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Walt Disney Animation Collection DVDs:
Wave 1: Volume 1: Mickey and the Beanstalk Volume 2: Three Little Pigs Volume 3: The Prince and the Pauper
Wave 2: Volume 4: The Tortoise and the Hare Volume 5: The Wind in the Willows Volume 6: The Reluctant Dragon

Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films - Volume 1: Mickey and the Beanstalk DVD Review

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Volume 1: Mickey and the Beanstalk

DVD Details

Running Time: 63 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
Originally Released Between 1934 and 1963
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase with Side Snaps in Reflective, Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

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In 2005, Disney met the hour-long cartoon compilation DVD. It appeared to be a match made in heaven. Disney had several hundreds of animated shorts featuring characters still popular today. The hour-long DVDs were cheap and easy to produce and market. People liked the pairing, buying over a million copies of its sleek byproducts. Disney kept the hour-long cartoon DVDs coming, under a variety of names: twelve Classic Cartoon Favorites, three Timeless Tales, four It's a Small World of Fun, and four Funny Factory discs.

Then in 2007, Disney's love for the format seemed to cool down. Not only were they bored with repackaging their vintage shorts, they weren't even excited by DVD, instead spending time and money on this intriguing new Blu-ray. Over a year has passed and while Disney still remains in love with Blu-ray and all its high-def, higher-profit-margin glory,
they've also been savvy enough to rekindle a relationship with DVD on the side. And now, amidst Disney Channel discs and animated classic repackagings, a familiar face has re-entered Disney's life: the hour-long cartoon compilation.

This time around, Disney has developed yet another new line: Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, particularly when a volume number and standout short are attached to the title. But it befits the different approach the studio is now taking, choosing a stately, more collector-friendly look over the bright colors and kid-tailored artwork of the old series. The basic design hasn't really changed. The studio is still wisely sticking with the most famous of cartoons and stars. And they're still coming in around the one-hour mark, well under a standard DVD's capacity. But, between the "vibrant foil O-Sleeve" and "fun collectible lithographs", there is the illusion that this line is different. Plus, the $19.99 list price is $5 more than most of the earlier compilations.

While telling us about fairy tales and the story of Mickey and the Beanstalk, Professor Ludwig von Drake nearly eats Herman the Bootle Beetle. Fee-fi-fo-fum, Willie the Giant smells the blood of Mickey Mouse and reaches for him in "Mickey and the Beanstalk."

The star attraction of Volume 1: Mickey and the Beanstalk is the most remembered part of 1947's anthology feature Fun and Fancy Free. This marks the half-hour short's fourth time on DVD, following Fun and Fancy's 2000 Gold Collection DVD, bonus feature status on the second Mickey Mouse in Living Color Walt Disney Treasure, and experiment subject of the criticized first wave of Disney Learning Adventures. There are at least three different versions of the short: its original form from the package film, a 1963 TV presentation narrated by Professor Ludwig von Drake (the one employed on the Disney Learning Adventure DVD), and a cut narrated by legendary voice artist Sterling Holloway (the original Winnie the Pooh). We get the second incarnation here, with Paul Frees' excitable Austrian duck telling the story.

Beanstalk is accompanied by four older one-reel Mickey Mouse cartoons, ranging from 1934's Gulliver Mickey to 1940's Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip. The selection yields a theme of scale, as three of the five deal with relative giants. Since every short in the classic Mickey series made its way to the Treasures line in the course of four two-disc tins, none of these creations is new to DVD.
Fun and Fancy Free original movie poster reproduction Fun and Fancy Free video poster Fun and Fancy Free Italian movie poster - Bongo e i Tre Avventurieri (Bongo and the Three Adventurerers)
Brave Little Tailor movie poster Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip movie poster Mickey Mouse photomosaic poster
Browse more classic Disney posters
In fact, aside from the black & white Gulliver, each of these films has been available on multiple releases, with appearances including Alice in Wonderland, Sword in the Stone, and two of the apparently concluded 1-hour bargain lines.

"Mickey and the Beanstalk" (1947/1963) (29:20)
Ludwig von Drake opens this version of the short with an explanation of fairy tales for Herman the Bootle Beetle and us, with clips from famous Disney ones Cinderella, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Then, he takes us to Happy Valley, where things turn miserable after a magic singing lady harp is kidnapped. Starving peasant farmers Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy are struggling to get by. Mickey sells the trio's cow for some magic beans, an act that earns him ridicule. But while they sleep, the planted beans sprout a giant beanstalk. The beanstalk helps transport the three friends to a palace in the sky, where they hope to outsmart Willie the shape-shifting, basketball-playing giant and rescue the harp. The short is noteworthy for being the final project on which Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse. This presentation first aired November 17, 1963 on "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color"; the bookending title and credits here presumably date back to the 1991 Walt Disney Mini Classics VHS release.

Taken in with a handful of pumpkins, Mickey the "Brave Little Tailor" has to fight off unsightly artifacts in addition to getting eaten by a giant. Mickey shows off his red, white, and black tail thanks to the living playing cards of "Thru the Mirror."

