If there's anything I find more distressing than the repeated arguments from futurists that streaming video will be the only way to re-watch anything 20 years from now, it's the makers of laser-based movies barely putting up a fight in response. A lot of DVD sets these days are just the TV show or movie and nothing extra...and while I'm happy just to have what's on it, it's a bad trend that could do the industry damage. A lot of manufacturers are forgetting the real reason people abandoned their VHS players for disc media was because there were so many advantages -- bonus features, alternate audio tracks, in-progress reels -- it was impossible to ignore. Streaming doesn't do that sort of thing. It's like VHS again....nothing but the movie, and in worse picture quality. If we go back to this kind of primitive lifestyle I will be sad.
A proper DVD or Blu-Ray set should not forget this and use every advantage the format has. Watching them should feel like stepping into a museum and being in awe of how much there is to see and learn about. Out of all the sets in my collection, here are the top 5 I found the most impressive, each one an impassioned argument for how solid media should never die.
#5 -- TOY STORY: THE ULTIMATE TOY BOX (2001)
This release came at a time when the DVD market was growing, but still for the most part consisted of adult collectors. Disney would eventually release an updated Ultimate Toy Box for Blu-Ray that contained Toy Story 3, but believe it or not, it's no improvement on this. The new Ultimate Toy Box is just a repackage of the same individual releases aimed at kids, and many of the extras are fluff. There's not a single bit of fluffiness in the 2001 Ultimate Toy Box, and it remains the best and most thorough release the first two movies have ever recieved.
|The guts of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are laid out completely naked here -- from tests to progress reels to aerial tours of the virtual sets, there's nothing you can't know about the production. The third disc is entirely devoted to bonus features...and when's the last time you saw a single DVD boasting five hours and eight minutes of them? Never, I'm guessing.|
#4 -- ALIEN ANTHOLOGY BLU-RAY (2010)
Note that the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray is mostly the content that was in "Alien Quadrilogy" for DVD. That would be a worthy entry in its own right, but since the Blu-Ray version improves upon that, it's getting the slot instead. For one thing, Quadrilogy was in one of those packages that folds out over and over until it's five feet long. With the Blu-Ray package you don't have to bother with that.
The volume of extra tonnage is overwhelming. You can watch over fifty hours of behind-the-scenes documentaries, alternate takes and media. You can watch the film reel for a stupid Aliens-based ride from New Zealand. You can finally read the bios of the Nostromo crew that was projected behind Ripley, and find out Lambert was concieved a male. In addition, all the bonus content from the laserdisc has been brought over. The laserdisc! That means if you hunt, you can even find this embarrassing moment:
On top of everything else, it's region-free, so you're not limited to America when shopping for the cheapest version. I bought mine from Amazon UK for $17.99, plus tariff.
The only downside? Alien Resurrection.
|#3 -- INVADER ZIM HOUSE (2004)
|After Nickelodeon cancelled Invader
Zim in 2002, oblivious to the cult fanaticism that
was gathering around the creepy little show, they allowed
the small DVD company AnimeWorks to purchase the full
home video rights to the series....'cause it was their
funeral, right? Who in their right mind would take such a
financial bath on this tiny little show that didn't work?
It was at this point that Hot Topic started selling things with GIR on them and they sold so well that Zim merchandise is still there ten years later. AnimeWorks made an equally-sized killing with their Zim DVD releases, and Nick was pretty embarrassed they'd let all that profit slip away. Eventually the contract was up and there wasn't even a slight chance of renewal -- forget what they said earlier; Zim was so valuable it had to be locked in the Viacom Vault forever.
Nick's own idea of an Invader Zim DVD is a DVD-R you can only get online, with no extras. AnimeWorks' idea was this.
Half the episodes have animatics. 80 percent have commentaries. Everybody is interviewed. The deluxe edition came in a well-built replica of Zim's house with a door that shuts magnetically and a bonus disc containing uncut music tracks and the audio from unfinished episodes (and The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever, which got messed up in Volume 3). If you're a fan of Zim, this set treats you like royalty.
And what's in the top of the box?
|#2 -- THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS: COMPLETE
For years I just had to sit and watch while every 1980's children's show I didn't make a habit of viewing got star DVD treatment. The original release of He-Man was pretty elaborate, but I wasn't a He-Man viewer. Where was The Real Ghostbusters? I would have loved to see it again, yet Sony didn't feel a "kiddie show" was worth releasing.
Then, suddenly, this existed. Time-Life licensed the rights and produced the most impressive DVD set I've ever seen devoted to a TV series (except for #1). All 134 episodes, all episodes of Slimer, VIDEO commentaries (how often do you get that?), hours and hours of bonus features, PDF scripts and series bibles, model sheets....everything. And for the first time ever, the original 5-minute pilot!
When this came out it cost $200. It is now half that, so if you are in any way a child of the 80's, you should buy this yesterday.
|#1 -- FREAKS AND GEEKS: YEARBOOK
Shout Factory is among the most admired when it comes to companies that produce DVD sets, because for the most part they listen to the fans of whatever show they're pressing and tailor the sets to please them as much as possible. Freaks and Geeks: Yearbook Edition was their magnum opus, and they'll never top it.
The regular Freaks and Geeks DVD set was impressive on its own. It was a cult series only one season long that barely anybody knew about when the set was released, yet it was given the most careful care. Most studios pack four episodes per disc if a show was an hour long; Shout Factory went for three and used the extra room to increase the bitrate (meaning better picture quality). The picture is sharper than any I've ever seen from a standard-era TV series; when I play the episodes on my HDTV, they look high-def! The show was crammed with music licensing, and they cleared every last song. Nothing was cut out -- in fact, a lot was added.
The deluxe edition came in 80-page yearbook form, and it really does feel like a yearbook that came out in 1980. The typefaces and layout designs are from that era. The bookend papers are all signed by the cast members, in character (in the front they're signing Lindsay's yearbook, the back is Sam's).
The Yearbook Edition piles two more discs onto the set and adds an additional six hours of material. You just can't believe so much exists for an 18-episode series. I'd wager everything that DOES exist is here; even footage shot by cast members with home movie cameras.
They truly loved the show they were making the set for, and their joy is felt throughout. It's the best set I own, and the best one I've ever seen. THIS is how you archive a series. Period.
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