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Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 6
Extreme Music Fun DVD Review

Buy Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 6 - Extreme Music Fun from Amazon.com Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 6 - Extreme Music Fun
DVD Details

Running Time: 63 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: May 31, 2005
Originally Released Between 1935 and 1953
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase with Side Snaps


What do Walt Disney's first animated film and the four films which make up the "new Disney renaissance" have in common? Well, several things. But one is music and let's run with that. Nearly all of the films in the canon of Disney animated features are marked by music, whether they are clearly character-performed musicals or simply rely on songs to convey emotions, as has been the case in more recent years. If you go back in time, beyond the beginning of the full-length Disney cartoon, you'll find that music was very much an integral part of Walt's animated shorts. Disney aficianados are aware that the 1928 Mickey Mouse short Steamboat Willie marked a breakthrough in animation, where picture and sound could be synchronized with crowdpleasing effect. Steamboat Willie's pioneering thrills are not too different from the cartoon shorts that came before and after, since music is called upon to drive forth the events depicted visually. An overwhelming majority of Disney shorts rely not on dialogue but on visual comedy and appropriate sound (encompassing both the musical selections and cartoony foley effects).

So, it seems rather obvious that music would feature as one of the three themes being called to carry a compilation of vintage Disney shorts in the second wave of the inexpensive Classic Cartoon Favorites DVD line. Volume 6 - Extreme Music Fun delivers eight shorts that were first released theatrically in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. Two cartoons (Mickey's Grand Opera and Orphans' Benefit) feature performance shows overseen by Mickey Mouse, each originally from the peak of the Mouse's popularity. Three Silly Symphonies shorts from the 1930s offer almost hardly any dialogue, instead opting for spirited musical gaiety. The three remaining (and most recent) shorts fit the molds of the other films of their stars Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck, with each illustrating how musical ability can transform lives.

Though there is a clear thread to tie all the shorts together, the result is a somewhat uneven blend. Most of the shorts remain captivating all these decades later, but bouncing from a Goofy to a Silly Symphony and then a Donald, you're offered a wide range of what fits into the category "Disney short." Six of the eight shorts have already been released to DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures line (more on those here). Three of those six have also been issued outside of the Treasures line, including Goofy's How to Dance which makes its second appearance in this very-young Classic Cartoon Favorites series.

Backstage at "Mickey's Grand Opera", Pluto is surprised to see two white rabbits. Mickey tickles the keys to accompany Clara's clucking in "Orphans' Benefit" for which Disney recycled the soundtrack from a short animated seven years earlier. A hen and chicken sing the best Verdi they can in "Farmyard Symphony."

The eight shorts are presented in the following random order:

"Mickey's Grand Opera" (1936) (7:42)

Mickey conducts an opera in this slow-paced short which proceeds with song and a series of gags. Pluto finds a magician's hat backstage and gets mixed up with some bunnies and birds. On stage, Donald struggles in performing a duet with Clara Cluck. Eventually, the two sets of misadventures cross paths.

"Music Land" (1935) (9:33)

In this Silly Symphonies short, a young saxaphone from the Isle of Jazz meets up with an elegant, blue-dress-wearing violin from the Land of Symphony, which is separated only by the Sea of Discord. He falls for her, but winds up locked away in a giant metronome. War ensues between the two areas which both employ weapons of musical destruction. Like other Silly Symphonies cartoons, no dialogue is needed to convey the comedy of this charming little piece.

"Orphans' Benefit" (1941) (9:08)

In this color remake of a short made seven years earlier, Donald entertains a rowdy audience of mouse orphans by reciting poems and losing his cool. Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, and Horace Horsecollar fare only a bit better with their unusual dance number that follows. Then, Mickey backs up Madame Clara Cluck's clucktastic singing with his piano playing. Throughout, the orphans get increasingly violent with their favorite target, Donald.

"Farmyard Symphony" (1938) (8:11)

A group of barn animals feel especially musical while going about their daily business. Following the lead of a couple of romantic chickens, they join in and cluck, moo, and neigh a familiar Verdi tune.

Goofy must be having Classic Cartoon Favorites déjà vu. Here, he learns "How to Dance" again. A cricket symphony performs at the "Woodland Cafe." Daisy really hopes Donald recognizes her in "Donald's Dilemma."

"Pluto's Blue Note" (1947) (6:54)

Pluto wakes up and tries to join in with the songs of nature's other creations, but his attempts only lead the others running or flying away. So he decides to sneak into a music store and when the owner goes to lunch, he discovers a surefire way to summon some pleasing musical talent. This clever cartoon was nominated for the Best Short Academy Award.

"How to Dance" (1953) (6:18)

With the numbers which adorn the spines of the DVDs, Disney seems to be encouraging people to collect all of the Classic Cartoon Favorites. That's why it's silly for them to already be double-dipping on just the second wave; this short appeared on his "Starring Goofy" disc (Volume 3) with the first batch. Nonetheless, this amusing cartoon stars Goofy as George Geef, a man who simply can't dance. He learns how to, with the help of a narrator, paper foot cut-outs, a mobile bust form, and Atencio's School of the Dance. Then the Firehouse 5 + 2 show up (animator Ward Kimball's band) and all his training gets knocked out of him.

