BACKSTORY: Click the links below to see reviews/previews for recent Disney home video releases on Blu-ray and DVD. This page is updated frequently, so be sure to check back for reviews, preview & bonus clips, as well as interviews and other fun facts about the latest Disney home video releases.
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“THE JUNGLE BOOK” (1967), available at Amazon.com. This is an excellent set. The movie has been digitally restored, looking better than ever. The story of Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera is well-known by now; watching it after all these years has increased my appreciation of it. I highly recommend watching the Making-of documentaries first, as they will also enhance your viewing experience. Especially enlightening is the story of how Walt changed the Rudyard Kipling tale and why (and to learn that he actually returned to the original text for his inspiration of how to end his version). The ending also echoes “Casablanca” somewhat, an analogy that was naturally lost on me as a child when I first saw it. It is also somewhat sad to see that this was the last film to have Disney's indelible stamp on it due to his death, yet also inspiring to hear the animators talk about what they put into the film as well as future animators who were inspired as youngsters by viewing it. Different concepts along the way are interesting to see, and not surprising to learn that Phil Harris put much of his own personality into the dialogue and characterization of Baloo.
All-New Blu-ray Introductions by Diane Disney Miller and Richard M. Sherman Bonus Features: Alternate Ending – Mowgli and The Hunter
@DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity
Music, Memories & Mowgli: A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman, Diane
Disney Miller and Floyd Norman
Disney Intermission – Bear-E-Oke hosted by Baloo
Bear-E-Oke Sing A Long
I Wanna Be Like You – Hangin’ Out At Disney’s Animal Kingdom
DVD Bonus Features:
All the Classic bonus features included in the original DVD release
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 formatted for 16x9 TV screens
Sound: Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English); Original Theatrical Mix (English); Dolby® Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (French and Spanish)
DVD: Original Theatrical Mix (English); Dolby® Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (English, French and Spanish)
Languages: English, French and Spanish • Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
“MARY POPPINS" 50TH ANNIVERSARY on Blu-ray/DVD
Available on Amazon.com. The 1964 classic is based on the books of P. L. Travers, with a few Disney liberties thrown in. Travers' nanny, Mary Poppins, is somewhat more harsh and unpleasant in the books than in the film version. However, it is obvious that she is hiding a heart of gold inside and that she truly does love the children she takes care. Two of the children did not make the transition from the book, but they are definitely not missed. Julie Andrews is able to bring out the many facets of Mary Poppins without compromising the character, and of course her voice is legendary.
In a nutshell, the story is about a magical nanny who swoops in to take care of the Banks children, Jane & Michael, and also help their father realize what he is missing with them by focusing primarily on his job at the bank instead. Along the way she treats the children to adventures with a street performer/chimney sweep, Bert (Dick Van Dyke) as well as her Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn) who loves to laugh. One of the most memorable and touching sequences is the "Feed the Birds" numbers, with veteran actress Jane Darwell making her final screen appearance. One of Walt Disney's favorite songs, it didn't really appeal to me as a child, but the older I get, the more I understand its powerful message. As Travers' straitlaced-acting nanny, Julie Andrews is absolute perfection, giving just enough of a smirk to let the audience know that she is anything but straitlaced, and is just as much of a softy as the rest of us. The chemistry between Andrews and Van Dyke is sublime. Without overdoing the romance angle, Walt was able to let his stars display an affection for each other through the "Jolly Holiday" musical number. The Sherman Brothers whipped up some of their most memorable tunes for the film including "Jolly Holiday," "Spoonful of Sugar," and "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
It is hard to believe this movie is almost 50 years old, and even harder to believe when you watch it on Blu-ray. The clarity and the detail are mindblowing. Not that everyone needs to see the pores on Dick Van Dyke's face, but from the very beginning of the film, they are right there on your television set for you to count. On this new Blu-ray release, the only time that the clarity of the picture suffers at all would be during the animated sequences and any other footage that utilized the sodium vapor process. Since both of these types of effects required a re-shooting of the original footage in order to combine them, it is understandable that a small loss of detail would occur. Based on some of the extras on the Blu-ray though, it would appear that the Disney Corporation still has much (if not all) of the original live-action footage; this would lead me to believe that through the magic of digital, the film quality could be improved by re-combining the pieces together. Still, a lot of time and expense that isn't really required for a practically-perfect film!
