wild-things-areBoffo box office for animated fare, plus the big disc sellers, Transformers Season Two reviewed, and an exclusive chat with Sister Act’s Michael Kosarin! Plus Disney historian Christian Renaut needs your help!

It’s been a healthy weekend in terms of box office, with Spike Jonze’s latest, the semi-animated take on Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are proving to have captured audiences’ interest with an impressive $32.5 million opening. Not only did this exceed expectations, but the take helped to push the total revenue for this week’s top ten films to almost 60% higher than the same time frame one year ago. The drop-off seems set to be big though: word of mouth isn’t strong and the film has been criticized for wandering too far from Sendak’s originally more child-friendly book.

Overseas, Disney/Pixar’s Up is leading the way, enjoying a hugely successful international rollout. Although set for DVD and Blu-ray release in just a couple of weeks, Up has only just begun its European release adventure, landing at the number one spot in the UK for two weeks running, grossing more than the numbers two to fifteen films in the chart did combined! This is also the fourth time in its release that it has hit the top spot internationally, having enjoyed a big bow in Italy this past weekend: Up‘s take now stands at almost $600m worldwide, putting it on track to equal or exceed WALL-E and Ratatouille. Ironically given the press aimed at outgoing Disney exec Dick Cook, the Studio’s G-Force is also performing well on the international circuit, pushing $130m to date.

On home video, the big titles are Snow White and Monsters Vs. Aliens, pretty much splitting the markets between them equally. Snow has taken the Blu-ray charts by storm, seeing off The Wizard Of Oz‘s deluxe box by more than half the extra sales, while MvA is enjoying itself atop the DVD sellers list, where Snow White has yet to bow (that disc being released November 24). Interestingly, consumers have been preferring the single-disc and Blu-ray Disc editions of MvA over the two-disc DVD pack that bundles in Bob’s new 3D adventure…seems audiences are getting wise to the Studios’ double-dipping, or are more interested to wait for true 3D in the home before splashing out on extras bundles.

Of more of a niche interest, perhaps, is Shout! Factory’s release of Transformers: Season Two, Volume One 25th Anniversary Edition, which is the subject of Rodney Figueiredo’s latest review. I was too old when the Transformers first came along to think of them as anything other than fiddly little toys that broke if you got too vigorous with them, and didn’t hold the toy commercial TV episodes in any much higher regard, but I must admit that Rodney’s enthusiasm for the series and its many surprisingly twisty and turned plots does sound like there was more thought gone into them than meets the eye, and Rodney notes the “complex storylines” and “plenty of entertainment value. I would rate this season among the best of the show”.

Also today, Jeremie Noyer speaks exclusively to Alan Menken’s musical director Michael Kosarin about their latest collaboration: the stage musical adaptation of Sister Act, currently playing in London’s West End. The show is unique for various reasons, not least that Disney (whose Touchstone made the original Whoopi Goldberg movie) has remained hands-off, though most exciting is the hints of projects to come: Hunchback on Broadway, anyone!?

Jeremie also has a request today, from the Disney historian and author Christian Renaut, whose current project is Disney’s Greatest Moments. Christian is conducting the ultimate survey into what makes Disney’s famous scenes so great, and what could be the greatest moment in all of Disney. You can get involved and find his full message and suggested criteria below!

Stay tooned! — Ben.

Disney’s Greatest Moments: A Message From Christian Renaut:

Dear Disney historians, Disney artists or more largely Disney employees or former Disney artists, gallery owners or relatives of deceased Disney artists, artists working in the animation business, this message is for you!

After having published two French books on Disney animation (From Snow White To Hercules, prefaced by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and The Disney Heroines, prefaced by Glen Keane), I am starting in earnest work on my third project. Its title will probably be The 20 Greatest Moments of Disney Feature Animation.

That’s where you might get involved. Instead of imposing my standpoint, I intend to do a kind of poll or survey if you are willing to help. The book will be an analysis of 20 great “moments”. It is on purpose that I didn’t use the word “sequence” or “scene” as I want it to be very free, although we may expect the moment to last a certain length of time.

So, I’m asking you to select your 20 favorites, justifying, explaining and also giving details or anecdotes about these moments of Disney animation. For instance if you were a young artist working with the old timers, I’m sure you have a lot to tell.

The criteria are all yours. You may judge it from a layout standpoint, or because of a wonderful storyboarding, or a great song, or an outstanding animation, or because it is very funny or moving, or because of the coloring/styling, or the backgrounds, or because you are stunned by the special effects, etc… But we could also think that an excellent combination of most of these criteria might lead to THE choice.

Yes, I know how silly it may sound to have to just select 20 moments when some features like… (oops – stop – no influencing anyone!) already contain at least 20 great moments. That’s why I have decided to split it all into two legitimate parts as you will see: 20 ‘greats’ when Walt Disney was alive and, later on, I will do another investigation for the other part: the features since his death. For now, I’m asking you to focus on this list:

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
The Reluctant Dragon
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Make Mine Music
Song Of The South
Fun And Fancy Free
Melody Time
The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr Toad
Alice In Wonderland
Peter Pan
Lady And The Tramp
Sleeping Beauty
One Hundred And One Dalmatians
The Sword In The Stone
Mary Poppins
The Jungle Book

I will try to make a book with new information, as usual, based on interviews, but also with hardly ever or never-before seen artwork. It will surely be long in the making, but never mind! Thanks in advance for your participation; please think it over and send your mails to christian.renaut(at)wanadoo.fr