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Adventures in Disneyland and Oz

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Several Disney animated classics are entering the digital age this fall, starting with the 1940 masterpiece “Pinocchio” ($40), which was released on Tuesday.

The beloved fairy tale about a marionette who is transformed into a boy looks beautiful in its DVD incarnation. The disc also features the original trailer and a supplemental audio track in French. Colorful character artwork on the disc itself is intended to help children figure out which side is up when inserting the disc into the DVD player.

Disney is also releasing a new edition of “Pinocchio” on VHS ($27), which includes the featurette “A Wish Come True, the Making of Pinocchio.”

“Pinocchio” and eight other Disney animated films will only be available on DVD for 60 days, the studio says. A special collector’s box set of all nine titles will be available for a limited time on Dec. 7 ($360).

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Next up on Nov. 9 is “Mulan,” “Hercules” and “101 Dalmatians.” “Lady and the Tramp,” “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” and “Peter Pan” are set for Nov. 23. “The Little Mermaid” and “The Jungle Book” will follow on Dec. 7.

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Another classic family film that made its DVD debut recently is the 1939 musical “The Wizard of Oz.” Warner Home Video’s spectacular digital version ($25) is definitely a trip over the rainbow.

Though the digitally restored and remastered new VHS version looks gorgeous, it pales in comparison to the crisp, clear and vibrant Technicolor picture on the DVD. In fact, “Wizard of Oz” probably hasn’t looked this beautiful since its release 60 years ago. Why, one can even see the freckles on Judy Garland’s face.

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Warner is offering the disc with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack.

The DVD includes 107 minutes of extra material, including a behind-the-scenes documentary hosted by Angela Lansbury that was previously seen on TV, and a separate track with interviews from a 1979 TV special with stars Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton.

Even the trailers are unique and fun. Included is a short black-and-white teaser that only screened at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood; it simply asks, “What is Oz?”

A trailer for the 1949 re-release includes part of a long-missing musical number that takes place in Oz after the death of the witch, and a brief sequence of an excised dance routine from Bolger’s “If I Only Had a Brain” number. The funniest trailer, also from 1949, was produced to appeal to adults and has to be seen to be believed.

An entire audio section offers outtakes of Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” original Tin Man Buddy Ebsen and his replacement Jack Haley’s versions of “If I Only Had a Heart,” a rendition of “Munchkinland” featuring the voices of composers Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, and the discarded “Hail Hail the Witch Is Dead!” number--complete with a voice test by the head Winkie soldier.

Besides the beautiful underscore to the movie, the audio section offers the weekly NBC radio show “Good News of 1939,” which features the stars of “Oz” and a promotional radio trailer.

And that’s not all, folks. There are excerpts from 1914 and 1925 movie versions of “Oz,” as well as a rare 1933 color cartoon. A portrait gallery features pictures of the stars, and Toto, too. The makeup tests include numerous photos of the principals in various makeup and clothes. Included in this section are pictures of Gale Sondergaard, who was the original choice to play the Wicked Witch. Still photos of the special effects shed some light on how the then-state-of-the-art effects were created.

Original sketches and storyboards for the film also have been unearthed, as well as Harold Arlen’s home movies, which offer a glimpse of another cut and a long-missing number, “The Jitterbug,” plus the stars mugging for the camera. Numerous stills capture the enthusiasm and excitement of both the New York and Hollywood premieres. The cast and crew bios are also comprehensive and informative.

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It’s a must-have.


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