The Disney Family Blus
If there's one word to describe the Disney brand as of yet, it's savvy. Say what you will about their TV content or the quality of their current cartoon features as compared to the past, but the House of Mouse knows how to play to its multitude of demographics. Youngsters are supplied with franchises in the making, while folks who've grown up with Disney since way back when are treated to shiny new editions of childhood classics. But this holiday season, while Mom and Dad are revisiting yesteryear with high-def reissues of The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins, the kids can enjoy Planes and Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United, two movies made just for them that are now available in Blu-ray/DVD combos.
PLANES (November 19, 2013)
Dusty Crophopper (voice of Dane Cook) is a little airplane with big dreams. Though he seems to be a puny crop duster, he has the heart of a champion and yearns to prove himself as a racer. Then one day, the opportunity Dusty's been waiting for comes when fate lands him a spot in the Wings Around the Globe rally, a worldwide competition between some of the best crafts ever to grace the skies. Dusty's up against some fast and fierce foes, but with the help of his friends and a crusty old trainer (voice of Stacy Keach), he just might go the distance after all.
Pixar's Cars was inspired by chief creative officer John Lasseter's own love for automobiles. Cars 2 came about because its predecessor made a Scrooge McDuck-sized fortune from its merchandise, and hey, any attempt to shill a new line of plastic trinkets to the kiddies was more than welcome. Now we have Planes, a movie further yet diluted from whatever creative spark first initiated this franchise. It doesn't even have the benefit of being handled by Pixar's team but that of DisneyToon Studios, the folks who thought all those awful straight-to-DVD sequels to Disney classics were good ideas. The lax initiative behind those cash-ins is reflected in Planes as well, which dives headfirst into the cliche well for material and comes up gasping for breath not once. That said, it is, at the end of the day, a movie made for little kids (albeit really little ones, in this case), who won't be harmed by the simple life lessons or colorful animation. But its value doesn't stretch much further than serving as pure filler, and its multicultural cast of aircraft definitely feels less like the product of storytelling and more like a new line of gotta-have-'em toys being introduced.
"Lazy" is the operative word with Planes. Noble as its intentions are, it's just not very inventive, funny, or lively. A breezy little cartoon comedy is perfectly fine, but there's a difference between being low-key but charming and something like Planes just not even trying to soar to greater heights of family entertainment.
-Franz's Song, a deleted musical number featuring one of the supporting characters.
-Klay's Flight Plan, a making-of documentary featuring director Klay Hall and others discussing the genesis of Planes and the surprising amount of research that went into putting it together.
-A "Meet the Racers" selection of mini-cartoons featuring the film's characters.
-A featurette with ESPN personality Colin Cowherd counting off a list of ten real-life figures in flight.
IRON MAN & HULK: HEROES UNITED (December 3, 2013)
For their first foray into Marvel animated features after buying up the comics juggernaut, Disney has teamed two of the biggest superdudes there are. The nefarious HYDRA group is up to no good yet again, this time attempting to harness the power of the Hulk (voice of Fred Tatasciore) for their own purposes. But when their efforts unleash an energy-hungry monster named Zzzax (voice of Dee Bradley Baker), the not-so-jolly green giant must combine forces with Iron Man (voice of Adrian Pasdar) to ground the fiend for good.
Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is a comic-loving kid's dream come true, a sandbox brawl between two well-worn action figures brought to life. The movie is no talk and all smash, with its constant joking around further solidifying it having been made with the little ones in mind. If you happen to be in that target audience, chances are you'll have a ball, but if you're a grown-up fan of either headlining hero, making it to the end is something of an uphill battle. The flick wears its simplicity on its sleeve, and it shows in how stock the bad guy is, how unimaginative the settings are, and how repetitive the action quickly becomes. Be it from the ceaseless bickering between our protagonists or the explosions they face/cause at every turn, this thing makes an awful lot of noise without a whole lot of genuine fun fueling it. Plus, on a superficial note, the animation is just terribly unappealing, and I'm personally not big on the Hulk being not only intelligent in his Hulk form but also remaining a monster for the entire film.
The eyes of tykes across the country will be glued to their favorite Avengers' new adventures, but the older you get, the more Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United will cause your attention to drift.
-Marvel Team-Up, a discussion of team-up titles from Marvel's history with chief creative officer Joe Quesada and webmaster Ryan Penagos.
-Marvel Mash-Ups, a selection of old Marvel cartoons with new, comedic dubbing.
-Marvel Inter-Missions, a feature that plays various "Marvel Mash-Up" cartoons when you press pause during the movie (NOTE: this is automatically activated, so access the Set Up menu if you'd like it turned off).