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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

DISC 2

After a few years on the big screen, Mickey's endeavors began to grow in detail and length. Though sound gags are still of great importance, many of the second disc's shorts embrace strong plotlines as well. The disc starts with Leonard Maltin discussing this evolution, as well as mentioning some of his favorite moments on the disc (2:04).

A classic cartoon gag in "Building A Building." One of the best cartoons from Mickey's black and white years, "The Mad Doctor" shows off some very impressive animation for the time. Mickey finds himself in a plane yet again in "The Mail Pilot."

THE SHORTS

Building A Building (1933) (7:20 with "1933" introduction card)
A construction site sets the scene for this short, in which Minnie sells box lunches to the crew. Pete tries to kidnap her, but it's not long before Mickey foils his plans. The story wraps up with a little romance and a catchy musical number.

The Mad Doctor (1933) (6:52)
This wonderfully elaborate short sets Mickey in the typical horror film of the day. He battles the obstacles of an evil scientist's bewitched lair in order to save Pluto from the mad doctor's clutches. Like several of Mickey's classic cartoons, this makes for a great Halloween-time treat.

Ye Olden Days (1933) (8:19)
Disney, meet the musical fairy tale! Mickey and friends take up parts in a play that betroths Minnie's character, a princess, to a prince played by Goofy-er- Dippy Dawg. A young minstrel (Mickey) has his eyes set upon the fair princess, though, and seeks battle with the prince over her hand in marriage.

The Mail Pilot (1933) (7:32)
Through rain or snow, Mickey is determined to battle the elements and successfully deliver his load of mail. He braves the weather but comes out only to find himself being chased by the dastardly Pete.

All of Hollywood turns out for "Mickey's Gala Premiere." Pluto falls for Minnie's pet in "Puppy Love." The early Mickey cartoons made countless references to well-known films of the era, including King Kong in "The Pet Store."

Mickey's Gala Premiere (1933) (7:22)
In recognition of Mickey's star status in 1933, a cavalcade of caricatured stars attend the premiere of his newest cartoon short. All eyes are on the red carpet when Mickey and the gang finally arrive.
This cartoon is interesting because it features a short within a short, not to mention a glance at pop culture of the time, as well as a surprise ending.

Puppy Love (1933) (8:07)
It's a double date when Mickey and Pluto pay a visit to Minnie and her pet dog, respectively, but when their gifts get mixed up, it leads to a quarrel.

The Pet Store (1933) (7:25)
In reference to King Kong, which was also released in 1933, the gorilla from "The Gorilla Mystery" returns, this time as a menace in Mickey's pet shop.

Giantland (1933) (8:04)
One of Mickey's best-known performances is Fun and Fancy Free's Jack (as in "The Beanstalk"). The 1947 feature wasn't the first time that Mickey portrayed the giant-scamming young lad, though. It was this 1933 short that first had Mickey visiting Giantland. It offers a somewhat different and much shorter take on the classic story but is every bit as entertaining as the longer segment in Fun and Fancy Free.

Camping Out (1934) (7:28 with "1934" introduction card)
Mickey, Minnie, Horace, and Clarabelle are enjoying a picnic at their campsite until a rowdy bunch of mosquitoes decide to declare ware on the innocent campers.

Mickey, finally mouse-like in size, struggles to free himself from a giant's beverage in "Giantland," Disney's first take on "Jack and the Beanstalk." Mickey's looking very big for a mouse in this adaptation of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels." The final short on the set teams Mickey with Donald and Goofy, who were beginning to eclipse the mouse in terms of popularity.

Gulliver Mickey (1934) (9:58 with introduction by Leonard Maltin)
In the tradition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Mickey recalls the time he landed on an island of tiny people. Seen as a giant, he was feared by the people of the island until a giant spider (played by Pete) showed up to terrorize the town and it was up to Mickey to save the day. Maltin's introduction is again a repeat.

Orphan's Benefit (1934) (8:53)
In his first appearance with Mickey and the gang, Donald Duck takes the stage at a performance benefit for young orphans. Instead of the grateful audience he expected, he finds nothing but heckles, invoking his signature ire. In what must have been a slip of Walt's tongue, Mickey refers to Donald as "Pluto." This short also marks the first appearance of Clara Cluck.

The Dognapper (1934) (7:49)
Peg-Leg Pete has stolen a puppy and it's up to officers Mickey and Donald to capture the thief and bring the dog safely home. Despite the abundance of gunfire and weaponry, this short surprisingly isn't prefaced by any sort of introduction.