"Brave Little Tailor" (1938) (8:55)
Simple tailor Mickey Mouse inadvertently earns the reputation of a giant killer, which gets him appointed by the king to deal with an at-large giant. After some very close calls, he does.

"Thru the Mirror" (1936) (8:50)
Falling asleep after reading some of Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Mickey dreams of wild times as all the house's inanimate objects -- including a full deck of cards -- come to life around him.

"Gulliver Mickey" (1934) (7:49)
After reading Gulliver's Travels, Mickey tells his young nephews and nieces about his personal adventures, tall tales taken from Jonathan Swift's satirical book involving tiny people and a giant spider.

"Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip" (1940) (7:47)
Mickey tries to sneak Pluto onto a train, while watchful conductor Pete tries his best to enforce the no-dog policy.

Enough with the giants! In "Gulliver Mickey", Mickey Mouse does battle with a giant spider. At least Mickey's a giant too this time. The DVD probably didn't need two pages for the slight Cartoon Selection.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As is typically the case for such releases, picture and sound are a mixed bag. All are presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and Dolby 2.0 Mono, but that's where the common ground ends. Mickey and the Beanstalk looks especially poor, with its dark, drab colors and several layers of artifacts. Brave Little Tailor is also troubled, showing lots of grain, a distracting quantity of white specks throughout (mostly on dark colors) and some flickering. Eldest short Gulliver Mickey is more presentable (maybe it helps that artifacts are harder to notice in black & white) and even sounds better than much of its company.
Finally, Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip is the best-looking cartoon on the disc, which doesn't surprise since it is the most recently and satisfactorily remastered, belonging to the second Mickey Mouse in Living Color Treasure.

Much of the monaural soundtrack, which the case inaccurately calls Surround, is flat, thin, and marked by age-revealing distortion. Some sound effects call attention to themselves, as do some specific shortcomings like a prominent pop in Beanstalk. I guess Disney couldn't clean up these cartoons and their recordings without frustrating those owning the Treasures, but the studio clearly made no effort on the semi-debuting Ludwig cut of Beanstalk. It doesn't even look like Tailor uses its Treasures restoration. And the DVD's target audience, casual consumers who may not have reasonable expectations, quite likely will be disappointed on the whole.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The only bonus feature included is a physical one. This set's collectible lithograph depicts Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the golden harp. It's not clear where exactly this artwork comes from, but it obviously promotes Mickey and the Beanstalk. The print measures 4-3/8" wide x 7-1/8" high and has the consistency of a standard postcard. I can't see many people seeking greater prominence than inside the case for this.

The side-snapped white keepcase sits in a reflective foil cardboard slipcover that is extensively embossed. Besides the lithograph, one finds a Disney Blu-ray promotional booklet and your Disney Movie Rewards code sheet.

The static menus give us a pleasant collage of imagery, with a single piece of old score looped on each page.

The disc loads with ads for Disney, Snow White, The Princess and the Frog, Up, Bedtime Stories, and Disney Movie Rewards. Post-playback with FastPlay or from the menu on your own, the second batch of previews showcase My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey's Big Splash, Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray, The Black Cauldron: Special Edition, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, and Disney Parks.

Thanks to a magic beanstalk, Goofy, Mickey, and Donald are closer than ever to the palace in the clouds. Mickey and Pluto await the train to Pomona in "Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you've been collecting Disney's classic animated shorts religiously over the past several years, then obviously this Mickey and the Beanstalk DVD
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and the Disney Animation Collection line it launches will be of minimal interest to you. The greatest attraction is the Ludwig von Drake version of the title short, which indeed is an intriguing presentation. Still, the only way this disc would seriously be worth your while is if you've already decided completism isn't for you, you'd just like a taste of Mickey Mouse highlights from the 1930s and '40s, you haven't picked up the comparable Classic Cartoon Favorites and Funny Factory discs, and you don't mind fairly wretched picture/sound. Is such an audience large enough to support such a release? Probably not. But I'm sure Disney is right to assume that enough people will pick this up as an impulse buy, having fond memories or awareness of the Beanstalk cartoon without knowing too much more about Mickey or the availability of his canon.

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Related Reviews:
Mickey Mouse's Shorts in the Walt Disney Treasures: Black and White Black and White, Volume Two Living Color Living Color, Volume Two
Mickey Mouse Hour-Long Compilations: Classic Cartoon Favorites Starring Mickey Funny Factory with Mickey Vintage Mickey
Fun and Fancy Free Disney Learning Adventures: Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey's Christmas Carol (Classic Holiday Stories)
Alice in Wonderland (Masterpiece Edition) The Sword in the Stone (45th Anniversary Edition) WB Academy Awards Animation Collection
New to DVD: Schoolhouse Rock! Earth Bolt (Deluxe Edition) Bedtime Stories (Deluxe Edition) Follow That Bird (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities The Princess Bride



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Reviewed March 30, 2009.