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Mickey Mouse in Living Color DVD Review

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Disc 1: 14 Mickey Mouse Shorts (Click title to view that portion of the review)
1935: The Band Concert, Mickey's Garden, On Ice, Pluto's Judgement Day, Mickey's Fire Brigade;
1936: Thru the Mirror, Mickey's Circus, Mickey's Elephant, Mickey's Grand Opera, Mickey's Polo Team, Alpine Climbers, Moving Day, Mickey's Rival, Oprhans' Picnic

Bonus Material: Parade of the Award Nominees, Pencil Tests, Easter Egg

Disc 2: 12 Mickey Mouse Shorts (Click title to view that portion of the review)
1937: Hawaiian Holiday, Moose Hunters, The Worm Turns, Magician Mickey, Mickey's Amateurs, Clock Cleaners, Lonesome Ghosts;
1938: Mickey's Parrot, Boat Builders, The Whalers, Mickey's Trailer, Brave Little Tailor

Bonus Material: "Mickey in Living Color", Galleries, Video & Audio; Closing Thoughts

Running Time: 217 Minutes (3 hours, 37 minutes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Originally Released between 1935 and 1938
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 4, 2001
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99


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

Review by David Willis

What is there to say about Mickey Mouse that hasn’t already been said? There had been popular animated characters before, but never to the same level of Mickey Mouse. He truly was the world’s first animated superstar. The contents of this, the first of four two-disc Walt Disney Treasures sets devoted to the Mouse, present an interesting period in Mickey’s life. Despite the fact that Disney had been making color shorts since 1932, Walt kept producing Mickey cartoons in black and white, because he felt that Mickey was already popular enough, and unlike the Silly Symphonies series, didn’t need the added novelty of being in color. So Mickey’s color debut did not come until 1935 in The Band Concert. Walt knew that Mickey’s first color appearance needed to be something special, which is precisely what The Band Concert is.

However, as Mickey made the leap to color, in many ways the writing was already on the wall, as Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck were increasingly appearing on the scene and were developing into funnier personalities who often stole the spotlight from him. As Leonard Maltin points out on this DVD, Mickey is not an intrinsically funny character, meaning that it became a chore to write and develop ideas for him. Therefore, Mickey began to have less screen time in his shorts, with more attention being given to Goofy, Donald, Pluto and, to a lesser extent, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar and Clara Cluck.

Mickey prepares to strike up the band in his first color short, "The Band Concert." In "Mickey's Rival", there's a contender for Minnie's affections.

Even rarer were shorts where Mickey appeared alone. Nevertheless, when Mickey was given a solo short, it was always something special. Mickey’s Rival (1936) showed a side that even today is seldom seen, Mickey’s jealous side. It is interesting to see the main character being so downtrodden, as Mortimer Mouse charms Minnie under Mickey’s nose. Also, Brave Little Tailor truly is one of the greatest shorts Disney ever produced, with wonderful "animation acting." It is well known that the Silly Symphonies were developed as a testing ground for animation, to see how far techniques could be developed, but it appears that they were not the only cartoons to explore the medium;
Brave Little Tailor is the perfect example of how Walt wanted to make drawings have believable emotions and not just be slapstick figures, which was a development that of course was leading to the first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Certain other shorts have characters or happenings very similar to elements that would appear in later features. For example, in 1938’s The Whalers we see a whale which bears more than just a passing resemblance to Monstro, who would appear two years later in Pinocchio in which a very similar chase scene occurs.

The quality of the first wave of Walt Disney Treasures was superior to the more recent releases. The discs are found inside a dark gray double keep case, which also contains a booklet listing the contents of the DVD, as well as a few images and quotes from Walt Disney. Finally, a lithograph of the poster from the original 1935 release of The Band Concert is enclosed. The case is housed inside a collectible tin, which is sturdier than the tins from more recent waves and a blue band with the signatures of both Roy E. Disney and Leonard Maltin wraps around the tin, again something which is missing from the recent waves. There were 150,000 copies of Mickey and Mouse in Living Color produced and the unique number of each copy was embossed onto the tin, again a luxury which has since been dropped. The first wave of the Treasures also had the back information printed onto the back of the tin.


Disc One opens with a short introduction from Leonard Maltin, in which he greets us from the corner of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive at the Walt Disney Studios and gives us a brief outline of the history of Mickey Mouse and the shorts on the set that established him as an icon.

From the main menu on Disc One, you are presented with a Play All feature, which provides the shorts in chronological order, or you can select either of the two years 1935 or 1936 to individually choose a short.

Mickey is about to become lunch in "Mickey's Garden." Pluto takes to the ice in "On Ice." Pluto has to pay for chasing cats in one of the set's more stunning shorts, "Pluto's Judgement Day."


