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Mulan: 2 Movie Collection Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 03 2013 - 09:37 AM

When Disney feature animation projects in the late 1990s didn’t continue to be the slam-dunks at the box-office that Aladdin and The Lion King had been, the studio began hedging its bets a bit by filling its animated features with just about everything that could be conceivably tossed into the mix: drama, slapstick comedy, music, romance, action, even anachronisms as long as the additions made the films entertaining. Mulan, a supremely enjoyable movie, sometimes seems overwhelmed by all its ingredients, and the result is a somewhat lopsided concoction: funny and exciting and beautifully, moodily drawn but a little desperate in its desire to please. Its 2005 made-for home video sequel offers less exciting and more prosaic entertainment, but fans of the first one will likely enjoy seeing the story continued.







Mulan: 2 Movie Collection (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Barry Cook, Tony Bancroft/Darrell Rooney, Lynne Southerland

Studio: Disney
Year: 1998/2005
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1/1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 87/79 minutes
Rating: G
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 English, 5.1 French, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH,. Spanish, French, others


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 39.99



Release Date: March 12, 2013

Review Date: March 3, 2013




The Films


Mulan – 4/5


The story of Mulan is based on ancient Chinese folklore about China’s own Joan of Arc, a well meaning only child (Ming-Na Wen, singing voice of Lea Salonga) who represents her family in a deadly war against the invading Hun army led by the cunningly ruthless Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer). In the film, she masquerades as a man and eats, sleeps, and bathes as one of them knowing Chinese culture would never allow her to serve in the army. It should come as no surprise that she is instrumental in defeating the army (twice!) and freeing China from the control of the barbarous Huns. Disney’s scripters (all five of them) resist the temptation of making Mulan’s focus the attraction she feels for the head of the Chinese army Shang (B.D. Wong, singing voice of Donny Osmond). Though a romance seems imminent as the story concludes, the film doesn’t use romance as its reason to be, something decidedly different for a Disney animated tale.


The music certainly doesn’t make it memorable. The song score is not penned by Alan Menken, a Disney mainstay during the decade of the 1990s, and the resulting tunes by Matthew Wilder are serviceable without being memorable. (Oddly, the best song occurs over the final credits, “True to Your Heart.”) That leaves a handful of other ballads that are performed outstandingly by such powerhouse singers as Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond, but none of which stay with you after the film concludes. The magical Menken touch, found in tunes from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is greatly missed. David Zippel’s lyrics, though, are up to his usual witty standards. However, the film drops its musical ambitions about halfway through the film with the warriors’ “A Girl Worth Fighting For” making the last half notably free of tunes.  Apart from that anomaly, there is another glaring weakness: it’s in Disney’s reliance on a comedy foil amid the dramatic tensions of the piece. Since Robin Williams worked so well in Aladdin and Danny DeVito almost equally so in the underrated Hercules, why not Eddie Murphy this time out? Sadly, though Murphy’s patter as an apprentice dragon is funny and fast-paced, the jive talking, smart aleck persona seems totally out of place in ancient China and quite at odds with the seriousness of the movie’s tone. (Years of his shenanigans in the Shrek films have gotten us used to his animated persona, but he sometimes intrudes on important story points with his motor mouth.) Add in the motley collection of international accents for the Chinese warriors (Harvey Fierstein’s Brooklyn dialect anachronistically stands out), and the film sometimes seems all over the map.


Disney’s approach to the animation this time is an extreme stylized palette. Even more than in Hercules, the lines are sharp and slanting rather than full and curving as in Beauty or The Lion King. The backgrounds often seem done in watercolors, and in a Chinese-oriented story, it’s probably the best choice for setting mood and tone. Among the most memorable moments in the film are the musical training montage “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” the astounding visuals of the invading Hun army crossing a snow covered plain, and the celebratory fireworks scene at the climax with thousands of people seen from above. The combination of line animation and computer generated graphics in these crowd scenes never fails to inspire awe.


