary from directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard, or anything else. No mention of what the film used to be, or any other behind-the-scenes featurettes. Now I understand one thing: We all know that Bolt was a retooled, heavily simplified reworking of a Chris Sanders film called American Dog. We all know that John Lasseter and Sanders had their differences and Sanders ultimately left Disney. I'm not expecting them to go in-depth with American Dog, because let's face it; Disney doesn't like mentioning those dodgy production stories on the bonus features of their films' home media releases.

This is why I suspect something like The Rescuers or The Fox and the Hound usually doesn't come with tons of bonus features. You know me, I'd love Disney to come clean with these stories and just present them in an honest manner. Fallouts and differences happen during production of animated films; just look at Pixar's recent film Brave. That's something that's going to be mentioned in books and websites outside of the home media releases.

That being said, Bolt could've used a little more bonus material and perhaps a mention of American Dog or some kind of allusion to it. Disney shouldn't ignore it completely, but they probably wouldn't get into it out of respect for Chris Sanders. They're not in the business of publicly blacklisting their ex-employees-turned-competitors.

Then along came the Blu-ray of The Princess and the Frog. Now this was an improvement!

Despite having one disc, it had an audio commentary, a cool picture-in-picture track with the rough cut elements in addition to having featurettes, deleted scenes, art galleries and other things. It didn't have too much; but it was a respectable amount for a Disney animated film on home media. It's a good Blu-ray release.

Now this film was no box office blockbuster, but Disney still gave the set some care. With that, you'd think that box office superstar Tangled would get a set that was just as packed if not bigger. Think again.

Tangled's Blu-ray was a frustrating release at best. There are less bonus features on the disc than what was on Bolt! Here's Disney's biggest film since the Renaissance and a critical hit, but with a few bonus features. What do we have? Deleted scenes. Check. A few quick featurettes? Check. Anything else? Errr... Extended songs. Okay... The 50 Disney Animated Features countdown. Nice I guess, but that was on Walt Disney Animation Studios' official YouTube before the film hit theaters. Teasers for the film. Umm...

Yes. This set was lacking. Tons of Disney fans wondered why, too. Where was all the material concerning the various incarnations of the Rapunzel project? Why no featurette about the groundbreaking painterly art style? Surely that alone deserves a small mini-documentary, no? Not much on Alan Menken's songs either or the music in general. Yeah, it's kind of empty.

Now that's a dreadful cover.

Winnie the Pooh was a minor, cheap effort that probably didn't warrant a boatload of bonuses. The Blu-ray is given an okay amount of bonus materials: A featurette, some deleted scenes and the short (The Ballad of Nessie) that was attached to the film.

But... If this was such a passionate return to what made Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh work so well, why not have some more material focusing on the production? Maybe I'm asking too much, but if the cash-grab Cars 2 could get a second disc focusing on small little things, this could as well.

Now I thought that the whole Tangled deal would be a one-time thing, and as some had suggested, it was just a way to get us to double-dip for a future release. Of course, it's a smart marketing strategy. Disney did it before. When DVD first came about, then-current films like Tarzan and The Emperor's New Groove were given one-disc sets with a few bonus features. Then Disney would release big Collector's Edition sets not too long afterwards. That strategy paid off, so maybe in 2014 or 2015, they'll give us a two-disc set of Tangled. Or maybe not.

Disney seems content with not producing extensive bonus features for the Blu-rays of their own animated films. I don't know if they are only trying to get people to double-dip, or that they just don't care. My money's on the latter, given Disney's treatment of some of their animated films on home media as of late.

Wreck-It Ralph comes to Blu-ray on March 5th, and the details that Disney revealed don't inspire much confidence. It looks like the usual: A few quick featurettes, deleted scenes, a short and one other thing. Nothing big or extensive, no art galleries even! Wreck-It Ralph, much like Bolt, Frog and Tangled, went through several incarnations and the finished project itself warrants a lot of meaty, detailed featurettes. Some "Ultimate Collector's Edition" this will be...

From where I stand, it looks as if Disney tailor-made the Pixar Blu-ray sets for animation fans and aficionados while making the Disney Animation Blu-ray releases for the general consumer at best. But why? The current Walt Disney Animation Studios films are more than just good and I think they deserve big sets full of features. Animation nuts like myself want to see this stuff, and I feel that Disney is making their own work seem less important.

Again, I may be wrong three years later and Disney will release big, packed special editions of the last five films Disney Animation has produced. That is, if physical media is still a dominant format. The question is: If Disney will make us double-dip, then why do they make an exception for Pixar? You'd think that they'd do it for their films too since they are typically more successful at the box office.

Do you think Disney gives their recent animated films that short end of the stick when it comes to Blu-ray? Do you think they can do better? Or are you okay with the sets that have been given to us? Sound off!


  1. I agree, Disney does want us to double dip. Yes it's a smart marketing strategy, but it's also cheating. Here's what I think Disney should do. Release a Blu-Ray with 70% of bonus features and an interactive game, then in 8 or 9 years they add in the rest of the 30% of bonus features and new interactive games. That way Disney can make money, and people won't be cheated.

    I guess Pixar asked Disney not to have their audience cheated, which is why their Blu-Rays are good. I wish Walt Disney Animation Studios could do that, but they ARE Disney so it wouldn't work

    Also, this is kind of personal and doesn't really relate to anything here, but I want Disney to add "Tarzan", "The Emporor's New Groove" and "Lilo & Sitich" to their Diamond Editions. I would also ask for them to include "Fantasia" and "Mulan", but those films are already re-issued or going to be re-issued soon, so Disney should put those two in their next set of "Editions"

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