Family films generally don’t get much of an extensive treatment on DVD, so it’s nice–and quite surprising, considering its soft box office–to see Warner Bros. include a larger than usual amount of extras on the disc for this delightful film. The menu design isn’t anything extraordinary (still, clean, and functional, with William Ross’ score in the background), but they make way for a few interesting supplements. In addition to the usual theatrical trailer, here is a short reel of rather brief deleted scenes, which can be viewed with commentary by director Jay Russell. Russell also has a running commentary for the feature, and his passion for the film and Willie Morris’ original book shines through; in addition to addressing the difficulties of working with children and animals, he also shares a number of interesting anecdotes about on-set happenings (particularly of interest is when the shooting of a scene in an inner city cemetery had to be halted when the sound of random gunfire was heard) and meetings with the late Morris, who died not long after seeing the finished film.
Less enlightening is the second commentary, with young star Frankie Muniz and animal trailer Mathilde DeCagney. This is no reflection on the participants; Muniz is charmingly enthusiastic as he provides perspective from a child actor on his first film; and DeCagney offers much insight into the work of a Hollywood animal handler. The problem with this commentary is that, contrary to what the box says, it is not feature-length–after 30 minutes, suddenly Muniz announces that this is the end of the audio program, and the two sign off. I don’t know the exact reasons for this abbreviated session, but the two didn’t seem to run out of things to say. Perhaps it would’ve been better if Muniz and DeCagney joined Russell on his track, or if a trio discussion was included in addition to Russell’s solo commentary.
Similarly, another generally throwaway supplement is distinguished by what isn’t there–the cast and crew screen is just that, a simple listing of cast and crew, with biographical information only given for Morris. Even so, a decent package for a deserving film.
Specifications: Full frame and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; English and French 5.1 Surround; English and French subtitles; English closed captioning.