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Kevin Krock, editor

Walt Disney Treasures Wave 3 Review

Walt Disney On The Front Lines
(2004) | Approx. 3 hrs. 30 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 4 stars Video 4 stars
Goodies 4 stars Interface 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Limited Series of 250,000 copies
The Chronological Donald (Volume One)
(2004) | Approx. 4 hrs. 35 min | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 4 stars Video 4 stars
Goodies 4 stars Interface 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Limited Series of 165,000 copies
Mickey Mouse In Living Color (Volume Two)
(2004) | Approx. 5 hrs. 45 min | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 4 stars Video 4 stars
Goodies 4 stars Interface 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Limited Series of 175,000 copies
Walt Disney's Tomorrowland
(2004) | Approx. 4 hours | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 4 stars Video 4 stars
Goodies 4 stars Interface 3 stars
Value 4 stars
Limited Series of 105,000 copies

The Treasures

After a rather unexpected, unfortunate, and long delay, Walt Disney Treasures Wave 3 finally crashed onto store shelves on May 18. The over five-month delay from its original December release date was reportedly caused by a combination of higher-than-expected pre-booking consumer demand and a production limitation of the collector's tins. Tins or not, it is a treat to finally have these collections in hand. And right off the bat, I would like to commend Disney, the set producers, and Disney movie historian, and Walt Disney Treasures host Leonard Maltin for assembling another incredible group of DVD sets.

If you peruse the side bar, you may note that the volume of separate bonus material on each set does not look all that impressive for the most part, but it is actually a bit deceptive. As with past Walt Disney Treasures collections, the true value of these sets comes from the incredible compilation of main content, and the additional bonus material is pure icing.

With regards to the main content, this wave of Walt Disney Treasures sets is probably my favorite to date. The material across these four sets covers everything from American propaganda during World War II and America's first plans for space travel, to Donald Duck's first and Mickey Mouse's last appearances on film. It is all a treat to watch, and every disc perfectly highlights Disney's place in entertainment history.


Promotional image © Disney.

WALT DISNEY ON THE FRONT LINES

On December 8, 1941, the United States and the Walt Disney Studios plunged into World War II. Because of their expertise in entertainment and simplifying complex concepts, Walt and his incredible stable of animators and artists were asked by the U.S. government to contribute to the war effort. Walt essentially turned over his studio to the military while a dizzying array of training, propaganda, and educational films were produced for all branches of the armed forces. It is a fascinating period of Disney history that has not been revisited for several decades. This is a truly remarkable set, especially for anyone remotely interested in American, Disney, and animation history.

This set features 32 short subjects and a full-length feature film, “Victory Through Air Power” (the 60th Anniversary of its theatrical release). Many of the shorts include Disney's classic characters, including Mickey, Donald, and Goofy starring in shorts such as “Der Feuhrer's Face,” “Donald Gets Drafted” and “All Together.” Also included in the set is the particularly sobering and serious animated short, the anti-Nazi “Education For Death."


Promotional image © Disney.

Even though the shorts are animated and feature familiar characters, much of this set is not really appropriate for young children, as they lack the historical perspective necessary to understand the references, stereotypes, and social environment of the time. For older children, though, this set could make for a good and rather timely discussion about historical wartime social attitudes and perspectives of war. Fortunately, the producers and Leonard Maltin do a spectacular job of taking the time before many shorts to describe the historical background behind them, and these blurbs help to answer many of the questions that may arise while watching these historical gems. In fact, I noticed that there is neither a “Play All” selection for the shorts nor a way to skip past the introductions, so an effort to ensure that a historical context is presented has apparently been made.

All together, this set is well suited to exhibit materials that many deem socially and historically sensitive, and because of that, I never thought I would have the opportunity to watch them. Now I hope that other similar material in the Disney vaults will see the light of day.


Promotional image © Disney.

