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Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 8
Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals DVD Review

Buy Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 8 - Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals from Amazon.com Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 8 - Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals
DVD Details

Running Time: 54 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: September 27, 2005
Originally Released Between 1932 and 1951
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase


After devoting four volumes to the landmark personalities of Disney's animated shorts, the Classic Cartoon Favorites series has since arranged its hour-long compilations by theme. Last wave, such a design resulted in obvious and consistent DVDs with the titles "Extreme _______ Fun", where the blank was filled in with "Sports", "Music", and "Adventure" (which could have more accurately been called "Extreme Outdoor Fun"). Now, with Christmas less than three months away, Disney is capitalizing on the spendthrift nature of the holiday season with the two latest entries into this line, both displaying festive covers and the word "Holiday" in the title. While Volume 9 - Classic Holiday Stories delivers three shorts clearly tied to the magical December day (via Dickens, a Bethlehem-bound donkey, and chipmunk-intruded living room decorations), the subject of this review, Volume 8 - Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals, amounts to the line's most flimsily and poorly-titled collection yet.

This disc holds seven cartoons, spanning Disney's most bountiful three decades in the short film format, but only two feature any holiday at all (Christmas, as you might expect) and there's not a great amount of celebration (in the traditional sense, at least) in one of the two. The others feature snow, be it the presumably North American winter or anytime in the Arctic, and one depicts Donald as an unhappy worker in a gift wrapping department, which conceivably is a job to be taken near the biggest gift-exchange holiday of the year. If you can forgive the misleading title and think up a more appropriate label of your own (which should likely include either "Winter" or "Snow"), then this compilation is bound to please any fan of vintage Disney shorts with one substantial prerequisite.

Such a prerequisite has been inherent in the Classic Cartoon Favorites design from its launch last January, so if you're up to date on reading your UD reviews (as you should be!), this is now the ninth time you're hearing it. Like other discs in the line, Holiday Celebration strives not for content exclusivity (three of the seven cartoons have already been released to DVD and a fourth is less than two months away), not for any bonus features whatsoever, not for pristine picture and sound (unless the shorts have made a pleasing previous appearance in the more collector-friendly Walt Disney Treasures line) and not for packing in all that can fit on a single disc. Instead, it is satisfied to present an hour of cartoons (at 54 minutes, this entry falls one short short short) at a modest price (SRP is $14.99, which means you the cost-conscious customer will pay little more than $10).

Mickey and Pluto brave the snowy cold (and colorization) to make Christmas Eve music in "Mickey's Good Deed." It's snowing popcorn for Donald in "Corn Chips", one of a majority of shorts which celebrate winter rather than any holiday.

While Classic Cartoon Favorites volumes will never rival the sets in the Walt Disney Treasures line in value or presentation quality, there is one area where I think the low-priced alternative arguably succeeds over its more collectible ancestors. That area is how the Classic Cartoon Favorites approach sampling Disney's animation vaults. Sure, you could with some ease pop in Disc 2 of Mickey Mouse in Black & White, Vol. 2, Disc 2 of Silly Symphonies, Disc 1 of The Complete Pluto, Vol. 1, platters from future Chronological Donald volumes, and so on, to enjoy the cartoons presented here and (when they've all been released as Treasures) in the very order. But even with a multi-disc DVD player, that would require some effort, or at least more effort than Disney expects from viewers who are so lazy (or incompetent) that they invented a system which negates the need to press remote control buttons.

Thematic compilations enable the viewer to tread similar terrain (even in the loosely-related selections of Holiday Celebration) from a bunch of different Disney perspectives. With Treasures, even diehard fans of characters must grow a little weary at the prospect of watching the formulas of their favorite personality wear thin, soaking in multiple hours of shorts made in succession. In the grand scheme of things, such an issue is admittedly minor, but the playback modes the Treasures offer (even with the occasional "Play All" option) are still limited to large degrees by what is on each disc of each set. As, to be sure, are the viewing methods proposed by Classic Cartoon Favorites, which at the very most have only delivered 9 short films on a disc despite being able to fit three times as many without losing quality.

Maybe when the industry's much-discussed Blu-Ray format takes hold with its alluring high capacity, you will have the phenomenal power to call up any Disney short or even make a playlist of your own. Until then, aside from a standalone pre-feature method which gives individual cartoon shorts their greatest potency, random thematic compilations may be the manner most conducive to watching (but not buying) classic Disney 'toons, at least in this reviewer's opinion.

Enough with the philosophic waxing, you say? I hear that! Let's take a look at the seven shorts that comprise Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals in the random order they are presented:

Mickey has his work cut out for him in bringing happiness to the unfortunate children. "Peculiar Penguins" exchange snow cones. When he's not being "The Clock Watcher", Donald earns the title "The Ear Cover-Upper."

