|Discussion Boards | Reviews | News | Trip Planning | Shop | Travel | Site Map|
|Home Theater & Entertainment||
|Kevin Krock, editor|
|In November of 2001, Disney
released Wave 1 of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD collection. Those four two-disc sets were a big hit with both collectors and
families, and if you have not seen them, they are well worth your time and money. Even
though they are limited editions, I still see them every once in a while on a store shelf.
This year, Wave 2 hits the store shelves with three two-disc sets, so read on to see how
Last year, we were treated to all of the color Mickey Mouse shorts from 1935 to 1938, and now with this collection, we can fill in all of the black-and-white Mickey shorts from 1928 to 1935. This amazing collection of shorts includes Mickeys first on-screen appearance in Steamboat Willie through his last black-and-white short, Mickeys Service Station. The 34 animated shorts are now digitally preserved for years to come, and now Disney fans, animation historians, and families everywhere have the opportunity to watch Mickey and Disney animation grow up from their earliest days.
Simply put, the best goodie about this collection is the ability to have all 34 black-and-white Mickey shorts digitally preserved and available to home viewers. It is a treat to be able to start with Steamboat Willie and browse through the first several years of Disney animation history. Adeptly assisting us in our journey through this history is the Walt Disney Treasures host, Leonard Maltin, renowned film critic and Disney film historian. Maltin introduces both of the discs with a concise yet wonderfully informative narrative that perfectly places the animated shorts in the proper historical perspective. I only wish that Disney would do the same for other "controversial" films and animated shorts that deserve preservation and exploration on DVD. Besides the introductions, Maltin also hosts an engrossing 18-minute interview with Disney animation legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, as the three discuss Mickey, Walt, and the Studio. It is a very relaxed interview, and the three browse through pages and pages of original Mickey animation drawings and reminisce. It is neat, neat stuff.
Also on the discs are some amazing historical pieces, such as the story script for Steamboat Willie and video galleries of the story sketch sequences for several of the animated shorts. The story script is a still photo gallery of the original typed and hand-drawn sequences for Steamboat Willie, which was the precursor to the modern storyboard, and the video galleries present similar storyboard sketches for 18 of the animated shorts put to music. Finally, another highlight on the discs is the very rare pencil test for The Mail Pilot. For animation buffs, it simply does not get much better than this.
Given that the source material is over 70 years old, the audio and video quality varies considerably, but the very fact that this material still exists is impressive. If you want eye and ear candy, pick up Lilo & Stitch. If you want a rare piece of animation history, the visual "imperfections" that time has dealt to these classics is acceptable. As for the user interface, it is very similar to the first wave of Walt Disney Treasures: simple static screens with musical accompaniment. Given the volume of rare material, Ill give up some animated menus for the maximum amount of content. The one minor problem I have with the interface, though, is the complete lack of a menu selection for automatically playing all of the shorts. The Wave 1 sets allowed you to just push one button and enjoy all the shorts on a disc, but on this set, you have to select each short individually. It is not a big deal, it is just a minor annoyance.
If you are a fan of Disney animation or of general animation history, this set is an absolute must for your DVD library. Although, it may not be for everybody, and children may not understand or appreciate the somewhat odd looking original Mickey Mouse or the scratchy black and white pictures. My four-year-old grew tired of me watching the shorts in very little time, but, then again, this particular set is not really targeted at children. So if you have an animation buff in the family, be sure to add this one to the holiday gift list.
Goofy has always been one of my favorite Disney characters, just behind Doc and Professor Ludwig Von Drake. In fact, I have always found the Goofy "How to " shorts to be some of Disneys funniest and most inventive, but these animated shorts do not get much airtime on the Disney cable/satellite channels these days. Fortunately, my longtime wish for a complete collection of Goofy shorts has become a reality this year, and it is an absolutely amazing collection. No less than 46 Goofy shorts are packed onto the two DVDs, which cover every cartoon that starring Goofy released to theaters from 1939 to 1961. For animation fans, it is a wonderful opportunity to study how Goofy and his character animation evolve over time, and for families and children, the set provides hours of top-notch fun and entertainment.