Mulan II – 3/5


With the Mongols threatening to invade China, the Emperor (Pat Morita) attempts to forge a bond between China and a neighboring province by marrying his three daughters Mei (Lucy Liu), Ting Ting (Sandra Oh), and Su (Lauren Tom) to sons of the province’s king. He chooses (now) General Shang (B.D. Wong) and his fiancé Mulan (Ming-Na, singing voice of Lea Salonga) to escort his daughters safely to the province. Naturally Shang brings his three compatriots with him as an honor guard: Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe), and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo), and on the journey the three men fall for the princesses and they with the three bumbling soldiers. This makes Shang angry, but the situation between him and Mulan becomes even more strained by interference from Mulan’s dragon guardian Mushu (Mark Moseley) who’s doing everything he can to split the couple up so he can continue being Mulan’s guardian, a post he’ll lose when they marry.


As the original Mulan dealt very little with romance at all in its exciting story of familial and nationalistic loyalty, this sequel makes up for that in spades since almost the entire plot revolves around various romantic entanglements between the sexes (the three buddies are played for laughs in their romantic pursuits of the three lovely princesses, but the Mulan-Shang storyline is tediously sincere and rather mawkish). There’s only a bit of action with a sneak Mongol attack late in the movie; otherwise, those averse to the sickly sweet ardor of these passionate bunglers should stay safely away. Once again, the film gives signs of being a musical with three musical numbers in the film’s first half (“Lesson #1,” the repeated “A Girl Worth Fighting For” from the first film, and “Like That Girl” are as good as anything in the first movie), and then the notion of songs gets dropped completely as in the original. The returning voices are all first-rate, and Mark Moseley does a very good Eddie Murphy impression as Mushu even if what he has to say isn't nearly as crazy. And new additions Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, and Lauren Tom are all just fine as well.




Video Quality

5/5


The original film is framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image is pristine and gorgeous throughout with the lines all solid and without a trace of shimmer. Color is deeply saturated without the oranges blooming (though they get close). There is no banding to be seen at all in this pristine picture. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.


Mulan II is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The animation is much less detailed with the small budget of a home video enterprise, of course, but colors are deeply saturated (yellows are especially eye-catching and nicely handled), and the lines are solid without any twitter. There is also no banding to be found. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Quality

5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers superb fidelity throughout. Music (background score by Jerry Goldsmith) sweeps the listener up with its wide expanse through the soundstage, but it never overwhelms the voices in the song sequences. There are impressive pans through the soundstage as the hordes sweep through the frame. Dialogue has been wonderfully recorded and has mostly been placed in the center channel with an occasional bit of directionalized dialogue where appropriate.


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does very well with its mixture of music, dialogue, and sound effects. Though a much less sophisticated recording, there are no weaknesses present. The orchestra never overpowers the singers, and the score by Joel McNeely gets nice placement through the entire soundfield. There’s even a bit of directionalized dialogue in the mix.



Special Features

4/5


The audio commentary for Mulan is by its directors Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft and producer Pam Coats. Coats spent five years on the project and has many stories to tell about research and development of the story across many changes of story and songs. It’s an interesting commentary track.


All of the bonus material for both films is presented in 480i.


There are seven deleted scenes for Mulan which can be watched individually or in a 22 ½-minute montage.


Mulan Fun Facts” is a 2 ¼-minute montage from the film with superimposed trivia about the movie.


“The Journey Begins” includes four production vignettes including the initial planning of Mulan with a three week trip to China (6 ¾ minutes), the “Ballad of Mulan” which tells the story in verse (5 ¼ minutes), 1995 production reel in rough animation (2 ½ minutes), and the 1996 production reel in more finished animation (2 minutes).


“Story Artists’ Journey” includes two vignettes: “Finding Mulan (7 minutes) and a storyboard-to-film comparison (1 ½ minutes).


The Design section includes a 5 ½-minute featurette featuring the directors, the art director, the producer, and the production designer talking about the look of the movie, a 3 ¾-minute piece about design for the various characters, and the “Ballad of Color” which finds the directors, the art director and production designer talking 4 ½ minutes about the use of watercolors.


The Production section shows the four stages that the scenes go through: story sketches, rough animation, clean up animation and effects, and finished color. Then the disc presents two sequences in each of these four stages: “Mushu Awakens” and “Matchmaker Meets Mulan.”


The Digital Production section includes details on the Hun charge (4 ¾ minutes) and Digital Dim Sum (4 minutes).