"Mickey's Good Deed" (1932) (7:31)

In the first of only two shorts explicitly set around Christmastime, Mickey decides to give of himself to make the holiday a bit more special for the less fortunate. He does the unthinkable -- selling Pluto -- to be able to bestow gifts upon a family of underprivileged children. While Mickey is off entertaining the little ones, Pluto is subjected to a number of threatening incidents by his spoiled new owner. Fortunately, there is a happy snowy campfire reunion of the Mouse and his dog. This short marks a Classic Cartoon Favorites first: it was made in black & white, but appears colorized here. The copyright date given is 1991, so the past fourteen years of innovation in the field of colorization have not been taken advantage of here, and this shows in the shortcomings that the perceptive will detect. To see this short in its original hues, check out last December's Mickey Mouse in Black & White, Volume 2 Treasure.

"Peculiar Penguins" (1934) (9:22)

Nothing says "holiday" like the Arctic, right? This summer's surprising box office results have illustrated that people love penguins, so if they respond to this bouncy 71-year-old Silly Symphony as warmly as they did the breakout hit present-day documentary, then they might not object to its puzzling inclusion. The cold white stuff that we associate with Christmas is abound (both in frozen and mush forms) as our focus falls upon two penguins, a male and a female. The male tries to woo the female with a snow cone (literally) and later a blowfish, with mixed results. He also proves his bravery by rescuing her from a fierce shark. The winning animal antics on display are enough to sustain the longer-than-typical running time.

"The Clock Watcher" (1945) (7:32)

Donald has taken on a job in a gift wrapping department and as the title implies, he finds it kind of slow. His only on-site companions are an all-seeing loudspeaker and a plethora of toys which he vehemently manipulates to fit in boxes. In typical fashion, this cartoon relies on a series of gags to raise the wrath of our crabby protagonist.

"Rescue Dog" (1947) (6:48)

Though on duty as a rescue dog, it is Pluto himself who needs to be saved when he encounters a little seal who wants to tag along. With no dialogue coming from either of the two characters, gags ensue and the seal remains a good sport, aiding Pluto even when he falls through the surface of an icy lake.

Chipmunk popcorn? Paul Newman has crossed the line! Pluto flashes an evil grin for the helpless kitty whose life he saved. Chip takes off his Willy Wonka top hat to bow for a doll in "Toy Tinkers."

"Corn Chips" (1951) (6:55)

After Donald cleverly devises a way to make Chip and Dale shovel his driveway for him, the two squeaky chipmunks plot their revenge. They sneak into the duck's cabin and make themselves at home in his box of Yum Yum Popcorn. Overcoming peril at every turn, from hot fires to near-consumption, Chip 'n Dale find ways to outsmart their irascible nemesis and claim the popcorn for themselves. This battle of wits is a bit more inspired than other Donald/Chip 'n Dale showdowns and the snowy setting apparently qualifies it for this collection.

"Lend a Paw" (1941) (8:07)

Long before Kronk's New Groove used the tactic to excess, this Oscar-winning cartoon introduced above-shoulder devil and angel characters for its conflicted protagonist, Pluto. After rescuing a helpless kitten from a close call, Pluto is enraged to find the cat taking his place inside Mickey's house. Efforts to get the new houseguest in trouble with Mickey only result in Pluto being exiled outside and falling into a fix of his own. Holiday Celebration (an act not in the slightest on display here) marks this memorable short's third DVD appearance, following Oliver & Company and The Complete Pluto, Volume 1.

"Toy Tinkers" (1949) (7:37)

The volume concludes with a second Christmas-set short, though notions of "goodwill" and "brotherhood" are noticeably absent. Instead, things get quite violent as Donald again squares off with Chip 'n Dale. The chipmunks' appearance in Donald's home quickly dampens his holiday spirit, and soon ornaments and presents are being used as weapons left and right. Though this cartoon garnered an Oscar nomination, it's a bit hard to swallow in spite of some fun moments.

Has Mickey's snowdog come to life?! This shark doesn't seem to be in a very good mood. One out of three succeed in creating a Village People moment.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As is usual for Classic Cartoon Favorites, Holiday Celebration's picture quality is a mixed bag. All seven of the shorts were animated for the 1.37:1 Academy Ratio, so the 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation is acceptable and good. As mentioned earlier, a colorized version of Mickey's Good Deed is employed; one can tell such a technique has been used by the pale and unnatural imagery. The rest of the cartoons were initially released in Technicolor and therefore have not been visually altered for the disc.