EXTRAS ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY BLU-RAY RELEASE
* Disney on Broadway featuring:
- “Mary Poppins from Page to Stage”: Follow the story of Mary Poppins from book to Broadway as the creative team and cast prepare to take the long running show on tour. This is an excellent documentary, featuring interviews from all over the globe: Richard Sherman at the piano in Beverly Hills, Cameron Mackintosh in London, and leads Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee at Sardi’s in New York. Learn how author P.L. Travers was so annoyed with Disney's film that she specified no Americans involved in the stage production (yet composers George Stiles & Anthony Drewe still heavily relied on Richard Sherman and did their best to make their songs meld seamlessly with the Sherman classics). You’ll also follow Scenic & Costume Designer Bob Crowley’s journey from the illustrated page (his inspiration) to the London Sets and then the changes that he has made for the touring company. VERY well done piece!
- Step in Time: The Broadway cast of Mary Poppins performs the number "Step in Time" from the show. Although it does not quite have the pizzazz of the movie (what a tough act to follow!) it is still highly imaginative. The use of makeup/costume to make the chimney sweeps appear to be black and white truly makes Mary Poppins stand out in her red dress.
* Audio Commentary: with stars Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice and songwriter Richard Sherman
* “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins” (50:46): The definitive behind-the-scenes look at howthe film came into being.
The Gala World Premiere (17:45)
The Gala World Premiere Party (6:23).
Movie Magic (7:05): A look at the special effect techniques used to bring the magical world of Mary Poppins to life.
Deconstruction of Scene: "Jolly Holiday" (13:03).
Deconstruction of a Scene: "Step in Time" (4:52).
Dick Van Dyke Make-up Test (1:07).
Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer (2:54)
Original Theatrical Theatrical (4:14)
Julie Andrews premiere greeting trailer (0:39)
Original TV Spot #1 (0:32)
Original TV Spot #2 (0.33)
1966 Re-Issue Trailer (1:02)
1973 Re-Issue Trailer #1 (1:12)
1973 Re-Issue Trailer #2 (1:02)
Music & More
Magical Musical Reunion Featuring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke And Richard Sherman (17:19): Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and songwriter Richard Sherman reminisce about making Mary Poppins and its music.
Deleted Song: "Chimpanzoo" (1:38): A reconstruction of a song that did not appear in the movie, using original storyboard and concept art, accompanied by a new rendition of the song performed by co- composer Richard Sherman. I can see why this one didn’t make it into the finished film.
Disney Song Selection (32:55, HD).
Bonus Short: 'The Cat That Looked At a King' (9:52): Live action and animation based on a chapter from P.L. Travers' sequel “Mary Poppins Opens the Door.” Julie Andrews hosts this short done in the style of the whimsical chalk drawings from the movie “Mary Poppins.” Vocal talents of Sarah Ferguson, Tracey Ullman, and David Ogden Stiers.
New Bonus Features (Blu-ray & HD Digital):
Mary-OKE’s – New piece highlights popular music from the film, specifically “Spoon Full of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” Step In Time,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and allows viewer to sing-along to animated words that display onscreen in unique ways.
Becoming Mr. Sherman (TBC by theatrical team): Join actor Jason Schwartzman as he sits down for a fun and musical-filled afternoon with Richard Sherman. In the new film, SAVING MR BANKS, Schwartzman portrays the Disney Legend... half of the famous composing team, the Sherman Brothers who wrote all the classic songs from MARY POPPINS, as well as many other favorites. Hear heartwarming, revealing stories about the making of this beloved musical, get more insight on working with Walt Disney, and get a unique sneak peek into SAVING MR BANKS, starring Tom Hanks, and Emma Thompson.