There are five music videos for three of the songs: “I’ll Make a Man Out of You by Jackie Chan (3 ¼ minutes), “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera (3 ½ minutes) and Lucero (3 ½ minutes), and “True to Your Heart” by Raven (3 ¾ minutes) and 98 Degrees/Stevie Wonder (4 ¼ minutes).


“The Songs of Mulan features the producer, the story editor, the directors, and composer Matthew Wilder and lyricist David Zippel discussing the placement of songs in the story for 5 ¼ minutes.


Mulan’s International Journey” discusses the casting of voice talent around the world for the thirty-five foreign language versions of the movie. This runs 5 ¾ minutes.


A performance of “Down to Business” is presented in a multi-language presentation running for 3 ¼ minutes.


The disc features promo trailers in 1080p for Monsters University and The Little Mermaid 3D.


Mulan II gets three bonus items:


“Voices of Mulan II is a 3-minute piece introducing the directors of the film who note the return of some of the voices from the original plus some new faces as well.


There are four deleted scenes which must be viewed individually running 4 ½, 1 ¾, 2, and 1 ¾ minutes respectively. All are in pencil sketch form.


The music video of “Like That Girl” is performed by Atomic Kitten. It runs 2 ¾ minutes.


The second and third discs in the case are DVDs of each individual movie.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


Mulan is a very entertaining Disney animated feature, and its made-for-home video sequel continues the story a month later to decent effect. The Blu-ray is a handsome upgrade to the image and sound quality of the original releases even if there are no new bonus features included. Recommended!




Matt Hough

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#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 03 2013 - 12:32 PM

Two more important voices worth noting...


Marni Nixon as the singing voice of Grandmother Fa, the speaking voice of whom is June Foray, best known as the voices of a multitude of animated short characters.


RAH


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#3 of 24 OFFLINE   jim_falconer

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Posted March 03 2013 - 12:55 PM

Great review Matt...this one will certainly be on my radar.


#4 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted March 03 2013 - 02:02 PM

Someone please explain to me why this is exactly opposite of the Hunchback of Notre Dame release? With Mulan the theatrical feature is 1.66:1 and made-for-video sequel is 1.78:1. With Hunchback the theatrical feature is 1.78:1 with the made-for-video sequel at 1.66:1. I really don't care what AR they put the video sequels in, but why can't there be some consistency with the regular animated features? From The Rescuers forward, (with the exception of the 'scope films) they have all been animated at 1.66:1 but this is how they ended up on Blu-ray: The Rescuers - 1.66:1 The Fox and the Hound - 1.66:1 The Great Mouse Detective - 1.78:1 The Rescuers Down Under - 1.66:1 Beauty and the Beast - 1.78:1 The Lion King - 1.78:1 Pocahontas - 1.78:1 The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 1.78:1 Mulan - 1.66:1 Treasure Planet - 1.66:1 Home on the Range - 1.78:1

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Bryan Tuck

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Posted March 04 2013 - 11:23 AM

Thanks for the review, Matt. I always enjoyed Mulan, though I've actually never seen the sequel. I agree that the songs aren't especially memorable (and they're mostly unnecessary), but I think Jerry Goldsmith's orchestral score is one of the best ever for a Disney animated film.
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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted March 04 2013 - 01:11 PM

Originally Posted by MattH. 



The music certainly doesn’t make it memorable. The song score is not penned by Alan Menken, a Disney mainstay during the decade of the 1990s, and the resulting tunes by Matthew Wilder are serviceable without being memorable. (Oddly, the best song occurs over the final credits, “True to Your Heart.”) That leaves a handful of other ballads that are performed outstandingly by such powerhouse singers as Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond, but none of which stay with you after the film concludes. The magical Menken touch, found in tunes from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is greatly missed. David Zippel’s lyrics, though, are up to his usual witty standards. However, the film drops its musical ambitions about halfway through the film with the warriors’ “A Girl Worth Fighting For” making the last half notably free of tunes. 


Matt:  I agree with most of your points about the music of Mulan.  The Goldsmith score is terrific.  Alan Menken is always missed when he's not involved.  A Girl With Fighting For is great fun.


