On the heels of The Nightmare Before
Christmas, the dream team (to some of us, anyway) of
Disney, Tim Burton and director Henry Selick turned to Roald
Dahl. A popular children's author with a dark sensibility,
Dahl wrote books that certainly influenced Burton and Selick,
with a sense of whimsy and morality that spoke to kids without
dulling the sharp edges of their fears.
And so they adapted James and the Giant
Peach, a stop-motion animated picture with grotesque
(in a good way) live-action bookends as the good-hearted
James (Paul Terry) escapes from the tyranny of living with
his horrible Aunts Spiker (Joanna Lumley) and Sponge (Miriam
Margolyes). Dahl was not big on subtlety in his imagery.
When James finds refuge in that magical
giant peach, Selick really gets to unleash his magic, as
he's guided by several suddenly intelligent giant insects
as well. Yes, so that's the weird part, but some of us like
the weird part as several celebrities voice the insects,
and Selick works well in a quasi-dreamscape. Jack Skellington
even makes a cameo as an undersea ghost pirate, years before
Geoffrey Rush would think of such a thing.
It's also a musical with lyrics taken from
Dahl and scored by Randy Newman. Since Newman has a somewhat
unique voice, his songs already had the habit of carrying
non-singers along, and even Richard Dreyfuss sounds pretty
Yet James and the Giant Peach seems
to be a somewhat forgotten Disney film, made shortly after
the first Toy Story changed the game for everyone.
Finally, it's arrived in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, with
features largely lifted from the previous DVD release and
only one addition for Blu-ray.
That would be a "Spike the Aunts" game,
pitting the film's villains - or at least a reasonable facsimile
of them - against the rhinoceros that killed James' parents.
Maybe I'm drawing one or two extra conclusions here, and
despite that mordant idea, it's not a game that's going
to last long unless you marvel at the sophistication of
game concepts that can fit as an afterthought on Blu-ray.
Still, it would be nice to get things beyond the DVD set
top games that Disney provided on all their direct-to-DVD
Despite the lack of new insight into the
movie in the form of extras, I continue standing by my enthusiasm
for Blu-ray when watching animation. The detail on Selick's
work pops in a way that I haven't yet gotten when watching
full live action. It almost makes the film like The Wizard
of Oz; when are we going to get to the color section?
Ultimately, it's fun, with a resourceful
kind hero and bugs. Let's face it: kids love bugs. And they
can handle a little creep out now and then, so try this
one out as we approach the fall.
Hey, wait a minute… it's peach season,