Feature Run Time: Approximately 140 minutes Rated: G Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Sound: Blu-ray – English: 7.1 DTS-HDMA, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Original Theatrical Mix; Spanish and French: 5.1 Dolby Digital; DVD – English: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Original Theatrical Mix; Spanish and French: 5.1 Dolby Digital Languages/Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Quality to the Studio: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman remember how kindly they were treated on this film and even break into song (and dance)!
Dick's Lunchtime Joke: Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke reminisce about Dick' antics when costumed up as Mr. Dawes Senior on the Disney lot.
Walt's Bag of Trick: Karen Dotrice (Jane Banks) remembers her utter delight at the on-set magic she experience as a child.
Mary-oke Bonus Feature: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: Sing along to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the the Mary-oke Bonus Feature!
Spoonful of Sugar
Mary Poppins Arrives
Feed the Birds
“The Little Mermaid” Diamond Edition
Available on Amazon.com. Looking better than ever in High-Definition on Blu-ray, "The Little Mermaid" was the movie that literally brought Disney Animation back to life. Moved off the Walt Disney Studio Lot and relegated to a few trailers on Flower Street, the core team believed in this project and created a magical movie that still stands the test of time and deserves to be put alongside the original Disney classics that Walt inspired. Ariel is a young mermaid princess who yearns to live on the land, especially after she rescues Prince Eric. Deceived by the evil squid Ursula, she is given the opportunity to grow legs and meet Eric. She will be allowed to continue her life above the water only if she can get Eric to fall in love. By stealing her voice and disguising herself as a brunette beauty, Ursula is able to trick the Prince into marrying her instead. What will Ariel's fate be?
Some of the more recent Disney animated films are plagued by stories that seem artificial and contrived. While the visuals are still amazing, many of these movies lack the "heart" of the original Disney animated collection. "The Little Mermaid" does not suffer from this affliction. Although it has been heavily marketed and spawned a number of toys, etc., the movie was a do-or-die effort from the animators who totally believed in it and boy, does it show. Howard Ashman was the driving force and heart behind the movie, and his ability to make his songs push the storyline forward were integral to the movie's success. Jodi Benson's sweet voice is another reason for Ariel's (and the movie's) success.
All-New "Part of Your World" Music Video performed by Carly Rae Jepsen: She does a nice job, and it's a cute video, but it can't really compare to Jodi Benson's version.
@ Disney Animation: An interesting featurette that shows the next generation of animators at Disney. A very positive piece that shows a family-feeling existing in Burbank with mentoring from some of the older animators. The focus is on Ron Clements and John Musker.
Disney Intermission (Crab-E-OKE Sing-Along): Karaoke feature with Sebastian the Crab for "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea," "Poor Unfortunate Souls," "Les Poisson," and "Kiss the Girl."
Deleted Character—Harold, The Merman: Short deleted sequence of Harold, who was one of the "Poor Unfortunate Souls" who was tricked by Ursula. The scene is a bit unsettling, and probably just as well that it didn't make it into the final film.
The Real Little Mermaid—Live Action Reference Model: Going back to a technique used in the classic Disney animated films, Directors Ron Clements and John Musker discuss how they used live actors as reference. This helped the animators improve the emotion and realism of the characters in "The Little Mermaid." Especially interesting to see the footage of Sherri Stoner, the actress who played Ariel. Much of Ariel's appeal is owed to Sherri and the little improvisations that she came up with to make Ariel more interesting. The economy forced on this process for "Mermaid" is also detailed, showing just how creative the team behind the film had to be to get this groundbreaking movie made.
Part of Her World—Jodi Benson’s Voyage To New Fantasyland: The voice behind Ariel, Jodi Benson, takes her husband and two children to Walt Disney World to experience the New Fantasyland as well as The Little Mermaid attraction. Jodi is also on hand to sign a picture from "The Little Mermaid" that will hang in the lobby of the recently opened Animation Hotel at WDW.
