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Mickey Mouse Cartoon Shorts on DVD: Black and WhiteBlack and White, Volume TwoLiving ColorLiving Color, Volume Two

Mickey Mouse in Black & White Volume 2 DVD Review

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Disc 1: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Mickey Mouse Shorts
1929: The Barn Dance, The Opry House, When the Cat's Away, The Barnyard Battle, The Plowboy, Mickey's Choo-Choo, The Jazz Fool, Jungle Rhythm, Wild Waves;
1930: Just Mickey, The Barnyard Concert, The Cactus Kid, The Shindig, The Picnic;
1931: Traffic Troubles, The Castaway, Fishin' Around, The Beach Party, Barnyard Broadcast; 1932: The Mad Dog, Barnyard Olympics

Bonus Material: Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchandise, Mickey's Portrait Artist

Disc 2: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Mickey Mouse Shorts
1932: Musical Farmer, Trader Mickey, The Wayward Canary; 1933: Mickey's Pal Pluto, Mickey's Mechanical Man, 1934: Playful Pluto, Mickey's Steam-Roller, Mickey Plays Papa;
1935: Mickey's Kangaroo
From the Vault
1929: The Haunted House; 1931: The Moose Hunt, The Delivery Boy;
1932: The Grocery Boy, Mickey in Arabia, Mickey's Good Deed;
1933: Mickey's Mellerdrammer, The Steeplechase; 1934: Shanghaied;
1935: Mickey's Man Friday

Bonus Material: Galleries, Mickey's Sunday Funnies

Running Time: 334 Minutes (5 hours, 34 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated
Disc One: 170 minutes (150 - shorts, 2 - introductions, 18 - extras)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Originally Released between 1928 and 1932
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 7, 2004
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99

REVIEW CONTENTS

Page 1: Video and Audio, Disc 1 - Shorts and Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 - Shorts, From the Vault, Bonus Features, and Closing Thoughts


Review by Jack Seiley

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mickey Mouse was at the peak of his popularity. With no other major cartoon stars under the Disney banner, he received the sole spotlight and became an unparalleled icon. While the cartoons of this period didn’t necessarily rely on a set formula, each one remained extremely similar in style and humor. Throughout these shorts, it’s easy to spot a pattern relying heavily on physical gags and music.

If there’s a big reason why shorts of this time period are scarcely seen today, aside from the politically incorrect jokes, it is that they feel extremely dated. While it is easy to like Mickey’s cheerful personality, for most modern day viewers, it would be difficult to be highly entertained by these repetitive and monotonous cartoons – especially when watching them back-to-back. Though Mickey’s cartoons would go on to contain greater variety, this batch remains rather one-note. For the most part, the big interest of watching them is more for historical perspective than anything else. While viewing them, one can appreciate the beginnings of Mickey, how his character was changed and refined over the years, and how animation has so greatly evolved since its early days.

The release of Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2 completes the canon of Mickey Mouse shorts available on DVD through the Walt Disney Treasures line. However, the packaging is somewhat different this time around than previous Treasures issues. As before, the discs are held in a double Alpha keepcase, housed within a collectable tin. Yet, unlike before, the tin has no wrap-around banner that slips over it, the informative page on the back of the tin is removable, and the Alpha keepcase is white instead of black. The rest remains the same as the previous Wave 3, though. Inside the keepcase, there’s an individually numbered certificate of authenticity, a collectable postcard-sized duplicate of a sketch of Mickey & Minnie, and an 8-page booklet with notes by Leonard Maltin and an index of the cartoons on the DVD.

VIDEO & AUDIO

All the material on this set is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which approximates the original ratio for all the cartoons. Since these shorts are over 70 years old now, imperfections are to be expected. Most of them suffer from slight flickering, scratches, dust, and sometimes even jerks in the picture frame. Regardless, I couldn’t imagine these old babies looking much better. The transfer replicates the look of the cartoons very well, offering the clearest presentation they’ve ever received. The video extras, being much newer, of course look pristine.

