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Kevin Krock, editor
DVD Review
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color
(2001)
| Approx. 3 Hours 37 Minutes | NR | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland, U.S.A.
(2001)
| Approx. 3 Hours 48 Minutes | NR | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies
(2001)
| Approx. 5 Hours 5 Minutes | NR | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
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Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Walt Disney Treasures: Davy Crockett
(2001)
| Approx. 4 Hours 28 Minutes | NR | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
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Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
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Goodies Interface
Value

The Discs and Goodies

I have been waiting for Disney collections like these for a couple of years. Interestingly, when I asked a Disney representative in January at the 2001 VSDA conference about the possibility of releasing collections of old animated shorts or television shows, he replied that no plan for such collections existed. However, it was with surprise and pleasure this past May that I was able to relay the announcement of the four- volume Wave I of the Walt Disney Treasures collection. It appeared to be a wonderful collection and resource for Disney fans, and I could not wait until they were released. After all the waiting, Christmas came early this year, and on December 4th, my hopes were realized and I was not disappointed.

Evidently pitched to Disney by Leonard Maltin, noted film critic and Disney film historian, the concept of the Walt Disney Treasures collection was to assemble definitive collections of classic Disney television shows and animated shorts, with archive material, and historical commentary provided by Maltin. In the end, the concept pays off not only for fans of Disney history and nostalgic adults, but for those new, young viewers who may have never seen many of these classic shows.

Each of the four two- disc volumes are packaged in silver finish tins numbered up to 150,000. Inside the discs are kept in standard plastic double- width DVD cases that also contain a postcard sized lithograph and a Walt Disney Treasures booklet that describes the contents of the set. A visually pleasing scheme, this is a nice touch to such a fitting tribute to Walt Disney’s creative genius. I just hope that future Treasures releases continue this interesting packaging trend.

With almost 17 hours of material on these four volumes, I must limit my content comments, since many of you probably know the general plot or concepts behind the individual television shows or animated shorts. Rather, let's focus on the unique content on each of the volumes.

Volume 1: Mickey Mouse in Living Color

Disc 1: The Band Concert, Mickey’s Garden, Mickey’s Fire Brigade*, Pluto’s Judgement Day*, On Ice*, Mickey’s Polo Team, Orphan’s Picnic, Mickey’s Grand Opera, Thru the Mirror, Mickey’s Rival, Moving Day, Alpine Climbers, Mickey’s Circus, Mickey’s Elephant (* also in pencil version via angle button)

Disc 2: The Worm Turns, Magician Mickey, Moose Hunters, Mickey’s Amateurs, Hawaiian Holiday, Clock Cleaners, Lonesome Ghosts, Boat Builders, Mickey’s Trailer, The Whalers, Mickey’s Parrot, Brave Little Tailor

This fantastic collection of color Mickey Mouse animated shorts covers the 1935 through 1938, and includes many of Mickey’s most famous escapades. Disc 1, covering 1935 and 1936, opens with a pleasant introduction by Leonard Maltin, which nicely sets the stage for exploring the set. Also on Disc 1 is an amazing collection of full-length pencil versions for three of the shorts, which can be accessed individually or by using the "angle" feature on your remote. These priceless items were recovered from an animator’s garage, and for the first time, we can see the raw handiwork of some of Walt’s greatest animators.

Another nice touch is Mickey’s first color screen appearance in a special, rarely seen short called, "Parade of Award Nominees," which was made for the 1932 Academy Awards banquet. Finally, there is a neat little Easter egg from "The Disneyland Story" television show that shows Walt talking about the history of Mickey Mouse.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

On Disc 2, covering 1937 and 1938, there is an eight-and-a-half-minute featurette called "Mickey In Living Color." Here, Leonard Maltin runs through Mickey’s history with numerous clips of the famous mouse in his various stages of development. It is a short but fitting tribute to the mouse that made the Walt Disney Company the giant it is. The only other goodie on this disc is an Easter egg that plays "Mickey’s Surprise Party," an animated short sponsored by Nabisco for the 1939 World’s Fair. The volume of animated shorts more than makes up for the lack of more goodies.