Howard’s Lecture: If you've seen the documentary, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" from 2009 have probably seen much of this footage. If not, it is an interesting lecture by Howard Ashman, the lyricist, Executive Producer, and pretty much the heart behind "The Little Mermaid." He discusses the songs for the movie, his background, and his thoughts on animation's relation to musical theater at a lunch-time lecture at the Studio. Absolutely fascinating.
Classic DVD Bonus Features
Treasure's Untold—The Making of the Little Mermaid: Detailing how animation was almost dead at the Disney Studio when "The Little Mermaid" got the green light. Much of what is here was documented in greater (and a bit grittier) detail in "Waking Sleeping Beauty."
Storm Warning—The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit: Interesting to see how some of the classics, such as "Pinocchio" inspired the storm sequence from "The Little Mermaid." Also very cool to see the sketches from 1941 by Kay Nielsen when the studio originally considered doing "The Little Mermaid." These also provided visual inspiration for how the final film was styled.
The Little Mermaid—The Story Behind The Story: Details the differences between the Hans Christian Andersen Story, the 1941 Disney version that was never completed, and the final animated film. It might come as a surprise that the 1941 Disney version was probaby the darkest of the three.
Under The Sea Early Presentation Reel: An extremely rough version of an initial sequence from the film.
Original Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes with Introductions
Disney Song Selection
Audio Commentary with Ron Clements, John Musker, and Alan Menken
"Kiss the Girl" Music Video performed by Ashley Tisdale (best known as Sharpay from "High School Musical"): Harmless fun with Ashley mugging it up attempting to get a guy to kiss her.
"The Little Match Girl" with intro: Another classic tale (and a real tearjerker...be forewarned!) by Hans Christian Andersen.
DisneyPedia—Life Under the Sea: The real creatures that inspired the ones in the movie.
Under The Sea Adventure—A Virtual Ride Inspired by Disney Imagineers: One part of this discusses the Little Mermaid attraction that got shot down, and then gives you a virtual ride through what could have been. The attraction that was finally built at Disney California Adventure should have followed more closely to this original concept, which has the excitement and innovation that is sadly missing from the the finished version.
83 Minutes • Video: 1080p • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 formatted for 16x9 TV screens
Audio: Blu-ray-7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English); Dolby® Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Languages: English, French, and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
“Once Upon A Time” Season Two on Blu-ray/DVD
Available on Amazon.com. Season 2 opens with more than one bang. Magic has come to Storybrooke, and a host of other characters join the regulars that fans were introduced to in Season 1. If you thought everything was going to be wrapped up all neat and tidy, think again. There are more twists and turns to the plot than you could even begin to imagine. Cora (Barbara Hershey) is back, stealing hearts (literally) and changing forms in order to deceive, while teaming up with Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). Both want revenge: Cora wants to make her daughter, Regina (Lana Parrilla) miserable and Hook wants Gold (Robert Carlyle), the man who severed his hand, dead. Carlyle is the standout in the cast, giving his character (Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin) an amazing amount of likeability, considering he is at fault for so much of what has gone wrong with the heroes and heroines of the story. There are not enough mother-daughter scenes between Barbara Hershey and Lana Parrilla; these two were very well cast, and unfortunately, most of their scenes are apart from one another. Parrilla is also good at bringing vulnerability to her character, Regina/The Evil Queen.
Overall, I would say that this series is in serious danger of jumping the shark and it would appear that the writers knew it. In the final episode of Season 2, the main characters are whisked away together on another journey. As long as there are not too many characters where they are going, Season 3 has the potential to live up to the promise that the series originally delivered.
A Fractured Family Tree – A very fast-paced look at howthe main characters are all related to each other. Talk about a tangled web...as one of the actors states, this is one family that even Ancestry.com would have difficult tracing.
Sincerely, Hook – Colin O'Donoghue (Killian Jones/Captain Hook) talks about how mapped out his character and the inspirations. Delving deeper than the Disney animated version, O'Donoghue wanted the "Once Upon A Time" Captain Hook to be a bit more swashbuckling and romantic.
