Review of Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies
by Shannon Muir
Rating: 8 out of 10
Feature: 8 out of 10
Sound: 10 out of 10
Picture: 8 out of 10
Bonus Materials: 7 out of 10
Navigation: 7 out of 10
- 2 Disc set
- 36 cartoons listed (2 hidden)
- Most cartoons in color, a couple in black-and-white
- Bonus Features: "The Song of the Silly Symphonies"
interview with Leonard Maltin and composer Richard Sherman; "Silly
Symphonies Souvenirs" interview with Leonard Maltin and Walt
Disney Archives founder Dave Smith; Gallery of artwork
- Region 1 encoding
Info from Amazon.com
This 2 CD set features a sampling of Walt Disney's SILLY SYMPHONIES
produced between 1928-1939. The box claims there are 31 shorts,
if you look on the inside booklet 36 titles are mentioned (if
the two versions of "The Ugly Duckling" are treated
separately), but I personally have only found 35 (again, treating
the two versions separately). What adds to the confusion is that
host Leonard Maltin gets his own menu of "Leonard's Picks"
which duplicate from other menus, with the exceptions of "The
Grasshopper and the Ants," and "Wynken, Blynken, and
Nod"; the only difference for the other ones comes because
Leonard does his own introductions and commentary for those pieces.
There are also hidden "easter eggs" that have Walt introducing
some of the SILLY SYMPHONIES pieces, some of which do not appear
elsewhere on the collection despite being listed in the accompanying
Leonard Maltin hosts the collection. Disc 1's introduction provides
an overview of the shorts and a brief history of Walt Disney coming
to collaborate with Carl Stalling. Disc 2 offers the exact same
introduction, just that it doesn't play automatically (it must
be selected from the menu).
SYMPHONIES shorts are organized by subject matter. Fables and
Fairy Tales includes "Mother Goose Melodies," "Babes
in the Woods," "Lullaby Land," "The Tortoise
and the Hare," "The Flying Mouse," "The Robber
Kitten," "The Golden Touch," "The Country
Cousin," "Elmer Elephant," and "Water Babies."
Favorite Characters brings us "Who Killed Cock Robin?,"
"The Wise Little Hen," "Three Little Pigs,"
"The Big Bad Wolf," "Three Little Wolves,"
and "Toby Tortoise Returns" (also supposedly, "Practical
Pig," according to the booklet though I have yet to locate
this short). Under Nature on Screen can be found "Mother
Pluto," "Peculiar Penguins," "The Old Mill,"
"Funny Little Bunnies," "The Ugly Duckling"
(versions from 1931 and 1939), "Father Noah's Ark,"
"Birds of a Feather," along with "Busy Beavers."
Lastly, Accent on Music shows off "Music Land," "The
China Plate," "Egyptian Melodies," "Flowers
and Trees," "The Cookie Carnival," "The Skeleton
Dance," "Barnyard Symphony," and "Woodland
quality varies. While all the shorts can be watched, and generally
the color and video is fairly presreved, some like "The Wise
Little Hen," "Three Little Wolves" and "Toby
Tortoise Returns" show their age with shaky video and intermittent
color fading at spots. The audio quality stays consistently good
in my experience. Since music resides at the heart of the SILLY
SYMPHONIES shorts, the quality audio is an important factor about
offered on this collection are few, if you don't count the "easter
eggs." There are three items, all located on Disc 2. "The
Song of The Silly Symphonies" features Leonard Maltin interviewing
Richard Sherman (who, along with brother Robert, wrote the music
for MARY POPPINS) about Walt's approach to music and specifically
about its use in SILLY SYMPHONIES. In "Silly Symphonies Souvenirs,"
Leonard Maltin goes to the Walt Disney Archives and shows off
an array of Silly Symphonies merchandise with the help of Archives
founder Dave Smith. While both these interviews are very informative,
if you find yourself tuning out of long interviews, these may
not be for you. I personally found a lot of the merchandise to
be intriguing and entertaining; anyone who says that the tie between
animation and merchandising is a truly modern invention would
be enlightened by seeing this. The "Gallery" on this
disc offers production artwork, behind the scenes photos, and
publicity art from a wide variety of the shorts.
commentaries on his picks do help provide historical context on
some shorts, such as the Wolf disguising as a Jewish peddler in
"Three Little Pigs" and how that was common in the day
(even if it didn't make it, in his words, "any less distasteful").
Most commentaries, however, focus on how various SILLY SYMPHONIES
pieces seem to be "dress rehearsal precursors" for the
animators to experiment with special effects and designs that
would later carry through to feature films; for example, Maltin
compares the Buttefly Fairy of "The Flying Mouse" with
the Blue Fairy of PINNOCHIO. One thing I did learn from the "Music
Land" commentary was that new SILLY SYMPHONIES shorts needed
to be created month after month; this definitely would have created
a challenge to find new material, especially given the number
of years they were produced.
turns out to be the major headache of this collection. The categories
are crammed together visually on the page, making it difficult
to tell category names from titles, and the small links back to
the main menu or other title screens get buried in the mess. The
titles highlight in pink, "easter egg" items turn pink
or highlight with a transparent star, and menu functions also
use the star. The booklet lists "Practical Pig" under
Favorite Characters Silly Symphonies but I have yet to locate
this short. Three of the shorts are only accessible by the hidden
links -- "Barnyard Symphony," "Who Killed Cock
Robin?" and "Water Babies" -- all listed in the
accompanying booklet but otherwise not findable without a little
trial and error. As far as navigating the Gallery section, the
main selection menu only shows a portion of each picture in a
rectangular cutout at its full size, not as a thumbnail; unless
you know exactly which picture you want to see, you must flip
through the entire gallery at full-size until the picture is located.
It feels like the hidden links approach was done to try and add
pizzazz to a collection short on bonus features. If that's the
case, the hidden links aren't worth it, in my opinion -- though
the content behind them certainly is.
The only options
offered as far as language goes are English-language captions
for the hearing impaired. No alternative language subtitles or
dubs are provided.
for what it is, I found to be enjoyable, but for a limited pressing
seems to me as if it should be a more complete collection. From
what I understand, this only represents about half of the SILLY
SYMPHONIES shorts made. Still, this collection does bring together
a large number of the shorts in one place for convenient storage.
For anyone who thought fantastic marriage of animation and music
began with Fantasia or even with the modern Disney movies
(or even if you already know that's not the case!), sitting back
and watching how Walt Disney and Carl Stalling brought things
together years earlier opens the minds to the possibilities of
animation and reminds us of the art form's heritage.
- Easy comparison of "The Ugly Duckling" circa 1931
and circa 1939 to see the growth of the studio, since both are
featured on Disc 2
- Many award-winning and popular favorites in one collection
- Interviews with Richard Sherman and showcase of SILLY SYMPHONY
- Crowded menus hamper navigation
- Hidden features difficult to locate
- Non-comprehensive collection
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 MICKEY MOUSE IN LIVING COLOR; 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
You can order
Silly Symphonies (note: limited edition) by clicking
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