Of Mice and Monkeys: The Rescuers/Rescuers Down Under, Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles and Disneynature Chimpanzee
While animation might not have begun with a plucky mouse named Mickey, his ilk has certainly become a staple of the artform. This week we take a look at a pair of feature films from The House of Mouse, as well as the studio's recent documentary about a very different sort of heartwarming critter. And if there's ever a bad time for Looney Tunes, starring mice or anything else, I sure haven't found it.
The Rescuers 35th Anniversary Edition/The Rescuers Down Under 2 Movie Collection (Disney)
Brave Bernard and Bianca (the unlikely but winning team of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) are agents of the magnanimous Rescue Aid Society, operating out of the basement of the United Nations Building. They seem to specialize in helping kids in need, as evidenced by their original 1977 outing to the creepy Devil's Bayou and the possibly Crocodile Dundee-inspired Down Under sequel from 1990. The digitally restored movies share a single Blu-ray disc, along with a fine complement of behind-the-scenes, educational and animated shorts.
Most of these extras repeat across Discs Two and Three, individual DVD versions of each movie in standard definition, to keep on hand for late-summer car trips and such. This G-rated dual-format double feature provides a healthy dose of not-too-distant cartoon nostalgia.
Looney Tunes The Chuck Jones Collection Mouse Chronicles (Warner)
For the alternative animated mouse fan, Warner has released a two-disc set of new-to-Blu Looney Tunes, a dozen shorts starring the likable Sniffles and seven featuring the misadventures of pals Hubie and Bertie, all directed by the late, great Charles M. Jones. These cartoons are touted as "newly remastered," which is not the same a "perfect," and while they might still reveal copious amounts of dirt and uneven grain, chances are you've never seen them look as good as they do here.
The bonuses are highlighted by a brand-new featurette about this rodent-centric animation, as well as eleven additional mouse-happy shorts from the archives, this batch in standard definition however. The storyboard reel for "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat" (1950) is a real find, and one of the set's five running audio commentaries even includes Mr. Jones himself.
Requiring almost two solid years of location filming, this incredible-but-true Disneynature documentary follows an orphaned young chimpanzee and his adoption by a new family in the wilds of the African rainforest. Our emotional investment is all but inevitable as we can't help but project at least some human characteristics onto these primates; a tendency fostered by Tim Allen's sometimes-entertaining, sometimes-distracting narration. Not surprisingly, the bonus features lean toward the sweet, offset by a call to action for armchair conservationists far and wide.
Disney's combo pack makes the movie available on both Blu-ray and DVD, but some scenes can be fairly intense so I wouldn't necessarily push "Play" for the kids and leave them on their own. And if you love animals, or know a small child who looks like a baby chimp, keep those Kleenex handy….