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Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun! on DVD: Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4

Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun!
Volume 3 DVD Review

Buy It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 3 from Amazon.com It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 3
DVD Details

Running Time: 56 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: February 13, 2007
Originally Released Between 1936 and 1952
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase

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By Albert Gutierrez

Beginning early in 2005, Buena Vista Home Entertainment ventured to release classic shorts from the Disney cartoon canon quickly and cheaply (though that's debatable), in a series of compilation discs under banners like Classic Cartoon Favorites,
Timeless Tales, Funny Factory, and in the case of this review, It's a Small World of Fun!. In Volume Three of this series, six shorts take us around the world and provide just enough cartoons to keep somebody occupied for few minutes shy of an hour.

It's a Small World of Fun claims to take you on animated adventures in exciting lands (at least according to the case), and the selected shorts support that claim. With the help of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto, viewers get a chance to see the world as depicted in 1930s and 1940s cartoons. Times have changed since then. We won't be apt to see legitimate tiger hunting in India these days, and you're sure to find more protests against fox hunting than for it in Great Britain. Still, these shorts present a nice, animated look at the idealized rest-of-the-world beyond Anytown, USA. We even get a nice history lesson/folk tale, by way of The Legend of Johnny Appleseed. It's more legend than fact, and at least lends itself to nice songs.

"Edelweiss...edelweiss...every morning you greet me..." Donald climbs the Alps. "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" features America's favorite apple farmer.

I have to admit, compared to the other releases, the selection of shorts here feels slightly weaker. While they generally fit the bill as location-centered shorts, setting often feels secondary to the story. Compare, for example, Alpine Climbers to the whimsical A Cowboy Needs a Horse (from Volume One). Knowing that Cowboy is set in the west is essential to the short, but Alpine Climbers could just as easily be called Rocky Mountain Climbers or Andes Climbers and it'd be the same thing. Likewise, Hello Aloha could be set in the Caribbean and yield the same effect. While I'm sure these complaints are a bit far-reaching, it shouldn't hinder anyone interested from purchasing this disc. After all, the cartoons and characters are truly entertaining and classics in every sense of the word.

Disney has decided that four would be the magic number, so Volumes Three and Four are the last sets of this particular line, which isn't that sad as it sounds. At least they stay in print on some level, unlike the superior-but-limited-run Walt Disney Treasures that offer the same material in greater quantities with nice bonus features. Even if others lament the tackiness of these budget hour-long discs, I feel at times I have to step in as devil's advocate and defend their practicality. Yes, they are a cheap alternative to the Treasures sets, but they are also tailored more to impulse buyers and families. After all, wouldn't you rather have your children play around with Disney's "Classic Cartoon Meltdown - Volume Sixteen - Starring Crazy Mae!" than a hard-to-replace limited-issue disc from the Treasures series?

It pains me whenever I hear about Disney "ripping off" customers with these releases. I don't know about you, but not every Disney fan is an uber-fan, who'll collect both Treasures and compilations. And not every Disney fan is meant to be an uber-fan. I for one have little interest in Goofy shorts, but it's a nice perk to have a small selection of his filmography on discs like these instead of being forced to track down an out-of-print two-disc set I likely won't watch often. With these $15 compilations, Disney is trying to appeal to the casual fan, someone who doesn't care to have every Mickey cartoon out there, but still wouldn't mind having a couple that he can rewatch every so often.

Pluto looks at his new souvenir in "Pueblo Pluto." After chasing around for a few frames, Goofy and the tiger take a breather.

Six shorts make up the third volume of the It's a Small World of Fun, and are presented on the disc in the following order:

"The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" (1948) (17:34)

Excerpted from the underrated 1948 animated classic Melody Time, this is Disney's version of the American tale, told through a variety of songs. Johnny Appleseed travels westward throughout the untamed wilderness of the United States, planting rows of apple trees for people to harvest and cultivate.
This apple-praising short is narrated by Dennis Day and has possibly the most peaceful death scene in the entire Disney canon.

"Pueblo Pluto" (1949) (6:47)

Mickey and Pluto take a trip south of the border to Mexico, where Mickey embarks on some souvenir shopping, getting Pluto a buffalo bone to keep him busy. As Pluto enjoys this oversized snack, a little dog wants a bit for himself. Pluto refuses to share and, in a back-and-forth chase for the bone, finds himself trapped in a fence of cacti.

"Tiger Trouble" (1945) (7:43)

This narrated short features Goofy on a reluctant tiger hunt somewhere in India, as he and his elephant trek through the jungle for the wild beast. An encounter with the tiger becomes comical as Goofy is maliciously (okay, comically) attacked and a wild Goof chase ensues.

"The Fox Hunt" (1938) (7:35)

The chase is on, as the gang embarks on a fox hunt in Great Britain's contribution to our Small World of Fun. Things get off to a bad start for the two leads, as Donald struggles to keep the hounds in line while Goofy is unsuccessful in managing his horse. Thankfully, no foxes were harmed in the making of this short.