Volume 2: Disneyland USA

Disc 1: The Disneyland Story, Dateline Disneyland

Disc 2: Disneyland After Dark, Disneyland 10th Anniversary Show

This set was one of my most anticipated collections, and while only four of the dozens of episodes made it on the discs, they are probably four of the most influential and memorable episodes, making them a pleasure to finally have on DVD. I was a bit disappointed that more of the episodes were not released in this wave, especially since I think there are several other episodes that meet or surpass the interest level of those on Disc 2. Fortunately, since these DVDs appear to be selling well, I hope that Disney continues to release some of these other episodes in future waves.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

The shows take up most of the room on the two discs, so goodies are minimal. Except for Maltin’s brief introduction, Disc 1 lacks them altogether. Disc 2 only contains a still- frame gallery of Disneyland attraction posters and a nine- and- a- half- minute featurette called "The Magic Kingdom and the Magic of Television," in which Leonard Maltin discusses the importance of television to the development and construction of the park. While somewhat short, it is quite informative and interesting. One other nice touch is that Maltin introduces each of the four episodes and provides just the right amount of historical context to set up the shows. Unlike the other volumes in the series, there appear to be no Easter eggs on this one release.

Volume 3: Silly Symphonies

Disc 1: Leonard’s Picks: The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Flying Mouse, The Country Cousin, Wynken, Blynken and Nod, Three Little Pigs / Fables and Fairy Tales: Mother Goose Melodies, Babes in the Woods, Lullaby Land, The Robber Kitten, The Golden Touch, Elmer Elephant / Favorite Characters: The Big Bad Wolf, Three Little Wolves, The Wise Little Hen, Toby Tortoise Returns

Disc 2: Leonard’s Picks: The Skeleton Dance, Flowers and Trees, Music Land, The Ugly Duckling (1931), The Ugly Duckling (1939) / Accent on Music: The China Plate, Egyptian Melodies, The Cookie Carnival, Woodland Café / Nature on the Screen: Birds of a Feather, The Busy Beavers, Just Dogs, Father Noah’s Ark, Funny Little Bunnies, Peculiar Penguins, Mother Pluto, The Old Mill

Of the four volumes, I was most surprised by the Silly Symphonies. I have always enjoyed them, but never realized just how many of them were produced until I started sifting through this collection. There are 37 beautifully animated shorts packed onto these two discs, and several of the more significant releases have wonderful and concise introductions by Leonard Maltin that set their historical context.

One of my favorite Maltin introductions is for "Three Little Pigs," in which he discusses and shows the original animation of the Wolf as a Jewish peddler. This brief scene, which was replaced in later years, was the root of many rumors about Walt being an anti-Semite; but, as Maltin describes, the Jewish stereotype was common and widely accepted in entertainment of that day. I found it simply fascinating.


Promotional art © Disney

In addition to the 33 shorts listed among the menus, there are four hidden as Easter eggs as well as a couple of other treats. I will not divulge their locations, as they are easy enough to find, but they are:

  • "The Practical Pig," introduced by Walt Disney
  • "Water Babies," introduced by Walt Disney
  • "Who Killed Cock Robin?", introduced by Walt Disney
  • "Farmyard Symphony," introduced by Walt Disney
  • "Winken, Blinken, and Nod" by Walt Disney, with an alternative introduction
  • "The Old Mill" by Walt Disney, with an alternative introduction

Disc 2 also sports:

  • An 11-minute featurette called "The Song of the Silly Symphonies," with Leonard Maltin and composer Richard Sherman
  • A 17-minute featurette called "Silly Symphonies Souvenirs," with Leonard Maltin and Dave Smith of the Disney Archives
  • A still-frame gallery

The first featurette covers the importance of music to both the Silly Symphonies and many of Walt’s films, and particular attention is paid to songs like, "Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf" and "The World Owes Us a Livin’," as well as others. The second one discusses some of the unique merchandise developed for several of the animated shorts. Together, the two featurettes provide the perfect polish on this outstanding collection.

Volume 4: Davy Crockett

Disc 1: Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter, Davy Crockett Goes to Congress, Davy Crockett at the Alamo

Disc 2: Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates

I never spent much time watching the reruns of the Davy Crockett shows on the Disney Channel, so my background was pretty limited when I watched these discs. Even with that limitation, the shows just sucked me in, thus demonstrating to me why these five shows were so influential to the youth of the 1950s.

Each of the shows are presented as they were on the Disneyland television series from the mid-1950s, except that the actual Crockett shows are presented in color (taken from the original color film prints, Walt was already thinking ahead). Like Volume 2, the shows take up most of the space on the DVDs, but there are two very interesting featurettes on Disc 2.


Promotional art © Disney

The first is a 19- minute discussion between Paul F. Anderson, author of "The Davy Crockett Craze," and Leonard Maltin about the impact that these television shows had on Americans of the '50s. The second is a very interesting, 17- minute conversation between Maltin and Fess Parker. Both featurettes cover a wide variety of topics, including how Davy Crockett fit in to the promotion of Disneyland. For someone who was not very familiar with the history behind these shows, these two goodies provided a wealth of information that I would have otherwise missed.

And of course Disney has indicated there is an Easter egg in this set - look around and you may find Parker himself singing a certain very famous ditty.

