Pixar blockbusters Available On Demand

Toy Story 3Walt Disney Home Video put out a press release today announcing that the “Disney-Pixar Film Collection” will be available for On Demand viewing for a limited time. The availability – which extends from October 19 through November 9 – is timed with upcoming home video release of TOY STORY 3, from Pixar Animation Studios, on November 2 (which will be available on DVD, Blu-ray, and as a a download to own).
Read the press release below:

BURBANK, Calif., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ — To celebrate the upcoming home entertainment release of the #1 animated film of all time, Toy Story 3, Disney-Pixar is giving people of all ages the opportunity to enjoy their favorite films on demand for a limited time only. These timeless movies from the celebrated animation studio have never been available simultaneously on demand until now. “The Disney-Pixar Collection” of films will only be available for on demand rental beginning today, October 19 through November 9, via your television provider or favorite digital retailer.
Featuring some of the most incredible stories and beloved characters in movie history, “The Disney-Pixar Collection” includes Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and Wall-E. All of the movies from the collection, along with Disney-Pixar’s UP (which is not currently available on demand), will continue to be offered for download to own.
Additionally, the year’s most critically acclaimed and highest-grossing movie, Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story 3, will become available for download to own (as well as on Blu-ray and DVD) beginning November 2. Buzz, Woody and the gang have charmed audiences around the world and now fans can enjoy their own digital copy of the record-breaking film on a multitude of platforms.

Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition Blu-ray: Review

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After the excellent Platinum Edition DVD for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, there would seem to be little room for improvement with Walt Disney Home Video’s new Three-Disc Diamond Edition DVD and Blu-ray combo – except for the obvious improved picture quality that come with the new high-def format. Nevertheless, the Diamond Edition manages to one-up its predecessor, establishing itself as the definitive edition for enthusiastic collectors.
The Diamond Edition includes “three” versions of the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: the original theatrical release, the special edition re-release (which restored the previously deleted song “Human Again”), and a picture-in-picture presentation consisting of the film with storyboards viewed in the corner of the frame.
The high-def transfer of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST onto Blu-ray is visually stunning, with amazingly sharp details and beautiful colors. As someone who recently revisited the Platinum Edition DVD to see how my Blu-ray player would upgrade the image for my high-def television, I can say that as good as the old transfer looked, you do not need to be a hawk-eyed techno geek to see the obvious improvement.
The Diamond Edition repackages all of the old DVD bonus features (audio commentary, pencil tests, alternate score for the transformation scene, etc) and combines with them an extensive new making-of bonus feature, the interactive “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories.” These features are parceled out over two Blu-ray discs; only some of them are duplicated on the DVD.
DISC 1 is the DVD version. It features anew digital restoration of the film, but any improvement in picture quality is not particularly obvious. Still, for those who do not already own the Platinum Edition DVD, this disc is convenient for letting the children have their own copy to play in their rooms or on portable players. The DVD contains the three different versions of the film, plus the old audio commentary. There is also an option to view BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in “Sing Along Mode,” which is consists of subtitles for the songs.
DISC 2 contains the high-def transfer of of the new digital restoration of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST onto Blu-ray, also in three versions: original, extended, and picture-in-picture. The Platinum Edition DVD audio commentary is included, along with several new bonus features: a new music video of the title song, an early alternate version of the opening sequence (totally different from the final film), a deleted library scene of Belle conversing with some more enchanted characters. “Composing a Classic” is a very interesting conversation with composer Alan Menken, who discusses his work with lyricist Howard Ashman. And “Broadway Beginnings” takes a brief look at the stage adaptation, featuring interviews with several actors who have performed the musical live (including Donny Osmond, who seems surprised that Disney wanted him to play the barrel-chested Gaston).
DISC 3 offers the remaining bonus features on Blu-ray, including games such as “Bonjour, Who is This?” and the “Enchanted Musical Challenge.” The Platinum Edition DVD bonus features are sectioned off into their own category (identified as “Classic DVD Bonus Features”) and presented in standard-def. One result of including old and new features is how clearly the passage of time is marked, with several of the participants looking noticeably younger in the older featurettes.
The highlight of this disc is “Beyond Beauty – The Untold Stories,” which somehow manages to find more to say about the nearly twenty-year-old film. The sentimental highlights, to no surprise, are sequences detailing the contributions of Howard Ashman, who died before the film was completed. More than just a word-smith, Ashman contributed to the story and characterization through his lyrics and offered guidance in terms of casting and vocal performances.
Instead of being formatted as a standard documentary, “Beyond Beauty” is offered in an interactive mode. As segments conclude, viewers are offered the option of pushing a button on their remote control to see additional segments that take off on tangents from the main narrative (i.e., after hearing about Walt Disney’s early silent cartoons, you can choose to watch a selection of them or continue with the making of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). The format can be frustrating at times: Do I want to continue straight on or take what sounds like an interesting detour? In the end, I pretty much gave up on the interactive element and accessed the Index, which allows viewers to select segments one at a time, more or less like a standard menu.
This brings me to my major complain about the disc – not one of quality but of frustration. The menus are difficult to navigate, with categories containing subcategories containing bonus features of various shapes and sizes. And all of the bonus features are listed on both Blu-ray discs; after navigating your way to what you want to see, you are likely to find yourself being told you have to remove the current disc and replace it with the other.
Apparently aware of this, the Blu-ray discs include a sly joke: the background menu consists of a computer-generated tour of the Beast’s castle, populated by the familiar supporting characters (Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, etc). As the camera travels from room to room, Lumiere continually prods the viewer to make a selection (“Soon would be good; now would be better.”) This is rather amusing at first, but after awhile it does get slightly annoying; there is no easy way to zero in on what you want, and you are being chastised for browsing at your own pace!
This nitpick aside, the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Diamond Edition 3-disc set is an excellent collector’s item that does justice to what may be Walt Disney Pictures supreme achievement in the field of animation. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has secured its place in the hearts of millions as a timeless classic. Now this new Blu-ray set should earn a place on your video shelf.