But to say the music doesn't make it memorable or that the tunes of Matthew Wilder here are not memorable certainly doesn't hold true for me.  Especially Reflection.  Besides a beautiful melody, I have always found Reflection to be one of the great "Disney princess" ballads in the tradition of Part of Your World.  (And, of course, Lea Salonga is one of my all-time favorite female vocalists.)  The lyrics of the song really set-up for the audience Mulan's divided purposes in life and her inner struggles.


I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing this on my system.  

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#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H

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Posted March 05 2013 - 08:49 AM

Originally Posted by Mark-P 

Someone please explain to me why this is exactly opposite of the Hunchback of Notre Dame release? With Mulan the theatrical feature is 1.66:1 and made-for-video sequel is 1.78:1. With Hunchback the theatrical feature is 1.78:1 with the made-for-video sequel at 1.66:1. I really don't care what AR they put the video sequels in, but why can't there be some consistency with the regular animated features? From The Rescuers forward, (with the exception of the 'scope films) they have all been animated at 1.66:1 but this is how they ended up on Blu-ray:

The Rescuers - 1.66:1
The Fox and the Hound - 1.66:1
The Great Mouse Detective - 1.78:1
The Rescuers Down Under - 1.66:1
Beauty and the Beast - 1.78:1
The Lion King - 1.78:1
Pocahontas - 1.78:1
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 1.78:1
Mulan - 1.66:1
Treasure Planet - 1.66:1
Home on the Range - 1.78:1

Actually, from Sword and the Stone onward (I'm not going to discuss 101 Dalmatians, as that seems to be a hornet's nest), most features were composed in a loose 1.75:1 AR, but hard matted at 1.66:1. When CAPS came into play in the late 80s/early 90s, with The Rescuers Down under being the first feature produced entirely in the CAPS workflow, the native AR of that process was 1.66:1. Native AR is meaningless, though; directors using CAPS had a great degree of flexibility, in the same way directors using VistaVision in the 50s could compose for anything from 1.66:1 up to 2:1. This is the only way to account for the discrepancies. Consider it as analogous to the Blade series and the Alien series; in both cases, you had a director who preferred to shoot flat rather than scope (Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron, respectively), so you have a film in each series that is presented 1.85:1 rather than 2.35/2.4:1. Granted, Cameron now routinely films in a 2.4:1 ratio, but it's also a question of what ratio best serves the film and its subject matter.


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#8 of 24 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted March 05 2013 - 09:09 AM

Mulan is one of my favorite animated films from the 1990s. Thanks for this good review.

#9 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark-P

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:20 PM

Actually, from Sword and the Stone onward (I'm not going to discuss 101 Dalmatians, as that seems to be a hornet's nest), most features were composed in a loose 1.75:1 AR, but hard matted at 1.66:1. When CAPS came into play in the late 80s/early 90s, with The Rescuers Down under being the first feature produced entirely in the CAPS workflow, the native AR of that process was 1.66:1. Native AR is meaningless, though; directors using CAPS had a great degree of flexibility, in the same way directors using VistaVision in the 50s could compose for anything from 1.66:1 up to 2:1. This is the only way to account for the discrepancies. Consider it as analogous to the Blade series and the Alien series; in both cases, you had a director who preferred to shoot flat rather than scope (Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron, respectively), so you have a film in each series that is presented 1.85:1 rather than 2.35/2.4:1. Granted, Cameron now routinely films in a 2.4:1 ratio, but it's also a question of what ratio best serves the film and its subject matter.

I have to disagree. From 1961 through 1973 (101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood) were all shot open-matte with a native aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. They were however intended to be matted at 1.75:1.

#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:51 PM

Originally Posted by Mark-P 


I have to disagree. From 1961 through 1973 (101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood) were all shot open-matte with a native aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. They were however intended to be matted at 1.75:1.

I may be recalling this incorrectly, but I believe there was incomplete image outside of about 1.66, going to the edges of 1.37.

