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Mickey Mouse Cartoon Shorts on DVD: Black and White Black and White, Volume Two Living Color Living Color, Volume Two

Mickey Mouse in Black and White DVD Review

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Disc 1: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
20 Mickey Mouse Shorts
1928: Steamboat Willie, The Gallopin' Gaucho, Plane Crazy;
1929: The Karnival Kid, Mickey's Follies;
1930: The Fire Fighters, The Chain Gang, The Gorilla Mystery, Pioneer Days;
1931: The Birthday Party, Mickey Steps Out, Blue Rhythm, Mickey Cuts Up, Mickey's Orphans;
1932: The Duck Hunt, Mickey's Review, Mickey's Nightmare, The Whoopee Party, Touchdown Mickey, The Klondike Kid

Bonus Material: "Frank and Ollie...and Mickey", Story Scripts, Story Sketch Sequences, Easter Egg

Disc 2: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
14 Mickey Mouse Shorts
1933: Building a Building, The Mad Doctor, Ye Olden Days, The Mail Pilot, Mickey's Gala Premiere, Puppy Love, The Pet Store, Giantland;
1934: Camping Out, Gulliver Mickey, Orphan's Benefit, The Dognapper, Two-Gun Mickey;
1935: Mickey's Service Station

Bonus Material: Pencil Test, Story Sketch Sequences, Poster Art Gallery

Running Time: 256 Minutes (4 hours, 16 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Originally Released between 1928 and 1935
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 3, 2002
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99

REVIEW CONTENTS

Page 1: Disc 1 - Shorts and Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 - Shorts, Bonus Features, Video & Audio, and Closing Thoughts


Review by Aaron Wallace

Long before theme parks, feature films, and corporate giantism, there was a man and his mouse. Walt Disney's creation of Mickey Mouse influenced the evolution of popular culture in America and even the world as much as,
and perhaps more than, any other force in the twentieth century. After a series of disappointments in his struggling career, Walt met with great success when Mickey Mouse first met the world, and it was this success that catapulted his future media empire.

The second wave of the Walt Disney Treasures series takes viewers back to those earliest days of Disney, when Mickey Mouse was a newborn movie star. Though a bit cruder in both animation and character in his earliest appearances, he was generally the same lively, charming, fun-loving, all-American hero then that we know today.

This is one of four Mickey installments in the Treasures line. Like all the others, the discs are found inside a double Alpha keepcase which is housed inside a limited edition silver tin, imprinted with the number of your copy (125,000 copies were made). Included is a color reprint of the "Steamboat Willie" poster that was used in Disney theme parks to mark the mouse's 50th birthday, an eight page booklet profiling the disc's content and adding historical context, and a chance to win Disney's DVD library for your home.

DISC 1

One of the keys to the success of the Mickey cartoons was the never-before-seen fusion of animation and sound. Therefore, in their first few years on the big screen, the Mickey cartoons placed a great emphasis on incorporating amusing gags with tunes standard to the America of the day. In many of the shorts, plots are loosely built around these musical showcases and are sometimes even indiscernible. A great deal of their charm comes from Mickey's relentless pursuit of the affections of Minnie Mouse, an on-and-off relationship that offers something with which both genders can relate.

Disc one offers twenty shorts spread over four pages that can be listed either chronologically or alphabetically. Puzzlingly, no "Play All" option is offered. Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin opens the disc by setting the stage of 1920s America so that viewers can better understand the impact that the Mickey cartoons were able to have. This brief introduction (3:49) is accessible from the main menu as well. He also prefaces several of the shorts with explanations for situations and lines that might be considered taboo in today's society. Mr. Maltin's enthusiasm for these cartoons is always apparent, but these introductions can at times seem excessively apologetic for what's contained inside the shorts, which likely has more to do with Disney itself rather than Maltin. Still, they provide historical context and are a small price to pay for having these cartoons uncensored (as far as I can tell) on DVD. If they are too much for you to bear, they are conveniently chapter-skippable.

Mickey as the world first met him in "Steamboat Willie." Is that Mickey holding a beer? All that hair makes Mickey look "Plane Crazy!"

THE SHORTS

Steamboat Willie (1928) (7:45)
The cartoon that started it all. "Steamboat Willie" won theater audiences over with its use of sound synchronized with animation, a concept that would meet Walt Disney with innovation time and time again in the future. There's no dialogue, but plenty of sound effects and illustrative gags to show them off, as well as catchy music, including "Turkey in the Straw." In this, his debut, Mickey Mouse is the very much the same character the audiences of today know, even if his character has undergone some change over time. The plot is simple: Mickey is piloting a steamboat, angering the cruel captain Pete, Disney's first villain (as large as the Pete of today, but with only a slight resemblance in appearance). Minnie Mouse tries to board the boat, but it pulls off moments too soon. Always the hero, even from day one, Mickey whisks her onboard with a crane, where he takes a liking to her while they have fun with music.

