WALT DISNEY TREASURES:
Review by Michael Jacobson
Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 305 Minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2001
afraid of the big, bad wolf?"
a year 2001 has been for the Disney Studios in terms of DVD.
They’ve managed to come a long way in a short time as far as digging
themselves out of the dreadful early reputation they carved for themselves with
their non-anamorphic transfers, features-bare discs, and support of the
horrendous DIVX format. Their recent release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is
one of the year’s best releases, and even their charming anniversary edition
of Dumbo is a digital winner.
it’s time to stop the presses…with the release of four VERY special limited
edition Treasures series discs, Disney has pretty much outdone and
outclassed everything they have done before in home video…including their VHS
only days. Two in particular are
absolutely priceless collections of some of the best the studios have ever had
to offer …“Mickey Mouse In Living Color”, and “Silly Symphonies”.
The Silly Symphonies disc, in particular, is as comprehensive an assembly
as any cartoon fan could hope for…it’s a set that proves once and for all
that the history of animation and the history of the Disney studios are
classic shorts are including, many of them Oscar winners, and more than a few
are out and out historical landmarks. “Flowers
and Trees”, for example, boasts a couple of firsts.
It was the first animated film to use the new three-strip Technicolor
process, and it was the first short to win an Academy Award.
It began a long string of uninterrupted wins for Walt Disney and his
go back further, and you’ll find one of the studios earliest and grandest
experiments with music, the black and white “Skeleton Dance”.
No story or characters here, just a celebration of sounds with dancing
bones perfectly synchronized to the score and endless sight gags.
This cartoon, incidentally, originally drew protests from movie goers for
being too macabre!
evolution of the art of animation is apparent when looking at the only short the
studio ever remade. The black and
white version of “The Ugly Duckling” from 1931 is charming, but see how much
things had changed in less than a decade when a full color and better version
emerged in 1939!
are so many classics included here that it’s almost overwhelming…chances
are, you’ll see many you remember, from “Who Killed Cock Robin?” with its
Mae West-styled heroine Jenny Wren, “The Grasshopper and the Ants”.
“Wynken, Blynken and Nod” (a beautiful piece), “Music Land”, “Father
Noah’s Ark”, and much more.
in particular must be singled out: “The
Three Little Pigs” has been called the most popular cartoon ever made.
It won an Oscar, spawned a hit single in “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad
Wolf?”, and ran in some theatres longer than the features that accompanied it!
Even better is my personal favorite, “The Old Mill”. This is a spellbinding piece of animation, and the first
short to use the multi-plane camera. It’s
images of nature in all its calm and fury is one that I never get tired of.
at the bottom of this review is a complete list of all the cartoons included on
this disc. Needless to say, this is
five-plus hours of classic animation at its very best.
What Walt Disney created with the Silly Symphonies was a treasure trove
of ideas, characters and songs that inspired some of animation’s greatest
artistic leaps in a short period of time. From
1928 to 1939, the studios laid the groundwork for what would be decades and
decades of indelible animated films. This
is one of the best short cartoon collections ever assembled…as historic as it
the range and age of these films, I was generally impressed with the quality
offered here. Colors were very good
from start to finish, and I noticed no transfer flaws at all…the only picture
blemishes come in the form of aging artifacts:
a spot here, a shimmer there, a streak or two along the way.
These are to be expected, and I didn’t find them distracting.
A few shorts, especially the black and white ones, could have used a
touch of restoration, but they’re all still quite well-preserved, and make
good use of DVD as a presentation medium.
mono sound is fine throughout, but I would have liked to have heard new mixes
for these cartoons…not necessarily 5.1 mixes, mind you, but a little more
dynamic range would have been welcome. Everything
plays at pretty much the same level…even my favorite, “The Old Mill”,
doesn’t render loud when it should. Overall,
the tracks are fine and serviceable, just nothing to get excited about.
advertised features are on the second disc…they include Leonard Maltin-hosted
featurettes on the merchandising of Silly Symphonies (a very nice look at some
terrific antiques and collectibles as featured in the Disney Archives), and on
the music of the cartoons, featuring composer Robert Sherman. There is also a gallery of conceptual art and posters.
throughout both discs, though, are plenty of easy-to-find Easter eggs, featuring
Walt Disney himself discussing several of the Silly Symphony
cartoons…fascinating bits of history, as he explains that this series of
shorts was really created for experimental purposes, so that he and his staff
could incorporate their knowledge into later features! To find the eggs, notice that all the menu screens on the
discs are vertical (up-down to select)…go left and right on each screen and
see what you find…happy hunting!
a bonus, Leonard Maltin also introduces a select number of cartoons he deems his
favorites himself, providing extra historical footnotes or just plain fun facts
to go along with the shorts. Plus,
a limited edition lithograph…I don’t know if they’re all the same, but
mine was of the “Flowers and Trees” movie poster…quite cool!
THE COMPLETE LISTING:
Mother Goose Melodies