Like most of the other Walt Disney Treasures animation collections, this set does not have a lot of featurettes, commentaries, or galleries, but as I have said, the true goodie of these sets is having all of these shorts digitally preserved and available to home viewers. Anything else on the disc is icing on the cake.
As with all of the Walt Disney Treasures sets, Leonard Maltin acts as our host and guide, and he provides his usual informative historical narrative, including introductions to the discs and bonus items. On the first disc, there are two brief featurettes, and both are well worth watching. The first is a great descriptive character reference authored by 1930s Disney animator Art Babbit. Maltin starts off the featurette with an explanation of the reference, and then it is read and illustrated with corresponding animation and artwork.
Also on the first disc is a very nice biography of the original voice of Goofy, Pinto Colvig. There are several interesting animation history tidbits to be gained in this short and enjoyable featurette. The second disc features an entertaining interview with Goofys current voice actor, Bill Farmer, as well as two still art galleries that contain several pieces with attached descriptive audio. I know I said this before, but it deserves repeating, this is neat, neat stuff.
Since most of this material is over 60 years old, I find it impossible to fault the audio and video transfers for not being up to snuff with current technology. This is probably the best presentation of these animated shorts that we will ever see, and even at that, the colors look great and the detail is impressive. The audio is clean and crisp, and even though it is not as dynamic as many modern soundtracks, I find the animation and story makes the point just fine with the simple audio.
As for the user interface, this set is no different from the others: You simply get static menu screens with musical accompaniment. As with the new Mickey set, though, the one minor problem I have with the interface is the complete lack of a menu selection for automatically playing all of the shorts. It was enough of an annoyance that when I would leave my 4-year-old son to watch the shorts by himself, he would keep calling me back in the room to start the next one, so I ended up teaching him how to use the DVD remote control to pick the next short. At least this way he can watch the ones he likes as much as he wants without too much intervention on my part. The downside is that now he want to control the DVD player any time we use it, so be warned.
As with any of the Walt Disney Treasures discs, fans of Disney animation or of general animation history will definitely want to add this set to their library. While the black and white Mickey set probably has a more limited audience, the Goofy shorts seem to be a hit with both parents and children, and you will want to be sure to add this one to the holiday gift list.
As we all know, Walt Disney was a man well ahead of his time, and he was always pushing the envelope of technology. Walt had a knack of knowing what his audiences wanted to experience, and he knew how to deliver products that fulfilled our wishes. Back in the 1930s, animated movies were something that moviegoers were unfamiliar with, and everyone was asking how they were made. While most studios of the time kept their production secrets under tight wraps, Walt saw the potential promotional advantage of showing off how his studio, artists, and technology came together to produce these dazzling films. With the Behind The Scenes At The Walt Disney Studios DVD set, we can now step back in time and watch many of the television and theatrical shows that Walt produced to show how his movies were made.
As with the other Walt Disney Treasures sets, Leonard Maltin continues to act as our wonderfully knowledgeable and accessible guide as we journey through some of Disneys most interesting historical footage.
The main content on Disc 1 consists of two short films and the feature film, The Reluctant Dragon, all of which are from 1938 to 1941, and each has a brief informative introduction by Maltin. The first short was a promotional film originally intended for the sales department of RKO Radio Pictures, Walts film distributor for Snow White. It provides a rather top-level overview of the Walt Disney Studio and the animation process, but it is neat to watch nonetheless. The other short is based on the RKO short and was produced for movie theaters to promote Snow White. Even though both shorts contain many similar photographic shots, the narration is different and shows the decidedly different audiences Walt was targeting.
Finishing off Disc 1 is the full-length feature, The Reluctant Dragon, a cute, enjoyable, and fascinating look at how animated films were made at the Walt Disney Studios in the 1940s. Equal parts promotion, education, and function, this stopgap movie was produced to boost Studio revenue during the difficult World War II years, and it was designed to show American audiences in detail how the studio functioned. This was something that no other movie studio attempted, yet Walt knew people wanted to see this stuff.
