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Timeless Tales: Volume Two DVD Review

Buy Timeless Tales: Volume 2 from Amazon.com Timeless Tales: Volume Two
DVD Details

Running Time: 60 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Digital Surround Sound (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: August 16, 2005
Originally Released Between 1936 and 1949
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase

Review by Aaron Wallace

Disney fans should be getting used to the newest kind of Disney DVD by now: the cartoon compilation disc. This year alone, the studio has issued eight discs that each present a few famous Disney shorts and this Tuesday, that number climbs to ten, while even more are on the way. The releases are friendlier to families than they are collectors - the opposite is true for the Walt Disney Treasures line, for which these small-scale releases are generally seen as an alternative. As such, they come with a handful of pros and cons.

On one hand, they serve up a delectable sampling of beloved animation for a price tag that is considerably cheaper than that of many of the out of print Treasures sets and are widely available. On the other, the price-per-minute falls quite a bit, comparatively, with the content-heavy Treasures... the simpler compilation discs come with no supplementary material whatsoever.

Casual fans and collectors alike can probably agree that after eight releases centering on Disney characters and themes in their appearances, the time is right for these compilations to turn their focus to Disney's library of miscellaneous literary cartoons. That's exactly what this week's two Timeless Tales volumes do. Like the Classic Cartoon Favorites and Vintage Mickey discs that precede them, these releases group around one hour's worth of animation joined by a common theme. Each of the four shorts are rooted in famous works of literature that date back to long before the days of film. Still, Walt Disney's adaptations of each remain among the most widely recognized to this day, a testament to their "timeless" nature.

The first volume delivers perhaps the most winning assortment under the Timeless Tales banner, but the second volume (the subject of this review) isn't far behind. Don't be put off by the discrepancy in the quantity and duration of shorts on these two releases. Volume Two's four cartoons run the same length of time (one minute longer, actually) than Volume One's five cartoons. That's mostly due to the inclusion of the half-hour-plus "The Wind in the Willows." Joining it are two Silly Symphonies (both of which can be found on that edition of the Treasures line) and "Ferdinand the Bull," which makes its proper DVD debut with this release. Each of these are staples of Disney's literary canon. Add to that a mostly pleasing, albeit simplistic, presentation, and you've got an hour of solidly enjoyable entertainment that makes Timeless Tales Volume Two at least a modest success.

This poor duckling's parents quibble over whose fault it is that his appearance turned out to be less than they had hoped for. It doesn't take long for the country cousin to find out that city life is a bit different from his home.

The Shorts

"Ugly Duckling" (1939) (8:59)
An infant duckling roams the outdoors in search of acceptance after his parents and siblings refuse him at birth on the basis of his appearance. Heartbreak after heartbreak for the poor duck translates to the audience until fortune finds the protagonist and tables turn in his favor. This is the second time that Walt's Silly Symphonies tackled this classic Anderson tale, and it was also the very last Silly Symphony released.

"The Country Cousin" (1936) (9:17)
It's a classic case of culture shock when a city slicker mouse invites his cousin from the country for a visit. The overwhelming sights and fast pace of city life prove to be too much for the simplistic mouse and he finds himself longing for the life he's accustomed to.

"Ferdinand the Bull" (1938) (7:55)
Ferdinand isn't your typical bull. The only red he's interested in charging is that of a rose. While his peers may be unfortunate candidates for the bull-fighting stadium, his soft demeanor keeps him in the company of his precious flower gardens instead. That changes, though, when a bee sting sets off a reaction that the bullfighters mistake for aggression and Ferdinand becomes their next target. This marks the cartoon's first appearance on DVD and it appears to be unedited.

"The Wind in the Willows" (1949) (35:10)
Kenneth Grahame's stories come to life with plenty of vitality in Walt Disney's featurette-length adaptation of just some of Grahame's penned adventures. Mr. J. Thaddeus Toad, an eccentric aristocrat, finds himself mixed up in a scandal when his latest obsession, motorcars, involves him with an unsavory group of swindlers. A courtroom showdown lands him in jail, despite his innocence, and it's up to his ingenuity and his friends' courage to acquire the evidence they need to clear his name. This cartoon is a whopping 35 minutes long and can otherwise be found in Walt Disney's 1949 animated classic, The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, where it comprises the first half of the feature.

Flower-loving Ferdinand doesn't mean anyone any harm. It's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole, as they appear in their debut Disney short "The Wind in the Willows." They would show up again many years later in "Mickey's Christmas Carol."


