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Witness the birth of an American icon. This historic compilation chronicles Mickey Mouse's early career, from his landmark debut in 1928's "Steamboat Willie" to the last of his black-and-white shorts, "Mickey's Service Station," in 1935. Gain insights into Mickey's beginnings in new interviews with legendary Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. See the earliest visuals on record showing the creative birth of animation's most historically significant cartoon as well as the only black-and-white cartoon pencil footage known to exist. All of this and more is revealed in this homage to the mouse who captured the imagination of the world. Featuring exclusive introductions by film historian Leonard Maltin, this is a timeless collection from generations past for generations to come.
In these cartoons released between 1928 and 1935, Walt Disney created one of the icons of 20th-century culture. Disney's reputation was built on these early shorts, and the films shimmer with the energy of the young artists exploring the new medium of the sound cartoon. Watching the films in chronological order enables the viewer to see the remarkable progress Walt and his crew made in animation, storytelling, and acting in just seven years. The rambunctious, rubbery Mickey of "Plane Crazy" and "Steamboat Willie" quickly developed into the polished charmer of "Gulliver Mickey" and "Mickey's Orphans." More than 70 years after his debut, the black and white Mickey still displays the appeal that made him so popular during the '30s, when A Mickey Mouse Cartoon appeared on theater marquees with the feature titles, and his fans included Franklin Roosevelt, Mary Pickford, George V of England, the Nizam of Hyderabad--and the more than one million children who joined the first Mickey Mouse Club.
Although it's fun to look at the old sketches and pencil tests, the high point of the supplementary material is the discussion host Leonard Maltin conducts with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, the last surviving members of the justly celebrated "Nine Old Men" of Disney animation. Thomas and Johnston were nearly 90 at the time of the interview, but their enthusiasm for their work, for Mickey, and for the man who made it all possible remains undimmed. (Unrated; suitable for all ages: cartoon violence) --Charles Solomon
Despite this being a seminal moment in DVD history having the black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons available in the best possible digital format, this Disney Treasures collection is not a complete set. As mentioned, this set will contain 34 black and white MM shorts, but they are only selections out of about 75 made between 1928-1935. Last year's "Silly Symphonies" collection was put together in a similar way with a little more than half of the 73 or so made. Rumors are that next year's DT series will include a "Mickey Mouse in Living Color Vol. 2", which means that host/compiler Leonard Maltin possibly intends to include second volumes of past and future collections in this series that don't contain everything in one set due to large amounts originally produced. When these MM black and white shorts were available on laserdisc years ago, they were also released in two volumes.
Here is a complete list of the B&W selections on this collection (year-by-year) straight from the Disney press release:
1928--"Steamboat Willie", "The Gallopin' Gaucho", "Plane Crazy" (actually the first official Mickey Mouse short--originally silent with sound added later and re-released following the success of "SW").Read more ›
I was leery of this set, but bought it without hesitation. My greatest concern was that the highly revisionist modern-day Disney would butcher these early, rude 'n' crude Mickey Mouse cartoons, which are rife with animal abuse, drinking, smoking and racial/cultural stereotypes. These cartoons are so much better and livelier than the stale, dull "Silly Symphonies," which are important historically but bland as tapioca. Maltin provides on-screen mea culpas for the blackface gags and outhouse humor, but defends every American's right to see these pieces of our cultural history, and to view them with hindsight and intelligence. That said, these 34 cartoons are corkers. It will surprise some to see how zany and surrealistic these early Mickeys are. They are almost as daffy as the pre-Code Betty Boop cartoons of the Fleischer brothers. My favorite is the anarchic "The Karnival Kid," a 1928 cartoon that made me laugh non-stop. Transfers are decent, considering the age and condition of these films. Some obviously suffered vault neglect, and given the volatility of nitrate film stock, I suppose we're lucky to have them at all. There is little to no tampering that I could see, tho' the 1930-32 cartoons have something weird going on with the title cards. You'll see what I mean when you view them. I wonder why they re-did the cartoon titles, and why they're so jerky and wobbly. The extras are quite thoughtful, and more substantial than on the "Silly Symphonies" set. This is essential viewing for anyone who loves the rough and tumble days of pioneer animation.
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I'm not going to elaborate on the 2 disc set. As far as I'm concerned, it's a five star set that apoligizes for not being PC. On disc one, there is a hidden bonus. STOP HERE IF YOU WANT TO FIND IT YOURSELF. The hidden bonus is Malton's explanation of the 1920's - 1930's Mickey Mouse club, the (extremely rare) "Minnie's YooHoo" cartoon that usually began the Mickey Mouse club meetings, And a news reel on a 2 day festival. The 2 ways that you can obtain the hidden bonus: 1. First go to the bonus material menu. Then right arrow down till you highlight "Register your dvd". Then press the up arrow. At this point, Mickey's cowboy hat should have turned blue. Press play, and it will start. (Malton intro is chapter 1, Minnie's YooHoo is chapter 2, 2 day festival is chapter 3). 2. After going to the bonus menu, press 6 on your remote. Incidently, to bypass the nonPC apology from Malton that occurs several times, press the forward to next chapter arrow on your remote (ie: those cartoons that contain the Malton speech are broken up into 2 chapters - the speech (ch. 1), and the cartoon (ch. 2)). Enjoy.
Addendum: Incidentally,had Malton not put the PC clause in the films (this and many other Disney cartoons), they would have never been released. Disney was concerned about releasing it, and some soft hearted (and soft headed) liberals would surely try to sue the pants off them. This way, there is a warning, and the animations don't have to go through a lot of unnecessary (and unwelcomed) edits. Malton should be thanked, not criticized.
If you can actually acquire these rare DVD's (and the ever-elusive collectible tin), you'll simultaneously be impressed and disppointed.
First and foremost, this collections is a wonderful compilation of vintage 20's and 30's cartoons, not just encompassing the period in which cartoons were popularized and evolved into the form they are today, these black and white shorts define that period. Each cartoon is in excellent condition, with clean picture and relatively clear sound (although the original audio limitations of these "sound cartoons" constitutes the real audio handicap). While not all of them are in window box format, like Steamboat Willie, they are appropriately croppped to show the maximum picture on your screen. For some people today, this can be annoying, but for purists this is the best and only way to view old movies.
Unfortunately, Disney DVD's are notoriously substandard compared to other studios, and this is no exception. The most annoying quirks are the unavoidable introduction at the beginning (why does anybody think we would want to see this every time we insert the DVD? just give us the main menu please) and the absence of a "play all" option (as if anybody would want to have to manually select each chapter on a movie). In addition, while Leonard Maltin's comments are interesting and informative (including background on Al Jolson's talkie, the Jazz Singer), they can be annoying. More than anything, the comments seem to be a disclaimer to sanatize some of the more questionable scenes (such as Mickey drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco, etc.) that are nowadays inconsistent with Disney's wholesome image. Even worse, the exact same and unavoidable disclaimers repeat before multiple chapters (do we really want to see the exact same thing again?).Read more ›
disney's website has a box you can check next to the out of print dvds to request a re-release but i don't know if that means anything. personally i'm hoping they'll re-release the mickey mouse in living color vol.1, silly symphonies vol.1, and complete goofy again because there's no way on earth... Read More