The plot is a bit forced, but how else would the main character get to see every major animation department in the studio? Along the way, we catch glimpses of several movies in their early stages and learn about all the technology that Walt and his company developed, such as the multi-plane camera. All of the pieces come together as the movie culminates a showing of The Reluctant Dragon animated short. It might not be a great movie from a plot perspective, but it is a wonderful look at the studio from a historical and educational perspective.
Disc 2 moves from theatrical films to three of the Disneyland television series episodes showing how cartoons are made, again with individual opening insights provided by Maltin. The three shows, each approximately 50 minute long, were originally filmed in color, but they were aired on TV in black and white. Fortunately, some of the original color film elements are still available, so two of the three shows on the DVD are in color, which is quite a treat.
The first episode, The Story of the Animated Drawing, is a compact history of animation that features many of Walts movies throughout the years as well as other non-Disney examples throughout early animation history. The Plausible Impossible episode discusses and shows examples of how animation stretches the rules of our physical reality to produce humorous, exaggerated, and physically impossible situations, which still seem plausible on the screen. An example is when a character runs off of a cliff and does not fall until he realizes he is in midair. There are many other examples, and this episode does a great job of teaching some of the basics of character animation.
Finally, Tricks of Our Trade examines several specialty aspects of animation production, including special effects animation, in a practical and easily understandable manner. Watching animators learn how to animate things like breaking glass, bubbling lava, or splashing water droplets helps you to appreciate the lengths that they go to in order to make the animated effects look as good as they do. All together, these three shows will help you understand more about not only Disney animation, but also animation theory and practice in general. For budding animators or animation fans, these shows are a must.
In terms of goodies, like the other collections, there isnt a lot, but what is there is great. Disc 1 has a very nice tour of the Walt Disney Studios hosted by Leonard Maltin. It uses clips from the various Walt Disney television shows combined with new film footage to create a unique tour around the studio lot from 1954 to today. Also on Disc 1 is an excellent short interview, hosted by Maltin, with renowned Disney story man Joe Grant, which focuses on his involvement with the "Baby Weems" storyboard sequence in The Reluctant Dragon. There are also two still photo galleries with many of the photos featuring attached audio narration by Maltin. They make the perfect addition to the already absorbing main content. Disc 2 has a little less, but the extremely rare 1946 Australian radio program (audio only) and the intriguing Kem Webber still gallery of Walt Disneys Burbank studio interior designs are well worth examining.
There is not much to add regarding the audio and video transfers or the user interface that I have not all ready mentioned in the other reviews. Everything is acceptable in the context of the material, and it is just a treat to have this stuff preserved on DVD. There is the somewhat persistent film dust and scratches from the film on the video transfer, and the audio transfers are clean but very simple mono or stereo mixes. The interface is the same as the other discs.
Altogether, this set, just like the others, is the perfect addition to your DVD collection, especially if you are interested in how animation was produced. Some children may find parts of it a bit boring, but I think most adults will enjoy this trip back in time. Be sure this one gets on your wish list.
Walt Disney Treasures Wrap-up
Once again, Leonard Maltin has helped put together three excellent DVD collections of classic Disney entertainment. All seven of the current Walt Disney Treasures sets are not only entertaining and educational, but they represent a critical preservation of film and television history. These sets contain material not available anywhere other than the Walt Disney Archives, and it is a pleasure to be able to just pop a disc in the player and watch any Goofy short, the opening of Disneyland, all five of the Davy Crockett television shows, any of the Mickey shorts from 1928 through 1938, or any of the Silly Symphonies. There is an amazing variety of work on these first two waves of sets, and I understand that Maltin has been given the go-ahead for developing four new sets for Wave 3 next year. Regardless of what ends up in Wave 3, Im sure it will be just as fun and interesting as the others.
I think I speak for most of our readers in saying thank you, Leonard, for opening up the fascinating Disney vaults and showing us around with the same passion and interest we share for Disney. Keep up the superb work, and we anxiously look forward to the next releases.
Mickey Mouse In Black And White
Disc 1 Goodies:
Disc 2 Goodies:
The Complete Goofy
Disc 1 Goodies:
Disc 2 Goodies:
Behind The Scenes At The Walt Disney Studio
Disc 1 Goodies:
Disc 2 Goodies:
is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its
subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available
This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary,
editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts
of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change.
Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.