The Video, Audio and Interface

The video quality on all four volumes varies somewhat depending on the age of the material, but a decided lack of digital restoration across- the- board is quite obvious. However, keep in mind that all of these shows are quite old, and due to the large volume of material, I am sure that Disney could not justify spending the time or money to restore all of this great stuff. While having pristine video would have been the icing on the cake, the trade- off of actually having the material available seems pretty reasonable. It is clear, though, that Disney did make an effort to find the best film prints to transfer. While the dust and occasional scratches are mildly distracting, I found myself too engrossed in watching the shows and appreciating the animation to really notice.

There is not much to say about the audio. It is quite simple and clean, and for the most part it is mono. The discs will sound just fine on any system, but you should not expect them to push your home theater system.

The user interface, though, is pretty boring, especially when compared to the vast majority of Disney DVD releases over the past year. Each menu screen is accompanied by music, but there are no screen or transition animations. For all of the fancy packaging and limited edition status, I expected a bit more, but maybe next time.

The Advanced Home Theater

Disney got this series right for the most part, and they should be commended for it. These collections are a real treat, an outstanding value (Disney Stores had them for $23), and were lovingly assembled and watched over by a real expert, Leonard Maltin. I understand the stock is almost gone on them at this point (they produced 150,000 of each title) with the Mickey Mouse and Disneyland titles running out at most retailers, and the Davy Crockett and Silly Symphonies sets pulling up the rear.

Video quality on your big screen TV should be very good on most of these titles. Of special note here is that they did clean up the animated shorts (Mickey Mouse & Silly Symphonies), which makes you wonder all the more why poor Dumbo had to look so bad on its recent DVD incarnation. They removed grain from all the cartoons for the most part - yet kept that "hand crafted" look, where you can see the areas of color are a bit uneven. Some digital paintbox work has been done, but only to keep the quality of some of these titles more consistent. (This is the right way to do a restoration. A look at an older laserdisc release of Mickey's Greatest Hits shows the difference - that collection was all so paintboxed in their video transfers that they took the life out of the movies - Mickey looks like plastic in it, not art.)

I also thought it was nice on the Davy Crockett set that color intros with Walt were found for the two later episodes - that was a bit more work for the folks at Disney, but it was appreciated. The TV shows are all very complete on these sets with everything except the commercials included. So you can chapter skip to the final credits and hear what the latest movies from Disney were that were coming to your local theaters. (Did you know that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was opening nationwide in over 60 theaters? I remember as a kid even if the show was a rerun I would always watch the end to see what was coming to theaters.)

Sound is also cleaned up, with hiss reduced and a little bit of lower range added, to give these limited range recordings a bit more life and fullness. It should be noted (with a few exceptions) that Disney has been doing an outstanding job on all the most recent DVD releases soundwise.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

My only nitpicks? (And there are only a few... so bear with me here.) The booklets should have provided a bit more information on what you are watching. On the Mickey Mouse set for example it would have been nice to tell audiences who are not familiar with 1932 movie stars just who those people in the Parade of the Nominees are (read my recent report on the Academy Tribute to Walt Disney if you want to find out), the Disneyland set could have used an attraction timeline, the Crockett set could have provided all of the song lyrics (there are 20 stanzas of six lines each!), well, you get the picture.

Since so much of the booklet is duplicated for each of the four releases, the impression given was that a lack of detailed annotation was a cost saving move, which considering how much program content is packed into the sets, is almost (but not quite) understandable. Yes, Maltin does a great job on the discs of prepping you for what you are watching, but he can't give you all the information that should be included in this type of collector's set that would have easily fit into the booklet.

Kevin talks about his suggestions for future volumes in the series as he continues his review below - but I also wanted to offer my own here... 

First I think its a real shame that Disney has chosen to release both the recent Walt Disney: The Man Behind the Myth, and the earlier Frank and Ollie documentaries on VHS only - when DVD is the format of the day now. Both films combined into a Walt Disney Treasures set, along with the bonus offering of both the current Eisner hosted Disney bio movie Walt Disney: One Man's Dream — From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms (showing in both resorts now) and the old Walt Disney Story film (which used to open the Mr. Lincoln show and was briefly sold in the parks on VHS) would have really been a nice tribute to Walt, and made a great fifth release.

Walt's set of interviews for the 1963 Canadian TV show Telescope could serve as the basis of another set focused on broadcast material, along with the New York World's Fair show - with his first TV special, One Hour in Wonderland helping to fill it up (right now the only way you can see this show complete is in the Alice in Wonderland deluxe laserdisc box set.)

