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

Have a Laugh!: Volume 3 DVD Review

Disney have a laugh! Volume 3 DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Have a Laugh!: Volume 3
DVD Details

Running Time: 57 minutes (original versions: 36:56, short versions: 13:40, BLAMs: 4:35, Re-Micks: 2:01) / Rating: TV-G

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratios)
Original Versions: Dolby 2.0 (English, French, Spanish); Short Versions: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Mostly Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: June 14, 2011
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Originally Released Between 1938 and 1950 / Originally Aired in 2009 and 2010
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
White Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover

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Disney DVD output has slowed to a crawl. After several years of being the studio's preferred format, DVD has become the colorless second disc in now-standard Blu-ray combo packs (third in Blu-ray 3D combos).
This year has seen an influx of such multi-format bundles, but very few DVD-only releases and all of them Disney Channel programming targeted at tots and tweens.

I guess the Have a Laugh! animation line can be considered Disney Channel fare, although its TV-G rating indicates a general audience as opposed to the TV-Y stylings of its Disney Junior brethren. This brand, launched on TV in 2009 and premiering on DVD last fall, looks to breathe new life into very old cartoon shorts. Claiming random airtime between shows, Have a Laugh! manifests in re-edited, re-voiced versions of the classic 'toons of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, etc. Here on DVD, though, the main attractions are the short films in their original, unedited form, boasting stunningly remastered picture that bests even the satisfying presentations of the dearly departed Walt Disney Treasures line.

A not-so-hidden Mickey pops out of the g in the title logo for the Disney have a laugh!series. Anti-whaling activists might be offended by three of America's favorite cartoon characters, if Mickey, Donald, and Goofy had any chance of catching a whale.

On the first wave of Have a Laugh! DVDs, the default playback method ran the original shorts and their updated, abbreviated versions back-to-back. That didn't make much sense and Disney has fixed it for Volume 3 so that all of the unedited versions play together now. Like the first two volumes, this is a lightweight disc, checking in well under capacity and holding just five full cartoon shorts. Those shorts span from 1938 to 1950, starring Disney's most iconic personalities in their color heyday. The cartoons have endured as well as nearly any cinema from the era and outside of Disney's animated features and a handful of classics from master directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra, they're as familiar as 60-75-year-old entertainment gets.

As sacrilegious as it is to say, the shorter edits do feel more in line with today's limited attention spans. You'll notice that the gag-driven short films made by Pixar Animation Studios, seemingly the most visible direct descendant of Disney's shorts and Warner's Looney Tunes, tend to run under 6 minutes or less counting all the technical credits that have to be squeezed in. Disney's standard classic shorts often ran up to ten minutes, which is quite a bit of time to spend on a threadbare story. The Have a Laugh! updates whittle them down to under 3 minutes. It'd be outrageous and offensive if the studio was asking us to forget the original cuts and make do with these shortened re-recorded alternatives. But they're not. And by playing the original cuts first, they're implicitly endorsing them as the preferred versions.

Cooking waffles doesn't go as planned in "Chef Donald." In typical Goofy fashion, "How to Play Baseball" illustrates gameplay in a clear and orderly fashion.

1. Mickey's Delayed Date (1947) (6:49 / 2:47)
Woken from an ill-timed nap, Mickey Mouse rushes to get to his date with Minnie, with appropriately disastrous results.

2. The Whalers (1938) (8:15 / 2:47)
In one of their many team adventures, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy work a whaling boat,
with as little success as you'd suspect.

3. Chef Donald (1941) (7:32 / 2:47)
Donald Duck tries to make a waffle along with a radio cooking program but ends up having to do battle with a stretchy, difficult rubber cement-based mix.

4. How to Play Baseball (1942) (7:58 / 2:32)
In one of his signature "how to" shorts, Goofy demonstrates America's pastime, playing all of the positions on both teams (and umpire too).

5. Pluto and the Gopher (1950) (6:22 / 2:47)
Pluto digs up Minnie Mouse's garden and home in search of an elusive gopher.

Besides the shorts themselves in those two forms, Have a Laugh! supplies two other kinds of brief original presentations of Mickey and company's classic animation.

"Goofy's Glider" gets rewound as part of its obnoxious BLAM! treatment. It might just look like Mickey and Minnie playing piano in 1931's "The Birthday Party", but they're actually singing along with The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" in this Re-MICKS music video.

Three 90-second "BLAM!" segments offer the world's most obnoxious treatment. Like some kind of cruel joke on your children, these 90-second bits apply sarcastic commentary and video editing effects to vintage clips from How to Play Golf, Donald's Golf Game, Chef Donald, and Goofy's Glider.
Both practices require liberal use of the phrase "Blam!". Sample of actual narration: "Knock knock. Who's there? It's Blam. Blam who? Blam in your face!" You really have to see these to believe them. The results are so reproachable and tasteless that you can't help but derive some twisted pleasure in sharing them with others and watching their jaws drop.