RAH


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#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Escapay

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:53 PM

The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, and The Great Mouse Detective also were open-matte 1.37:1 films that were matted down to 1.75:1 for theatres. If you watch the "Under the Hat Villains" featurette on the original DVD for The Rescuers, you'll notice that the film clips reveal more information on the top and bottom, while losing some at the sides. Posted Image The 1981 television special "The Illusion of Life" shows the filmmakers watching a scene from The Fox and the Hound while working in the sound booth, and measuring it out, it's matted in the 1.66:1 to 1.75:1 range when compared to the open-matte 1.33:1 transfers used on pretty much every home video release. The Blu-Ray is the first to actually matte the film for home video, although they did so in 1.66:1, and with some shots incorrectly framed. The cap below is from a fuzzy YouTube video of "The Illusion of Life" compared to the 2006 DVD, but it's just meant to show how the film was matted when in production. I'll try to find the screen cap that a friend of mine sent, showing the Blu-Ray's transfer accidentally revealing the unfinished animation above a matte line. Posted Image And in this last cap for The Great Mouse Detective, the 1.33:1 image is from the "making-of" featurette on the DVD, while the 1.66:1 image is from the 2003 DVD. At the time, I had also made the majority of the cap in black & white to show how much would be seen if it were matted down to 1.75:1 instead of 1.66:1... Posted Image By extension, we should also include The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as an animated-for-1.37:1-but-matted-to-1.75:1 film, since the three shorts were 1.37:1 in their original productions (1966, 1968, and 1974), with the new interstitial animation done in the same ratio to keep it consistent. I haven't found anything to suggest Oliver & Company was in 1.37:1, so that one may be the first Disney animated film that was done natively in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. But all this is not related to Mulan, so let me close this post and just say "Great review!" to MattH. The film is a favorite of mine, and I always have fond memories of watching it with my cousins the day before our trip to Disneyland. I'm looking forward to getting this Blu-Ray, even though it will be losing out on the still galleries from the 2004 DVD, along with the original trailer (which had some pencil animation), which was on the very old Limited Issue/Gold Classic Collection DVD.

#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Escapay

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:53 PM

Double post, sorry!

#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Escapay

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:53 PM

Triple post, sorry!

#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Escapay

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Posted March 05 2013 - 01:59 PM

I have to disagree. From 1961 through 1973 (101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood) were all shot open-matte with a native aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. They were however intended to be matted at 1.75:1.

I may be recalling this incorrectly, but I believe there was incomplete image outside of about 1.66, going to the edges of 1.37.   RAH

I found the images I mentioned in my last post. My friend Karen made it, is this what you're referring to, RAH? Posted Image Posted Image (it's been minimized)

#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Chris Farmer

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Posted March 05 2013 - 02:23 PM

Shame there's no way to just get the original. I have no desire for Mulan II whatsoever.

#16 of 24 OFFLINE   BJQ1972

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Posted March 05 2013 - 09:02 PM

Shame there's no way to just get the original. I have no desire for Mulan II whatsoever.

The UK release is Mulan only.

#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted March 06 2013 - 03:04 PM

I actually admire Disney for combining these films, and others, into the same package.  They're not milking the public with two different releases, it's being quietly acknowledged the second movie won't get the traction on BD the first will (same with Rescuers, Pocahontas, Cinderella III, Fantasia, Hunchback) and it's a nice little package.


#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 07 2013 - 12:12 AM

I agree. Also, the movies have separate menus once you choose which one you want to see, so one need never see these sequels if he doesn't want to. They're on the disc but as separate entities.


#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted March 07 2013 - 01:35 AM

My only problem right now is the pricing.  I understand there's two movies here and in other packs, but it looks like the cheapest they will be on release day is $21.99.  My Amazon pre-order is hanging in the balance as we speak.



#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted March 07 2013 - 05:50 AM

Originally Posted by Jason_V 

My only problem right now is the pricing.  I understand there's two movies here and in other packs, but it looks like the cheapest they will be on release day is $21.99.  My Amazon pre-order is hanging in the balance as we speak.


+1

I have pre-ordered both Mulan and Hunchback.  Each is at a painful $27.99 pricepoint (but I must have these immediately!) at Amazon.  That's $55.98 before tax.

That's a big difference from $43.98 before tax.  Plus, I have a $5 BB RZ certificate.  I think I might beed to cut and run if they don't drop the price soon.  My only concern is that I mihg tnot be able to get to BB on Tuesday...and who knows how many copies of these they'll be getting in-store?  Even if they are advertised in their flyers...


There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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