The two biggest family films from Disney from 2005 are coming to DVD in the Spring – Chicken Little and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Buena Vista Home Entertainment held a luncheon and presentation for those two titles today at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California; I was lucky enough to be invited.
As we walked into the theater, we were greeted with the Barenaked Ladies karaoke and sing-a-long song ‘One Little Step' which follows Chicken Little through his trek to school in the feature film. That song is a karaoke feature, as well as the band's music video is featured on the animated film's disc. The DVD production team worked with the features department for the animated version of that song.
Once the presentation started, Andy Siditsky, the head of Disney DVD production, spoke to us about how excited he was working on these two films. He began talking about the Chicken Little DVD and how proud he was of the box office total (Chicken Little grossed nearly $150 million worldwide).
The film, Chicken Little, focuses on a teen chicken, who's an outsider at school. When aliens are going to attack his town, he helps save them, and gains the respect from his father as well. Zach Braff voices Chicken Little and Garry Marshall is the voice of his father, Buck Cluck.
The special features on the Chicken Little DVD are called ‘Hatching Chicken Little;' Disney always comes up with a clever name for their special features section, so Andy made a little joke about that.
One of the other features is how the animation team made the characters, their ability to ‘squash and stretch' the characters, and to give them heart and soul. They showed a little clip from this feature which follows the animators, producers, and cast in the making of the film. Randy Fullmer, who you probably know from other Disney hits like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, was shown talking about they used inspirations from old Disney shorts for some scenes in this film.
What you may not know is Chicken Little was originally going to be a girl. The writers had come up with that first, but found having a father-son relationship was a much better pairing than father-daughter. We saw a preliminary clip, also on the DVD, from when Holly Hunter was the voice, and not Zach. And there are a few more clips and stills from the film that didn't make it into the theatrical release.
Other features Andy mentioned was an interactive game with the ‘Fish out of Water' character; he says it's a lot of fun, and a trivia game associated with the film. And knowing Disney DVD's, I'd take his word for it. As you probably have figured out, Disney doesn't just put things on their DVD's for show; their DVD's are top notch!
The portion on Chicken Little took about 10 minutes; then it was on to talking about what we all wanted to see - The Chronicles of Narnia. The film, at the time of this print, has already taken in more than $270 million in theaters in the US, nearly $500 million worldwide – yes, I said $500 million! You could immediately tell Andy and his team were thrilled with the success of this title.
Gabrielle Chamberlain, the head of marketing, who worked on this DVD title spoke briefly about the experience. She mentioned it's the first time Andy, and his team, had an office on set during the shooting process of the film. This enabled Andy to work ‘step by step' with the production team.
And, for anyone who doesn't know, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the adaptation of the first of the series of seven books by C. S. Lewis. It follows four siblings through a magical and mythical world. They encounter problems when having to face The White Which, played by Tilda Swinton. It's directed and co-written by Shrek director, Andrew Adamson, who is also the executive producer as well.
Gabrielle was so excited for this title because she was such a big fan of the books as a child. So when Disney got the rights to the film, they immediately contacted the estate of C. S. Lewis, and were able to work very closely on all aspects of the film and DVD with his step son, Douglas Gresham, who became a producer on the film.
There will be two versions of the Narnia DVD; one will be a one-disc widescreen edition with the original theatrical film and many bonus features included. The other version will be a two-disc special box set that includes the original theatrical film, plus more extra bonus features, film stills, and a booklet showing the making of the film from pre-production to post production. The one-disc is the same as the one in the two disc set; the second disc in the special edition set includes a lot more features.
The menus for the special features section is very unique; not only does it show the features, but it can also double as a screen saver. There are shots from the production and video fly by's of some of the areas where they shot. This is probably one of the coolest features I've ever seen from a DVD!
There's also a special section on the menu that has cast interviews and making-of segments. There's a really neat interview with the youngest of the children, Lucy, played by Georgie Henley where she discovers the set of Narnia the same time her character does. Andrew Adamson blindfolded her before taking her onto the set; when he took the blindfold off, he started rolling as she walked through the snowy forest; this feature is called the children's ‘Magical Journey.'
If you click on the wardrobe, you're taken into the world of Narnia; the characters come alive and they're the special features. You get to hear their stories and who they are, instead of the actors. This is another reason why Disney is the king of DVD's; the imagination and thought that goes into some of this stuff is amazing!
More crew interviews include the editor of the film, Sim Even-Jones, who found a old picture of his estranged father; the set designers used that exact photo in the film without him knowing, much to his delight. He emotionally spoke about what it was like to see that on the big screen. Andy had mentioned to us why he was so emotional; it turns out, the picture was lost while they were shooting, but eventually found and returned.
One of the other features on the disc is ‘The Anatomy of a Scene;' the one scene we were shown is of a waterfall scene. The four children are on a piece of ice floating down a river when a huge wave comes through and pushes them. When Andy told us about what it took to shoot this 5 minute scene, it blew me away. Andrew Adamson used aspects of four different countries, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the United States, using outdoor and indoor effects.
It really showed how difficult it was to plan and how long it took for this movie to look and feel as it did. They wanted it to look as real as possible, so they had to let a lot of water fall on the kids. It just goes to show you what a team of experts can do when they're given the time to complete it.
As Andrew Adamson mentions in another feature, he recalls something that Walt Disney once said; ‘He doesn't make movies for children, he makes movies for the child in all of us.' And that saying is so true; if you look at Andrew's dedication on this film, you will be amazed.
The team over at Disney really needs to be commended for their work on DVD's; they really shine when it comes to their home video department. I cannot wait for these two films to come out on DVD, especially The Chronicles of Narnia.
Both Chicken Little and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will be released on Disney DVD in the Spring; we'll give you an official date announcement as soon as it becomes available. These are two DVD's I would highly recommend to everyone!