Each of the four shorts are presented in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio. That's essentially acceptable for these, which were all produced in the Academy Ratio of 1.37:1. The two Silly Symphonies ("Duckling" and "Cousin") look as good as they ever have on DVD. That means that there's just the slightest bit of shimmering, but one would really need to make an effort to create a list of complaints, most of which would probably have more to do with the age of the material than anything else. "The Wind in the Willows" looks fairly good, even if not quite up to the standards of a Walt Disney Treasures release. It is, as one might expect, "Ferdinand the Bull" that suffers from imperfections. Cartoons making their DVD debuts on low-end releases like these are always welcome, but they don't receive the first-rate treatment that those that entering via the Treasures line get. "Ferdinand" doesn't look too terribly bad, but the transfer does suffer from artifacts, flickering, and a less-than-vivid appearance throughout.

The packaging promises a Dolby Digital surround track, and that's what you get... sort of. You'll get full sound out of both speakers for each, but all of these shorts were created with monaural sound and that's how they come here too. The sound is clean and clear, but you'll likely want to turn the volume up a little louder than you would for most other things. The dialogue isn't always clear, but all in all, the entire track sounds pretty good, especially for cartoons that date back as many as seven decades.

The fantastical "Timeless Tales: Volume Two" main menu screen. A bullfighter who can't get his bull to fight. Notice any resemblance to a famous person?


This disc is unsurprisingly unaccompanied by bonus features. A few supplements would have increased the value for the $19.99 list price, but the target audience might not be interested anyways. Inside the case, though, one can find a collectible, colorful, sixteen page booklet that tells the tale of (Disney's) "The Wind in the Willows" in brief. There's also an insert profiling the disc's content and introducing parents and their children to Walt Disney's world of animated shorts.

Another non-surprise is that Timeless Tales: Volume Two comes formatted with Disney's FastPlay, an optional method of play that dumbs down the format, serves little useful purpose, and will always come under criticism from this reviewer. Despite its annoyances, it is admittedly fairly harmless, though. Viewers are simply reminded to make use of the "menu" button that was once considered a primary benefit of DVDs.

The 4x3 menus kick off with some rousing music and nice animation that quickly travels through a forest before arriving at the stagnant main menu, a fairy tale castle that allows the viewer to select a cartoon directly from that screen. A "Play All" option runs through all the cartoons back-to-back in a seemingly inconsequential order. The only other option is the traditional "Set Up" page. It's also worth noting that the disc aids in viewing by displaying the approximate run-time of each short when it's selected.

A family more beautiful than any of those who turned the 'ugly' duckling away. Mr. Toad takes the stand to save Toad Hall and clear his name!


Timeless Tales: Volume Two offers some of Disney's finest animated shorts on one disc with more or less satisfactory presentation (with one or two notable exceptions), the result of which is a very entertaining and engaging hour. I wish I could add "and all for a low price" to that, but unfortunately, the $19.99 SRP is a little steep for only four cartoons, especially when compared to very similar releases from this year with lower prices. Still, there are more expensive ways to collect these same cartoons and in fact, it's currently the only way to own "Ferdinand," but that's not likely to be the case for too much longer.

Though they may be dated in the technical departments, the stories and their deliveries are truly as timeless as the set's title would have you believe, and they are certainly among Disney's most well-known cartoons. Therefore, if you don't already own these Silly Symphonies and/or The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad on DVD, or if you're clamoring to own "Ferdinand" now, then this set may be for you. Likewise, there's a lot of appeal here for the casual family; or better yet, if you're in the market for a birthday present or something of the like, this may be just the thing.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Review:
Timeless Tales: Volume One

Other DVDs Featuring the Shorts from Timeless Tales, Volume Two
Ugly Duckling, The Country Cousin: Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies
The Wind in the Willows: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Review)
Ferdinand the Bull : The Best of The Mickey Mouse Club (Review)

Timeless Tales, Volume Two ... in Book Form
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Country Cousin (a.k.a. The City Mouse and the Country Mouse): The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables
Ferdinand the Bull: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Additional DVD Reviews of Interest
Bear in the Big Blue House: Storytelling with Bear
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 5 - Extreme Sports Fun
Melody Time

UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Upcoming Disney DVDs | Direct-to-Video Page | Walt Disney Treasures Page | August 2005's Disney DVDs

Reviewed August 15, 2005.

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