Toon Talk: Walt Disney Treasures
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Treasures
Disneyland: Secrets, Stories and Magic
The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
The Chronological Donald Volume 3
A Duck and a Rabbit Walk Into the Happiest Place on Earth …
Following erroneous reports of their untimely demise, the Walt Disney Treasures line is back with another batch of titles this holiday season, just in time for gift giving for you and/or your favorite Disneyphile. And although two of the three volumes were originally intended as non-Treasure sets, the trio of titles still offers hours of programming to satisfy the hardcore Disneyland and animation buffs out there.
First up is Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic, a retrospective look at the world’s first theme park that was originally planned to coincide with its 50th anniversary … three years ago. The belated release is puzzling and just a bit frustrating, although the bulk of the main feature (titled, naturally, Disneyland: The Secrets, Stories & Magic of the Happiest Place on Earth) never really mentions the landmark occasion. Unfortunately, a prologue and epilogue by Julie Andrews does, a fact that should have led to the replacement or deletion of these segments. No matter, as the documentary, which doesn’t exactly reveal any secrets that we longtime fans didn’t already know, does provide a great collection of vintage footage of the park during its early glory days up until today (well, “today” as in three years ago).
Unfortunately, aside from that, it is merely passable as a “definitive” record of the park’s creation and evolution over the years, relying heavily on mostly second- and third-person accounts, with the disconcerting habit of starting one anecdote with one speaker only to finish it with another one. All the usual suspects are on hand, such as Roy E. Disney, Diane Disney Miller, Dave Smith, John Lasseter and Richard Sherman, to recall oft-told tales of “Black Sunday” (opening day) and other park milestones. The most interesting sections are on such “Yesterdayland” attractions as the Flying Saucers and the Mickey Mouse Club Circus as well as “Disneyland That Never Was” projects like the Museum of the Weird and Discovery Bay. Other then that, such topics as keeping Tomorrowland up-to-date and the creation of audio animatronics are pretty old hat by now for most of us, making this doc less then required viewing.
Fortunately, the rest of the set makes up for the shortcomings of the main feature. To start with, there’s a fun Wonderful World of Disneyland Trivia Game (with both “Beginner” and “Advanced” options) which is not only re-playable, but actually rewards your knowledge with bonus video clip “prizes”.
Also on disc one is the People and Places short subject Disneyland U.S.A. People and Places were a less successful offshoot of the True Life Adventures that focused on, well, people and places instead of flora and fauna. This one in particular was basically a 40 minute infomercial for Disneyland, but it does benefit from such extra touches as Winston Hibler’s laid back narration and Oliver Wallace’s jaunty musical score (available alone on its own separate audio track). Impressive aerial views of the park, which looks practically barren compared to today’s bursting-at-the-seams incarnation, highlight the tour of Main Street and the four lands, with a particular emphasis on Frontierland. The short subject also has an optional audio commentary by Treasures host Leonard Maltin and current Imagineering senior veep Tony Baxter.
Disc two consists of three new-to-DVD episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, most notably Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair, a special insider’s look at Disney’s preparations for their various attractions at the legendary 1964 New York World’s Fair. In addition to a comical animated history of world’s fairs (dating back to 1851), viewers get a peek at the early days of Imagineering and the creation of Primeval World, the Carousel of Progress, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and It’s a Small World, including some sequences and characters that didn’t make the move to Disneyland after the fair ended.
The Golden Horseshoe Revue celebrates the 10,000 performance of the long-running Frontierland institution, with songbird Betty Taylor, funnyman Wally Boag and special guest stars Ed Wynn and Annette Funicello, who sings a few new Sherman brothers songs amidst all the wacky, wild west shenanigans.
Disneyland Around the Seasons is poignant not in its content, but for the fact that it originally aired just three days after Walt passed away in 1966. The program celebrated the beginning of the park’s second decade, with such events as the opening ceremonies for It’s a Small World and New Orleans Square and holiday programs such as the Christmas Fantasy Parade and the Candlelight Processional.
Rounding out the disc is Operation Disneyland (a never-before-seen by the general public “behind-the-scenes” look at the ABC network’s preparations for its live broadcast of the opening day festivities), galleries of concept art of attractions from all over the park, and Building Walt’s Dream, which consists of time lapse footage of the park’s construction that has also mostly gone unseen. And as a bonus, the set even comes with a recreation of the opening day ticket booklet. If you don’t know what that is, ask your parents or even grandparents … I’m sure they have a couple of “A” tickets lying around somewhere.
Toon Talk Rating: B+