Walt Disney Treasures - The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbitby Kevin Krock, staff writer
Walt Disney Treasures – The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Ratings Summary (scored out of a maximum of five)
- Audio 3
- Video 3
- Goodies 5
- Interface 3
- Movie 5
- Value 5
DVD Technical Specifications
- Running time: 234 min.
- Rating: Not rated
- DVD Release Date: December 11, 2007
- Original Theatrical Release: Various
- Full Screen
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- Subtitles: Closed Captioned
- Suggested Retail Price: $32.99
- "Oswald Comes Home" featurette
- Six audio commentaries
- "Sagebrush Sadie" animation fragment
- Still frame galleries
- "The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story" feature-length documentary
- The Works of Ub Iwerks
As Walt's famous saying goes, "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse." Well, while that may hold true of Disneyland's history, the character animation history of the Walt Disney Company started decades before Disneyland with a rabbit rather than a mouse. For those of us that have long enjoyed all things Disney, there has always been a bit of a mysterious gap in the pre-Mickey Mouse days, between the Alice Comedies and Mickey's debut in "Plane Crazy." That gap was filled by a host of "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" animated shorts, but due to an unexpected and crooked deal with Disney's movie distributor, Walt lost the rights to Oswald in 1928.
Since that time, very few people have seen these shorts, and they were not kept in very good shape. Then, in 2006, the Walt Disney Company acquired the rights to Oswald, and the worldwide search for the best copies of these animation artifacts began. Of the original 26 shorts, 13 complete shorts were recovered, restored, and are now presented on the DVD. Also, because these shorts were from the Silent Movie era, each short has a new musical soundtrack composed by Robert Israel, which sound fantastic and truly add to the enjoyment of watching these:
- Trolly Troubles
- Oh, Teacher
- The Mechanical Cow
- Great Guns!
- All Wet
- The Ocean Hop
- Rival Romeos
- Bright Lights
- Ozzie Of The Mounted
- Oh What A Knight
- Sky Scrapers
- The Fox Chase
- Tall Timber
As the stars of this set, these 13 shorts are indeed a treat for animation and Disney fans to finally watch. You definitely see the similarities between the later Oswald shorts and the early Mickey shorts, such as "Plane Crazy." These similarities are not an accident, as Walt's friend, original business partner, and lead animator, Ub Iwerks, actually designed both characters and animated them in those early days. Now you can see how Ub's experimentation, creativity, and amazing animation abilities developed over this short period of time to create some of the most significant animated characters in the world.
In other Walt Disney Treasure collections, there usually is not a great deal of bonus material, as the bulk of the material is the featured shorts or shows, but since there are only 13 shorts, there is plenty of room on the two discs for some really cool goodies.
On Disc 1, there is a great featurette on how Oswald returned to the Disney home, thanks to Disney CEO Bob Iger and a sportscaster trade to Universal. It is an interesting story, and it is somewhat heartening to see a modern corporate giant like Disney finally work out a deal to bring back to the company something that was so dear to its founder. Also on the disc is a segment of pencil animation from a lost Oswald short, and it is kind of fun to freeze frame through it to see the comments that Ub wrote on the drawings.
Disc 2 takes the material on Disc 1 to another level by featuring a feature-length documentary on Ub Iwerks by his granddaughter Leslie Iwerks. "The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story" is an informational and heartfelt project that wonderfully covers Ub's life from his childhood through his first contact with Walt Disney to the early days of the Walt Disney Studios to his later days as a technical wizard at Disney. Narrated by Kelsey Grammar, it is a fascinating story, and it is expertly told.
Also on Disc 2, in order to provide a complete picture of Ub's achievements in the early days, there is a collection of Alice Comedies ("Alice Gets Stung," "Alice In The Wooley West," and "Alice's Baloon Race") and early Disney animation ("Plane Crazy," "Steamboat Willie," and "Skeleton Dance"). These are a great little addition to an already impressive disc.
The Audio, Video and Interface
The audio and video on this disc are a somewhat mixed bag. The shorts are about the best you can expect 80-year-old animation to look, which is pretty rough in some cases, but for its historical significance, you simply cannot compare it to a modern animated feature on DVD. On the other hand, the documentary on Disc 2 looks and sounds great, as one would expect for a contemporary feature. Additionally, the interface nicely compliments the material, with still pencil sketches and images of Oswald and music from the shorts. If you are familiar with any of the other Walt Disney Treasures titles, this set is right in line with them: nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done.
The Final Evaluation
Like most of the Walt Disney Treasures, The Adventures of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit features a unique piece of Disney history. While the primary appeal of this set will be the animation and Disney fans, I was pleasantly surprised at how much my three boys enjoyed watching these shorts. They are 3, 6, and 9-years-old, and the sight gags are right up their alley. Combine that with Ub's fluid, simple animation is so appealing. So, if you have that gift card burning a hole in your pocket, and owning a piece of Disney and animation history is remotely interesting to you, then this collection is very well worth picking up.