An Evening with Buena Vista - Aladdin, Mulan, Clerks X and Alias 3
Bunea Vista Home Entertainment has a lot to be excited about. In the next few months they've got some pretty huge DVD releases hitting the streets including: Aladdin: Special Edition, Mulan: Special Edition, Clerks X: Tenth Anniversary Edition, Alias Season 3 (oh yeah... and Jersey Girl).
To kick things off for their 'Big DVD Season', Buena Vista threw a big kick off party at The Highland night club at the famous 'Hollywood and Highland' complex right next to the Kodak Theater - the home of the Academy Awards. Buena Vista Home Entertainment have journalists a sneak peek at their big releases, and I have to say - they've got a reason to be celebrating.
Of everything shown at the event, the most impressive was the DVD for Aladdin: Special Edition. The entire film has been re-mastered and retransferred in a direct digital process. I'm happy to report that it looks absolutely phenomenal, far better than the picture I saw when the film was released in theaters. In addition to the entire remastering of the picture, Disney brought back Terry Porter, the original Academy Award Nominated recording mixer for the film, to re-do all the sound mix for the film. Porter has completely redesigned the mix of the film for the home theater environment in a feature Disney is calling this a 'Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix'. This mix is focused around sending more information to the rear and channels, more subwoofer info which ultimately creates a much stronger more enveloping surround sound (much like the sound on The Lion King). The mix for Aladdin is simply amazing, one of the better home theater mixes I've heard yet. Between the restored picture and remixed sound Aladdin comes to life in a way I've never seen before, it's definitely one to buy.
In addition to showing the Aladdin DVD, there was a great deal of 'Arabian' themed things including belly dancers, Middle Eastern food, and even sand on the tables. But hype and hoopla aside, the clear star here is the Aladdin DVD. In the area near where they were showing the DVD, Eric Goldberg, the lead animator for Genie in Aladdin drew sketches of Genie for the guests. It was amazing to watch him work as he crafted each one as if it were bound for production. Eric Goldberg was instrumental in helping convince Robin Williams to do the voice of Genie. Goldberg took a routine from one of Williams comedy albums and animated it as the Genie character. The result is on the Aladdin disc and is very fun to watch (it also managed to do the trick and convince Robin Williams to do the voice)!
The evening's event was divided into two areas - a lounge area with peeks at the featured DVDs, themed displays and of course food, and the presentation area. By far one of the most 'surreal' aspects of the evening was the display in the lounge area for Clerks X - Tenth Anniversary Edition. In silhouette, behind a white screen they had two guys dressed up as Jay and Silent Bob, imitating many of the patented trademark moves. In the middle a flat screen showing clips from the DVD, surrounded by a collage of Pay Day bars and Check Mix Snacks. Only in Hollywood!
In addition to the Clerks X display there were also stations where you could sit and watch snippets from the featured DVD. I had an opportunity to spend some time with the Mulan: Special Edition DVD and it is as impressive as the Aladdin one.
After about an hour of food, cocktails and DVD previews we were ushered into the presentation area. In true Disney style the presentation was a real show. For Mulan, they had two Chinese Dragons and pounding drums introduce the DVD. Senior VP Marketing for Buena Vista Home Entertainment head Gordon Ho introduced the Mulan: Special Edition DVD and they showed a deleted scene from the disc in which Mulan is betrothed to an older man. It was an interesting scene but one of those which you can understand why it was deleted. Aside from previewing the Mulan: Special Edition DVD, they also showed a short clip from Mulan II (Due out early 2005), which looked good. Then, the evening's first 'special guest' Ming-na, was introduced. Ming-na does the voice of Mulan (and can be seen on 'ER'), she spoke briefly about her experience doing the voice for Mulan and how happy she has been to come back for Mulan II.
Next up was the presentation for Aladdin. It was introduced with similar hype and hoopla as Mulan, with belly dancers and Arabian music. Shortly after the DVD was introduced we were treated to a medley of tunes by the Academy Award winning Composer Alan Menken. It's amazing when you realize just how many of the most memorable Disney songs Alan Menken is responsible for. It was amazing listening to him play and sing. One of the most interesting things came after Alan Menken's medley, when he told the story behind the song 'Proud of Your Boy'. Composer Howard Ashman wrote the song for his mother shortly before he died. The song ultimately didn't make it into the movie, but it became a popular song within the theater industry, and a song often sung at auditions. Clay Aiken, from American Idol came to the Disney studios and did a recording of 'Proud of your Boy' in front of a full orchestra for the Aladdin DVD. Now let me say, I don't necessarily consider myself a Clay Aiken fan, but I was extremely impressed by the music video they showed from the DVD for 'Proud of your Boy'. It's a fantastic song, and Aiken does an impressive job with it. I'm sure the next time Disney goes looking for a musical lead for one of their major animated features Aiken will be at the top of their list. It's something absolutely worth checking out.
As impressed I was with the video from the Aladdin DVD for 'Proud of Your Boy', I was totally unimpressed with the music video from Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson for 'A Whole New World'. If any feature shown that evening felt like it was there to sell DVDs, this one was it.
After the Aladdin presentation two women clothed in black beat the crap out of each other with strobe lights and music to introduce Alias Season 3 and guest JJ Abrams. Anime fans will be happy to hear that the Alias Season 3 disc has an animated short film called 'The Animated Alias: Tribunal' which looked a lot like the animated segment from Kill Bill. JJ talked a lot about the Alias Season 3 DVD, especially a feature called 'Burbank to Barcelona' where they show how they make Burbank look like all the cities featured on the show. JJ remarked, 'sometimes it's a curse, I mean sometimes Olive (a street in Burbank) just looks like.... Olive'. JJ talked about how the first two seasons of Alias on DVD were instrumental in getting him the job to direct 'Mission Impossible 3', and told the story of how he sent Tom Cruise the DVDs to show off his work. JJ also told a very funny story about how they got Isabella Rossellini on the show (I believe the story is also on the DVD).
Next up was by far the highlight of the evening: Kevin Smith. Smith had the audience roaring with laughter with a very satirical and funny presentation. I happened to have my tape recorder with me (which I use for interviews) and so I flicked it on. Glad I did! Here is a transcript of Kevin Smith's Presentation... Unedited:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am from New Jersey and I am a gay American. Something in the water back home. I'm happy to be here tonight representing Miramax films... while it still exists. And I'm sorry that I didn't bring any solid gold dancers with me to intro me. That was hot.
Absolutely hilarious! (Also be sure not to miss our Interview with Kevin Smith)
After Kevin Smith's presentation there was a short Q&A and the evening wrapped up. In all it was a great opportunity to take a sneak peek at some of these big DVD releases. Some of the things which impressed me the most were: The audio and video quality for Aladdin, believe it or not - the song 'Proud of Your Boy' by Clay Aiken, the animated short for Alias Season 3 and the documentary for Clerks X - which looks fantastic.
- Geoffrey Kleinman
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