The Band Concert (1935) (9:17)
In his first Technicolor short, Mickey conducts an orchestra full of familiar faces who each have their own unique methods of playing their instruments. Hot dog seller Donald Duck arrives on the scene and wastes no time in frustrating Mickey, by trying to join in with a seemingly endless supply of flutes. Things don’t improve when the band finds itself swept up by a tornado.

Mickey’s Garden (1935) (8:47)
With his garden full of insects devouring everything in sight, Mickey resorts to bug poison to rid himself of the pests. When he accidentally sprays himself with the poison, he finds everything around him suddenly growing, and soon both he and Pluto are smaller than the mushrooms. With the bugs now towering above them, they decide to take revenge.

On Ice (1935) (8:07)
A frozen lake is the setting for this ensemble short. While Mickey is set upon dazzling Minnie with his skating ability, Goofy tries his hand at ice fishing, naturally with his own unorthodox method. Elsewhere, Donald finds fun in putting ice skates on Pluto’s feet and watching the dog struggle across the ice, but he soon gets his comeuppance when a gust of wind blows him up into the air like a kite, over an icy waterfall.

Pluto’s Judgement Day (1935) (8:14)
Mickey gives Pluto a stern warning that if he continues to chase cats, he’ll have plenty to answer for on his judgment day. As Mickey bathes a kitten that he has rescued from Pluto, Pluto is lured from the house by the spirit of a cat and into a cave shaped like a cat’s head which bears a certain resemblance to the Cave of Wonders from 1992’s Aladdin. Once inside, the cave snaps its mouth shut and trapped inside Pluto is clapped in irons and put on trial by the felines for crimes he has committed against cats. This is one of the more stunning shorts of the disc, in terms of both story and animation.

Clarabelle Cow takes offense at being rescued in "Mickey's Fire Brigade." "Thru the Mirror" gives Mickey the chance to show us his moves. Donald has a mishap in "Mickey's Circus."

Mickey’s Fire Brigade (1935) (7:44)
Firefighters Mickey, Donald, and Goofy come to the rescue of a burning building. As expected, things don’t go smoothly; Mickey has troubles with the fire hose and the ladder, while Donald struggles to put out flames that are more keen on playing "Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" on the piano. Meanwhile, Goofy tries to rescue the furniture but only succeeds in ensuring it is all destroyed. When they discover Clarabelle Cow taking a bath blissfully unaware that the building is on fire, they try to rescue her, only she mistakenly believes she is being kidnapped and does her best to hinder the rescue.

Thru the Mirror (1936) (8:50)
This is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s follow-up Alice novel Through the Looking Glass with Mickey in the lead role. After falling asleep reading, Mickey arises from his own body and steps through his bedroom mirror to an alternate land where usually inanimate objects are alive. Eating a walmut causes Mickey to shrink to a size which enables him to dance with two gloves and a pack of cards. When he begins to dance with the Queen of Hearts, however, the jealous King of Hearts takes action.

Mickey’s Circus (1936) (8:06)
Ringmaster Mickey begins by introducing Donald and his performing seals to an audience of orphans. Whilst Donald struggles to gets a seal to play the horns, a baby seal provides further annoyance by trying to eat all of Donald’s fish. When the seals trap both Mickey and Donald in the cannon, both are fired into the air and land on a high wire.

Pluto plots revenge in "Mickey's Elephant." Clara Cluck, Donald, and Pluto bring the house down in "Mickey's Grand Opera." They should be watching the game, but Clarabelle Cow instead makes a move on Clark Gable in "Mickey's Polo Team."

Mickey’s Elephant (1936) (8:37)
The Rajah of Ghaboon sends Bobo the elephant to Mickey as a playmate for Pluto. While Mickey tries to build an elephant house, Bobo's ball-playing leads him to Pluto. Though the dog is less than impressed, Bobo takes a liking to Pluto. When a green devil pops out of his head, Pluto convinces himself he is being replaced and sets about trying to make Bobo sneeze with some pepper.

Mickey’s Grand Opera (1936) (7:39)
As the audience fills the Opera House, Pluto knocks open a magician’s trunk backstage. Needless to say, trouble ensues as Pluto struggles with the tricks which have escaped. Meanwhile, conductor Mickey gets the show going, Clara Cluck takes to the balcony with her own unique style of opera singing and soon Donald appears to serenade her. As Pluto makes his way onto the stage, the tricks are unleashed and Mickey’s Grand Opera quite literally brings the house down.

