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DVD Review: Waking Sleeping Beauty; Walt & El Grupo; The Boys

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Ever wonder what it was actually like to make a Disney animated film? Or even the wonderful music? Well then you are in luck. Three new documentaries have been released that give an eye-opening look behind the scenes.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Many people have their opinions of what a Disney artist must be like. However, do we really ever get a chance to go inside and see the joys and struggles of this amazing group of people? Luckily, Waking Sleeping Beauty offers us a glimpse into this amazing, difficult world.

Told during the second wave of great animation from Disney (The Little Mermaid, The Lion King,) Waking Sleeping Beauty offers a chance to see how the Disney artists struggled to revive what was seen as a dying art. Politics, in-fighting, and a generation gap all played a part in what was essentially a new era.

Naturally, a film centered on animation, especially one from Disney, would be expected to be very visual in nature, and Waking Sleeping Beauty does not disappoint. Instead of talking heads, the audience is treated to home movies, interviews, and animation that accompany the voice overs. This adds a nice effect, especially during one remarkable scene involving Beauty and the Beast as the narrator discusses the death of lyricist Howard Ashman.

The best part of this DVD is that it shows that animation is not all fun and games. The men and woman put in long hours to bring this kind of magic to life, and the road to success is not always smooth.

Extras include “Why Wake Sleeping Beauty,” and explanation of the motives behind the film, as well as some of the creative decisions; “The Sailor, The Mountain Climber, The Artist and the Poet” is a touching tribute to some key figures who are no longer with us; deleted scenes; audio commentary; studio tours; a Reunion; and “Walt,” a comparison of the era of Walt Disney, and of today.

Walt & El Grupo

During World War II, Walt Disney was asked to travel to South America as an Ambassador for the United States. Walt & El Grupo tells the story of his three months there, and how many lives were affected.

Told in a more traditional talking-head format than Waking Sleeping Beauty, Walt & El Grupo is both an intriguing story and a visual feast. Each part is told through words, letters, pictures, home movies and most importantly, animation. All provide a fabulous glance into this most amazing trip, which instantly pulls you in and holds your interest until the very end. The photos themselves seem to move on their own, as an extension of a home movie. The music is also thrilling, and adds to the overall effect of the film.

Extras include audio commentary and the theatrical trailer. “Photos In Motion,” a brief look on how the pictures for the film were chosen and how they were manipulated to create an almost 3-D effect. This was my favorite of the group, although I wish they had shown more. Scenes from the director’s cut allows viewers more insight into the film, such as the re-staging of some shots to help film Saludos Amigos, one of the resulting films of the trip, which is also an extra and a joy to watch.

The Boys

Another behind the scenes glimpse, The Boys chronicles the rise of the Sherman brothers, Robert and Richard, who are responsible for creating some of the most memorable songs in the Disney canon. Together they made wonderful harmonies, while their own relationship was anything but.

The Boys is both jubilant and heartbreaking, and really kicks into high gear when the music is the main focus. In some interview scenes, the audience would probably never guess that the Sherman brothers couldn’t stand each other, especially when playing some of their own music. However, this was true, and that fact provides a sad thought, especially considering that some of their songs, such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “I Wanna Be Like You” are considered top family entertainment.

Like Waking Sleeping Beauty and Walt & El Grupo, The Boys contains home movies, photographs, and memorable clips, which provide top notch visuals. In the end, it’s all about the music, and that is what shines through in this wonderfully engaging film.

Extras are plentiful and include: An explanation of “Why They’re the Boys;” a glimpse of Disney Studios in the ’60s; an intriguing look into the casting of Mary Poppins; “The Process,” which shows how the Boys would get their inspiration; the music made for the theme parks; a tribute to Roy Williams, a Disney artist and cast member of The Mickey Mouse Club; a look at the art of Bob Sherman; and an interactive Jukebox that gives more information on certain songs.

 

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