These days, we’re curious. It’s not enough to simply watch a film and leave our movie-going experience at that. Particularly if it’s a movie we enjoy, we want to dive deeper into that world. We’re curious. How did the director come to some of his or her decisions? What were the cast’s thoughts on their characters? What was the music composing process like? Since the mainstream advent of DVD in the late ’90s, studios have put an effort toward providing consumers with bonus content to accompany their films’ home video releases that provide the viewer with a complete backstage picture.
It’s always fun to explore around new DVD and Blu-ray releases to see what new insight awaits in the bonus features, but what about the movies you bought a long time ago? The ones you might not have fully explored to their extent? Or the ones you purchased before you really enjoyed watching extras? There’s probably a treasure trove of awesomeness waiting for you on your movie shelf that you didn’t even know about. Here are some of the best overlooked bonus features for Disney movie releases. All of them are definitely worth checking out for animation fans.
6.) Mr. Incredible and Pals
- Any DVD or Blu-ray edition of The Incredibles (2005, 2011)
The item taken least seriously on this list (actually not taking itself seriously at all), this is a 4-minute short of sorts that follows the escapades of Mr. Incredible and Frozone in the style of a cheap, vintage Saturday morning cartoon. The best part is by far that the characters’ mouths are not animated. Instead, there is a blatant hole in the drawing where a photographed human mouth is inserted. The absurd fact that something like this exists, and even better that Pixar went to professional lengths to make it appear unprofessional, makes it a horribly incredible piece.
5.) Pixar Filmmakers Reflect
- Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition DVD (2005)
- Toy Story Special Edition Blu-ray (2010)
- Toy Story standard Blu-ray (2015)
- A Bug’s Life standard Blu-ray (2009)
- Monsters, Inc. standard Blu-ray (2009)
- Monsters, Inc. Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (2013)
- Finding Nemo Collector’s Edition Blu-ray (2012)
There are a variety of stellar lengthy documentaries on different Disney releases that offer comprehensive looks behind the scenes, complete with interviews and archival footage and edited together to make a wonderful experience. These Pixar Filmmaker Reflect roundtables dismiss all of that fanciness for something different: a small group of filmmakers sitting together around a coffee table and doing nothing but talking about the film they made. The brilliance in these are found in their candor, with each of the respective films listed above receiving their own full, different Filmmakers Reflect piece and each with a slightly different combination of Pixarians who worked on that specific film. They have wisdom to share and stories to reminisce, with a nice touch being that all of these were produced years after each film’s initial release. The passage of time allows the opportunity for each team to not only discuss the actual making of the film, but its legacy as well. This is something that most new releases, as great as they are, simply can’t have because the film just came out. For those who prefer that elaborate, backstage documentary for each of these Pixar films… well, don’t worry, because Pixar goes all out for its films, and a full doc is on all of these releases in addition to the excellent Filmmakers Reflect featurettes.
4.) One Hour In Wonderland
- Alice in Wonderland Masterpiece Edition DVD (2004)
- Alice in Wonderland Un-Anniversary Edition DVD (2010)
- Alice in Wonderland 60th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (2010)
Here’s a real treat from the archives. This is the first-ever Disney television program, airing on NBC on Christmas Day 1950, years before even the Disneyland series or The Mickey Mouse Club. This was it; the very first. The one-time special has the same feel and format of the Disneyland show, with Walt Disney hosting a get-together attended by celebrities and characters while clips from Disney films intertwine between everything. Much of the show is devoted to plugging the “brand new” Alice in Wonderland, which released in theaters the following summer. Alice’s voice actress, Kathryn Beaumont (dressed as Alice but oddly playing herself), accompanies Walt for much of the hour, as does Bobby Driscoll, already a Disney veteran who would later co-star with Beaumont when the pair voiced Peter Pan and Wendy Darling. The special fabricated, corny, and completely commercialized by both Disney and the hour’s sponsor, Coca-Cola, but has an intrinsic charm thanks to the innocence of its era and the ambition of Walt in leading the charge into an exciting new medium where his characters and stories could flourish.
3.) Mary Poppins Audio Commentary with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke
- Mary Poppins 40th Anniversary Edition DVD (2004)
- Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition DVD (2009)
- Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (2013)
When the film opens with Julie Andrews remarking she hasn’t seen the movie in its entirety since the premiere in 1964, you know you’re in for a fun few hours. Both Andrews and Van Dyke are delightful on this commentary track, recorded in 2004, that has them reminiscing on making the film, working with Walt Disney, and the legacy the film has made for the Disney Company and on the film industry. This is arguably the most important film in the Disney library (if only trumped by Snow White), and to watch the film with its stars is nothing short of magical (and I don’t use that word lightly).
2.) Interviews with the Fab Five Voices
- Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy DVD (2002)
- Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume 2 DVD (2004)
- Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 2 DVD (2005)
What a rare and fantastic idea this was. The now defunct Walt Disney Treasures DVD series ran 2001-2009 and featured film critic Leonard Maltin hosting an excellent array of gems from Disney history, from telecasts to cartoon shorts. The titles listed above each include an interview with the then-current voices of their respective stars: Bill Farmer for Goofy (and Pluto) (on the Goofy disc), married Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor for Mickey and Minnie Mouse (on the Mickey disc), and Tony Anselmo for Donald Duck (on the Donald disc). All of the characters continue to be voiced by these same actors today, with the exception of Mickey, who is now voiced by Bret Iwan following Allwine’s passing in 2009. Think about it: unless you’re really looking for it, you almost never see an interview with any of these incredible talents, and Maltin is the perfect guide for what amounts to Christmas morning for any fan of these characters.
1.) Howard’s Lecture
- Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD (2010) (full, unedited lecture)
- The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Blu-ray (2013) (edited with reflective interviews)
This was the presentation that single-handedly set into motion a renaissance of excellence for Walt Disney Feature Animation. During a time when Disney animation might have gone extinct if the project wasn’t successful, Broadway visionary Howard Ashman brought a sense of direction and inspiration to his role as executive producer and lyricist for The Little Mermaid. In a lunchtime lecture, he guided Disney animators, many of whom at the time were unfamiliar with how to create a fairytale musical, through the different beats of the story, complete with its captivating characters and enthralling music. This was the presentation that was the first point of contact for many of these people to the heart of the film they’d be working on for the next several years, and the excitement in Ashman’s voice and stature is unmistakable. On the DVD for the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, you’ll find the full, raw lecture, which is discussed in the accompanying feature-length documentary. On the Blu-ray for The Little Mermaid, you’ll find a reflective piece looking back on the impact of the presentation from Little Mermaid cast and crew members, interspersed with clips from the lecture. We have the modern legacy of Disney animation to thank for this single presentation, and it’s a marvel to see take shape.
Have you seen any of these? Do you have a favorite DVD/Blu-ray bonus feature?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes