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Walt Disney Treasures
The Adventures Of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 234 minutes

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $32.99

Features: Oswald Comes Home, Audio Commentaries, Sadebrush Sadie (Fragment), Galleries, The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story, The Work Of Ub Iwerks

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles, Two-Disc Set

Released: December 11th, 2007

 


 

As Leonard Maltin points out on his introduction, the Disney company did not own the rights to Oswald until a few years ago - decades after Walt Disney himself lost the rights. With that said, it was quite a challenge to recover these cartoons. (As Maltin rightfully points out, we're lucky to have them at all.) Some of the cartoons are of 16mm home movie prints, or re-cut versions, or from foreign film archives - among other sources.

With that in mind, they are a mixed bag as far as image quality... and it's easy to tell where the cartoons have been cut and pasted from a variety of sources. Some of the shorts are sprinkled with dirt and s=cratches, and definitely look on the rough side... but others are remarkably pristine, and do hold a candle to other restorations where the material has remained intact. This is really a tough category to grade since there's no consistency, but credit must be given for the recovery of what's presented here and being cleaned up and put together as best as they could.

 

The audio is a lot better than the video, and that's because Disney enlisted the talents of composer Robert Israel to record new music recordings to go with these shorts. The music certainly fits the bill with what's going on screen, and while it's only spread over two channels, there is a certain richness and warmth to the compositions. What an excellent execution. 

 

This Oswald set is certainly packed. The first disc has the featurette Oswald Comes Home, which runs nearly 14 minutes. The somewhat bizarre story is covered here, where in February 2006 sports commentator Al Michaels was traded to NBC Universal. In return, Disney got Oswald The Rabbit back into the company. Leonard Maltin narrates the story of Oswald's origins, what made him so unique as a character and how Disney lost the rights to his creation. Chiming in on all of this is Ub Iwerk's son, Don Ibwerks, as well as current Disney head Robert Iger, Roy E. Disney, Diane Disney Miller, animation historian Russell Merritt and a few others. This amazing, convulted history is gripping and fascinating. A must-see.

Oswald also gets a few Audio Commentaries on the shorts "The Ocean Hop," "Oh Teacher," "Oh What A Knight," "Bright Lights," "Ozzie Of The Mounted" and "The Fox Chase." Spread across these commentaries are Maltin, Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler. These are phenomenal commentaries, as the men point out facts and details about the cartoons productions, and in some cases, how they've been re-cut. The men are clearly passionate about the lucky rabbit, and if you want to know even more about these shorts, then they all warrant a listen.

Sadebrush Sadie (Fragment) are two rough scenes of an Oswald film that no longer exists. The first disc also has extensive Galleries featuring news articles, and even Oswald merchandise.

The main bonus on the second disc is The Hand Behind The Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. Made by his granddaughter Leslie, and narrated by actor Kelsey Grammer, the documentary is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and English Dolby Digital 5.1. (I actually remember seeing this on cable's Bravo channel a few years back - before the NBC takeover.) This is a very engrossing and thoughtful documentary about Iwerks, how talented he was and the influence he had on Walt Disney's talents and his career. The film also sheds light on Iwerks's other creations (Flip The Frog, and the Xerox process on animation cels to skip the inking process), his trajectory as an animation pioneer and how his studio grew in comparisons to Walt's after their humble beginnings. Many industry veterans and historians are interviewed to help tell the story. Any fan of the history of animation will certainly love this documentary.

After viewing the documentary, you can then watch The Work Of Ub Iwerks, featuring classic Disney projects before Oswald (the Alice cartoons) and after (such as early Mickey classics). It's clear just how influential his animation techniques were.

 

This is a true piece of Disney history, and an astounding collection to boot - it's amazing that the Disney company were able to recover some versions of many of the Oswald shorts. This set also gives a lot of context to Oswald's place in Disney lore, and just how important he was. Disney collectors are sure to eat every ounce of this set up. Out of all the Walt Disney Treasures sets that have been released, this one certainly ranks toward the top.