The Gallopin' Gaucho (1928) (7:16 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
Mickey takes to the streets of what looks to be Spain for a dose of culture and a few glasses of beer. He again charms Minnie Mouse, leading to a dance scene that makes for some really fun animation.

Plane Crazy (1928) (6:00)
In a cleverly-titled short that pays homage to Charles Lindbergh, Mickey tries his hand at the skies. His attempts to impress Minnie continue as he mans an airplane but meets with disastrous results. Though "Steamboat Willie" is Mickey's true debut and his introduction to the world at large, "Plane Crazy" was the first Mickey short produced, followed by "The Gallopin' Gaucho" before "Steamboat." At the time, however, these two were produced only as silent films and "Plane Crazy" was shown locally to small groups. Sound was later added and they received their theatrical exhibition after the on-the-whole better "Steamboat Willie." This short also marks the debut of Clarabelle Cow.

The Karnival Kid (1929) (7:41)
At the carnival, Mickey tries to sell hotdogs that simply do not want to be sold. This is Mickey's ninth short and his first to feature spoken words, even if most of them come in the form of song and aren't clearly annunciated.

Extreme Music Fun! Mickey and Pluto speed off to put out a fire in "The 
Firefighters." Pete spoils his prisoner's fun in "The Chain Gang."

Mickey's Follies (1929) (6:34 with "1929" introduction card)
A simple short that showcases barnyard antics. It notably features the original performance of one of Disney's earliest original musical numbers, "Minnie's Yoo Hoo," which became a theme song of sorts for the Mickey cartoons. Strangely, even though this is the second offering from 1929, it is the one to feature the title card that precedes the first short in each year.

The Fire Fighters (1930) (7:26 with "1930" introduction card)
Fires that can't be put out seem to be a staple of classic cartoons and it's as well-done here as ever. Mickey plays the part of a good-intentioned but unsuccessful fireman trying to save Minnie from a burning tower.

The Chain Gang (1930) (8:02)
Mickey's part of a happy-go-lucky prison gang that apparently loves to dance. Despite the fun they seem to be having, he escapes from Prison Guard Pete (now looking much more like today's Pete, peg leg and all) and flees the pursuit of the police dog, Pluto, who makes his debut here.

The Gorilla Mystery (1930) (7:32)
Mickey learns that a vicious gorilla is on the loose and calls Minnie to warn her, only to find that he's too late! Suspense builds as he rushes to her home and tries to save her.

Mickey dazzles Minnie with some olden-days charm. I've heard of a door mouse... but a window? Such a large shadow for such a small mouse.

Pioneer Days (1930) (8:47 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
Mickey endures the trials and tribulations of life on the frontier. The introduction from Leonard Maltin that is attached to this short is the same one that accompanies "The Gallopin' Gaucho."

The Birthday Party (1931) (7:32)
It's Mickey's birthday and Minnie and the rest of his friends are throwing him a surprise party. His present: a new piano, on which he joins Minnie for a rousing musical number.

Mickey Steps Out (1931) (8:42 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
Mickey pays Minnie a visit. It's a merry time of song and dance until Pluto chases a cat inside and disaster ensues.

Blue Rhythm (1931) (7:25)
Mickey conducts and performs while Minnie dances and sings to the accompaniment of all their friends as they take the opera house stage with jazzy blues. Of course it's anything but smooth sailing.

Mickey and Minnie make music with their harmonicas. Pluto's just no good at duck hunting. Before he was Goofy, he was Dippy, and quite a bit older.

Mickey Cuts Up (1931) (7:16)
This short is all about cutting the grass and flirting while doing it, but when Pluto starts cat-chasing again, the grass isn't all that gets mowed.

Mickey's Orphans (1931) (7:08)
It's Christmas and an unexpected present arrives at Mickey's door: a basket of little orphans. He and Minnie accept them right away, doing their best to entertain them and make it a merry Christmas.

The Duck Hunt (1932) (7:22 with "1932" introduction card)
Long before Nintendo, there was this short, in which Mickey and Pluto go hunting for ducks. Pluto's being hunted himself, though- by a pack of fleas! Chasing the ducks doesn't go so well for him either.