"Alpine Climbers" (1936) (9:35)

Continuing our European Tour, we meet Mickey, Donald, and Pluto as they climb the Swiss Alps. Donald chases after a little goat who ate his flowers, but then has to deal with its head-butting father. Mickey tries to collect eagle eggs, but is attacked by the mother. And poor Pluto gets tied to a rock, which leads to him falling deep in the snow.

"Hello Aloha" (1952) (6:35)

Poor overworked Goofy (or "G.G. Geef" as he's known here) decides to take a vacation and we promptly join him in Hawaii. Upon learning he's been fired, he decides to take up permanent residence on the tropical island. As the shortest cartoon on the disc, it doesn't offer much in way of story (aside from human sacrifice), but is charming nonetheless.

Donald is trapped among the hounds in "The Fox Hunt." Goofy, a.k.a. Mr. Geef, relaxes in his straw hut as we say "Hello Aloha"...which translates into "Hello Hello"...or maybe "Hello Goodbye"?

VIDEO and AUDIO

The six shorts are presented in their original Academy Ratio, 1.33:1 fullscreen, with "Alpine Climbers" the only short to be windowboxed. Oddly, unlike its windowboxed appearance in the Gold Collection disc of Melody Time, "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is presented fullscreen. To make things more complicated, the transfer on this disc is markedly different from the Melody Time one, as it's sharper, but suffers from a generous amount of dust, grain, artifacts, you name it. The Melody Time version offers slightly more image at the top, bottom, and even occasionally on the sides, but it is much softer, with less defined colors and very little dirt and grain.
In essence, the short's separate transfers have offered a share of good and bad, but in my opinion, we're treated to the inferior version here. I'd rather have a slightly softer picture with little dirt than a sharper one with noticeable flaws.

If it's any consolation, the other five shorts are in quite superb condition, and look to be the same great transfers we've seen in their incarnations on the Walt Disney Treasures sets, judging from The Chronological Donald, Volume One and The Complete Pluto, Volume Two to which I referred. The shorts possess a very small amount of grain, but boast rather rich colors and sharp picture.

Viewers can choose to listen to these shorts in either English or French (which I highly recommend for anything with Donald as it makes him sound more irksome), and both languages are a standard two-channel Dolby Mono. Neither track is particularly earth-shattering, though the French track on Johnny Appleseed makes it sound older than it should. English subtitles are provided as well, a big help for our hearing-impaired who wish to know that the Lord is good to Johnny Appleseed.

Mickey finds himself hanging off a branch in "Alpine Climbers". Perhaps a long elastic rubber band can help! The animated main menu features a montage of stills from the cartoons, postcard-style.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and DESIGN

So, who's up for an exciting round of the "Around the World with Mickey" Set Top Game? Or the short-but-informative "DisneyPedia: International Fun"? Apparently nobody is, as bonus features are restricted to the wonderful FastPlay option. This option allows three previews to play before the disc, Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, Ratatouille, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt. Strangely, the previews are only accessible via FastPlay, as there is no Sneak Peeks option on the menu.

A nicely animated 4x3 menu offers postcards with different shots from the shorts, as well as a fox-hunting Goofy galloping along every so often. FastPlay-featured discs usually cycle through the menu animation a few times before going to the program, but oddly it doesn't here, so if you leave this on for about 10 minutes, that perky music will still be repeating ad nauseam. "Episode Selection" and "Set Up" go to static menus with a slightly altered version of the menu music.

Oh dear, looks like Johnny is off to battle the grain and dirt of the wilderness... and video transfer. As Goofy enjoys the view, I hope you enjoyed the review!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I like compilation discs and I hardly ever cry "foul!" when Disney announces a new series of them. They offer nice samplings of classic material and have a fairly good price for those who don't wish to get into serious collecting. What's offered here are several great shorts loosely tied to a location theme, while at the same time not being formulaic in design. It's a great set if you don't already have this material elsewhere and, as usual, makes for a great introduction piece to any new Disney converts out there.

Reviews at UltimateDisney usually end up read by people who look deeply into what's offered on the disc, and whether it's recommended based on the reviewer's judgment. As has been the case with the past twenty-odd compilation discs, the reviews often end with the usual "they're great for casual fans, but otherwise hold on to your Treasures." Unsurprisingly, that's the same conclusion I draw here. While it's a nice amount of material, it is designed to really appeal to casual fans, or even big fans who simply want a themed approach to the cartoons. While I'd love to give this a recommendation, it'd be a bit empty. I recommend buying these compilations if you're a casual fan, but chances are that if you indeed are a casual fan, you wouldn't go out of your way to read reviews and see what type of disc this is anyway.

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Related Reviews
It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 4 It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 1 It's a Small World of Fun! Volume 2
Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy Melody Time Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color
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Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 1
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Reviewed February 7, 2007 - AG