Toon Talk: True-Life Adventures DVDs
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney's Legacy Collection
Four Volume 2-Disc Disney DVD Sets
"Everything we do always leads to something else ...â€?
Walt Disney himself said that, and boy was he right. With all the nature reference footage used for the animated feature Bambi, Walt go the spark of an idea: "why not make movies with all this?â€? That idea led to the most successful nature documentary series in cinematic history, the True Life Adventures.
Scientists and photographers were sent, with their 16 mm cameras ready, to all corners of the globe to capture images of flora and fauna never before seen by the general public - remember, this was decades before cable TV "shark weekâ€? marathons and box office bonanzas about marching penguins. The cameramen and women were given as much time as they needed to capture the necessary footage, and many new photographic equipment and techniques were developed and created for filming. The resulting series, running from 1948 to 1960 and consisting of seven official shorts (roughly 30 minutes each) and six feature films (roughly 70 minutes each) racked up an impressive list of accolades, including a record eight Academy Awards (see "Awardsâ€? side bar).
Disney family heir apparent Roy E. Disney (Walt's nephew) worked on the series early in his career, and his recent return to the fold has resulted in the creation of a new collectable DVD line titled "Walt Disney's Legacy Collectionâ€?. Similar to the continuing "Walt Disney Treasuresâ€? line (sans Leonard Maltin), the series debuts today with the release, for the first time ever in complete, restored form, of the entire True Life Adventures series.
In addition to all 13 TLAs, the four volume, two-disc sets (eight discs total) offer voluminous supplemental materials, including the lone True-Life Fantasy feature Perri, three bonus nature shorts that were more or less TLAs if not designated as such, related episodes of Disney's television anthology series used to promote the series, and new features on the making of the films. It makes for quite the viewing experience - over 20 hours of material - but well worth the time and effort. For Walt knew that watching films about nature shouldn't be like homework (you know, boring), and each of the TLAs is infused with entertainment value as much as their educational possibilities.
Through the talents of frequent director James Algar, writer and narrator Winston Hibler, composers Paul Smith and Oliver Wallace, and the army of patient yet persistent photographers, the wonders of the world are revealed in a way that is just as fresh and exciting as when the films were originally made. Possibly naĂŻve and, sure, a big corny at times, the TLAs nevertheless have stood the test of time, and these new DVDs will only continue their lasting legacy.
True-Life Adventures - The Awards:
Seal Island (1948):
Beaver Valley (1950):
Nature's Half Acre (1951):
Water Birds (1952):
The Living Desert (1953):
Bear Country (1953):
The Vanishing Prairie (1954):
White Wilderness (1958):
Mysteries of the Deep (1959):
Islands of the Sea (1960):