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Mickey Mouse in Living Color DVDDVD Review of Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color
Review by Shannon Muir

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

Individual Ratings
Feature: 10 out of 10
Sound: 10 out of 10
Picture: 9 out of 10
Bonus Materials: 9 out of 10
Navigation: 9 out of 10

Content Summary
- 2 Disc set
- 27 cartoons total (1 hidden)
- All cartoons in color
- Bonus features: "Walt and Mickey" excerpt from DISNEYLAND TV series; 3 pencil tests from 1935; Gallery of artwork
- Region 1 encoding

More Info From Amazon.com

Review
The shorts on this 2 disc set cover the Mickey Mouse films released to theaters between 1935-1938, plus a special bonus from 1939. Disc 1 contains the 1935-1936 shorts "The Band Concert," "Mickey's Garden," "On Ice," "Pluto's Judgment Day," "Mickey's Fire Brigade," "Thru the Mirror," "Mickey's Circus," "Mickey's Elephant," "Mickey's Grand Opera," "Mickey's Polo Team," "Alpine Climbers," "Moving Day," "Mickey's Rival" and "Orphan's Picnic." The cartoons for 1937-1938 are presented on Disc 2 -- "Hawaiian Holiday," "Moose Hunters," "The Worm Turns," "Magician Mickey," "Mickey's Amateurs," "Clock Cleaners," "Lonesome Ghosts," "Mickey's Parrot," "Boat Builders," "The Whalers," "Mickey's Trailer," "Brave Little Tailor," and "Mickey's Surprise Party" from 1939.

Film critic Leonard Maltin hosts the collection, providing commentary to give you and overview of the collection before going to the menu on Disc 1. On Disc 2, you proceed straight to the menu and have the option of selecting a more historical commentary by Maltin from the list of choices. The historical commentary, also called "Mickey in Living Color," which serves as Leonard Maltin's tour guiding you from Mickey's solo career, through the addition of friends like Donald Duck and Goofy, and how they later eclipsed Mickey.

Generally, the shorts seem well preserved in picture and sound quality. I would say the sound quality crisp and clear throughout, and good vibrant color across the collection. Some noticeable evidence of shaky picture and fading appears in a few shorts, such as "Clock Cleaners" from 1937 and "Mickey's Trailer" from 1938, but this is rare. The cel dirt on "Brave Little Tailor" tends to be painfully evident against the dark backgrounds. Again, this is the exception and not the rule.

The two-disc set offers three bonus features, plus two hidden "easter egg" features. The first bonus feature, "Parade of the Award Nominees" from Disc 1, is a short specifically created for the 1932 Academy Awards dinner depicting the acting nominees of the year, not originally intended for viewing by the masses. More importantly, this short marked the color debut of Mickey Mouse, where the general public would not see him in color until 1935. What makes this short interesting, whether or not you recognize the acting nominees being depicted, is the fact that Mickey's pants are not their now-trademark red. No commentary is provided regarding the color change. Disc 2 contains a Gallery which features production artwork of "The Band Concert," "Thru the Mirror," "Lonesome Ghosts," and "Clock Cleaners," along with promotional art for practically all the shorts.

Disc 1's hidden feature is a piece called "Walt and Mickey," black-and-white footage of Walt Disney chronicling the history of Mickey Mouse from his beginning as a solo act, to joining his friends, through Mickey's debut in FANTASIA. The piece is excerpted from THE DISNEYLAND STORY (an episode of the DISNEYLAND series) circa 1954. It's fantastic to hear Walt tell in his own words about how Mickey's popularity grew, and with it, the achievements of Walt Disney Animation. Hidden on Disc 2 is Leonard Maltin introducing "Mickey's Surprise Party," which is billed as a "rarely screened cartoon" done for the 1939 New York World's Fair, followed by the cartoon in its entirety.

The piece of bonus material I most enjoyed came from Disc 1, found in the regular menus (i.e. not "hidden"). The pencil test, a detailed precursor of today's far rougher animatic, was employed to get the fluidity of the animation down using pencil and camera before any inking began. Director Ben Sharpstein saved several pencil tests in his garage, which his family donated in recent years and are now on this DVD set. Available are the pencil tests for "Mickey's Fire Brigade," "Pluto's Judgment Day," and "On Ice." A really fun (not to mention educational) feature is that when you use your ANGLE button on the DVD player, the view will switch back and forth between the pencil test and finished product. To me, as someone in the animation industry (or even to recommend to anyone studying the animation industry), I felt this feature alone made this specific collection worth having.

While not truly bonus material per se, something common in DVD releases is multiple language tracks and subtitle offerings. That really isn't the case on this collection, which only offers English-language captions for the hearing impaired. Perhaps I am biased, given that I live in Southern California, but I found it odd that at least Spanish-language subtitles were not provided, given the huge influx of Spanish-language media in recent years here in the United States, and just to provide some semblance of options since most other animated DVDs I've encountered do offer at least one subtitled or dubbed foreign language. That said, I believe the Mickey Mouse shorts speak through action and the dialogue is ancillary. They can be enjoyed without the words, which makes them so universal.

Navigation on this collection tends to be straightforward. A yellow, transparent Mickey Mouse head-shaped icon highlights your selection on the main and caption screens. On the actual shorts menus, the red titles turn yellow when they are the active selection. The only difficult part to navigate is the Gallery Bonus Feature on Disc 2. All the available pages start out being shown to you inside little Mickey Mouse head cutout shapes, but still as a full-size portion of the original artwork and not as thumbnails. So unless you know what you seek, it's tough to skip to a specific image. It's far easier to scroll through the images at full screen size one by one until you find what you wish to see. I found that a little frustrating.

One last note, I've seen a coming attractions on Disney DVD trailer that included THE SPIRIT OF MICKEY, previously available on VHS. THE SPIRIT OF MICKEY contains four of the Mickey Mouse shorts -- "The Band Concert," "Thru the Mirror," "Orphan's Picnic," and "Mickey's Trailer." It does leave open the possibility that the other shorts featured on this set could be released on other DVDs in the future, but they'll likely not be packaged all in one place like this again... and that's one of the best reasons to own this collection.

PROS:
- Complete collection of theatrically-released shorts from 1935-1938
- The ability to shift from bonus feature pencil tests to actual theatrical short and see the flow of action
- Mostly easy navigation

CONS:
- Gallery difficult to navigate

Note: These discs are part of a four-title collection called WALT DISNEY TREASURES, each title with a limited run of 150,000 copies. The other animated title is SILLY SYMPHONIES; the two live-action titles in the set are DISNEYLAND USA and THE ADVENTURES OF DAVY CROCKETT. Each set in this collection comes in a tin, with a dual-sided clamshell case contained inside. The limited edition pressing number is stamped only on the tin, with no matching type of "Certificate of Authenticity" inside the clamshell case on or the discs themselves.



You can order Mickey Mouse in Living Color (note: limited edition) by clicking here.

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