First up, we have the Walt Disney Short Films Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray. It has twelve animated shorts on it, ranging from 2000’s “John Henry” to the recent “Frozen Fever.” First, the good news. They’re Disney animated shorts. They’re that thing that, no matter how many times I go see a Disney film these days, I keep forgetting they’re preceded by one of these. So, thanks to my goldfish-esque memory, it’s a delightful surprise every time. Granted, your mileage may vary as to how these individual shorts play with you personally. The further good news is that these are the Blu-Ray debuts (as far as I can tell) for some of these, such as “Henry” and “Lorenzo.” And because they’re all recent animation, they look and sound fantastic in the hi-def format. The downside is that this has a number of repackaged shorts you probably own on previous releases, although if you’re a short-form animation enthusiast, then getting the debuts will probably offset that. There are never enough extras for me, but in this case, you get a short animation featurette and super-brief intros on all of the films. Commentary tracks would have been most welcome. The brilliantly wrong “Runaway Brain” was, I had thought, supposed to be included as a BD debut, but it’s instead a digital-only release.
So those are the tradeoffs. I would say if you’re a fan of the animation, buy this, as it will help convince them to make more. And until they regain their sanity and bring back the brilliant Walt Disney Treasures line, this is the best regarding these we’re probably going to get. In addition to the above, the other shorts included are “Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa,” “The Ballad of Nessie,” “Paperman,” “Tangled Ever After,” “Get a Horse!”, “Feast,” “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” and “Tick Tock Tale.” (Buy it from Amazon.)
At first, I was confused by Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem. For those who have been at this for a while, it makes perfect sense that you could take a few monster-themed episodes of a show, slap them together on Blu-ray, and then put a dinosaur on the cover to appeal to the kids who enjoyed Jurassic World. Trouble is, I had no idea there was a new Batman Unlimited show. But there isn’t. It’s a toy line and this is the second in a series of direct-to-video releases designed to help sell the Mattel product. Which is nothing new for children’s cartoons. Apparently, the previous release had the Joker banding together the animal-themed villains while this one has him going for the more monstrously-themed villains. I can’t wait for the ones that they can’t categorize. Batman Unlimited: Manic Miscellany. And while the character designs aren’t Bruce Timm, I find them a lot more palatable than, say, The Batman or especially Beware The Batman. The main content will appeal to the same kids who might dig the toys (and probably come up with a better storyline to use while playing them) and the bonus bits are some bonus cartoons as well as a production design featurette. A rental will probably do just fine for this, as, again, I see kids using this as a jumping off point for their own imagination, rather than something they feel compelled to revisit. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
It’s no secret that I’ve been wishing for a return to the “Scooby-Doo Original Movies” of yesteryear, in which the Scooby Gang teamed up with everyone from Batman to Jerry Reed. They were gloriously fun and bizarre. Well, I wasn’t expecting this: a KISS-themed team-up involving the band’s theme park, a different dimension and an evil voiced by Darius Rucker (aka Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish.) Speaking of voices, you also get Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith doing cameos, plus Garry and Penny Marshall. So this definitely qualifies as bizarre. To be honest, I’ve never been a devout member of the KISS Army, so I get the feeling there are references in here that sailed right over my head, but I do appreciate anything that makes full reference of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. The bonus features are a pair of two Scooby-Doo cartoons, plus there’s a blooper reel. Kids will probably enjoy it and as for the band, well, they should ask their parents. But this feels like a love letter to fans of the band, who, like I said, will probably get a lot out of it. Rent it first, but buy it if you’re a hardcore. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)