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

Have a Laugh!: Volume 4 DVD Review

Disney have a laugh! Volume 4 DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Have a Laugh!: Volume 4
DVD Details

Running Time: 54 minutes (original versions: 35:48, short versions: 12:25, BLAMs: 4:33, Re-Micks: 1:32) / 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 1937 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 has tried many different ways to brand their classic animated shorts on DVD. The latest and only one currently in use is Have a Laugh!,
an offshoot of an irregular Disney Channel program, appearing between shows where other networks would run commercials.

On DVD, as on TV, Have a Laugh! incorporates three different new presentations of cartoons primarily from the 1930s through the early 1950s and featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. The most basic simply trims down the original 6-10 minute one-reel short subject to 2 minutes; these "short versions" also have today's voice actors for these enduring personalities re-record their lines which are mixed together with clean new score and sound effects. 90-second "BLAM!" shorts are just as in-your-face as that made-up exclamation suggests "the ultimate thrill ride through the world of Disney" would be. Finally, there are Re-MICKS, two-minute music videos that edit mostly silent black & white clips to a modern pop song, a technique for which the 1980s "D-TV" shorts seems to have set a precedent.

Mickey learns that in Australia, emu mothers do not take kindly to their unborn child being kidnapped. Donald Duck does not take kindly to Chip 'n Dale paying him a visit in "Trailer Horn."

The DVD goes one step further than Disney Channel, also including the original, unedited versions of the short films (think of them as "long versions", if you will), for which serious animation fans will accept no substitute. The line's first two DVD volumes reached stores in October 2010 and apparently sold well enough to merit a second wave, released in the middle of June. The format remains the same, although this wave places the full original cuts up front as the opening and main attraction of the default group playback.

The cover characters vary, but each disc offers comparable variety, ensuring you'll get a little Mickey, a little Donald, a little Pluto, a little Goofy, and a taste of the Mickey-Donald-Goofy dream team that occupied the Disney studio alongside its earliest and most treasured animated features (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia).

1. Mickey Down Under (1948) (6:36 / 2:32)
In the land where women glow and men plunder (Australia), a boomerang raises Pluto's anger and suspicion, while an emu gets mad at Mickey Mouse for touching her egg.

2. Hawaiian Holiday (1937) (8:21 / 2:17)
In Hawaii, Goofy surfs, Mickey strums a ukulele, Donald dances, and Pluto chases after various beach creatures. The disc's most dramatic reduction, the short version loses most of the non-Goofy material, including all of Pluto's hunts.

Goofy tries surfing on his oddly letterboxed "Hawaiian Holiday." Pluto's appreciation of this little turtle is short-lived in "Pluto's Surprise Package."

3. Trailer Horn (1950) (6:26 / 2:32)
Chip and Dale follow the large footprints outside their home to a sleeping Donald Duck, who they can't help but awaken and annoy.

4. How to Swim (1942) (7:32 / 2:32)
A narrator explains the ins and outs of swimming to Goofy's demonstrations on a rolling stool,
on a diving board, and at the bottom of the sea.

5. Pluto's Surprise Package (1949) (6:53 / 2:32)
Pluto is excited by a mail parcel holding a turtle who proves to be a pawful.

Getting the obnoxious "BLAM!" treatment of rewinds, pauses, slow-motion, and tasteless commentator puns are Goofy's Hawaiian Holiday ("Beach"), Donald's The Fox Hunt ("Fox Hunt"), and Goofy's Hockey Homicide ("Hockey"). I wonder if the passing of time and the growing up of today's kids will one day render these less grating. With lines like "I've heard of bobbing for apples, but this guy is bobbing for BLAM!" and "Ooh, he's gonna have to visit his chiropractor, Dr. BLAM-berstein", it's tough to imagine that happening anytime soon.

The short Re-MICKS clip here (1:32) edits footage from the 1931 black and white Mickey short The Barnyard Broadcast to "Play My Music", the Jonas Brothers' Camp Rock song. It's a nice effect, even when it involves listening to the Jonas Brothers.

I don't know much about Donald's fox hunting methods, but I'm guessing this frozen frame find the obnoxious commentator invoking the phrase "BLAM!" Mickey Mouse uses both hands and his tail to keep up with the Jonas Brothers' "Play My Music."

VIDEO and AUDIO

Both the original and short versions of the cartoons boast gorgeous remasterings that even improve upon the films' pleasing presentations in the respectful Walt Disney Treasures sets. Nearly all of the featured content appears in 1.33:1 full screen, which is true to the original aspect ratio of the shorts (Hawaiian Holiday is inexplicably letterboxed to 1.42:1). That they look this good, some 60 to 75 years after production on a DVD aimed at impulse buys is quite impressive. None exhibits anything worse than slight grain.

The original versions present their soundtracks in basic Dolby 2.0 mono, more or less recreating how they were shown theatrically. There is little to no dialogue in these shorts, but what's here remains audible. The new shortened versions show off their new line readings and score in full Dolby Digital 5.1, which is livelier. Everything but the Re-MICKS is presented in English, French, and Spanish with subtitles to match.

Pluto's status as the fourth most important character among Disney's so-called Sensational Six is reinforced by him claiming Volume 4's main menu. The Cartoon Selection menu almost fits all of the disc's contents, but requires a second page for the 5.1 sound edited versions.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Since everything on this disc can be considered a bonus feature one way or another, there are no real bonus features found here. The closest we get is "Improve Your View",
a section holding Timon and Pumbaa's Blu-ray 3D pitch and a 1-minute brief on Disneyfile digital copy, neither of which format the featured content is available in.

Before the menu loads, the disc plays trailers for The Lion King: Diamond Edition, Winnie the Pooh, and The Fox and the Hound: 2 Movie Collection. The menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing runs promos for Disney Movie Rewards, the Epic Mickey video game, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, Spooky Buddies: The Curse of the Howlloween Hound, and Bambi II: Special Edition, before repeating the disc-openers.

The 4:3 main menu chops up Pluto and shuffles him around while his cartoon theme plays. The remaining menus offer a static variation on the same design (sometimes adding Mickey to the mix) while different title music plays. For some reason, the disc is not enhanced by Disney's standard hands-free FastPlay mode.

The DVD compensates for its lack of weight with packaging flair, giving much of the front and rear covers the gifts of holography and embossment in an otherwise redundant cardboard slipcover. A lone insert promotes the Disney Movie Rewards program, holding your unique redeemable code.

Goofy's instructional credentials are ever questionable in "How to Swim", in which he unknowingly picnics on the ocean floor. Pluto views an Australian boomerang with suspicion in "Mickey Down Under."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With Have a Laugh, Disney displays more creativity than simply bundling a group of old cartoons by theme. With the exception of Re-MICKS videos featuring halfway decent songs, though, you'd probably wish they'd use that creativity on something else. Anyone fond of the studio's classic shorts ought to see the new treatments they've been given, but won't likely appreciate or wish to revisit them. The disc is awfully slight for the over $15 you'd need to own it. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to get new viewers interested in these old 'toons, so be it. Now, the Walt Disney Treasures line just needs an in-print successor to satisfy collectors born out of this exposure.

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 3
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Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 7: Extreme Adventure Fun Volume 4: Starring Chip 'N Dale
Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy The Chronological Donald, Volume One
Tangled Yogi Bear Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1

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Reviewed July 11, 2011.