Shorts that have previously appeared on DVD in the Walt Disney Treasures line always look better than those that haven't and that is again the case here. Oscar-winner Lend a Paw looks great, and the clean element of Peculiar Penguins is particularly impressive considering it is the second oldest of the lot. The remaining four shorts (The Clock Watcher, Rescue Dog, Corn Chips, and Toy Tinkers) have not before appeared on DVD and exhibit softness and print flaws that a Treasures-type remastering will address. They are all watchable, but lack range and vibrancy in their colors and consistency in their images (which are often disturbed by specks, scratches, or even hairs). Certainly, with the usual effort that goes into Treasures, these more recent cartoons that are lacking in the presentation department will all look as good as and probably even better than the rest of the disc's cartoons when they make their way to future Donald and Pluto sets.

In the audio department, the soundtrack is encoded as Dolby 2.0, but all of these shorts were produced with monaural audio, and this presentation does not betray that. The sound elements have aged and while Treasures remastering has made it a graceful ascent for the previously-released, the debuting cartoons tend to offer more distortion, shrillness, and noise. Overall, none of the shorts fares as bad as public domain material created 54 to more than 70 years ago would. No, the soundtrack does not offer grade-A sound work and little (if any) effort likely went into the cartoons making their DVD debuts. But, there is a shortage of dialogue and the old-fashioned music still sounds old, whether cleaned up or not.

Pluto and the seal in "Rescue Dog." The semi-festive "Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals" DVD Main Menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and DESIGN

I'm sure you know what to expect in this section, but the review wouldn't be complete without it. Bonus features are nowhere to be found. There is Disney's "FastPlay" which enables playback without remote control usage. There are also plenty of promos for other Disney properties. Spots for Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition, Chicken Little (its latest trailer), and Kronk's New Groove play at the disc's start, while the Sneak Peeks menu houses five additional promos for Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition, Tarzan: (Not Really 2-Disc) Special Edition, Old Yeller: 2-Movie Collection, Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition Muppet movie reissues, and the first wave of the Timeless Tales series. If you want still more marketing, you need only look inside the case to find inserts promoting other Classic Cartoon Favorites and holiday DVDs available now or coming soon from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

The 16x9-enhanced animated menus stay true to past Classic Cartoon Favorites discs. An instrumental tune I'm told is "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" plays on the Main Menu while snow falls and the background cycles through a rainbow prism of colors with spotlights moving about. The central image features Mickey and Donald collaborating on snowman construction (odd, since they never appear together) while Chip 'n Dale strike a similar pose on the other side. As usual, the options to "Play All" or view just an individual cartoon are provided.

Donald channels his anger and Chip 'n Dale's branch-snowing energy into something that serves him best. Merry Christmas! Want a nut?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This eighth volume in the Classic Cartoon Favorites series, Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals, fails to live up to its title, as only two of its seven shorts display anything resembling a holiday. Still, it's a fine collection of Disney animation from the short film's heyday, with snowy settings providing the weak thread to tie the mostly enduring selections. The typical complaints collectors lodge against this low-priced DVD line can again be applied to this disc: three of the cartoons are already available in the more-expensive-but-better-valued alternative (Walt Disney Treasures tins), while the debuting shorts appear lacking in presentation quality. One black-and-white short feebly uses a 14-year-old colorized print and, as usual, there are no bonus features to be found. Those seeking comprehensiveness, supplements, consistently satisfying picture/sound, and more than an hour of shorts are again encouraged to turn to the Treasures and wait for this volume's exclusive cartoons to show up there. Those who would rather choose favorite shorts than collect them all could do better or worse than Holiday Celebration; its 'toons are loosely linked but solidly entertaining.

The thematic compilation is definitely an appealing way to revisit vintage Disney shorts and the program here offers something not easily achieved any other way on DVD. Still, with two concurrently-released "holiday" volumes in the series, Disney could have easily made Holiday Celebration a more relevant title by choosing from the studio's handful of more Christmasy shorts such as Mickey's Orphans or cartoons not yet released in Treasures like Santa's Workshop and The Night Before Christmas. As it is, Holiday Celebration is an okay collection that is sure to deliver 54 minutes of animated entertainment, but likely to frustrate all but casual fans.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 9 - Classic Holiday Stories
Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto, Volume 1
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black & White, Volume 2
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 4 - Starring Chip 'N Dale
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 2 - Starring Donald
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 1 - Starring Mickey
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 7 - Extreme Adventure Fun
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 5 - Extreme Sports Fun
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 6 - Extreme Music Fun
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 3 - Starring Goofy
Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)
Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002)

Related Page
UD's Guide to Disney's Christmas Films

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Disney DVDs Released in 2005 (Complete List) | Classic Cartoon Favorites on the Direct-to-Video Page | Walt Disney Treasures Page

Reviewed October 14, 2005.