Two-Gun Mickey (1934) (9:21)
Mickey goes west in this exciting story of a frontier brawl involving cowboy Mickey and the object of his affection, Minnie, a spunky cowgirl who has been kidnapped by the sinister Peg-Leg Pete. As the short's title might suggest, it is also filled with gunfire and weaponry and is yet again unaccompanied by anything from Leonard Maltin, which is certainly curious, given Disney's usual treatment of the issue.

Mickey's Service Station (1935) (8:02)
In the last cartoon included on this set (and one of Disney's latter cartoons in black & white), Pete brings his car to Mickey, Donald, and Goofy's shop in hopes of having a squeak fixed. The trio sets to work on it but soon finds that fixing this car is more than they bargained for.

Disney fans' favorite film critic, Leonard Maltin, kicks off Disc One. The pencil test for "The Mail Pilot." This color poster for "Steamboat Willie" was originally found in Disney theme parks in the year of Mickey's 50th birthday. A reproduction can now be found inside this treasure set... both in the tin and the second disc's poster gallery.

BONUS FEATURES

Before sending in a cartoon for color and finishing touches, Walt would screen a "pencil test" of rough animation to his team so that changes could be suggested. Only one such pencil test from Mickey's earliest years survives today, and it is the segment from "The Mail Pilot" that is included here (3:02 with an explanatory introduction from Leonard Maltin). Though it is far from finished, the audio track is in tact and even in this early stage, it holds up as an entertaining piece of work.

The story sketch sequences found on the first disc continue on the second with twelve more shorts, all set to music. These, too, come with an introduction, and all last two to four minutes in length.

The final special feature is a gallery of poster art from various Mickey Mouse shorts. 21 posters, most of which are in full color and a few of which contain audio commentary from Maltin, make for a great inclusion on the set.

Disc One's authentic menu style is carried over to Disc Two. The pictures are different and most of the music is too. Only the cartoon selection menus don't have music, which is probably to sanity's benefit, as there is no "Play All" option and each short will return you to that menu.

It's a good thing Mickey is listening to Minnie's piano playing over the phone. Few combinations are as great as Mickey Mouse and Christmastime. Mickey's team faces tough odds against a squad of Petes who don't play by the rules.

VIDEO & AUDIO

Everything on Mickey Mouse in Black & White is presented in an aspect ratio close to 1.33:1 fullscreen.
DMC_300x250
Most of the shorts are windowboxed to varying degree, but this should only show up in the very earliest shorts (where there is considerable windowboxing and and a ratio not as wide as 1.37:1 Academy) on a set with overscan. On both discs, video quality was generally stellar, given the age of the material. At nearly eighty years old, film doesn't get a whole lot older than this, and yet the footage is as clean and crisp as one can reasonably expect. To be sure, there are a good deal of artifacts and flickering, and rightfully so, but thanks to obvious care in preservation and presentation, the cartoons on this disc look at least as good as they ever have, if not better.

The audio, too, has been the recipient of good care. It frequently crackles and you'll likely want to turn your set's volume up slightly higher than usual, but it's still generally satisfactory to say the least. There is only one exception: the audio track for "Ye Olden Days" is badly broken up at the beginning, which may or may not be the way it was originally presented, but the problem is quickly remedied.

Mickey speaks his first words in "The Karnival Kid." Forget Fievel... Mickey goes west in "Pioneer Days." Fairy tales would later take Disney much further, but he first used the idea in "Ye Olden Days."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

For hardcore Disney fans and collectors, this set is sure to be a real treat. It is, after all, where it all began. Mickey Mouse is an extremely likeable and fairly entertaining character. The cartoons included on this set provide not only a rare, in-depth look at milestones in vintage film and a time gone by, but also sheer entertainment. A healthy serving of bonus features for such old material is offered as a plus.

The age of the cartoons or the fact they appear in black and white shouldn't be a put-off to anyone. The care they are given is exemplary and for the most part, they are as relatable and fun today as they were eighty years ago. If you're merely looking for a sampling of classic cartoons for yourself or your children, you might look first at the later colorized Disney cartoons in other Walt Disney Treasures or Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites DVDs. Still, you can't really go wrong with this set.

My only complaint is with organization. Splitting each year of Mickey's black & white tenure between two sets of Treasures doesn't seem to make as much sense as a simple chronological split. The fact that Leonard Maltin's introductions play automatically and the lack of a "Play All" feature is sure to peeve some as well. Still, these complaints are really minor in comparison to the truly excellent content on this overall well-done set, and so I give it as earnest a recommendation as I can.

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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

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.