DISC ONE

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

FROM THE VAULT (Each introduced by Leonard Maltin)
  • Der Feuhrer's Face – Academy Award Winner, Best Short Subject, 1942)
  • Education For Death
  • Reason And Emotion – Academy Award Nominee, Best Short Subject, 1943)
  • Chicken Little

PROPAGANDA & ENTERTAINMENT SUBJECTS

  • Introduction by Leonard Maltin
  • Donald Gets Drafted
  • The Army Mascot
  • The Vanishing Private
  • Sky Trooper
  • Private Pluto
  • Fall Out; Fall In
  • Victory Vehicles
  • The Old Army Game
  • Home Defense
  • How To Be A Sailor
  • Commando Duck

EDUCATIONAL SHORTS

  • Introduction by Leonard Maltin
  • Thrifty Pig
  • Seven Wise Dwarfs
  • Food Will Win The War
  • Donald's Decision
  • All Together
  • The New Spirit
  • The Spirit of '43
  • The Winged Scourge
  • Defense Against Invasion
  • The Grain That Built A Hemisphere
  • Cleanliness Brings Health
  • What Is Disease?
  • Planning For Good Eating

DISC TWO

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER – Full-length feature film, with animation and live action, including never-before-seen footage.

TRAINING SHORTS

  • Introduction by Leonard Maltin
  • Four Methods of Flush Riveting (animated)
  • Stop That Tank (animated short & live action)
  • Training Films Montage


Promotional image © Disney.

THE CHRONOLOGICAL DONALD (Volume One)

This set is the first volume of animated shorts featuring Disney's most prolific and humorous characters, Donald Duck. This irascible but lovable character has been pleasing audiences of all ages for around 70 years, and this set provides a wonderful look at the development of Donald from his first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” in 1934 up to “Chef Donald” in 1941. In those short seven years, Donald starred in no less than 36 animated shorts, which appear on this two disc set.

Besides being important milestones in Donald's character development history, the shorts on the set also include the first appearances of Daisy and Donald's nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Like Goofy's and Mickey's comprehensive Walt Disney Treasures animated short collections, this set is not only fun to watch simply because of Donald's antics, but it also gives you a great appreciation for the technical and story advancements of the Disney staff during these years.


Promotional image © Disney.

DISC ONE

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

SHORT SUBJECTS (in alphabetical order)

  • The Autograph Hound
  • Beach Picnic
  • Donald and Pluto
  • Donald's Better Self
  • Donald's Cousin Gus
  • Donald's Golf Game
  • Donald's Lucky Day
  • Donald's Nephews
  • Donald's Ostrich
  • Donald's Penguin
  • Don Donald
  • The Fox Hunt
  • Good Scouts
  • Hockey Champ
  • Modern Inventions
  • Officer Duck
  • Polar Trappers
  • Sea Scouts
  • Self Control
  • The Wise Little Hen

DISC TWO

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

SHORT SUBJECTS (in alphabetical order)

  • Billposters
  • Chef Donald
  • Donald's Camera
  • Donald's Dog Laundry
  • Donald's Vacation
  • Early To Bed
  • Fire Chief
  • Golden Eggs
  • Good Time For A Dime
  • Mr. Duck Steps Out
  • Old MacDonald Duck
  • Put-Put Trouble
  • The Riveter
  • Timber
  • Truant Officer Donald
  • Window Cleaners


Promotional image © Disney.

MICKEY MOUSE IN LIVING COLOR (Volume Two)

Along the same lines as Donald's collection, this second volume of Mickey shorts picks up from 1939 and covers the rest of his starring appearances through 1995. Disc One includes 18 shorts, including “Mickey And The Seal,” “The Nifty Nineties,” “Symphony Hour,” and a number of Pluto cartoons, and Disc Two includes a slew of bonus items along with Mickey's more contemporary appearances, such as “Mickey's Christmas Carol,” “The Prince And The Pauper,” and “Runaway Brain.” This second volume perfectly caps off Mickey's career in film, and while Mickey's character is quite a bit tamer in these shorts than his earlier film appearances, they are still a treat for the whole family to watch.