Mickey’s Polo Team (1936) (8:48)
In this, the most star-studded polo match you’re ever likely to see, Mickey, Donald, Goofy (still credited here as "The Goof") and The Big Bad Wolf take on Laurel and Hardy, Harpo Marx and Charlie Chaplin. Before the game beginsm the two teams parade before the celebrity audience (which features such faces as The Three Little Pigs, Shirley Temple and Max Hare, to name but a few). As referee Jack Holt starts the match, the players all struggle to play the game due to the many slapstick hindrances, while in the audience, Clarabelle Cow makes goo-goo eyes at Clark Gable. One may note that both Donald and Goofy appear to have taken a step back the evolution of their design, the reason being that the cartoon was originally produced in early 1935, but was delayed after intended star Will Rogers died in a plane crash and had to be replaced with Charlie Chaplin.

Pluto and friend have a bit too much to drink in "Alpine Climbers." When Mickey, Donald, and Goofy fail to pay the rent, Sheriff Pete arrives to dispossess in "Moving Day." Mickey's all tied up in "Orphans' Picnic."

Alpine Climbers (1936) (9:35)
Mickey, Donald and Pluto are climbing in the Alps. Donald contentedly picks Edelweiss until he runs into a baby goat that succeeds in eating the flowers Donald has gathered. Spying an eagle's nest, Mickey tries to poach the eggs, until the mother eagle spots him. When the eggs begin to hatch, he has more trouble than he can handle. Pluto becomes frozen in the snow, but a St. Bernard turns up to save the day.

Moving Day (1936) (9:24)
With the rent six months overdue, Mickey and Donald anxiously pace the living room when Sheriff Pete arrives with a notice to dispossess. As Goofy arrives at the back door with his ice truck, the three friends set about trying to pack their belongings and vamoose before Pete returns to sell them. As Mickey and Donald struggle to pack, Goofy has trouble loading a piano onto his truck.

Mickey’s Rival (1936) (8:19)
A picnic in the country for sweethearts Mickey and Minnie goes awry when Minnie’s old sweetheart Mortimer Mouse arrives on the scene. With a fast car and a fast mouth, he wastes no time in charming Minnie and making a fool out of Mickey. As Mickey’s temper builds, Mortimer shows off to Minnie by infuriating a bull in a nearby field. But when Mortimer discovers the gate is open, he disappears in a flash, leaving Mickey and Minnie to deal with charging bull. An interesting note to this cartoon is that Mortimer is the name Walt originally wanted to call Mickey. It's also no coincidence that Mortimer bears a striking resemblance to Walt.

Orphans’ Picnic (1936) (7:58)
Loaded into the back of a truck, a group of orphans is taken for a picnic by Mickey and Donald. Naturally, the orphans’ angelic faces conceal their mischievous intentions and as Donald sets out the picnic, they try to steal the food when he’s not looking. They also blindfold Mickey for a game of hide and seek, during which it becomes clear that the concept of fair play is foreign to the orphans. Matters are only made worse when Donald upsets a hive of bees.

Mickey leads the "Parade of Award Nominees." In an Easter Egg, Walt looks at Mickey's evolution in a clip from the first-ever anthology episode, "The Disneyland Story." Disc One's simple Main Menu.


Parade of the Award Nominees (with introduction by Leonard Maltin) (3:25)
In truth, this is Mickey’s first color appearance, even though this 1932 short film was never commercially released. Mickey and company lead a parade of movie stars nominated for that year's Oscars. The actors seen in the parade are Wallace Beery, Jackie Coogan, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontaine, Helen Hayes, Frederic March and Marie Dressler.
Originally shown at the 1932 Academy Awards Banquet, it was never intended to be seen by the general public. Pluto appears gray here, having only appeared in black and white up to that point his yellow coloring had obviously not been decided on at this stage. The majority of animation and the background are recycled from the 1931 Silly Symphony Mother Goose Melodies.

Also included on this disc are three complete cartoons at the pencil test stage. Before the time-consuming and expensive process of inking and painting were done, animators’ drawings were put together just as they would be in the final product, in order to check the quality of the short and, if necessary, make changes. As Leonard Maltin explains, these three pencil tests exist only because the renowned Disney director Ben Sharpsteen kept them safe in his garage and his family donated them back to the studio. The three shorts presented in this stage are Mickey’s Fire Brigade, Pluto’s Judgement Day and On Ice. Their inclusion makes for a fascinating insight into the production of an animated film during the 1930s, especially since it’s safe to say that the whereabouts of most of the animators’ pencil drawings are sadly no longer known. The angle feature can be used to switch between the pencil test and the final fully-animated cartoon.


On Disc One’s main menu, by selecting Mickey’s head, you will be presented with an excerpt from Walt's very first anthology episode, 1954's "The Disneyland Story." The clip, which runs 2:37, features Walt with his scrapbook, discussing Mickey’s evolution, as he reminds us that “It all started with a Mouse.”

The menus are simple but pleasant enough, featuring still images taken from the theatrical posters and music from the various shorts.

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

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Review posted September 23, 2006.