Appellate Judge Michael Stailey, a lifelong Disney-phile, explains the darker side of Mouse addiction in 2,000 words or less.
It could only happen at the happiest place on earth.
Ah, the enigmatic allure of Disney's Sing Along Songs series. To the untrained eye of your average 20-something DVD consumer, they appear to be little more than another cheap marketing ploy by the House of Mouse—repurposing content to rake in a quick buck. While there is ample case evidence to support this conclusion, I hereby rule it irrelevant and inadmissible; for the two titles in question are a different beast altogether.
The Sing Along Songs series is legalized heroin for children ages 1-8. Once they've tasted it, there's no going back. They crave the fix, savor the buzz, and mourn the withdrawal. I've seen it happen firsthand. It's truly frightening to behold. At the time of their first release, I don't think Disney creative execs knew the power they were unleashing upon an unsuspecting world. It was merely a way to repackage musical numbers from their animated features. Yet all it takes is one viewing and a child becomes an addict. Like any successful dealer, Disney has mass-produced large quantities of these titles in a variety of flavors.
First, we examine the evidence presented against Disneyland Fun, a 29-minute musical romp through Walt's original Magic Kingdom. Whereas the first two VHS releases—Bare Necessities (1988) and You Can Fly! (1988)—utilized film clips to drive the action, this 1990 release showcases a series of live action, well-choreographed dance routines, featuring brightly clad cherubs and a host of costumed Disney characters. Each of the 12 numbers highlights a different area of park and its surrounding attractions, from opening to close.
• "Whistle While You Work"
• "Step in Time"
• "I'm Walking Right Down the Middle of Main Street
• "Follow the Leader"
Given that Disneyland Fun was filmed more than 15 years ago, it ends up being something of a time capsule. For instance, our pint-sized adventurers arrive five years prior the excavation of The Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and visit the Treehouse nine years before Tarzan moves in and renovates the place. But I digress…
• "The Great Outdoors"
• "Rumbly in My Tumbly"
• "It's a Small World"
• "Making Memories"
• "Grim Grinning Ghosts"
• "The Character Parade"
• "When You Wish Upon a Time"
Many consider Disneyland Fun to be the best of the Sing Along Songs series. Given its nostalgic appeal, and the fact that it's been almost five years since my last visit to a Disney theme park, I would have to agree. From a technical perspective, while Disney does provide a Dolby 5.1 audio track, it amounts to little more than glorified two-channel stereo. The picture and coloring are, for the most part, clear and vibrant, but remember this is a remastered analog source video. Don't expect miracles; and don't expect bonus features. There are none. Then again, the target audience for this release is a less discerning demographic of viewers under the age of 8. As long as they can replay the disc five or six times a day, they're happy campers.
>From the sublime to the ridiculous, we travel to Central Florida for Case #2: The People vs. Beach Party at Walt Disney World. The year is 1995. WDW now has three water parks screaming out for guest attendance. How do they draw attention away from the parks and entice Mom and Dad to relax by the pool while the kids play in the water? Why through a video of course! This direct to VHS adventure follows the same format as Disneyland Fun—dress up a handful of kids in obnoxious neon colored outfits, teach them to lip synch, grill them on some basic choreography, and off we go!
If you've ever watched the Disney Christmas or Easter parades on ABC, you'll know exactly what to expect from Beach Party. A dozen different locations, from the back lot at what was then the Disney/MGM Studios, to the beachfront of the Grand Floridian Hotel, and everywhere in between, this is an episode of Cop Rock without the plot. Funny thing is they never make it over to River Country, WDW's original water park. Sadly, River Country permanently closed its water hole in January 2005.
While the adult audience for Disneyland Fun is distracted by fond memories of past Disney vacations, they'll be bailing on Beach Party after the opening number. Aside from the bad covers of Beach Boys, Chubby Checker, and Don Ho hits, the focus here is solely on the kids, and your munchkins will be enthralled. Secure your living room's more fragile knick-knacks, because they're going to be dancing non-stop for the next 30 minutes.
• "Set Your Name Free"
• "Surfin' Safari"
• "Three Little Fishies"
"A Pirates Life"—Captain Hook and his motley crew attempt to gain control of these dancing fools, from aboard his ship in EPCOT's World Showcase Lagoon.
• "Part of Your World"
• "Hot, Hot, Hot"
• "The Hukilau Song"
• "Pearly Shells"
• "Limbo Rock" / "Slicin' Sand"
If you've made it this far, you're one brave soul. If you can go that extra mile and watch Beach Party multiple times with your kids, you deserve a special commendation…or a long rest in a nice quiet sanitarium. Either way, this release is probably the bottom of the Sing Along Songs barrel. On the technical side, you can expect about the same level of presentation—remastered full frame video, slightly enhanced 5.1 audio, and nothing in the way of bonus features (unless you count the end credits).
If you have and enjoy either VHS release, I would recommend upgrading. These DVDs list at $14.99 and history has proven the kids and grandkids will love them. Just make sure you're out of earshot when they're watching Beach Party.
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