June means the start of summer, but it also means it’s been three months since the last Treasures from the Disney Vault, TCM’s quarterly evening of all-Disney programming. On June 28th, prepare for an all nighter (or clear some DVR space) for what will undoubtedly be the most colorful lineup yet. That’s right, the theme of the evening was a little hard to figure out at first, but after much deliberation there can be no other reasonable choice. The evening begins with one of Disney’s most beloved live action films of all time, followed by several hours devoted to animation and color, and ending in the wee hours of the morning with two lesser known live action films that feature colorful characters. As before, this guide will provide some background information on each film as well as my recommendations for what to catch and what to skip.
8:00 pm – The Parent Trap
Millennials tuning in to see young Lindsay Lohan may be surprised to find that Nancy Myers’ 1998 comedy is a remake of a 1961 classic. Hayley Mills had become a household name overnight thanks to the success of Disney’s Pollyanna. How do you top a film with one Hayley Mills? You make a film with two Hayley Mills! And since the first day of summer is just a few days prior to June 28th, why not start the evening at summer camp?
Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills star as Sharon and Susan, two twins separated at birth who meet at a summer camp. Since each child has been raised by their divorced parents, the two make a plan to switch places for the summer. But after getting to know their missing parent, they make an even grander plan to get them back together.
The Parent Trap is Disney at its finest, with a hilarious script by director David Swift (Pollyanna), wonderful songs by the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins) and some ingenious special effects by Ubbe Iwerks. How does this film fit in with the colorful theme of the evening? One need only look to Maureen O’Hara, the twins’ fiesty mother with a personality as colorful as her red hair. O’Hara sadly passed away recently and TCM devoted a full day of programming to some of her finest films, but The Parent Trap was sadly missing. That wrong will be righted this evening.
Recommendation: “Let’s Get Together” and watch The Parent Trap. For a fun game, try to count how many times Hayley Mills uses the wrong accent.
10:15 pm – Mickey Mouse in Color
Most Disney and animation fans forget that the majority of Mickey Mouse’s time as a short cartoon star was spent in black & white (74 compared to only 52 shorts in color!). But three of Mickey’s finest color shorts will be presented back-to-back starting with the first time audiences experienced Mickey in color with 1935’s The Band Concert. Mickey has assembled all of his barnyard friends for an outdoor band concert, but when a whirlwind approaches their performance of “William Tell’s Overture” literally runs away from them.
Alice Through the Looking Glass recently underwhelmed audiences at the box office, but Mickey Mouse first stepped into the room behind the mirror in 1936 in Thru the Mirror. A few shots in the new film pay homage to this short, which features some very iconic images. When Mickey falls asleep, he dreams of the world beyond his bedroom mirror. Once there, he finds himself as small as… well… a mouse. Playing peacock with a deck of cards and jump rope with a radial phone, Mickey has a swell time on the other side of the mirror.
The previous two shorts feature Mickey Mouse as the main attraction, with all other characters becoming secondary and in some cases, their only appearance in his series. Clock Cleaners, however, is a bit different. It pairs Mickey along with his best pals Goofy and Donald Duck, who at the time was more famous than Mickey himself. The trio have booked a gig of tough manual labor, cleaning the inside of a grand city clock. It’s a perfect example of the Disney gag men at the top of their game with some of the funniest moments in all of Mickey’s shorts. Like most shorts with all three characters, it also devotes a fair amount of screen time to each individual dealing with a tricky situation.
Recommendation: Three of Mickey Mouse’s finest color shorts see the light of day again and in high definition to boot, don’t miss this!
11:00 pm – Waking Sleeping Beauty
I don’t know if it’s fair to call a documentary film about Disney animation from 2009 a “Treasure,” nor has it ever been locked away from the public in a figurative vault, Disney or otherwise. However, it is a surprisingly insightful look at Disney animation, starting with troubled times in the 1980’s and chronicling their return to glory with the classic films from the 1990’s. And while nothing else from this era makes an appearance tonight, it’s neat to jump forward in time from Mickey Mouse’s heyday to a period where he was little more than a corporate symbol.
Animation producer Don Hahn narrates this exposé with lots of home video footage revealing the new generation of animators that were taking the torch from the men who ran the company in Walt’s era. Among the animation giants featured are John Lasseter, Glenn Keane, Ron Clemments, John Musker, Tim Burton, Andreas Deja, Don Bluth and Roy E. Disney. The film begins with the hostile takeover attempt and the failure of The Black Cauldron in the mid 1980’s and covers up to the success of The Lion King and the bubble that burst shortly after. In the end, Frank Wells looks like Doc, Micheale Eisner like Dopey and Jeffrey Katzenberg like Grumpy.
Recommendation: If you’ve ever seen The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and/or The Lion King, this is required viewing to understand what was happening behind the scenes.
12:45 am – Colorful Silly Symphonies
The very first piece of animation ever produced in three-strip Technicolor was Flowers and Trees, which Disney was asked to produce to help promote the new medium. In return, Disney received a three year contract of exclusivity, making Disney cartoons the only ones available in this new color process from 1932 to 1935. The short was already in production in black and white and the ink & paint department had to start over in color when the decision was made. In the short, anthropomorphic flowers and trees are having a lovely day until a mean dead tree spoils their fun with fiery jealousy.
The next two Silly Symphony shorts also come from the three-year period of Disney’s exclusive Technicolor contract, during which the format was only really used for this series. The Pied Piper tells the story of a rat infested town called Hamelin. When the king offers a reward to anyone who can get rid of the pests, the pied piper shows up and enchants them with his music, leading them away from the city. But when the king refuses to pay, he gets revenge by luring all of the children away from the kingdom as well.
The last short of the evening is Old King Cole, based on the British nursery rhyme. The Pied Piper makes a cameo appearance at the beginning as various nursery rhyme pop-up books are opened. All of the characters are invited to Old King Cole’s ball where they all perform.
Recommendation: Three enchanting Silly Symphonies offer a nice pick-me-up after the somewhat dour ending of Waking Sleeping Beauty. With new HD restorations premiering for two of the three shorts, you wont want to skip this.
While it may be the middle of the night, Treasures from the Disney Vault is far from over. Continue to the next page to see the excitement that awaits TCM’s night owls.