The Boys/Waking Sleeping Beauty/Walt & El Grupo
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
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Go behind the scenes at Walt Disney Studios with the release of The Boys, Waking Sleeping Beauty, and Walt & El Grupo, a trio of documentaries now available on DVD. These three, separately-sold but bonus features-packed DVDs look at some of the most important people, events, and periods in the history of the beloved studio.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story
Academy Award-winning songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman were the only songwriters Walt Disney ever had on contract. For decades before their tragic split, the friction created by the juxtaposition of their totally disparate personalities sparked some of the most magical moments in the studio’s oeuvre. Working from the principle that songs should be “singable, simple, and sincere,” the Shermans were responsible for all those pesky little songs that bounce around your head for days on end, such as the numbers from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book (with the exception of “Bear Necessities”), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which isn’t Disney, I know), Winnie the Pooh, and Walt Disney theme park attractions such as “It’s a Small World.” Years after the brothers went their separate ways, determined never to speak again, their sons, Jeffrey and Gregory Sherman came together to make this beautiful tribute, not only to the brothers themselves, but to the collaboration between the Shermans and Walt Disney, which resulted in some of the greatest songs ever written for the movie musical. The Boys is by far the most moving and engaging of this trio of documentaries.
Bonus features on The Boys include:
Waking Sleeping Beauty is a fascinating, in-depth look at the tumultuous but highly productive decade from 1984 to 1994, which found the studio in near-ruin at its outset but more profitable and powerful than ever at its conclusion. Featuring interviews with Michael Eisner, Roy E. Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and chief creative officer at Pixar, John Lasseter, the film delves into the business-side of the studio during the era that saw the creation of such modern animated classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. One comes out of Waking Sleeping Beauty amazed that anything got done around Disney Studios with so much tension and animosity between so many enormously touchy egos, much less the spawning of some of the most profitable film franchises in all the world.
Bonus features on Waking Sleeping Beauty include:
During World War II, Walt Disney and a carefully selected group of artists, which came to be called “El Grupo,” traveled to South America on an ambassadorial campaign for the US government, in the hopes that the release of Hollywood films celebrating the cultures of South America might bolster goodwill toward the States. And wouldn’t you know it, it worked! What’s more, the trip resulted in two classic Disney films: Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros (1944). Walt & El Grupo tells the story of this incredible trip, featuring some amazing archival footage and concept art compiled by the artists throughout their journeys. One of the most terrific things about this release is the inclusion of the original, unedited, 1943 version of Saludos Amigos, included for explicitly historical purposes, in which Goofy takes a big old drag off a tobacco cigarette.
Bonus features on Walt & El Grupo include:
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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