Audio for all pieces comes in the form of a Dolby Digital Mono track. The sound met my expectations exactly, providing the best possible replication of the cartoons’ dialogue, music and sound effects. Again, due to the age of the shorts, there are some problems, the worst being very indiscernible dialogue for Mickey & Minnie in certain shorts. There’s nothing I have to complain about beyond that. Overall, this is an excellent display of vintage material that equals what has been done in the Treasures line in the past.

DISC 1

In an introduction (1:48), Leonard Maltin begins the disc on the Disney Studio lot, entailing how Walt was at first reluctant to switch from doing Mickey cartoons in black & white to doing them in color. Mickey’s immense popularity is also touched on, as he describes how often times, a Mickey short playing in front of a movie would be the real drawing point for audiences to go to the cinema.

Afterwards, the main menu appears, giving three options to view the shorts: play all, an alphabetical listing, and a chronological listing. I will go about reviewing each individual short in chronological order. Unlike previous Treasures, Maltin does not offer any specific introductions to individual cartoons.

"The Opry House" "When the Cat's Away" "The Barnyard Battle"

THE SHORTS

The Barn Dance (1928) (6:58)
Mickey takes a ride to Minnie’s house to give her a ride in his horse-drawn carriage, only to discover that some hot-shot (the precursor of Pete, the mouse’s famous nemesis) with a new-fangled automobile has beaten him to it. Mickey manages to overcome the competition at first, but once he takes Minnie to a hoedown, he has to face the bully again and find new ways to win over his sweetheart.

The Opry House (1929) (7:26)
All the local animals gather at Mickey’s opera house to watch the show. After showcasing a goofy symphony, Mickey gets a solo number on a piano. The toon also includes some wacky takes on famous opera songs I’m sure most viewers will recognize.

When the Cat’s Away (1929) (6:43)
Mickey and Minnie lead a band of look-alike mice into a cat’s home when he leaves for the day. They proceed to fool around with musical instruments, including using a block of cheese to play a piano and creating a make-shift mouse record player.

The Barnyard Battle (1929) (7:24)
After Mickey undergoes a rather “stretchy” inspection, he is accepted into the barnyard troops. The enemy is an army of Pete look-alikes, who raid the place with tons of cartoony cannons and guns, prompting the return fire of Mickey & pals (stuff blows up real good in this cartoon). Soon after, Mickey single-handedly goes to battle with the opposition. There’s nothing quite like seeing Mickey fiercely handling a machine gun!

The Plowboy (1929) (6:15)
While working on a farm, Mickey tries to plow, milk a cow, and give Minnie a big smooch – all to varying degrees of success.

"Mickey's Choo-Choo" "Jungle Rhythm" "Wild Waves"

Mickey’s Choo-Choo (1929) (6:56)
Minnie comes to visit Mickey as he works at a railroad station. After she plays him the fiddle, they go for a ride on the train, which turns zany when one of the cars disconnects with Minnie atop it as Mickey goes for the rescue.

The Jazz Fool (1929) (5:58)
When Mickey brings his road-show into town, a bunch of animals come to show off their musical talents. Afterwards, like previous cartoons, Mickey has a wacky solo on a piano.

Jungle Rhythm (1929) (6:49)
As one would expect from the title, the subject of this toon is Mickey making music in the jungle. As he uses plants and animals to crank out well-known tunes, the local residents dance along.

Wild Waves (1929) (7:03)
Mickey and Minnie spend a day at the beach. When the girly mouse gets swept out to sea, Mickey bravely saves her. Once back on dry land, the two high-pitched rodents sing and dance.

Just Mickey (1930) (6:54)
When everybody’s favorite mouse comes out to do a violin solo for an unseen audience, he makes a few blunders to the roar of laughter. Anxious to get it right, he shifts into high gear to deliver a frantic performance.

"The Cactus Kid" "The Shindig" "Traffic Troubles"

The Barnyard Concert (1930) (5:59)
Mickey conducts an animal band, playing both real musical instruments and other animals to make music.

