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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Various
Cast:
Various
Writing Credits:
Various

MPAA:
Not Rated.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Standard 1.33:1
Audio:
English Digital Mono
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 256 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 12/3/2002

Bonus:
DVD One:
• “Frank and Ollie ...and Mickey” Featurette
• Story Scripts
• Story Sketch Sequences
• Leonard Maltin Introduction

DVD Two:
• Pencil Test for “The Mail Pilot”
• Story Sketch Sequences
• Poster Gallery
• Leonard Maltin Introduction


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Walt Disney Treasures (1928-1935)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Walt Disney had a career in animation for a few years before he created Mickey Mouse, but he enjoyed only intermittent success in the field. With the rodent’s debut in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie”, however, Walt’s life changed forever. Along with his personal fortunes went the genre of animation itself, which would grow immeasurably under Walt’s umbrella.

You won’t find the best material to come out of Disney Studios on Mickey Mouse In Black and White, but you will discover the shorts that started Walt on the path from journeyman filmmaker to legend. Beginning with his very first escapades from 1928, we follow Mickey through his monochrome years. From “Steamboat Willie” we move through 34 cartoons in all, which takes us up to 1935, when Mickey finally made the shift to color. (Disney’s Silly Symphony “Flowers and Trees” marked their first color cartoon.)

Black and White marks Mickey’s formative years, which means we watch Disney Studios struggle to develop the animated short as an art. This also results in very inconsistent cartoons. Mickey Mouse In Living Color started after the end of B&W’s cartoons. Disney created 73 Mickey shorts prior to Color’s first flick, and they also put out scores of other cartoons. That meant that they’d learned quite a few lessons by the time Mickey went color.

In B&W, however, we watch the Disney artists learn their way around the drawing board. The format would grow substantially over the seven years between Mickey’s debut and his move to color. If you want a shock, watch “Steamboat Willie” and follow it with 1935’s “Mickey’s Service Station”. The latter seems so much more mature and sophisticated in every way that it appears scarcely possible they share the same format.

This fact makes B&W both fascinating and maddening. You’ll probably experience the latter sentiment more frequently during the 20 shorts on DVD One. Those start in 1928 and lead us through 1932, and these clearly offer the weakest of the cartoons. Especially in the oldest clips, the animation seems flat and rubbery, with sparse backgrounds and little depth. The humor relies on weak sight gags and lacks much subtlety.

However, compare “Steamboat Willie” with 1932’s “The Klondike Kid” and you’ll observe the element that makes DVD One especially fascinating. The animation improved dramatically over that four-year span, and we watch the format start to mature throughout this first disc. Sure, a lot of the shorts don’t seem particularly entertaining to modern eyes, but the lessons we learn about the history of animation seem invaluable.

DVD Two provides a much less edifying but significantly more entertaining affair. Disney had reached a consistent level of quality by the time the second platter launches with 1933’s “Building a Building”, and this disc includes many fewer duds than does the first one. We don’t see the same crash course in animation development; some growth occurs, but the gradations seem much more minor. Nonetheless, the shorts provide sorely needed amusement.

Not that DVD One doesn’t include some compelling moments. Whether funny or not, “Steamboat Willie” remains a must see due to its status as the most famous animated short ever made. It’s also amusing to see the darker side of Mickey that Disney developed in the early days. During “Willie”, Mickey violently abuses all sorts of animals and seems like a moderately nasty personality. Before long, the character became too beloved to allow him to act in such crude ways, so these early glimpses offer some perverse fun.

1928’s “Plane Crazy” probably offers the least pleasant Mickey of them all. Inspired by the popularity of Charles Lindbergh, Mickey decides to become a pilot. He takes Minnie for a ride and gets mightily steamed when she won’t smooch with him. He forces himself upon her and uses some stunt flying to scare her when she refuses. I don’t think we’d ever see Date Rape Mickey again, and it can seem startling to see the generally genial character abuse Minnie in such a way.

Footnote: though “Willie” hit movie screens first, Disney actually produced “Crazy” and “The Gallopin’ Gaucho” before it. They were originally made as silent films, but after the success of “Willie”, Disney went back and turned them into sound affairs prior to their theatrical releases.

While still primitive, “The Karnival Kid” provides a significant expansion of the audio heard in the first three shorts. It displays actual speech and a general carnival atmosphere. Indeed, this short gives us Mickey’s first spoken lines. It also includes some of the oddest moments I’ve seen in a Disney cartoon. A carnival vendor, Mickey sells anthropomorphic hot dogs. He sends these living and emotional wieners to their death and spanks the ones that don’t want to go! It’s nuts and creepy.

”Mickey’s Follies” starts to establish a trend that would later dominate Mouse cartoons. Due to his increasingly bland personality, the filmmakers started to find it tough to place Mickey in entertaining situations; the rise of Donald Duck came as a direct response to this factor. One solution placed Mickey as the general ringleader and surrounded him with colorful characters. That occurs in “Follies”, which actually barely features the Mouse; he doesn’t even appear until past the four-minute mark!

An odd role reversal occurs in “The Chain Gang”. It places Mickey as a prison inmate and Pete as a prison guard, though this shift doesn’t alter their personalities. Pete remains sadistic, while Mickey acts as a poor schmoe.

Many of these early shorts featured little story and simply revolved around gags. For the most plot-heavy cartoon to date, check out 1930’s “The Gorilla Mystery”. It includes a much stronger emphasis on speech than prior entries, and it also displays noticeably more ambitious sets, backgrounds, and lighting. For instance, at one point the gorilla walks from the shadows into the light, something that would have seemed impossible during the stark black OR white cartoons of only a year or so earlier.