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue: Blu-ray & DVD Review

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Despite the presence of John Lassiter as executive producer, this is another example of Walt Disney Pictures undermining their classic movie legacy with B-level direct-to-video follow-ups. TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE is not bad, but it is strictly juvenile, with few of the qualities that make the best Disney films  entertaining for the whole family. Younger children will probably find it amusing; parents will probably just pop the disc (DVD or Blu-ray) into the player and cook dinner while the kids remain occupied with the colorful adventures.
The story feels a bit unfocused, with two narrative threads stretching out what could have been a short-subject into feature length. In the first, Tinkerbell is captured by the daughter of a naturalist, and her fairy friends speed to the rescue. In the second, the lonely daughter manages to teach her scientifically-oriented father to believe in fairies again. In effect, the real drama is with the humans; Tinker Bell is just a catalyst, and the fairy rescue (so prominent in the title) is just filler to provide a little excitement.
The backgrounds and designs are amazingly detailed and eye-catching (especially when seen on the Blu-ray disc), but the animation lacks the expressiveness of the best work seen in Disney films, either their own in-house productions or those from Pixar Animation Studios. Unlike most sub-par CGI, which looks cartoony, the figures in TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE actually display realistic texture; unfortunately, the texture resembles plastic. It’s as if the goal was to create animated figures that resembled the inevitable collectible action figures that will be found in stores. Also, the fairies move in a staccato-type of motion, apparently used to suggest supernatural speed; it’s a semi-clever way to take the lack of smooth animation and turn it into a feature rather than a bug.
Tinker Bell has been somewhat toned down from the character seen in PETER PAN (1953). No longer tempermental, she is now simply curious and a bit bland. Why the writers decided to take her name literally (she is a “tinker” who fixes things) is a mystery to this reviewer.
One interesting quirk of the characters in TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE is that, although many of the cast use British accents (appropriate to the setting), the fairies themselves are a equitably diverse group of ethnic types, at least in terms of their appearances.
Walt Disney Home Video is offering the film on DVD and in a two-disc DVD & Blu-ray disc combo pack. The image quality on the DVD is almost good enough to compete with the Blu-ray; it will certainly do on smaller televisions or portable DVD players. The Blu-ray transfer is startlingly beautiful – easily good enough to serve as a promotional display for the superiority of the Blu-ray format.
Unlike some previous Disney releases (such as PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME, which featured different bonus features on the different discs), TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE includes the same extras on both discs. Worth noting: it is much easier to navigate the DVD menus when searching for these features.
Bonus features include:
TANGLED: Exclusive Sneak Peak. Brief clips of the director and cast, intercut with footage seen in the trailer for the upcoming theatrical animated film, based on “Rapunzel.”
Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director Brad Raymond and Producer Helen Kalafatic. Mostly presented in story-board form.

