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Toon Talk: Dick Tracy DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
May 5, 2002
Kirby reviews one of the recent DVD release, Dick Tracy.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

DVD.JPG (16325 bytes)
(c) Disney

Dick Tracy DVD
Comic Stripped

Dick Tracy on DVD
from The LaughingPlace Store

Blame it on the Batman.

When the famed caped crusader made his film debut in Warner Brothers’ 1989 Tim Burton-directed Goth blockbuster, every studio in town turned to the comics page for their next big franchise hit.

Wallowing in development limbo, Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy suddenly became a hot commodity. Oscar-winning actor/director Warren Beatty’s take on the square-jawed detective was put on the fast track at Disney, in hopes of making it to theaters for the lucrative summer 1990 movie season.

Cast with an all-star roster that ranged from Al Pacino to (then current Beatty love interest) Madonna and requiring the design and development of an entire four-color comic strip world, the budget for Dick Tracy soared, thus demanding a Bat-size return at the box office.

Upon its release under the Touchstone banner on June 15, 1990, the film was met with mixed reviews and indifferent audiences. Even worse, tons of unwanted Dick Tracy merchandise gathered dust on store shelves: Disney over-estimated the youth appeal of their trench coated do-gooder, foolishly not realizing that yellow fedoras would prove not quite as fashionable as Bat-logoed T-shirts.

While the film eventually pulled in a respectable haul at the box office (as well as six Academy Award nominations), the damage had been noted. In a widely distributed, notoriously infamous internal memo, then Disney Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg lashed out at the over-spending on Tracy, and drastically curt-tailed the budgets of all future live action projects at Disney, a situation that continued up until Katzenberg’s departure in 1994.

With such a rich and rocky history behind the making of Dick Tracy, one would imagine that a DVD for the film could be abundant in detail: director Beatty dishing Katzenberg on the audio commentary, extensive galleries of production designs and conceptual art, behind-the-scenes footage of Madonna rehearsing the Sondheim songs … the possibilities are multiple. (For example, there was television special on the making of the movie titled Dick Tracy: Behind the Badge … Behind the Scenes that could have easily been included.)

Alas, Disney has chosen to release Tracy (along with a slew of other older Touchstone titles) in a bare-bone DVD edition: cheapie menus and not even a trailer make this quite the disappointment in this age of double disc sets and ‘special collector’s editions’. Even the cover art is copied verbatim from the old VHS box.

Blessedly, at least the film itself is gorgeous to behold in the wide screen video transfer presented here; the candy-colored visual palette and Vittorio Storaro’s beguilingly compelling cinematography are vividly displayed in this digital showcase, a vast improvement over the original, murky pan-and-scan VHS release.

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