DISC ONE

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

SHORT SUBJECTS (In alphabetical order)

  • The Little Whirlwind
  • Mickey And The Seal
  • Mickey Down Under
  • Mickey's Birthday Party
  • Mickey's Delayed Date
  • Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip
  • The Nifty Nineties
  • Orphan's Benefit
  • Plutopia
  • Pluto's Christmas Tree
  • Pluto's Dream House
  • Pluto's Party
  • The Pointer
  • R'Coon Dawg
  • The Simple Things
  • Society Dog
  • Symphony Hour
  • Tugboat Mickey

DISC TWO

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL – This 30-minute film, based on the Charles Dickens story, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject, 1983.

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER – Mickey Mouse stars in this 30-minute film, based on the famous tale of switched identities.

RUNAWAY BRAIN – A very humorous animated short starring Mickey as he has his brain switched with a monster. This was Oscar-nominated for Best Short Subject, 1995.


Promotional image © Disney.

WALT DISNEY'S TOMORROWLAND

Being a scientist and having watched these shows several times over the years, this set holds a particularly special spot on my DVD shelf now. Walt had a special ability to homogenize scientific facts, developing technologies, and education into a product that still captures the attention and minds of young and old, and this is especially true of the space-oriented shows highlighted on this set.

While the content is probably a bit dated for today's children, Walt's vision of space exploration and the opportunities and challenges of space travel still hold true even today, especially in light of the recently proposed Moon and Mars missions. For those of you who have never seen any of these shows, they mix classic and quite humorous Disney animation, directed by Ward Kimball, with live-action segments, and the end result is a fascinating series of shows that both inform and entertain.


Promotional image © Disney.

In addition to the space related shows, this two-disc set also features a couple of other attention absorbing shows. The first is the uncut version of “Epcot,” Walt's proposal for the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. This is one of the last film appearances that Walt made before he died, yet it is absolutely absorbing to watch the conviction and passion that Walt exudes as he talks about a dream he would not live to see come to fruition.

Finally, there is also a interesting short called “Our Friend The Atom,” which discusses the possibilities of nuclear power, as seen from over 40 years ago. While modern concerns have cooled the drive to expand nuclear power capacity, the show is still a very worthwhile and educational short on how nuclear chemistry works and how it is applied to power generation. These shows are simply must sees for the science and classic Disney edutainment fans in your family.

DISC ONE

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

MAN IN SPACE – The first installment of “Tomorrowland” from the Disneyland TV show. Produced and directed by legendary Disney animator Ward Kimball, this film looks at the future of space exploration by using animation and live-action segments with the leading edge scientists of the time.

MAN AND THE MOON – This Disneyland TV show explores man's fascination with the moon in a similar fashion to “Man in Space.”

MARS AND BEYOND – This Disneyland TV show focuses on Mars and the idea of space travel to get there. Given that the same idea is still hanging around, the same challenges still exist today.

DISC TWO

INTRODUCTION – Leonard Maltin

EYES IN OUTER SPACE – This animation and live-action movie focuses on satellites.

OUR FRIEND THE ATOM – This movie also uses a combination of animation and live action to tell the story of atomic energy. This movie even includes the famous mousetrap and ping pong ball depiction of a nuclear reaction.

EPCOT – This film was Walt's proposal for his amazing concept of a an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was eventually turned into the Walt Disney World Resort. In the past, only parts of this film have been shown, but now the entire film has been restored to its original length.

The Goodies

All-in-all, the content and bonus material spread across these eight discs will keep you busy and entertained for hours. I know they probably took up too much of my time while I was reviewing them. All of the additional bonus material on these sets is well worth watching, but due to the volume of material, this section will focus more on particular items that caught my attention:

Walt Disney on the Front Lines

THE GREMLINS GALLERY

Based on youth author Roald Dahl's wartime story about mythical creatures that caused aviation mishaps, Disney's unmade animated feature “The Gremlins” was dropped due to story problems. However, Dahl's story was adapted into an extremely rare Disney storybook. Besides a few stills of development work, the book, in its entirety, appears in the gallery.

INSIGNIA GALLERY

During World War II, the Disney Studio artists worked hard to fulfill military unit requests for insignia designs that featured Disney characters. Over the course of the war, the Studio produced over 1,200, and this gallery features a great sampling of them.


Promotional image © Disney.