  • “A Real Live Fairy” – abandoned prologue of the father, seen as a young boy, humiliated when his sighting of a fairy turns to disaster and disbelief. Would have immensely helped with the characterization of the father, making him more sympathetic.
  • “Lizzy’s Bedtime Story (storyboards)
  • “Lizzy’s Bedtime Story (production) – the same scene, the second version taking it to the next step, with basic CGI
  • “Tea Party” – a scene included in the script because a survey of children showed most would like to have a tea party if they were lucky enough to capture a fairy; omitted because it did not advance the story.
  • “Cat Attack” – original explanation for why Tinkerbell left the human home, replaced with a scene of her saying goodbye to the daughter; presented in full animation, with some great images of the cat pussy-footing its way over plates held airborne by pixie dust

“How to Believe” Music Video. Typical innocuous music video, featuring Disney-channel singer Bridgit Mendler intercut with scenes from the film.
Fairy Field Guide Builder. A game in which you move the cursor to select images that answer questions based on the film.
Design a Fairy House. Footage of children who were asked to design their own version of a fairy-sized house. Cute.
The Blu-ray also includes the previously seen promo of Disney Channel stars Dylan and Cole Sprouse extolling the virtues of the format, plus a short how-to vid on using a digital disc (not included on this set) to download the film onto your computer.



Laserblast, September 21: Tinkerbell, Gamera, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Undead

This week offers a slim selection of horror, fantasy and science fiction titles on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray. Walt Disney Home Video spins another direct-to-video feature from one of their classic franchises; in this case it is TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE, which is being released on DVD and in a two-disc DVD & Blu-ray disc combo pack.
Fans of the giant flying turtle Gamera can celebrate his exploits with two new double-disc DVD releases: GAMERA VS. GUIRON/GAMERA VS. JIGER and GAMERA VS. GYAOS/GAMERA VS VIRAS.
Synergy Entertainment offers another T-shirt & DVD bundle. THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN (starring Lon Chaney) comes with original poster art plastered on a t-shirt, which is available in large and extra-large sizes.
Amazon.com is offering a pair of exclusives offers : multi-title packages of Blu-ray discs, organized according to theme. Amazon’s “The Thrills and Chills Bundle” includes THE CRAZIES, PANDORUM, and THE NEW DAUGHTER. Their “Slasher Horror Bundle” includes RED MIST, HATCHET, BEHIND THE MASK, and JACK BROOKS MONSTER SLAYER.
Finally, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD makes its bow on VOD and DVD, with a Blu-ray release to follow shortly.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – DVD & Blu-ray combo review

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When released to theatres earlier this year, PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME was not the franchise-starter it was intended to be, but as far as videogame-to-film transitions go, it is light years better than the current RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. Thought it may not be the kind of film you eagerly anticipate viewing again and again, PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME makes a  nimble transition to home video, via Walt Disney Video’s 3-disc combo pack, which includes Blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy. Not only that: the box includes a password to unlock an online streaming version of the film, which you can access at Disney.com/WatchMovies. Before getting into the details of what’s contained on this discs, we should note the significance of this.
Consumers have always felt that, once they purchase a film or a record album, it should be theirs to use as they see fit, even if that means copying versions for the desktop computer, the laptop, and/or some portable device. Meanwhile, the sellers wanted to maximize profits by finding ways of encouraging customers to buy separate versions for separate uses. But with the new 3-disc combo pack, Walt Disney Video is making THE PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME available in every format, with a single purchase – in effect, giving the audience what it wants
And in case you wondering why you would need multiple versions the pack’s slipcase contains inserts offering suggestions: the Blu-ray disc for the high-def television in the living room; the DVD for the kids room or the portable player in the car; the digital copy for the desktop computer and the smart phone or other portable device; the online streaming version for the portable laptop. Now, when you make your purchase, you may view the film however you want, in whatever manner is most convenient for you. (The only catch here is that Walt Disney Video wants this convenience to extend only to the family that purchase the pack; the insert warns: “Transfer, Sale, or Fradulent Use of Codes Prohibited.”)
As for the discs themselves: they come in a sturdy plastic case with proof-of-purchase coupons to redeem for points at DisneyMovieRewards.com. The plastic case is enclosed in a cardboard cover embossed with a glossy version of the promotional art, which gives the box the look of a nice collector’s item. Walt Disney Video clearly intends the three-disc combo pack to be the complete, definitive home video edition of PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME: the bonus features are deliberately parceled out between the DVD and the Blu-ray disc, so that you need to own both if you want to see everything.