The Cactus Kid (1930) (7:26)
Riding to meet in a Spanish-speaking Minnie in a desert saloon, Mickey tries to impress her with his knack for making music out of household objects . . . until Pegleg Pete comes and steals Minnie away. Time for Mickey to save the day again! Noticeably, this short and the recent Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers prominently feature the same music.

The Shindig (1930) (7:05)
Mickey and Minnie make music together while a group of animals dance in a barn.

The Picnic (1930) (7:06)
Mickey goes over to pick up Minnie, who brings along her dog, Rover (A.K.A. early Pluto). The trio head to the country to eat lunch. While Mickey & Minnie dance and sing, Rover chases after animals, and ants raid the picnic basket. It all comes to an end when it begins to pour rain, and the two lovers find that Rover’s tail makes a good windshield wiper.

Traffic Troubles (1931) (7:24)
This short, one of the most entertaining on this disc, has Mickey in the role of a cab driver. After picking up a far-too-overweight pedestrian, he gives Minnie a ride. Along the way, there are some pretty clever gags and two appearances by Pete.

"The Castaway" "The Mad Dog" "Barnyard Olympics"

The Castaway (1931) (7:28)
Once stranded on a deserted island, Mickey gets a box washed up on shore. No, not Wilson the volleyball! A piano! He goes on to play the instrument for the nearby animals until a big ape takes over.

Fishin’ Around (1931) (7:19)
Mickey and Pluto (unnamed in this cartoon, but clearly said character) take their boat out onto a lake. While Mickey deals with the frustrations of catching fish, Pluto explores the underwater life. Their swell time is interrupted when a cranky old sheriff catches them in a “No Fishing” zone.

The Beach Party (1931) (7:40)
Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Horace, and Clarabelle all take a day to have some fun in the sun. Everything is going peachy until Pluto provokes an angry octopus, which then attacks the gang’s picnic. The characters use everything they’ve got to throw at the oceanic animal, but he proves to be quite adept at catching things and throwing them back.

The Barnyard Broadcast (1931) (7:49)
Mickey hosts a radio show with his musical pals. The broadcast runs into a little trouble when a noisy mother cat and her litter of kittens invade the barn and are unwilling to leave.

The Mad Dog (1932) (7:09)
When the mouse gives Pluto a bath, the dog accidentally swallows a bar of soap and goes running away. Seeing the foam and bubbles coming from the canine’s mouth, the townsfolk think he’s mad. To save his pal from being done in, Mickey has to go face-to-face with Pete the dogcatcher.

Barnyard Olympics (1932) (7:08)
Mickey competes in a race against Pete, who has several tricks up his sleeve to keep the mouse from winning. Can Mickey be #1, despite the cheating bully?

Bonus Features menu "Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchanise" "Mickey's Portrait Artist: John Hench"

BONUS FEATURES

In “Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchandise” (13:04), Maltin visits the home of collector extraordinaire Bernie Shine. The two chat about what makes Mickey so appealing, before Shine takes us on a tour of his vast amassing of Mickey memorabilia from all over the globe, most of it dating back to the ‘20s and ‘30s. Amongst this collection of toys, games, displays, and even food, Shine points out what many believe to be the very first Mickey toy.

“Mickey’s Portrait Artist: John Hench” (4:38) is a very brief, but nice, segment featuring an interview with the man in charge of painting Mickey for his birthdays throughout the years, who just recently passed away. Maltin and Hench mainly talk about Mickey’s round design and the pleasing nature of it. Paying a tribute to deceased artist, Maltin makes a neat mention that at even in his 90s, Hench still drove himself to his job at “Imagineering” every day.

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ONTO PAGE TWO

REVIEW CONTENTS

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

UltimateDisney.com | DVD Review Index | Wave 4 on the Walt Disney Treasures Page | Direct-to-Video Page

Mickey Mouse Cartoon Shorts on DVD: Black and WhiteBlack and White, Volume TwoLiving ColorLiving Color, Volume Two

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Review posted December 8, 2004.