CONVERSATIONS WITH DISNEY LEGENDS

My favorite bonus items are the conversations between Maltin and Disney Legends John Hench, Joe Grant and Roy Disney. They are captivating, especially for those of you interested in Disney Studio history, and between the three of them, the stories and vintage film clips reveal everything from Studio life with soldiers on the backlot to the officer who took over Walt's office. This is very, very cool stuff.

The Chronologial Donald (Volume One)

This set contains primarily animated shorts, and the bonus material is not as plentiful as some of the others. I am a bit surprised that, given the volume of Donald shorts, there was not more to include, but Disney is probably holding on to bonus material to fill later volume(s), like they did with Mickey Mouse in Living Color (Volume Two).

PUBLICITY, MEMORABILIA, STORYBOARD, AND BACKGROUND GALLERIES

These galleries feature tons of Donald Duck-related artwork, posters, comics, and so on. Highlighted in these galleries are unique classics like the comic strip that introduces Donald's nephews long before they made their first film appearance, the first Disney comic book, and storyboards and production art for the animated shorts “Don Donald,” “Donald's Nephews,” “Sea Scouts,” “Mr. Duck Steps Out,” and “Donald's Vacation.” As with the other galleries in the Walt Disney Treasures series, several images feature a brief commentary by Leonard Maltin.


Promotional image © Disney.

THE MAN BEHIND THE DUCK: CLARENCE 'DUCKY' NASH

This rather short but interesting five-minute featurette on Clarence “Ducky” Nash takes a retrospective look at the original voice of Donald Duck.

Mickey Mouse in Living Color (Volume Two)

As I previously mentioned, the latter part of Mickey's career was not terribly prolific, so while Disc 1 mostly contains animated shorts, Disc 2 is mostly bonus items and a few more contemporary animated films.

MICKEY AND THE BEANSTALK

If you do not already have a DVD copy of “Fun And Fancy Free,” this set features the classic 35-minute cartoon, “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. This Disney spin on the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story is a treat to watch, and it is nice to have as a separate cartoon outside of the context of the original package feature. It is a nice touch.


Promotional image © Disney.

MICKEY'S CARTOON COMEBACK

This very cool conversation between Leonard Maltin and Disney animators Andreas Dejas and Mark Henn takes place in the Disney Studio's Animation Research Library, and it provides a unique look into Mickey's past by reviewing original animation drawings and artwork. Dejas and Henn provide the unique perspective of animating the famous mouse in his later career, and it is interesting to listen to how they brought Mickey to life in his contemporary films, such as “Mickey's Christmas Carol” and “Runaway Brain.” This is must-see viewing for fans of Disney animation history.

THE VOICE BEHIND THE MOUSE

This conversation between Leonard Maltin and Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, and his wife Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse, is an interesting overview of Mickey and Minnie's voice history. Besides talking about their personal roles as the voices of Mickey and Minnie, Allwine and Taylor discuss previous voices, such as Walt Disney and Jim Macdonald, and their contributions to Mickey's character over the years. It is quite a legacy, and I found it quite interesting to watch.

MOUSE MANIA

This very odd and rarely shown two-minute short film was commissioned for Mickey's 50th birthday. Featuring a combination of live action and stop-motion animation, the short explores fan devotion to Mickey, as Mickey toys of every kind come to life. It is pretty weird, but it is a must for those of you looking for something Mickey related that you have probably never seen before.

COLOR TITLES FROM THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB

I am sure most of you remember the Mickey Mouse Club, but do you remember the opening animation with Mickey? This three-minute featurette shows you those original animated segments, with Walt voicing Mickey, in color. These versions have been very rarely presented, so it is pretty neat to see them as they were originally animated.

THE MAKING OF “MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL”

This is the original 24-minute making-of featurette for this movie. For the most part, it is pretty standard fare for this kind of program, but it is interesting to see some of Disney's contemporary master animators, such as Glen Keane and Mark Henn, discuss their early roles in producing this film. Besides including several interviews, film clips, and art work, the featurette also examines the voice talents of the film, Wayne Allwine and Jim Macdonald (voices of Mickey Mouse), Alan Young (the voice of Scrouge), Clarence “Ducky” Nash (the legendary voice of Donald Duck) and Hal Smith (former voice of Goofy).

