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  • 2 Featurette
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  • Short film - Parade of Award Nominees

Walt Disney Treasures - Mickey Mouse in Living Color

Disney/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 250 mins . G . PAL


It must have been a hard ask to even try and compile a ‘best of’ Mickey Mouse collection of early years. Where to define between the individual cartoons created during a time in which cinema itself was in its first real renaissance? The first to use sound, the first to use colour; these are cartoons that have their place in history, but aren’t necessarily great cartoons or even ones with lasting appeal for their content. All the same, they will remain forevermore as landmarks in animation (and, it might be said, in filmmaking itself).

"I ain’t scared of no ghosts…"

The very first Disney cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse was, as everyone knows, Steamboat Willie. He made his tentative debut to New York cinema audiences in 1928 and while not the first cartoon by any means, it was the first to hold the little fella that was to become the leading icon of the Disney empire. Many think it was Disney himself to whom Mickey is credited, but this in itself isn’t entirely true. Legend would have it he is a composite of work by Disney and compatriot Ub Iwerks. They had been working on a contract for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit with Universal Studios and much of the Mickey Mouse work was being done in secret. However, this contract with Universal was sabotaged from within as many of Disney’s best staff were hired out from under him, leaving him with pretty much his brother Roy and Ub Iwerks. They completed Steamboat Willie, but not before Warner Brothers delivered the biggest milestone of cinema history in The Jazz Singer: sound.

In attempting to utilise this revolution, Disney learned it’s much easier to animate to sound rather than the other way around. The experimentation of adding sound to already animated pictures led to much defeat in this regard, yet somehow Willie made itself through the difficulties to arrive as we know it today. Still, this earliest of Mickey’s films contains parts that would swiftly be eradicated from both Mickey’s and the budding studio’s repertoire. Mickey and Minnie, in an improvised dance sequence, create all manner of mischief with the animals onboard – even being quite cruel at times.

And so, the foundation for the Mickey Mouse of the ‘30s was laid. Unfortunately, here in this dual disc set we only receive the very first of the Technicolor®™ series on, beginning with the now classic The Band Concert which sees Mickey leading a concert in the park that becomes caught up in a tornado. Mickey’s drawn style has been smoothed out, the animation is excellent and the introduction of colour certainly added a new depth to animation (animation’s second renaissance). And not to say Mickey didn’t continue to be worked and improved. In 1941, for example, Mickey’s ears worked in depth perspective, rather than the former black circles that were soon to return and remain forever.

So this disc covers the years 1935 through to 1938. The cartoons have been lovingly restored and I have no hesitation in saying these look better than they ever have. When considering the technology of projectors of the era and the TV appearances since, Mickey’s early adventures haven’t ever looked this good. There are many highlights here, many ‘firsts’ though perhaps the most notable is the early inclusion of characters who would come to last much longer than Mickey ever would as a performer. As Leonard Maltin notes here, Mickey was difficult to write for due to his bold optimism devoid of inherent humour. He needed more bumbling and comical pals to play off, and so Donald Duck and Goofy (I think he’s a dog) were born.

Here they are then, in all their restored glory. Sadly there are no older black and white cartoons here, yet still the collection warrants inclusion in the DVDnet Gold Hall of Fame. While Steamboat Willie wasn’t the funniest cartoon or even the best animation, it deserved to be here without question.

  • Disc One
  • 1935
  • The Band Concert
  • Mickey’s Garden
  • On Ice
  • Pluto’s Judgment Day
  • Mickey’s Fire Brigade
  • (Pencil Tests)

  • 1936
  • Thru the Mirror
  • Mickey’s Circus
  • Mickey’s Elephant
  • Mickey’s Grand Opera
  • Mickey’s Polo Team
  • Alpine Climbers
  • Moving Day
  • Mickey’s Rival
  • Orphan’s Picnic

  • Disc Two
  • 1937
  • Hawaiian Holiday
  • Moose Hunters
  • The Worm Turns
  • Magician Mickey
  • Mickey’s Amateurs
  • Clock Cleaners
  • Lonesome Ghosts

  • 1938
  • Mickey’s Parrot
  • Boat Builders
  • The Whalers
  • Mickey’s Trailer
  • Brave Little Tailor

The pencil tests of 1935 are actually salvaged original rough animations with three complete episodes amazingly presented here in Mickey's Fire Brigade, Pluto's Judgment Day and On Ice. While rough, they are priceless as practically all of these roughs were originally destroyed upon completion of the final product. They're naturally not as great as the finished jobs, but are an irreplaceable addition here and worthy inclusions. Great stuff.


Restored to brilliance, there is barely a quarrel here. Of course the whole shebang is delivered in 4:3, but given the years in question, what more should we expect? The colours are rich and vibrant, the backgrounds, although originally watercoloured and still possessing of that washed feeling, are as bright as they could be and look very clear. The lines are defined clearly and the expression lines are even entirely visible (these are the little lines that escape say, a saucepan hitting someone’s head. They eventually stopped being used as an animator’s tool, rightly deemed unnecessary). One of two minor faults I could find here was in some double vision during Lonesome Ghosts where the left side of the frame gets blurry and mildly aliased between 4:38 and 4:47. I thought it was my eyes for a minute, but the right side of the screen is clearly outlined and doesn’t suffer the same effect.

The other lays in the cel artefacts of Brave Little Tailor. For the rest of the cartoons here, these aren’t an issue having (seemingly) been restored and removed. Not the case in Tailor unfortunately. Cel artefacts are the minute hairs, specks and fibres that get caught up between the original static-loving cels of the shoot and are therefore photographed into the film stock. They have been, until the digital age, an unavoidable woe and there isn’t much to be done about them. However, the amount of them in this particular cartoon is what makes the others all look so good. And they are the only two (as I said) minor faults. The rest still earn the ten spots.


Music in these cartoons is rarely scored by the same person time and again as the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were. Many of the musicians and voice talent go uncredited here, but a couple of names may ring familiar to you. Carl Stalling is one and Carl Edouwards is the other (he scored Steamboat). The music is usually quite comedic and due to recording of the age comes across as fairly tinny and melded here with little separation. There’s little doubt they were originally recorded in mono and while the music doesn’t let down the production here, it does put us smack bang in the age from which it was recorded.

Dialogue is all great and, of course, mostly voiced by Walt Disney himself. He tried out numerous voices for the role of Mickey, however none could get the squeaky voice he knew the mouse needed. So he did the line honours for Mickey for the next 20 years. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue here and you may have trouble (as I did) deciphering the early Donald Duck vocals. Sound effects are comically well used and abundant, though there are more than a few stock effects used in the mix here. Most appear to have been specifically created first for the cartoons then to be archived for future use. So in fact, here then is no doubt a string of stock sound effects’ origins. And everything is delivered in Dolby Digital stereo. Thankfully they didn’t deem it necessary to hamstring original channels and attempt to 5.1 them and for this I, for one, am thankful.


Well, who needs extras when you have so many early cartoons to drool over? However, there are a few nice moments and inclusions here, including a couple of Easter Eggs (one per disc) you can read about in our Easter Egg Basket in our own DVDnet archives.

Disc One holds an introduction with Leonard Maltin who speaks about the Maus for 2:06. Unfortunately this opens every time you start the disc.

Our other extra is in the very first cartoon to be shot in Technicolor®™, but never intended to be shown to an audience. This is entitled the Parade of Award Nominees and was created for the 1932 Academy Awards to play to the crowd inside. It’s pretty dodgy, the background is a clunky cycle that doesn’t quite meet itself and the animation is not true Disney quality, but it’s definitely worth checking out for the caricatures of the day (although some may fly way overhead). This goes for 3:17.

Disc Two has a picture gallery with 52 thumbnail images to click on which opens a full frame of rough art from the era. (No doubt worth a fortune if you had your hands on the originals).

The only other is Mickey Mouse in Color with Leonard Maltin. (Are there clones of him? He’s everywhere. DVD is a golden age for his nerdish work). This is an interesting introspective about the era and features a brief interview with Ward Kimball, an original Disney animator who just turned 215 by the look of him. Good for him!

On top of that the menus look very much in the style of the time and are a nice retro touch. Also tucked into the nice cardboard sleeve are an eight-page booklet and a postcard sized, shiny lithograph print of the original film poster for The Band Concert from 1935.


For fans of Mickey Mouse, this one is all you may ever need. It’s missing some truly classic moments (Steamboat Willie and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to name but two) though these may have been withheld for a follow up release (and technically, it may be argued, they don’t belong here). However, a fan would be truly foolish to forego this collection of pieces from the second renaissance of animation on this reason alone. The restoration is brilliant, the historical content indelible and the overall presentation is exquisite.

There’s never been a collection to rival this from the Disney archives and it has been achieved gracefully and with utmost respect to that iconic creator of the Disney Empire himself, Mickey Mouse.

(Further investigation hints at another edition yet to come that includes The Sorcerer's Apprentice and further Mickey adventures... if they're presented anywhere near this well, we can't wait).

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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Disney surpasses itself in this collection of Mickey’s first colour cartoons from 1935-38. Nothing short of an exceptional DVD release."
    - Jules Faber
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