Cover Art
Click to Buy
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Cover Art
Click to Buy

There are also a few independent offerings Disney could acquire for DVD release, in particular The Hand Behind the Mouse, The Ub Iwerks Story which could be collected together, giving you more of a look at the talent that Disney worked with during his career. (If you're not familiar with any of the above mentioned films, click on the VHS artwork above to pull up the Amazon pages on them. They have all sorts of info on these titles for you.)

I'd also like to see the Mickey Mouse: Black & White Years laserdisc set reissued onto DVD in this series (with an uncensored Steamboat Willie in particular), as well as the Japanese Donald Duck set that was available for a short time. So Dear to My Heart could be combined with Song of the South for another volume of Walt's favorites / treasures and with Maltin's historical context added it could make these hard to sell / issue sensitive films finally available to the U.S. market.

Of course a Disneyland Volume Two should be assembled - with some of the other theatrical films and Disneyland TV shows produced to promote the park included. As far as attractions go, The Tiki Room was completely filmed when it opened, as was the Carousel of Progress, this footage could fill the set out nicely. Maybe even throw in Walt's Epcot film as a bonus. And let's not forget a set or two of the original Mickey Mouse Club / Mouseketeer shows too. These would be fun, especially with the original commercials included.

The series could also be continued as just a Disney Treasures Collection spotlighting post Walt hard- to- sell- on- its- own newer material (more Mickey Mouse and Disneyland stuff, even a Walt Disney World set). Costs are very low on these kinds of collections for the company, as production fees were paid long ago on all this material. Revenues now are pretty much just gravy.

That's the kind of stuff dreams are made of right? And we all know a dream is a wish your heart makes...  :)

- Al Lutz

The Final Evaluation

As I said, my Christmas present came early this year, and I will be enjoying these discs for a long time to come. All four of these volumes generally met and, in a couple of cases, exceeded my expectations, and I think they signal an impressive start to what will hopefully become a regular Disney DVD series. Having a very knowledgeable, likeable, and obviously enthusiastic host like Leonard Maltin adds a nice perspective to the collection that is sorely missed in other similar collections. To top it all off, I recently saw the collection for sale at Costco for about $22 per volume, which is a great deal. So, if you are still looking for that last- minute Christmas present for a Disney buff, these should take care of your stocking- stuffing needs.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

If I had to rank them in order of how I would buy them, I would probably list them like this:

  1. Mickey Mouse
  2. Silly Symphonies or Disneyland
  3. Davy Crockett

The middle two are a tough call, but I'd put Crockett last simply because it was not a major part of my childhood or something I am particularly attached to. Regardless, they are all great collections and worth taking a close look at.

So, what is next for the Walt Disney Treasures collection? Word is that production on Wave 2 has started, and, assuming sales of Wave 1 are good — which they apparently are — we should see the next set of discs in Fall 2002. There has been no word on what the next set will cover, but the list of things I’d like to see are Goofy’s "How To" series of shorts, Donald Duck shorts, World War II animation, the Space series (including Cosmic Capers, Man in Space, Man in Flight), animated educational shorts (Donald in Mathamagicland), and so forth.

I can always dream.

Keep your fingers crossed – I am!

MICKEY MOUSE IN LIVING COLOR
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • "Parade of Award Nominees" animated short
  • Pencil tests - "Mickey's Fire Brigade," "Pluto's Judgment Day," and "On Ice"
  • "Mickey in Living Color" with Leonard Maltin

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • English subtitles
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
DISNEYLAND U.S.A.
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • "The Magic Kingdom and the Magic of Television" with Leonard Maltin
  • Still gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • English subtitles
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
SILLY SYMPHONIES
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • "The Song of the Silly Symphonies" Leonard Maltin and composer Richard Sherman
  • "Silly Symphonies Souvenirs" Leonard Maltin and Dave Smith of the Disney Archives
  • Still gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • English subtitles
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
DAVY CROCKETT
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • "A Conversation with Fess Parker" Leonard Maltin & Fess Parker
  • "The Davy Crockett Craze" with Leonard Maltin
  • Still gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • English subtitles
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
WALT DISNEY: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH
VHS INFORMATION
  • Unedited 86 min. version (an 84 min. version previously aired on ABC)
  • Narrated by Dick Van Dyke, appearances by Diane Disney Miller, Roy Disney, Leonard Maltin, Art Linkletter, John Lasseter, Ray Bradbury, Dean Jones, Buddy Ebson
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
FRANK & OLLIE
VHS INFORMATION
  • Approx. 90 min.
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
THE HAND BEHIND THE MOUSE - THE UB IWERKS STORY
VHS INFORMATION
  • Approx. 90 min.
  • Full-screen - 1.33:1
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