Mickey's Review (1932) (6:58)
Some of Mickey's most memorable performances have seen him as a musical director, and this is one of them. The whole gang's here, including the debut of Goofy (only he's a little older here and originally went by the name of Dippy Dawg) as an annoying audience member. Of course it's Pluto who foils the show yet again.

Mickey dreams of more children than he can count. Mickey entertains at his own "Whoopee Party." Shake it like a polaroid picture, Pete!

Mickey's Nightmare (1932) (7:32)
After saying their nighttime prayers, Mickey and Pluto head to sleep. Over the night, Mickey dreams of matrimony with Minnie but his dream soon becomes a nightmare when their children are several mice more than he bargained for!

The Whoopee Party (1932) (7:55 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
Food and frolic make for a fun party and that's what Mickey and the gang have here. The introduction by Leonard Maltin that is attached to this short is the same one that precedes "Mickey Steps Out."

Touchdown Mickey (1932) (6:31)
Mickey's Manglers take on Pete's team of Alley Cats in a football match that stays too close to call down to the very last second.

The Klondike Kid (1932) (7:56 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
This very exciting short, obviously inspired by the work of Charlie Chaplin (like many of Walt's early cartoons), has Mickey playing the part of an entertainer in a saloon where a homeless Minnie Mouse winds up one cold winter night. In one of his more villainous roles, Peg-Leg Pete arrives unexpectedly and kidnaps Minnie, leaving Mickey and Pluto to save her. Attached to the short is the same Leonard Maltin introduction that accompanied "The Gallopin' Gaucho."

Join the Disney Movie Club!

Frank and Ollie provide a great interview, the set's greatest bonus. A panel from the "Steamboat Willie" script. A still from the "Mickey's Nightmare" story sequence.

BONUS FEATURES

The first of several special features on Disc One is a featurette entitled "Frank and Ollie... and Mickey" (18:18). This is a fascinating interview between Leonard Maltin and two of Disney's most legendary animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Though they joined the Disney team towards the end of Mickey's days in black and white, they have a lot to say about what the character meant to them,
both before and during their days with Disney. Maltin often shows them a particular drawing and asks them to analyze it, and their comments are edited together with footage from inside the Disney studios and various Mickey shorts. At nearly twenty minutes, it's thorough and one of the better supplements to come from the Treasures line.

Two story scripts are offered, which provide first a look at a complete panel and then a close-up of the text and the picture on each panel. "Steamboat Willie" is most interesting. From it, the depth of thought required for this first joining of animation and sound becomes apparent. Fans might note the references made to earlier Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts as well. The other script, "Mickey Steps Out," is quite difficult to read. Granted, these seem to be scans of original manuscripts, so it's still worth looking at, but trying to make out most of these panels probably isn't good for the eyes. A short introduction from Leonard Maltin (1:10) precedes the two scripts, which require heavy use of DVD selection buttons for browsing.

Seven story sketch sequences from disc one cartoons put storyboard drawings to lively ragtime tunes. Each lasts two to four minutes and is easy to watch, and again, Leonard Maltin kicks them off with a brief informative message (1:27).

Finally, there is also an Easter egg, which can be accessed from the Bonus Features menu.

Easter Egg: Maltin returns again to clue viewers in on the treat they've just discovered. Long before The Mickey Mouse Club was a TV show, it was an actual club popping up all over the nation. This supplement (14:02) takes viewers inside those club meetings via a newsreel profiling them during the era. There's also a short that was created by Disney exclusively for these clubs: a sing-along to "Minnie's Yoo Hoo" with Mickey Mouse, complete with a second verse. In watching this, it becomes even easier to fully appreciate the phenomenon that Mickey Mouse had become.

Because black and white menus would be too dull, they come to life on this set with muted pastels across gray backgrounds, a very nice touch. Mickey and sometimes Minnie can be seen in a variety of positions and they are all set to wonderfully catchy music of the ragtime and jazz variety. Only the cartoon selection menus are without music.

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ONTO PAGE TWO

REVIEW CONTENTS

Page 1: Disc 1 - Shorts and Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 - Shorts, Bonus Features, Video & Audio, and Closing Thoughts

Related Reviews - Walt Disney Treasures and Others
Mickey Mouse in Black & White, Volume 2 Vintage Mickey
Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume 1 Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Volume 2
The Chronological Donald, Volume 1 The Complete Pluto, Volume 1
The Complete Goofy Silly Symphonies Disney Rarities

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Mickey Mouse Cartoon Shorts on DVD: Black and White Black and White, Volume Two Living Color Living Color, Volume Two

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Review posted May 31, 2005.