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DVD Goes Interplanetary

'Galaxy Quest' offers a milestone: translation of soundtrack into the language of space aliens.

May 04, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DVDs are a multicultural experience. Not only does the format give viewers an opportunity to enjoy movies in English, it also features such languages as French, Spanish, and Japanese. DreamWorks' digital version of the comedy "Galaxy Quest" ($27) is the first to offer an audio track in Thermian, the native language of the sweet-natured aliens in the Tim Allen film.

"There is an entire culture that might have missed [this DVD] if it wasn't for this translation," quips "Galaxy Quest" director Dean Parisot.

A gentle spoof of such sci-fi series as "Star Trek," the comedy deals with the cast of a now-defunct TV show who, years after the program was canceled, earn a meager living appearing at sci-fi conventions. The Thermian race, though, has intercepted the show's TV transmission and mistakes the episodes for historical documents. The Thermians beam the cast into space to help them battle an evil adversary.

DreamWorks' Paige Johnson, who oversees DVD marketing, says a lot of brainstorming went into figuring out how to enhance the "Galaxy Quest" DVD experience.

"We really look at each title individually," she says. "We don't use a cookie-cutter approach. What is unique about 'Galaxy Quest' is the really kind of spoofy humor. It just sort of clicked to take the audio selections page and play that up. It's something that has never been done before."

Parisot describes the Thermian language as sounding something like a "baby trapped inside a bagpipe. We actually wrote the language. I am not quite sure if we came up with real pronunciations which made any sense, because most of it is garbage."

On the track, Thermian sounds like dolphins talking, chickens cackling and various other noises. For example, "Nice to have met you" translates into "Aa aar aiai a." "Thank you" is "Aaap."

"I wish I had come up with the idea for the DVD," says Parisot. "DreamWorks did, and it was just hysterical when we saw it. We had been living with this language for 75 days of shooting and then you forget it, and to bring it back was very, very funny."

*

Released with little fanfare in summer 1985, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (Warner; $15 for video; $25 for DVD) proved to be not only one of the freshest films of the year, but also the feature-length directorial debut of Tim Burton and the first film to be scored by former Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman, now one of Hollywood's top composers.

The remastered DVD version of this offbeat delight, which finds Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) in search of his classic stolen bike, includes a beautiful, new wide-screeen transfer, production notes, the theatrical trailer and a look at the innovative production design with designer David L. Snyder.

A separate track featuring Elfman's peppy score, which has the same circus-like quality as Nino Rota's from "8 1/2," includes commentary by Elfman, who talks about how he got the job and why initially he didn't think he was up to the task.

There are also several deleted scenes, including an extended chase sequence at Warner Bros. that uses more of the back lot, and one in the magic shop involving Amazing Larry and his flying hair.

Reubens and Burton, who also worked together on "Batman Returns," supply the breezy commentary. Reubens talks about the origin of the movie's plot: While he had a production deal at Warner Bros., he was given a bicycle to ride around the lot, and he came up with the idea of Pee-wee losing his beloved bike.

Reubens also talks about how he found Burton, who had done an acclaimed short called "Frankenweenie," to direct the film. He also credits Burton, who had to shoot the film on a minuscule budget, with the innovative and near-childlike look and feel of the film, especially in the breakfast sequence.

By the way, most of the toys, gadgets and offbeat odds and ends that decorate Pee-wee's house actually came from Reubens' own collection of goodies.

*

"Movin' With Nancy" (Image; $20 for video and DVD) is a groovy blast from the past. Nancy Sinatra headlines--and was executive producer--of this kitschy, kicky 1968 TV special, which was a precursor of MTV music videos. Instead of doing the usual musical special in front of a live audience, Sinatra's hourlong show is made up of musical vignettes shot all over California, from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. During the show, Sinatra sings such tunes as "Up, Up and Away," "Sugar Town" and "Jackson."

Directed by Jack Haley Jr. and choreographed by David Winters, the program, which has been remastered, also features Dean Martin, Lee Hazlewood and Sammy Davis Jr. (check out his love beads, man), as well as a cameo by brother Frank Jr. and a special appearance from, as he's listed in the credits, "Daddy." Also included are the Royal Crown Cola commercials that feature Sinatra and Art Linkletter. The DVD includes behind-the-scenes footage and so-so commentary from Haley and Sinatra. The special will also be shown Saturday at 7 p.m. on cable's American Movie Classics.

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Dinosaurs haven't ruled the earth in millions of years. Though these prehistoric creatures are extinct, interest in them has soared over the years.

The Discovery Channel recently attracted more than 10 million viewers with the splendid BBC documentary "Walking With Dinosaurs." Now the three-hour, six-part series is available on video ($25) and DVD ($35) from BBC Video. The natural history series uses cutting-edge digital effects, puppets and models integrated into live-action settings to portray prehistoric life.

The video includes 30 minutes of unseen footage. The two-disc DVD set includes all six episodes presented in wide screen.

One also has the option to watch 29 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage shown picture-in-picture. The second disc includes the equally fascinating 50-minute documentary, "The Making of Walking with Dinosaurs," and two TV spots.

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