Several animated classics have gone Blu from Disney Home Entertainment, including The Aristocats, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, Pocahontas, and The Tigger Movie, and shine in HD.
I’ve always been fond of The Aristocats, which was the first feature released after the passing of Walt Disney in 1970 (directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. Even though it seemed old-fashioned following The Jungle Book, with a whiff of Lady and the Tramp, the Paris setting is exquisite and the romance between Duchess (Eva Gabor) and Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris) is charming. Plus the swinging jazz numbers by the legendary Richard and Robert Sherman is infectious. “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” is still memorable. The Blu-ray/DVD combo includes a new featurette, “The Lost Open,” with Richard walking us through storyboards of a never-before-seen alternate beginning that introduces a deleted character, the Maid, and deleted song, “How Much You Mean to Me.” There’s also another deleted song, “She Never Felt Alone,” which captures the special companionship between owner and pet.
The Rescuers (1977) and The Rescuers Down Under (1990) are both underrated and nicely animated on a much smaller scale. In The Rescuers, two mice from the Rescue Aid Society, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Gabor) come to the aid of a small girl kidnapped by a Cruella-like scoundrel in search of a diamond. They scamper through the Devil’s Bayou soar through the Australian outback. What’s noteworthy is the generational pairing (Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Dale Baer, Randy Cartwright, Don Bluth, Glen Keane, Ron Clements, among others) under the direction of John Lounsbery, Reitherman and Art Stevens.
The Rescuers Down Under is even darker and more suspenseful with Bernard and Bianca rescuing a boy and a rare golden eagle from an evil poacher (George C. Scott). Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel direct with the late Joe Ranft supervising story. This one boasts the talents of Roger Allers, Kelly Asbury, Chris Buck, Brenda Chapman, Keane, Kevin Lima, Chris Sanders, Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, Dave Bossert, Barry Cook, Mark Dindal, Randy Fullmer, Tony Bancroft, James Baxter, Aaron Blaise, among others. Extras include the deleted Louis Prima song, “Peoplitis,” from The Rescuers.
Pocahontas (1995), which is paired with Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World, is gorgeous and represents one of the last terrific works of Disney’s second renaissance. Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg direct the tale of John Smith (Mel Gibson) and Pocahontas (Irene Bedard) bridging cultures in the New World. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz provide the romantic score, highlighted by “Colors of the Wind.” This is graced by Buck, Joe Grant, Keane, Tom Bancroft, Blaise, Richard Bazley, and others. Extras include Drawing Inspiration: The Lost Story of Hiawatha, which tells the fascinating story of Walt developing a full-length feature in the ’40s titled Hiawatha, which served as the inspiration for Pocahontas. Goldberg and animation historian Charles Solomon present featurette. Also includes the fully animated deleted song, “If I Never Knew You.”
The Tigger Movie (2000) bounces on Blu-ray as well. The spirited Tigger (Jim Cummings) goes in search of his family and rediscovers the family he already has in the Hundred Acre Wood. Mostly animated overseas, but Baxter, Toby Bluth, and Jeff Johnson helped out, among others. Bonus features include “A Tigger Tale” featurette with director Jun Falkenstein, producer Cheryl Abood, art director Bluth, animator Johnson, and Richard Sherman.