Toon Talk: Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color
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Walt Disney Treasures
Mickey Mouse in Living Color
Finally released for home video in some semblance of an organized package, the first of the Walt Disney Treasures Deluxe DVD Sets features the first 26 color shorts starring our main mouse, Mickey. The collection spans three years, from The Band Concert in 1935 to Brave Little Taylor in 1938, and features such timeless classics as Thru the Mirror, Hawaiian Holiday, Clock Cleaners, Lonesome Ghosts and Mickey's Trailer. All feature Walt Disney himself as the voice of Mickey.
Hosted by famed movie historian Leonard Maltin, the 2-disc set is sparse on the extras. Mind you, that is not a complaint as the real draw here, justifiably, are the shorts themselves. Some of these are rarely seen in their full form today; as the packaging clearly states, these are the "uncensored" originals.
Disney should be commended for not tampering with these classic shorts as they have with recent video releases of the features The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music and Melody Time. The Walt Disney Treasures sets are obviously aimed at the Disney collector, and such editing is tantamount to blasphemy among animation purists. (Still, it is surprising how often Mickey picks up a gun; see Uncensored highlights below.)
In Maltin's introduction on Disc 1, he sets the historical stage for the gems to follow. He explains that, as Mickey's career continued, the storymen found it more and more difficult to write for their leading man. Mickey had come to represent the American everyman, so the more outlandish gags and longer screen time went to his budding co-stars: Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck. Such a statement as this seems to be have been made to explain (justify?) the fact that in a lot of these shorts, the mouse doesn't do a lot.
But it is still a joy to see (some, for me as well as most I'm sure, for the first time) a good-size chunk of Mickey's filmography all in one place, although the fact that they are not presented in chronological order is puzzling. (They are grouped by year, but not in order of release.) One would think that chronologically would have been the best showcase for the shorts, the best to see how the characters and filmmakers progressed through the years.
Aside from the questionable formatting, Mickey Mouse in Living Color is an indispensable addition to any serious Disney fan's video library.
Following Maltin's introduction, you can either play all the shorts together or select them individually from their respective years.
The Band Concert
Originally released February 23, 1935. Directed by Wilfred Jackson
Summary: Mickey leads an outdoor band (including Goofy, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow) in a rousing rendition of the "William Tell Overture", but pesky ice cream seller Donald Duck keeps leading them astray with his flute playing of "Turkey in the Straw".
Behind the Shorts: It took three years after the first color cartoon, the Silly Symphony Flowers and Trees, for Mickey to make his debut in Technicolor. Walt felt at the time that the Mickey shorts were popular enough without the addition, but eventually decided that it was time for his star to get colorized.
He wanted to insure that the first color Mickey would be special, and The Band Concert certainly is; it is not only one of the best Mickey Mouses, it is one of the best cartoons ever made.
Two more black and white Mickey shorts (Mickey's Service Station and Mickey's Kangaroo) were released after The Band Concert. From then on, all Disney cartoons were in color.
July 13, 1935. Directed by Jackson
Summary: Mickey and Pluto protect their vegetable garden from bugs. But when Mickey gets a whiff of the bug poison, he hallucinates that he and Pluto have shrunk down to size of their nemesis'.
Behind the Shorts: Includes allusions to such future shorts as The Pointer and the Mickey and the Beanstalk segment of Fun and Fancy Free.
The first on-screen appearance of Mickey's trademark red shorts.
Uncensored: Bugs get drunk on Mickey's insecticide.
September 28, 1935. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen
Summary: On a frozen lake as Minnie looks on, Mickey out-skates Brian Boitano. Donald, Goofy and Pluto are up to their usual shenanigans.
Behind the Shorts: Precursor to the ice-skating scene in Bambi.
Uncensored: Goofy uses chewing tobacco to catch fish.
Pluto's Judgment Day
August 31, 1935. Directed by Dave Hand.
Summary: After Mickey chastises Pluto for chasing cats, the dog has a nightmare were he is in a feline hell on trial for his crimes.
Behind the Shorts: The title says it all ... Mickey hardly appears.
Uncensored: Cats in black face sing of Pluto's misdeeds.
Mickey's Fire Brigade
August 3, 1935. Directed by Sharpsteen.
Summary: Mickey, Donald and Goofy try to rescue Clarabelle Cow from her burning house.
Behind the Shorts: When Donald chases the little fire imps, they tap out "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" on the piano.