Rango | DVD review
A DVD's so-called “special features” are always hit-or-miss. Maybe the director has something interesting to say in the commentary; maybe he rambles. And those deleted scenes? Might've been a good reason they were kept offscreen. Happily, none of that's true for the recent DVD release of Rango, which rightly won the 2012 Oscar for Best Animated Feature. In addition to a fun new ending (you can watch the original one too), the DVD has a nifty educational featurette. Hosted by Animal Planet regular Donald Schultz, “The Real Creatures of Dirt” might make you re-think the value of special features.
In Rango, the titular chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) loses his cushy but confining home in a glass aquarium and gets suddenly thrust into Dirt, a bizarre-but-hilarious animal-dwelling desert town in the midst of a draught. These often funny, occasionally confusing creatures are the subjects of the 22-minute featurette. Sandwiched between interviews—with the voice actors (Depp, Isla Fisher and Bill Nighy), director Gore Verbinski, educators from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and more—Schultz takes viewers on a quest through a Los Angeles County park in the Sierra Pelona Mountains to find the animals that inspired Dirt's characters.
Entomo- and arachno-phobes beware: “Real Creatures” contains close-up shots of goosebump-inducing centipedes, spiders, scorpions and rattlesnakes. Balancing the scales, plenty of more-photogenic creatures get screen time too, like a red-tailed hawk, a fennec fox, a bobcat and an actively curious porcupine. One of the highlights is watching a Rango-esque chameleon morph to different shades of neon.
The featurette juxtaposes the real animal in its natural habitat with memorable clips from the film, giving kids a point of reference. Often, Schultz points out specific animal traits that inspired minor plot points in the film (e.g., an armadillo's soft belly but hard shell, like Rango's metaphor-speaking pal). Kids will especially be entertained by Schultz's daring attitude, once sticking his fingers near a rattlesnake's mouth to show the camera its fangs!
As for the more-standard DVD extras, they're here too. Not only can you watch the deleted scenes, including the new ending, but there's the smart option to watch the delightful PG-rated film with the scenes cut back into the movie (upping the running time from 107 minutes to 111).
One thing notably missing from the regular DVD: a behind-the-scenes look at the performers in action (a bonus you but it on Blu-Ray, however). Most animation producers employ the actors one at a time, having them record their lines alone in a sound booth, which obviously eliminates the sparks between actors working together. But Verbinski and crew recorded everything like a live-action film. The entertaining results can be seen in this promotional teaser (embedded below), but it's nowhere to be found on the standard DVD—a shame, since we'd love to see more footage like this, and we don't want to buy Blu-Ray hardware in order to enjoy it.