Girl Power – The female leads of the story are highlighted here, showing their strengths and how they are much more powerful and strong than their fairytale counterparts. And when they merge their strengths...well, as we learn at the end of Season 2, there's just no stopping these women!
The Fairest Bloopers of Them All – Fun flubs and mugging from the cast. Refreshing to see even Barbara Hershey joining in the fun.
Deleted Scenes – Fun to watch, but I can't say that any of these is really missed. Interesting to see some of these without the CGI backgrounds, still in their slightly rough form. Makes you appreciate the quality of the CGI in the finished series.
Audio Commentaries – Join the cast and crew as they share details about what it was like to make each spellbinding episode come to life.
“Oliver and Company" 25th Anniversary Edition On Blu-ray/DVD
Available on Amazon.com. This 1988 was the 27th animated feature to come from the Walt Disney Company. It is somewhat loosely based on the Charles Dickens Oliver Twist story. Set in New York City, this tale is about Oliver (voiced by teen star Joey Lawrence), a homeless kitten who is befriended by Dodger (Billy Joel), a loveable mutt who leads a gang of dogs that must scrounge the NYC streets to get by. The gang is owned by Fagin (Dom Deluise), a down-on-his-luck man who is in debt to a ruthless loan shark named Sykes (Robert Loggia). During a bungled petty-theft attempt, Oliver is adopted by a rich young girl named Jenny (Natalie Gregory). Oliver is quite happy to be in a loving home, but the gang misses him and thinks they need to "rescue" him. Once they get him back, Oliver admits he was happy with Jenny; Fagin sees this as his opportunity to blackmail Jenny's family for the money to repay Sykes. However, even this gets bungled as Fagin's heart warms to Jenny's pleas to get Oliver back. Just as Fagin is about to "do the right thing," the evil Sykes swoops in with his Dobermans and kidnaps Jenny for his own reward. You'll have to watch the film to see how it ends!
"Oliver and Company" does not have the look of a traditional Disney animated film. The characters and story are just fine, but the animation is inconsistent. This was the first Disney film to use computer animation to a higher degree, and the experimentation shows, making it more of a visual hybrid. The style of the movie attempts to mimic the look of "101 Dalmatians" and "The Aristocats," but falls just a bit short. As for the character animation, the emotion and depth that you would expect from Disney is definitely apparent. Oliver the cat is extremely loveable and expressive, and Tito bears all the fun and sass you would expect from a character being voiced by Cheech Marin. My overall opinion of the animation is that it would appear that it was a fresh young team not quite as experienced as the "old regime" of the "Nine Old Men" who created the classic DIsney library that we all know and love. On blu-ray, the picture truly pops.
There are plenty of fun characters here though; Bette Midler voices Georgette, a snooty and vain poodle owned by Jenny who is jealous of Oliver, the family's newcomer. Tito the Chihuahua is my favorite; Cheech Marin's voice and the animators combined their talents to create a very memorable character who has taken a liking to Georgette, although she initially wants nothing to do with a street dog. Dom DeLuise is characteristically over-the-top with Fagin, making it a little difficult to feel much sympathy for his situation. In previous live-action versions of this tale, Fagin is a scoundrel but the actors playing him also give him enough charm and heart that you definitely feel a connnection. Billy Joel does an amazing job as Dodger; Disney was unsure whether he had the chops to do a voice-over; his phone-in audition convinced them, and he is a masterstroke of casting.
There is plenty of talent in this film; Huey Lewis sings the movie's first song played over the credits, "Once Upon a Time in New York City." Georgette's big number, "Perfect Isn't Easy," sung by Midler, was co-written by Barry Manilow. Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters also lends her singing talents to the cast.
"Oliver and Company" is truly a cute movie with a heartwarming tale and memorable characters.
25th Anniversary Edition Extras: Contain much from the previous home video incarnation, but sadly, none have been upgraded to high def. Mercifully, the games were not carried over, but the Oliver & Company scrapbook feature is missed.