Walt Disney's Tomorrowland

Besides the still galleries, there are two goodies that are almost as interesting to watch as the features on the sets.

THE OPTIMISTIC FUTURIST

In this intriguing 25-minute interview between Maltin and famous author and futurist Ray Bradbury, Bradbury discusses a variety of topics, including his friendship with Walt Disney and Walt's fascination with the future and space. Also included along with the interview are several video segments of vintage Disneyland footage that are a treat to watch.


Promotional image © Disney.

MARTY SKLAR, WALT, AND EPCOT

The second bonus item of note is a 26-minute interview between Maltin and Marty Sklar, Vice President and Principle Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering. Anyone remotely interested in the history and developments of Disney's Imagineering group will thoroughly enjoy this segment, as it features Sklar's personal reflections on a number of interesting topics, such as Walt, Tomorrowland, and Epcot. Additionally, the featurette includes a number of very cool archive film clips of Walt, the 1964 New York World's Fair, Imagineers in action, and the theme parks.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

The video and audio on all of these discs have been treated to digital remastering, and even though most of these films are decades old, they look and sound pretty darn good. The original film sources do exhibit some signs of age, which is not unexpected, but the restoration has minimized that. For the most part, the colors are solid and natural looking, and the picture has good detail. As for the audio, it is mostly a simple monaural transfer, but it is very clean. Quite simply, all of these discs will look and sound good on any home theater system. Just don't expect too much from this classic material, especially if you have a higher-end system.

The interface is very basic, as most of the disc is filled with content rather than Disney's typically interactive menus. However, they are themed and feature audio, but that is about it. The menu hierarchy is easy to navigate, and the Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse collections feature “Play All” functions. Given the intended audience, the interface does its job.

The Final Evaluation

This third wave of Walt Disney Treasures is a definite treat for any Disney fan, and at least one of these sets should appeal to the Disneyphile(s) in your family. The variety, mix, and historical significance of material in this wave are fantastic, and any or all of these sets will make a good addition to your home video library. Save up your pennies and pick these up as soon as you have a chance.


Promotional image © Disney.



On The Front Lines
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • On the set of “Victory Through Air Power” (5 min)
  • “Victory Through Air Power” trailer (2 min)
  • Still art galleries with some audio commentary by Leonard Maltin
  • Conversations with Disney Legends Joe Grant (14 min), John Hench (14 min) and Roy Disney (20 min)

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Two-disc set
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full frame – 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed-captioned

Chronological Donald (Vol. 1)
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • “The Man Behind The Duck: Clarence 'Ducky' Nash” (5 min)
  • Publicity And Memorabilia Gallery
  • Story And Background Art Gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Two-disc set
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full frame – 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed-captioned

Mickey in Color (Vol. 2)
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” (10 min)
  • Deleted animation from “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” (1 min)
  • “Mickey and the Beanstalk” (35 min)
  • “Mickey's Cartoon Comeback” (16 min)
  • “The Voice Behind The Mouse” (24 min)
  • Mouse Mania (2 min)
  • Mickey Cartoon Physics From “Plausible Impossible” (3 min)
  • Mickey On The Camera Stand From “Tricks Of Our Trade” (5 min)
  • Mickey Mouse Club Titles In Color (3 min)
  • “Mickey Meets The Maestro” (3 min)
  • The Making of “Mickey's Christmas Carol” (24 min)
  • Publicity And memorabilia gallery
  • Story and background art gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Two-disc set
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full frame – 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed-captioned

Walt's Tomorrowland
DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • “The Optimistic Futurist” – An interview with Ray Bradbury (25 min)
  • “Marty Sklar, Walt and EPCOT” (26 min)
  • Publicity and rare memorabilia gallery
  • Behind-the-scenes gallery
  • Story and background art gallery

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Two-disc set
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • Full frame – 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital)
  • Closed-captioned
ABOUT THE EDITOR

Kevin “Doc” Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.

You can contact Kevin here.

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