Many thanks to Lionsgate for sending me a review copy of the brand new “special edition” of The Miracle Maker (2000). The new DVD isn’t all that different from the disc that Artisan put out a few years ago, but it does have a few nifty extras.
Chief among these is the audio commentary with co-director Derek Hayes and one of the producers. They have some fun stories to tell about the cultural differences and problems in translation that they had with the Russian animators (e.g., a robe that was supposed to be purple is now scarlet instead); and the degree of nit-picky, detail-oriented research that they admit to is both illuminating (e.g., Jesus is first seen in Sepphoris because there wouldn’t have been enough work for a tekton in a small town like Nazareth) and a tad, um, excessive (e.g., Hayes says he actually contacted a planetarium to ask what phase the moon would have been in when it was seen from Israel at a given point in time!).
They also reveal some interesting things about the development of the movie. Their working title was In My Father’s House until Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions came on board and proposed The Miracle Maker as a less-vague, more-mainstream alternative.
Also, they knew they needed a certain amount of 2-D animation, and they initially considered making the miracle scenes 2-D — but they decided against this because they didn’t want to suggest that the miracles were outside of the story somehow, and anyway there weren’t that many of them in the script to begin with. So in the end, they decided that the 2-D animation would represent “states of mind” — which, as I have suggested here, here, and here, is one of the more brilliant things about this brilliant film.
Apart from that, the new disc has a trivia game designed to test the viewer’s knowledge of the story, as well as optional footnotes that appear during the film and note which parts of the Bible different scenes come from. The new disc also has a “storyboard to film comparison” that isn’t very effective, because it dissolves back and forth between the film and the storyboard, instead of presenting both items side-by-side as most DVDs with this feature do.
The only features missing from the earlier disc are the production notes, the cast and crew notes, and the trailer for the film. (Yes, the new disc has trailers, but they are for other films.) Oh, and I think the new menu screens are more gracefully designed, too — that’s the old disc on the left, and the new disc on the right:
Another bonus: The old disc squished the making-of documentary into a 4:3 frame, but the new disc restores its 16:9 dimensions:
I can’t say the film itself looks all that different. I picked three scenes more or less at random and took screen captures from both versions, as close to the identical frame as possible — as before, the old disc is on the left and the new disc is on the right: