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Disney have a laugh! on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4

Have a Laugh!: Volume 1 DVD Review

Disney have a laugh! Volume 1 DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Have a Laugh!: Volume 1
DVD Details

Running Time: 58 minutes (original versions: 35:25, short versions: 15:40, BLAMs: 4:32, Re-Micks: 2:00) / Rating: TV-G

1.33:1 Fullscreen and 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Original Aspect Ratios)
Original Versions: Dolby Mono/Stereo 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Edited Versions: Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Mostly Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: October 26, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Originally Released Between 1937 and 2007 / Originally Aired in 2009 and 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
White Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover

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Timeless Tales. Classic Cartoon Favorites. It's a Small World of Fun. Funny Factory. Walt Disney Treasures. These are not my ways of describing Have a Laugh!: Volume 1, but my attempt to remind you of some of the DVD lines that Disney has put out over the years as commercial venues for the countless animated shorts that the studio made mostly from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Launched this week, Have a Laugh! is the newest series. But it does more than what most of the others have done, which was serve up an hour of cartoons chosen for a theme or starring character(s).

Have a Laugh! seeks to put a new spin on these very old short films. If you're a fan of said short films, your gut reaction may very well be "Why fix what isn't broken?" And if you're not, then you're probably not reading this, but if you are, you may be thinking "Ooh, that sounds like it could be fun for my kids." Because we all know that kids love classic animation, but only when it's updated for their sensibilities.

Wisely, Disney has thought to provide the original versions alongside these newly-edited "Short Versions" that apparently began airing on Disney Channel in October 2009. The latter run about 3 minutes each, condensing the cartoons, re-recording dialogue, re-doing music and sound effects, and even changing the occasional ending. I see very little point to these short versions of the shorts. Maybe they can better hold young children's attentions. But it's not like reading Anna Karenina; they're watching one-reel short films that run 6 to 9 minutes in their unedited forms.

Chip 'n Dale see gardening gloves as the key to getting under Pluto's skin in "Food for Feudin'." In "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater", Goofy finds himself at the center of a sea of controls, still needing the one universal remote that provides power.

The main effect they have here is to grant this DVD a runtime closer to 30 minutes rather than the usual one hour. Technically, there is 57 minutes and 37 seconds of featured content here (which the packaging interestingly rounds up to 73 minutes), but almost 16 minutes of it is just the shortened shorts. In what is probably not the smartest design, the DVD's "Play All" option runs the two versions in succession, first the original and then the update. Is there anyone of any age who actually wants to experience these tales back-to-back in this way?

Volume 1 contains both incarnations of five shorts as well as three "Blam!" segments and one "Re-Micks" pieces (more on those later). The most noteworthy inclusion is How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, Disney's most recent animated short and one of very few to play theatrically in recent years (excluding Pixar's stuff). It was attached to National Treasure: Book of Secrets in theaters (a no-brainer pairing). Prior to this release, it had not been available on DVD. But it has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube, where multiple 2009 uploads of it have received Disney's tacit approval.

Beyond that contemporary creation, made by a number of Disney's traditional animators rendered idle by the studio's temporary banishment of hand-drawn techniques, the disc offers a decent variety of characters and content. The sacred triumvirate of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy unites in the eldest short, 1937's Lonesome Ghosts. The rest, from the end of the 1940s, feature Chip 'n Dale doing battle with Donald and Pluto, plus Mickey and Pluto hosting an uninvited houseguest.

A baby seal lends bathing Mickey a helping hand (and head scrub brushing) in "Mickey and the Seal." Among other things, the mirror pantomime of Goofy and one of the "Lonesome Ghosts" is trimmed for its new "have a laugh!" shortened version.

1. Mickey and the Seal (1948) (6:36 / 3:02)
A heartily-fed young zoo seal sneaks home with Mickey and into the bathtub to Pluto's excitement and Mickey's unawareness.

2. Lonesome Ghosts (1937) (8:46 / 3:32)
Who ya gonna call? A bored quartet of ghosts hires Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to try and catch them.
The spooks have laughs at the expense of the inept ghostbusters.

3. Winter Storage (1949) (6:52 / 2:47)
Chip and Dale's seasonal preparations are at cross purposes with park ranger Donald Duck's acorn planting.

4. How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007) (6:14 / 3:32)
No, the Sprouse brothers' spokesmanship hasn't been upgraded to feature billing. This modern Goofy short adheres to the format employed in the 1940s. A narrator talks technology while Goofy tries his best to wade through the confusion to buy and install a home theater system on which to enjoy the big football game with the best picture and sound available.

5. Food for Feudin' (1950) (6:57 / 2:47)
This time, Chip 'n Dale's nut foraging bothers Pluto, who looks to hide a bone in their tree. The battle of wits takes an interesting turn when the chipmunks step into gardening gloves.

"Whoa, looks like somebody's a tree-hugger," cracks the announcer of BLAM! as Goofy grabs bark in The Art of Skiing BLAM! Goofy's radio play-by-play in "Touchdown Mickey" is edited to look like he's singing with Freddie Mercury on Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" in this Re-Micks video.

Much more offensive than the abbreviated redubbings are "Blam!" shorts, which make over vintage cartoons with manic editing techniques and obnoxious "color commentary" that includes sarcastic wisecracks and frequent utterances of the exclamation "Blam!." If Mountain Dew hired Anchorman sportscaster Champ Kind to make some extreme shorts using new-fangled video editing software and old Disney cartoons while changing his signature exclamation "Whammy!" to "Blam!", this is exactly what we'd get. I can't believe that Disney would make and sell these. I think they're the ones having the laugh.

The three 90-second Blam! interstitials found here are "Sports" (featuring Goofy's How to Play Football and How to Play Baseball), "Skiing" (featuring Goofy's The Art of Skiing), and "Ice Skating" (featuring Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie in The Hockey Champ).

Sample zinger: (Goofy crashes into an icy mountain.) "Would you like a little ice with your face?"

At least these are terrible enough to entertain in a way different than intended. This recent well-done parodical BLAM! of Up is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

Finally, there is the "Re-Micks", which harks back to Disney Channel's old D-TV music videos. All this does is edit footage from cartoon shorts to a song. In this case, 1932's Touchdown Mickey is set to an abridged version of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" (2:00). It's a good song and a more sensible concept than the other two featured on this disc. A DVD made completely of these creations might not be a bad idea, but according to Wikipedia, only four have aired to date, two by genuinely popular musical groups and two by Disney Channel teen acts. Sounds like there is a long way to go before such a compilation becomes a reality. BLAM!

In "Winter Storage", Chip and Dale stay close behind park ranger Donald Duck during his acorn-planting. No, "Improve Your View" doesn't assemble the Mickey pieces on the Have a Laugh Volume 1 DVD's main menu. It just takes you to promotional videos that Disney thankfully doesn't label bonus features here.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Surprisingly and refreshingly, both incarnations of How to Hook Up Your Home Theater present it in 16:9 widescreen,
though it ironically and inexplicably looks grainy and lacks the Dolby 5.1 sound the package claims for the whole disc and this short alone should certainly have (it even has a surround sound gag, for crying out loud).

The rest of the disc is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, as it should be. There are some signs of age, but nothing too bad. The worst that things get are some briefly out of focus shots and errant lines. I'm guessing the cartoons are probably pulled from their fine Walt Disney Treasures restorations. Although, for what it's worth, the "short versions" do appear to be slightly cleaner, with bolder lines and richer colors. The two-channel soundtracks are fine, with the original recordings naturally being more dated than the newer dubs. I'm guessing the originals are monaural and the updates are stereo, but it's tough to tell. Impressively, viewers can choose from English, French, and Spanish on both the audio and subtitles, but as usual, neither subtitles nor captions accompany the music video (song lyrics! legal gasp!).

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are no bonus features included here, but there is a section called "Improve Your View" which holds the widely-seen "Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray is Suite!" and "Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go" promotional advisories.

The DVD loads with promos for the high-fiving family fun of Disney Blu-ray, Bambi: Diamond Edition, Tangled, Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas, and The Lion King: Diamond Edition. The menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing plays ads/announcements for Disney Movie Rewards, Genuine Disney Treasure, Disney Parks, The Lion King: Diamond Edition (the only repeat), Toy Story 3, A Christmas Carol, and Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: 2 Movie Collection.

The 4:3 menus chop up Mickey Mouse and friends (an appropriate design, considering the content) while playing classic shorts' score.

Making up for the lack of on-disc extras, the disc is packaged with an embossed, holographic cardboard slipcover that reproduces the tasteful cover art below. Inserts include a Disney Movie Rewards code and a booklet promoting Disney Blu-ray 3D and combo packs.

Having stocked up on home theater equipment, Shiny Stuff shopper Goofy moves to picking out a new TV in "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The modest business that Have a Laugh is destined to do includes impulsive parents and no one else. For true fans of Disney animation, there isn't much to see here and though it's nice to get How to Hook Up Your Home Theater on DVD, I doubt many would want to pay $15 to own the short, especially in plain stereo and with bafflingly subpar picture. For casual fans of yesteryear shorts, there are countless more fulfilling options for scooping up a reasonably-priced handful.

Why would Disney put time and money into this when there are so many valuable animated (and far more live-action) properties that are either not widely or not at all available on DVD? That is one of the great mysteries of the world. I'm no business major, but I just don't BLAM! get it.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
New: Toy Story 3 Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas Grown Ups The Penguins of Madagascar: I Was a Penguin Zombie
New-ish: Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue The Black Cauldron (25th Anniversary) Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition
Walt Disney Animation Collection: Volume 7 - Mickey's Christmas Carol The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Extreme Sports Fun Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 1 Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Best Pals - Mickey & Pluto Funny Factory: Volume 3 - With Goofy Goof Troop: Volume 1 Vintage Mickey
Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse Fred: The Movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

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Reviewed October 26, 2010.