"Woodland Café" (1937) (7:36)

This Silly Symphonies 'toon depicts night life at a cafe for bugs. There's a cricket orchestra, a spider and lady fly act, and some free-spirited insect dancing. Think of it as a forerunner to the bar scene from A Bug's Life, only with more music and a '30s Harlem flavor.

"Donald's Dilemma" (1947) (7:16)

The disc concludes with a short with much more dialogue than music, but it just so happens to be one of the funnest cartoons in this package. A distraught Daisy Duck goes to a psychiatrist to tell what has happened to her boyfriend. He had an accident and now has a world-famous singing career; his biggest hit is a mild variation of "When You Wish Upon a Star", which he performs to approving audiences. But, the problem is, he no longer remembers Daisy. The short is composed like a live action drama from its time and it works very well. In spite of a near-suicide attempt, the cartoon appears to be thankfully uncensored.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Each short on Extreme Music Fun is presented in a roughly "fullscreen" format, with the 1.33:1ish aspect ratio resembling their Academy Ratio theatrical dimensions. A few shorts feature windowboxed credits screens, but only Mickey's Grand Opera is windowboxed throughout and the tiny black bars on all four sides will likely be missed on televisions with any sort of overscan. Picture quality for the most part is satisfactory, considering the age. It appears that the same sources used for Treasures were employed here. As a result, the two shorts never before released on DVD are a bit darker and lacking detail by comparison. But those two remain mostly clean, like the rest. Orphans' Benefit seems to have more print intrusions than I remember from the second color Mickey Treasure, too, for some odd reason.

In general, picture quality is okay, but less compression could have things even better, considering that the DVD only uses a portion of a single-layered disc's capacity. The average bitrate, 6.23 Mb/sec, seems low but that simply illustrates that this line does not intend to surpass the Treasures in any way, even by employing less compression.

In "Pluto's Blue Note", the pup cleverly discovers a way to convince others he can be musical and not make them want to run away. Extreme Music Fun Main Menu

All of the cartoons are presented in Dolby Mono, and sound quality is usually directly related to the age of the short. The elder half, from the 1930s, all show their age in the audio presentation which lacks depth and vitality. The more recent shorts, especially the trio centered on Pluto, Goofy, and Donald, are still dated, but a bit easier on the ears. The volume needs to be turned up quite a bit from the start, but the dynamics are at least consistently low and therefore acceptable at a high enough level. A French track is also provided and this somehow sounds less shrill than the English recording. That might make for a reasonable experience on the shorts where English is hardly uttered (namely, the Silly Symphonies cartoons), and audio can be switched on the fly.

BONUS FEATURES and DESIGN

In the tradition of Classic Cartoon Favorites, there are no bonus features. Like the other volumes, this DVD features "Disney's FastPlay" which cycles through previews, the feature, and bonus features (of which there are none) without the need to press a button. It's a fancy way of saying if you don't touch anything, the DVD will play like a VHS removing interactivity and eschewing a visit to the Main Menu.

Two trailers play at the start of the disc, for Cinderella: Platinum Edition and Tarzan II. Five others and a "Play All" option can be found at the Sneak Peeks menu, if you take that route. The additional previews are for Kronk's New Groove, Lilo & Stitch 2, the two upcoming Winnie the Pooh Learning Adventures, Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition, and the next batch of Disney Princess DVDs due in September.

The 16 x 9 menu screens match those of other Classic Cartoon Favorites. Again, there is animation through the colors and loud fanfare. Goofy is at the center of the Main Menu. A double-sided insert lists the 8 cartoon selections with rounded running times; the back provides an overview of all the DVDs in this series and an order to collect them all.

Boy from Isle of Jazz, girl from Land of Symphony. Can it work? See the charming short "Music Land" to find out. Donald as a world-renowned singer in "Donald's Dilemma."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Extreme Music Fun, the sixth installment of the Classic Cartoon Favorites, features a collection of shorts that is older and contains sparse dialogue. While all eight shorts contain some musical content, the mix is a bit uneven with some really clever cartoons and some bores. Only two shorts have not been released to DVD before: Pluto's Blue Note and Donald's Dilemma. They're two good ones, but they'll both undoubtedly be found on the next Donald and Pluto volumes of the Walt Disney Treasures series, where they'll be accompanied by more cartoons and extras.

Treasures collectors probably see little need to pick this up, since its presentation is a far cry from the breadth and treatment the Treasures consistently display. Those searching for just an hour of mostly solid Disney animation from Walt's time may find this release a satisfying budget offering. But even if you have avoided the Treasures, but picked up the first wave of Classic Cartoon Favorites and the '40s anthology feature Make Mine Music, you already have three of these shorts on disc. That along with the uneven nature of the program makes Extreme Music Fun one of the slightly weaker entries to this line.

More on the DVD

Buy Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies from Amazon.com Marketplace

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Reviewed May 16, 2005.

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