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The PRINCE OF PERSIA Blu-ray disc, like almost all these days, begins with trailers for other releases; unlike many discs, this one allows you to bypass the previews by clicking on the Menu button (instead of requiring you to chapter-stop through the trailers one by one). There are language options for English, French, and Spanish, in digital stereo, plus subtitles in the same languages (including English for the hearing impaired). The sound mix is clear and balanced (you can understand the dialogue without being blown away by the music and effects). The widescreen transfer captures the beauties of the location filming and the glossy special effects with rich colors and a sharp image.
The extras seem a bit light, until you dive into them: a deleted scene and an interactive featured called “The Sands of Time.” The former is a brief bad joke, wisely eliminated from the final cut, in which Garsiv, one of the king’s three sons, presents the heads of fallen enemies to his father as tribute; it’s amusing in a ghoulish way, but it’s hard to imagine even Garsiv being stupid enough to think his father would approve of this ugly intrusion into what is otherwise a lavishly beautiful celebration.
The “The Sands of Time” interactive feature turns out to be quite extensive. Basically, this is a throwback to the sort of thing that was in vogue on DVDs ten years ago, when branching technology first allowed viewers to stop the film when some symbol appeared on screen, so that they could access alternate sequences and/or behind-the-scenes material. In this case, the image is of the time-dagger, which allows you to “stop time” and rewind to see brief making-of segments. There are twenty rewind points, each offering one to three segments:

  • REWIND ONE: Jerry Bruckheimer Introduction; Filing in Morocco; Moroccan Marchers
  • REWIND TWO: Next Action Hero; Functional Fitness; Walking Up Walls
  • REWIND THREE: Designing Persia; Epic Dive Breakdown
  • REWIND FOUR: A New Kind of Princess; Making a Princess
  • REWIND FIVE: Alumet from the Ground Up; Layers of an Ancient City
  • REWIND SIX: Parkour – Defying Gravity; Parkour Legend David Belle
  • REWIND SEVEN: The Look of Rewinding Time
  • REWIND EIGHT: From Game to Film; The Dagger of Time; Moroccan Artisans
  • REWIND NINE: Behold the Might Ostrich; Ostrich Jockey Tryouts; Moe the Ostrich
  • REWIND TEN: Penny Rose – Master Costumer; Snake Dude
  • REWIND ELEVEN: Avrat Bazaar Fight; Rock the Casbah; How to Collapse a Tent
  • REWIND TWELVE: Hassassins; Deadly Arts; Animal Lair
  • REWIND THIRTEEN: It was Hot, Hot Hot; Ostrich Love
  • REWIND FOURTEEN: Filming in the Atlas Mountains
  • REWIND FIFTEEN: Making of an Epic Battle; The Whip Fight
  • REWIND SIXTEEN: A Knife Thrower’s Shoot-Out; Too Close for Comfort
  • REWIND SEVENTEEN: Filming at Pinewood Studios; Time Lapse of Pinewood Sets
  • REWIND EIGHTEEN: Making Sand from Scratch
  • REWIND NINETEEN: The Sands of Time; Memories of Time
  • REWIND TWENTY: Jerry Bruckheimer’s Photo Montage

These featurettes (which run approximately one to five minutes) are a mixture of short promotional videos (some of which have, such as “Hassassins,” have been available on YouTube for awhile), some B-roll type behind-the-scenes footage, and some special effects pre-viz shots and/or time-lapse photography presented without narration or explanation. The sheer volume is exhausting, giving the impression that they probably could have been condensed into a good making-of documentary. Spread out over the course of the film, they provide interesting glimpses of what went on behind the scenes, but they sometimes skimp on details, suggesting that they were designed with the casual viewer in mind, not the cinefantastique aficionado who wants to know everything.
Some of the segments are not quite as scene-specific as one would like and would probably have been better utilized as stand-alone bonus features or even easter eggs, instead of being inserted at specific points in the film. Fortunately, once you have activated the Sands of Time feature, you can go to the Index and access all the rewind points there, without sitting through the entire film again.


