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Disney classics including 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks,' 'Ichabod and Mr. Toad' on Blu-ray

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Disney Blu-ray has released several high-definition catalog titles ranging from 1940s animated classics like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad narrated by Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone to 1971's Bedknobs and Broomsticks starring Angela Lansbury.

ichabodIchabod and Mr. Toad (made in 1949 and the inspiration for Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) runs 68 minutes and comes paired with Disney's Fun and Fancy Free, a 1947 collection of short subjects including Mickey and the Beanstalk, which marked the final time Walt Disney himself voiced the famous mouse. ($37)

Both films look and sound great. Hidden away on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature is the 1941 Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon, a black-and-white and color film that mixed live action and animation. The live action sequences star Robert Benchley, a popular New Yorker humorist at the time who later became known as grandfather of Jaws author Peter Benchley.

The Reluctant Dragon is set at Walt Disney Studios and offers a unique glimpse at how the company produced such films as Bambi and Dumbo.

bedknobsBy the late 1960s, Walt Disney was dead and several post-Mary Poppins films were already in preparation. Among the better known: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which utilized many of the Mary Poppins creators, including songwriters Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi and director Robert Stevenson. The Lansbury film even co-starred Poppins' David Tomlinson, who in the 1964 Julie Andrews classic played the children's father, Mr. Banks.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks isn't quite in Poppins' league, but actually is quite entertaining and a bit darker than the earlier movie. It is set in 1940's England during the London Blitz in World War II, and the villains are Nazis.

Bedknobs ran nearly 2 1/2 hours hours when it originally premiered in 1971, but Disney quickly shorted the film to 117 minutes for its general release. That's the version most people remember, but nearly 20 years ago the studio restored much of the edited footage for home video. The film's new Blu-ray contains the shorter general release version, along with the edited footage as bonus material.

Disney Blu-ray has also released Tarzan (1999), Hercules (1997) and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers (2004). Each retails for $30 and all films (except the Ichabod and Mr. Toad/Fun and Fancy Free package) include digital copies.

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