* The Making of Oliver & Company (5:30): This vintage documentary (most likely made at the time of the film's release gives a short overview of what went into the creation of the film. Taking 2.5 years to make and over 120,000 cels, this featurette works hard to convince audiences that traditional Disney animation is alive and well, and that computers are just a new tool with which the animators can expand their craft. "Don't look for computers to replace human animators at Disney." Roy Disney pops in to evoke his Uncle Walt, and explains how the animators pushed the computers to their limit by asking what they were capable of. Glen Keane, the supervising animator, explains the part CGI played in Bette Midler's big number, coming down a staircase. Keane breathlessly explains that without computers, the shot of Midler could never have been done in the past. I find this hard to believe when Iooking at the marvels created in the past by Disney's original animation team.
* Disney's Animated Animals (1:27): Another vintage featurette that is more fluff than anything else.
* "Lend A Paw," a 1941 Mickey Mouse cartoon featuring Pluto, who discovers a cute little kitten that quickly takes Pluto's place in Mickey's home. Plagued by jealousy, Pluto's conscience has a battle, as a Pluto Devil and Angel attempt to sway the poor dog to their side. Pluto's jealousy initially wins out, causing Mickey to kick him out of the house. When the kitten falls down the well, Pluto is given the opportunity to redeem himself; which side will he choose?!?
* "Puss Cafe," a 1951 Pluto short that shows a less loveable Pluto than the previous short; this time around, he must defend his territory again from two cats who want to steal his food.
* Sneak Peeks: Disney Junior, Newsies The Musical, Disney Theme Parks, "The Muppets" on Blu-ray, "Return to Never-Land," "Little Mermaid" on Blu-ray, "Planes," "Super Buddies," and a Marvel animation sneak peek.
* Publicity Materials: Original Trailer (1988), TV Spot (1989), Re-release (1996), and "Return of a Classic"
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
“The Sword in the Stone” 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray/DVD
Available on Amazon.com. It is wonderful that this lesser-known film in the Disney vault is getting a special edition; hard to believe it is 50 years old! It has the distinction of being the last animated film to be released while Walt was still alive. Narrated by the loveable Sebastian Cabot ("Family Affair"), it is a truly entertaining tale about magic and coming-of-age. Central to the story is the relationship between Merlin the magician and a boy named Wart, the future King Arthur. Merlin grooms the boy and takes responsibility for his education, culminating in the scene where Wart attempts to pull the (unbeknownst to him) legendary sword from the stone. "The Sword in the Stone" cleaned up at the box office but was not really a hit with the critics. However, it holds up very well, and despite what others have called "cheap animation," it is a beautifully drawn film that obviously patterned itself after Eyvind Earle's work for "Sleeping Beauty." The xerox method used in "Dalmatian" is used here again; it doesn't have the same pristine & clean quality of "Peter Pan," yet it does preserve the fresh sketch quality of what was originally drawn. Just a difference in style; neither better nor worse.
On Blu-ray, this film really sparkles. Colors are bright and detail is crisp. You can even see some of the slight shadow from the film cels on the background. Amazing! The film also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Score, although the songs in the film are definitely less than memorable.
New Alternative Opening: Where Wart Meets Merlin: vintage bw storyboard art is "animated" to give an approximation of how the movie might have begun. Most likely it was removed because it really adds nothing to the plot.
Unfortunately, the rest of the extras were directly imported over from the previous version without a High-Def upgrade:
"Walt Disney Presents: Fantasyland - All About Magic," an excerpt from the BW TV Show, with Walt having a ball going through the Magic Room of the "basement," playing with all kinds of different parlour tricks. The decapitated princess is a little eerie, but it's all very fun. Nice cameo by Snow White's Magic Mirror, too.
2 bonus color movie shorts: Mickey Mouse in "The Brave Little Tailor" and Goofy in "A Knight for a Day."
The Sherman Brothers in a featurette "Music Magic" where they discuss the development of the songs for "Sword in the Stone," as well as tunes that were discarded. The songs from the movie are also able to be accessed directly from this section by name.
Sneak Peeks: Include "Winnie the Pooh" on Blu-ray, "Planes," anti-smoking ad, and "Super Buddies."