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click to purchase dvd

The DVD treatment of PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME is about what you would expect from the format. There are audio and subtitles options for English, French, and Spanish. The standard-def transfer is enhanced for widescreen televisions with very good results; even if it does not match the clarity of the high-def transfer, it looks great when enhanced on a Blu-ray player. On a smaller television screen or a portable player, the difference in quality would be eclipsed.
There are two bonus features not on the Blu-ray disc. The first features some actors from the Disney Channel performing allegedly comic antics to promote the Blu-ray format; unfortunately, the continue well past the point when they have made their point about the superiority of Blu-ray over DVD. Disney is definitely pushing the format: the PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME combo pack includes an insert with instructions on how to obtain a discount coupon to upgrade your existing Disney DVDs for new Blu-ray discs.
For those purchasing the three-disc combo pack, the second bonus feature is of more interest: the behind-the-scenes featurette “An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia.” Running over fifteen minutes, this short subject takes the best footage spread throughout the Blu-ray’s “Sands of Time” rewind feature, and fashions it into a concise mini-documentary that should appeal to viewers who do not wish to wade through over forty individual segments one by one.


Although PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME is not a great film, its presentation on home video is superlative. The lack of an audio commentary is unfortunate, but the “Sands of Time” interactive feature offers much of the information that would have been included in a commentary. More important, the three-disc combo pack, with digital copy and online streaming option, should become the standard for offering movies to consumers, allowing them a convenient and satisfying range of options to watch the film.

Laserblast, September 14: Prince of Persia, Fringe, The Twilight Zone


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A wide variety of horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles arrive in stores on Tuesday, September 14: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blu… (ray, that is). Walt Disney Video offers PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME in three formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and a 3-disc combo back with both formats, plus a digital copy. The bonus features are parceled out in a way that makes the latter the only complete edition: the DVD includes the behind-the-scenes featurette “An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia”; the Blu-ray contains the featurette and a deleted scene, “The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads”; and the combo pack includes all of the DVD and Blu-ray features, plus “CineEsplore: The Sands of Time,” interactive feature that allows you to “take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favorite scenes! Turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments – including ‘Walking Up Walls,’ ‘Filming in Morocco,’ and ‘Ostrich Jockey Tryouts’.'”
The only other new title arriving this week is FRINGE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, which shows up on DVD and Blu-ray. Bonus features include: four audio commentaries; The Mythology of Fringe; sidebar analysis on six episodes; In the Lab with John Noble and Rob Smith; a gag reel; unaired scenes; and “The Unearthed Episode,” starring Kirk Acevedo as Charlie.
On the 50th anniversary of its first appearance on network airwaves, Rod Serling’s classic television show gets the Blu-ray treatment with THE TWILIGHT ZONE: SEASON ONE. The multi-disc set will be packed with extras: audio commentaries from surviving cast members (Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Kevin McCarthy, etc); vintage audio recollections with Burgess Meredtih, Anne Francis, Richard Matheson, and more; the unaired pilot version of “Where is Everybody?” Billed as new for this edition are audio commentaries with film historians and filmmakers (Marc Scott Zicree, Gary Gerani, director Ted Post, etc); a never-before released pilot “The Tiem Element,” in high-def; a TALES OF TOMORROW episode titled “What You Need” (which was also a TWILIGHT ZONE episode); a vintage audio interview with director of photograph George T. Clemens; 13 radio dramas; and 34 isolated music scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and others.
Other oldies coming out on Blu-ray and/or special edition DVDs include the following:

  • Walt Disney’s THE BLACK CAULDRON gets a 25 Anniversary Special Edition DVD release. Only two new extras have been added that were not on the previous DVD: an deleted scene and a game.
  • CARRIE, the 1976 horror hit directed by Brian DePalma and based on Stephen King’s first novel, arrives in a new DVD-Blu-ray combo pack.
  • JACOB’S LADDER gets another DVD re-issue.
  • THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) is resurrected in a Collector’s Edition. There is a two-disc DVD and a two-disc combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD.
  • STARCRASH, the Italian, 1979 STAR WARS rip-off starring Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Roger Corman Cult Classics line.

And if you’re looking for laughs, RiffTrax offers two DVD collections of short subjects: RIFFTRAX: SHORTS-A-POPPIN’ and RIFFTRAX: PLAYS WITH THEIR SHORTS.