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Walt Disney Treasures
Mickey Mouse In Black And White

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 257 minutes

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $32.99

Features:
Disc 1:
Leonard Maltin Introduction, Frank and Ollie... and Mickey, Story Scripts, Story Sketch Sequences. DVD-ROM: Register Your DVD
Disc 2: Leonard Maltin Introduction, Pencil Test: The Mail Pilot, Story Sketch Sequences, Poster Gallery. DVD-ROM: Register Your DVD

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Two-Disc Set

Released: December 3rd, 2002

 

 

What can we really say about Mickey Mouse? Some of us hate him, some of us love him and truly most of us end up mocking him when they mock the Walt Disney empire. Still, whatever your feelings toward Mickey are, his image is just plain recognizable and billions know who he is. The mouse more or less made Walt Disney (and as a result, we have the money-loving and downright crazy Disney empire), and he is truly one of the most famous, if not THE most famous cartoon character of all time. While Mickey has become the symbol for Disney, he has survived and lived on for generation after generation.

While Mickey has had a giant career when it comes to music (come on, doesn't anyone remember his rap album?), video games (be it from the classic "Mickey Mania" to his cameo in the role-playing-game "Kingdom Hearts") and all kinds of roles and cameos in many Disney animated movies, this mouse certainly has evolved. The problem is, do people really know the "real" Mickey? In my opinion, a lot of them don't and that's a shame. It's not that people have not been exposed to Mickey, it's just that they really don't know his origins. Growing up, I did see some of the color cartoons he was in but barely and I mean BARELY any of the original black and white ones. You know, the ones a lot of people know and always talked about but the ones I never really saw. I heard about and read about some of the black and white stuff, which really got Mickey off to his rousing start, but my impressions of Mickey Mouse and what I knew him for was certainly what a lot of people didn't.

This latest volume of the Walt Disney Treasures collection is truly a wonderful treat for that reason as well as many others. Be it you're a long-time fan or know some youngun who hasn't seen any of Mickey's greatest work, this set has something anyone can enjoy. All of the original black and white Mickey cartoons have been assembled on a two-disc set, along with a bunch of extras, so you truly get a sense of what made Mickey so popular to begin with and a real sense of his origins. You get every single cartoon from 1928 to 1935, including his groundbreaking debut in "Steamboat Willie." All of this is really impressive, but what impressed me more is how entertaining the cartoons still are to this very day.

I watched quite a few of them (because I was denied these when I was younger), and they really don't make cartoons like this anymore. Given your animated staple of shows today, entertainment like the ones in these cartoons seem rather rare. The animation is nice (even if it's nothing like today) and more importantly, the stories are simple yet fun. I guess they're aimed more for kids, but I don't know, I still found them rather amusing. Cartoons today are either aimed for adults and are pretty dirty or the ones for kids involve, let's face it, stupid humor. The point is, these cartoons are universal and Disney has done a service to all fans by providing them all in this DVD set. If you're a fan of animation or Mickey in general, this is one set that you truly need for your collection - especially since it's limited to a 125,000 run!

 

All of the cartoons are presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and as you can probably imagine, the transfers of each cartoon truly vary. They've all been digitally mastered, but given the age of these, most of these probably just can't be repaired. You'll be sure to find tons of scratches, blotches, blemishes, pieces of dirt in all the the cartoons. Is it so distracting and annoying? Well, given how much there is, you get used to it, so probably it's not as bad as you think. Still, it's there and it's to be expected given the age of these cartoons. Most are in full screen, but given how some were shot and projected (such as "Steamboat Willie"), some are a box within a box basically. Most of the cartoons look petty sharp and stick out with a strong sense of depth which is very nice. Some of the cartoons also have a hint of noise here and there. In all, the transfers don't look so spectacular for obvious reasons, but that's kind of a given. For everything else though, Disney has done a nice job.

 

Nothing like sweet, two channel Dolby Digital mono in English! There's nothing much to say about the sound of the cartoons, except that they're all in glorious mono and like the transfers, the sound does vary. Some of the cartoons have popping and pretty low sound to them, but others have higher fidelity and a more balanced, clearer nature. You can hear things fine for the most part, just don't expect anything fancy. I wouldn't have imagined it anyway other way. Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions.

 

It's not insanely packed up with extras, but what's given here definitely honors these Mickey cartoons and gives you a fine sense of the mouse's history. The host of this set is Disney fanatic and film critic Leonard Maltin, and he's a perfect fit given his passion and knowledge for the material. On the first disc, there is a really nice Leonard Maltin Introduction. Maltin explains the film industry at the time of Mickey's debut and the state of comics and animation (including clips of some other non-Disney stuff to illustrate his points). Maltin also goes on about what Disney was doing and how history was born. Very insightful and interesting stuff here. A must watch, as this gives a true sense of Mickey's early years.

Frank and Ollie...and Mickey is a wonderful 18 minute piece that focuses on those two famous Disney animators and their relationship with the mouse. Topped with footage, clips from Mickey cartoons and a bunch of stills, Maltin interviews the two men about Mickey, working with Walt, animation and a slew of other related topics. If you're a fan of film history or want to hear more insights on working with such an iconic character and creator, this is certainly worth your time.

Two Story Scripts are included: one for "Steamboat Willie" and the other for "Mickey Steps Out." Maltin gives a nice introduction to what these were and how they were used, and then you can view them. Basically, they were written out scripts with pictures. Really nifty stuff. There is also a series of Story Sketch Sequences (yep, also introduced by good old Maltin who explains Disney more or less invented the storyboard - accompanied by some stills and footage). These are pretty detailed yet rough drawings of the cartoons, focusing on their creation. The sequences here are for "Blue Rhythem," "Mickey Cuts Up," "Mickey's Orphans," "Mickey's Nightmare," "The Whoopee Party," "Touchdown Mickey" and "The Klondike Kid."

On the second disc, you'll find another Leonard Maltin Introduction. Here he explains Disney's goals circa 1933, all accompained by clips from cartoons and some footage of Disney and his staffers working. Maltin mentions his favorite cartoon and explains some hidden jokes within it, and focuses on some supporting characters which would become pretty famous as well. Stills are also shown. In all, very nice stuff.

There's a Pencil Test: The Mail Pilot which is also introduced by Maltin and explains pencil tests and how Walt Disney revolutionzed the process. This is the only surviving pencil test of early Mickey cartoons, and is quite interesting. With the intro, this lasts three-and-a-half minutes. There is also more Story Sketch Sequences (with the same Maltin intro from the first disc). These are pretty detailed yet rough drawings of the cartoons, focusing on their creation. Sequences included here are "Building A Building," "The Mad Docter," Ye Olden Days," "Puppy Love," "The Pet Store," "Giantland," "Camping Out," "Gulliver Mikcey," "Orphan's Benefit," "The Dognapper," "Two-Gun Mickey" and "Mickey's Serivce Station."

Rounding the second disc out is a really cool Poster Gallery. Both DVDs in the set also enable you to register your DVD via DVD-ROM, and the first disc has a promo for other Walt Disney Treasure titles. The set is presented in the standard but rather nice Walt Disney Treasures tin case, plus some nifty inserts inside outlining the set and Mickey himself. Oh, and there's a nice piece of Collectible Art featuring everyone's favorite mouse.

 

Disney has done an extraordinary job in prepping the release of every single black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon on DVD. While you're not going to receieve eye-popping transfers or clean sound mixes for these cartoons, it's the content that counts, right? Given the nice $32.99 list price and excellent supplements, this is a must own in any collection. But like I said, you better hurry... this DVD has a limited run of 125,000. So in all, just sit back and enjoy the mouse!