The other item is the far more creative "Re-MICKS", the 21st century equivalent of D-TV, which simply edits silent black and white cartoon clips to contemporary songs. The technique is especially agreeable when it's not limiting itself to music from Disney Channel productions. That's the case here, where Mickey and Minnie's revelries are set to The Black Eyed Peas' 2009 hit "I Gotta Feeling." A DVD with nothing but these would be great fun, although Disney would have to make many more, because as of now there are just five two-minute videos in the rotation.

After the three BLAM!s and one Re-MICKS, Volume 3 proceeds to play the shortened, redubbed cuts of the five featured short films.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As mentioned earlier, the picture quality here is nothing short of outstanding. All the cartoons have their original Academy Ratios preserved in 1.33:1 "full screen." The element shows little evidence of what in some cases is over 70 years of aging. The clean, sharp presentations probably represent the best these shorts have ever looked. I don't think anyone will be disappointed, but at the same time, the target audience for this disc has little reason to appreciate the glorious remastering these old films have received.

The original versions of the shorts are presented in 2.0 sound recreating their original monaural mixes. The recent "short versions" are treated to full Dolby Digital 5.1. In truth, the redone soundtracks are easier on the ears, their faithful new readings (performed by the pros who voice the characters for "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and other official venues, replacing the likes of Pinto Colvig and Walt Disney himself) and sound effects wielding clarity and depth impossible back in the '30s and '40s. Still, you needn't even consider yourself a real purist to prefer the original soundtracks, their thin and dated elements spruced up as strongly as modern technology allows. The hearing impaired and foreign language speakers are covered in subtitles and dubs, which extend to the entire feature presentation (even menus), except for The Black Eyed Peas' lyrics.

Mickey gets dressed up (needlessly) for his delayed dancing date with Minnie. Gawrsh! The main menu chops Goofy into pieces.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

There are none of what you'd typically call bonus features found here. "Improve Your View" leads not to the calibration tests you might expect, but Timon & Pumbaa's pitch for Blu-ray 3D (4:24) and a how-to on DisneyFile digital copy.

Trailers play automatically for The Lion King: Diamond Edition, Winnie the Pooh, and The Fox and the Hound: 2 Movie Collection. The menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing triggers promos for Disney Movie Rewards, the Epic Mickey Wii game, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, Spooky Buddies: Curse of the Howloween Hound, and Bambi II: Special Edition, before repeating the other three.

The main menu rotates pieces of Goofy around while classic short title themes play. The remaining static menus play other musical cues familiar from the classic toons.

I'm not sure if being such a light and breezy release makes the packaging's flair more or less understandable. The DVD is topped by an embossed, holographic cardboard slipcover. Inside the white keepcase (an uncut Eco-Box), we get a Disney Movie Rewards code and a booklet promoting Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and combo packs.

Pluto and the gopher are at odds in "Pluto and the Gopher." Two Goofys argue over a close call at home plate that Umpire Goofy will have to make.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Have a Laugh! pales in comparison to most of the earlier lines that Disney has used to release their classic animated shorts to DVD over the past ten years. That's because if it's classic shorts you're after, you just get five here, running a pitiful 37 minutes. That would be like buying a DVD of an old TV sitcom with less than two full episodes on it.
And while you can argue that Disney's shorts have more entertainment value than most old sitcoms, they're both aided by moderation and nostalgia and probably received a comparable amount of thought.

Where Volume 3 and its company may win you over, aside from the impulse buys they are designed for, is if you appreciate the new presentations of the old content. Though no substitute for the original, the re-recorded short versions have their charms. Setting vintage Mickey and Minnie clips to a catchy Black Eyed Peas song is plenty inspired. The only nice thing I can say about the "BLAM!" bits are that they are so bad you'll want to rewatch and share them in outrage.

Even if you find value in everything on the disc, it all is a bit slight to justify spending upwards of $15 on. Clearly, Disney has found plenty of support for discs holding an hour of content, but the repetition and brevity here make it feel even shorter than the 57 minutes it really is (which the packaging misstates as 67 minutes).

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Have a Laugh! Volume 1 Have a Laugh! Volume 2 Have a Laugh! Volume 4
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New: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Red Riding Hood Just Go With It
Yogi Bear Tangled Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 12: - Best Pals: Mickey & Pluto Volume 5: Extreme Sports Fun
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume Two

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Reviewed June 30, 2011.