Toon Talk: Walt Disney Treasures Wave 6
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Treasures
Four Volume Disney DVD Two-Disc Sets
It is December, and for Disney fans, that means the Candlelight Processional in the parks, "From All of Us to All of Youâ? on your CD player, and the newest wave of "Walt Disney Treasures" under your tree (hopefully). And this year's offerings, the sixth, will not disappoint, even if they may be eclipsed a bit by the True-Life Adventures sets that pushed this year's arrivals back a couple of weeks.
Leonard Maltin is back once more with a solid group of collections, two of which - The Complete Pluto - Volume 2 and More Silly Symphonies - bring you the final sets of their respective series. The other two volumes - The Hardy Boys and Your Host, Walt Disney - gather even more old favorites from the vast Disney television library. All four sets (two discs each) would bring joy to any Disney aficionado this holiday season (although the increasingly bothersome "limited editionâ? tin cases make them hard to stuff in stockings).
For any dog lover, The Complete Pluto - Volume 2: 1947-1951 would be a fitting treat. Twenty-six shorts starring Mickey's beloved canine pal are collected, including the Oscar-nominated Pluto's Blue Note (a good example of how this mostly pantomime character was able to express varied emotions with no dialogue ... although he does "singâ? The Three Caballeros' Latin love song "You Belong to My Heartâ? here), Pluto's Fledgling, Pluto's Sweater, Food for Feudin' (co-starring those ace scene-stealers, Chip ân Dale), Pluto's Heart Throb (written by future "Moosketeerâ?, Roy Williams) and the surreal Plutopia, featuring a very disturbed feline adversary for our hero.
Featured as bonus shorts are three cartoons headlined by Pluto's sometime nemesis Figaro, of Pinocchio fame. Rounding out the supplemental material are two "Master Classâ? sessions with current Disney animators Andreas Deja and Randy Cartwright, who examine two Pluto shorts in a sort of audio/visual commentary, sometimes even slowing down or freeze-framing the action to get their point across more clearly. Similarly, "Pluto's Processâ? offers a "deconstructionâ? of the early short Pluto's Judgment Day, with split screen views of the storyboards, pencil tests and the final animation. Art and merchandise galleries close out the set.
While many of the shorts included have already been mined for the Classic Cartoon Favorites DVD line, it is great to have them here all in one spot. Additionally, although they are a poor man's Tom and Jerry, it is nice to see the Figaros after all these years. Overall, I still feel that splitting Pluto's adventures into two volumes was not necessary, but at least the second volume does not feel as padded as the first.
Toon Talk Rating: B
Fans of Disney's earlier work will love More Silly Symphonies - Volume 2: 1929-1938. A treasure trove of many rarely seen vintage cartoons - 38 in all - this second set of SS will enthrall animation buffs with its fascinating looks at what were the "building blocksâ? toward the legendary early-animated features. You can literally see Walt and his artists stretching the boundaries of the medium with each consecutive short.
Aiding in your understanding and appreciation are selected audio commentaries, a first for the "Treasures". Host Maltin, along with various other animation, film and music historians (including Disney composer Richard Sherman) share their insights and knowledge on these invaluable optional soundtracks.
Disc 1 rounds-up the remaining black and white toons, with their color counterparts filling up the second disc. Several themes emerge while viewing this latest batch, such as the four season "mini-seriesâ? (Springtime, Autumn, Summer and Winter), playful animals (Arctic Antics, Frolicking Fish, Monkey Melodies, The Bears and the Bees), well-known characters from mythology (Playful Pan, The Goddess of Spring, King Neptune) and literature (The Pied Piper, Three Blind Mousketeers, Little Hiawatha) and even opera (El Terrible Toreador). Santa Claus himself stars in two yuletide tales, The Night Before Christmas and Santa's Workshop.
Most interesting is noticing seeds for future films and shorts in such selections as Springtime (Flowers and Trees), Night (The Old Mill), the Oscar-winning Three Orphan Kittens (The Aristocats), Merbabies (The Little Mermaid, duh), The China Shop (Beauty and the Beast) and Broken Toys (the Toy Story movies).
Two shorts in particular stand out for their ambition and over-all quality: the buoyant "mini-musicalâ? Old King Cole, chockfull of fairy tale characters popping out of pop-up books to wiggle and wail to Frank Churchill's clever song score; and the riotous, Warner-ish send-up, Mother Goose Goes Hollywood. This Academy Award-nominated laugh-a-minute farce is filled to the brim with stylized caricatures of some of "oldâ? Hollywood's finest, such as Katherine Hepburn as Little Bo Peep (!) and WC Fields as Humpty Dumpty. Fans of classic movies will have a field day guessing who's who, but for those not versed in the cinema classics, Maltin provides a helpful audio commentary to help.
Alternate versions of the brazenly bizarre Cannibal Capers (with the original ending) and the charmingly delightful Little Hiawatha (the French-dubbed version can be found as an Easter Egg on disc 2) are available, plus a fine overview of the entire series with "Silly Symphonies Rediscoveredâ?, a retrospective highlighting the series' creative accomplishments in technical innovations, use of music and story development from the first SS (Skeleton Dance) to the last (The Ugly Duckling).
In addition to the usual art galleries, featured is an interesting curio: rare "home movieâ? footage of Walt and his staff enjoying a lunchtime game of baseball. Originally filmed sometime in the early 30's, around the time of the production of these early cartoons, the film was recently discovered in the studio vault.
Toon Talk Rating: A-