Pluto debuted back in “The Chain Gang”, but not in the form we’d come to know and love. Indeed, in that short he played a police dog who helped track the escaped Mickey! “Mickey Steps Out” features his first appearance as Pluto on this set. Between “Gang” and “Steps”, he showed up in “The Picnic” as Minnie’s dog Rover and formally bowed as Pluto in 1931’s “The Moose Hunt”. Since that short doesn’t make this package’s cut, “Steps” stands as our initial formal encounter with Mickey’s devoted poor. (“Steps” also offers the second straight cartoon that includes a gag in which Mickey’s head ends up in a fishbowl.)

For a contrast in personality, compare “Blue Rhythm” and “Mickey’s Orphans”. For the first time in a while, “Rhythm” features an angry Mickey. A trombone-playing Pluto (!) whacks him in the head repeatedly, which understandably irritates the Mouse. On the other hand, a skillion adopted kittens totally trash Mickey’s house in “Orphans”, but this doesn’t faze him in the slightest.

Another debut occurs in “Mickey’s Revue”. This offers our first-ever glimpse at a prototypical Goofy. Here referred to as “Dippy Dawg”, the character looks very different than in his later incarnations. Sporting pince-nez glasses and the appearance of an old man, he still is recognizable as the Goof, no matter what they call him.

”Mickey’s Nightmare” shows some of the creative struggles through which the studio went, as it really provides nothing more than a remake of “Mickey’s Orphans”. However, at least Mickey seems less tolerant of the destruction here, and the theme comes across as clever. “The Whoopee Party” shows a more recognizable Goofy, and he offers a very amusing turn as an idiotic radio announced in “Touchdown Mickey”, one of the better DVD One cartoons.

Though little more than an homage to Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, “The Klondike Kid” again helps illustrate the growth exhibited by the Disney artists over the four years since “Steamboat Willie”. It shows cool visual sequences like one in which gunfire creates a strobe lighting effect, and it also seems vastly more sophisticated in regard to its animation and backgrounds. The stories hadn’t quite caught up to the visuals, but it still seems remarkable to observe the progress Disney made in such a short period.

As I already noted, DVD Two offered much more incremental growth, but it did feature some of the better cartoons. A spoof of James Whale’s The Old Dark House, “The Mad Doctor” presents one of the best plots to date, as evil scientist Dr. XXX dognaps Pluto to experiment on him. The short even seems prescient, as it presages modern concepts of genetic mutations – in a crude way, at least, since Dr. XXX dabbles in more Frankensteinian “cut and paste” methods. I don’t like the cheap ending to “Doctor”, but it still seems like one of the best films to date.

Of all the shorts on B&W, ”Mickey’s Gala Premiere” probably shows its age the most strongly. It revolves around caricatures of the day’s big Hollywood stars. Some of these folks remain pretty recognizable, but others will need serious movie buffs to identify them. Nonetheless, the cartoon remains cute and endearing.

Whereas most of the earlier shorts relied strictly on gags for their humor, “Puppy Love” starts to show entertainment more strongly based on the traits of specific characters. Basically it just depicts a standard story in which Mickey woos Minnie, though he encounters a snag. That complication brings out the comedy, and it takes the individual personalities of Minnie and Mickey to make this work. Call me a fool, but the sight of Mickey in Minnie’s little hat still makes me laugh.

Though not special on its own, “Giantland” presages a later Mickey cartoon, the superior “Mickey and the Beanstalk” from 1947’s Fun and Fancy Free. Still, “Giantland” seems fairly entertaining, though the giant displays some of the jerkiest animation we’ve seen in a while. In another example of absent creativity, Disney returned to the fairy tale well quickly; two shorts later, we find “Gulliver Mickey”. At least it seems notable as probably the longest flick in this collection, as it runs nearly 10 minutes.

According to John Grant’s Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters, 1934’s “Orphan’s Benefit” provided Goofy’s first appearance under that name. However, I noticed no mention of the moniker during the short itself. On the other hand, “Benefit” does present one notable almost-debut. Donald Duck first appeared in a Silly Symphony called “The Wise Old Hen”. “Benefit” marks his second role, and his initial pairing with Mickey. Though the cartoon itself uses the time-weary motif of ringleader Mickey and a variety show, Donald’s antics make it quite entertaining. “Benefit” offers classic Duck. Although Mickey’s character mutated over the years, Donald emerged fully formed, and it’s a wonderful sight to behold. (Of course, Donald would change visually as time progressed, but his personality remained rather consistent.)

Two of the final three shorts on B&W expand the Mickey/Donald dynamic and demonstrate the path Mouse cartoons would soon take. “Two-Gun Mickey” feels like a throwback to earlier efforts, as it focuses on the standard Mickey/Minnie/Pete triangle; it offers nothing new other than the chance to hear the two mice speak with Texas accents.

“The Dognapper” and “Mickey’s Service Station” mark the arrival of something new, however. The former pairs Mickey and Donald as policemen. Pete dognaps Minnie’s award-winning pooch Fifi, so they chase after him with surprisingly violent results. In an unusual move, this short actually features some verbal humor via the police radio description of Pete’s car, but mostly it demonstrates the standard slapstick.

“Station” paves the way for the very successful Mickey/Donald/Goofy trio. Many future shorts would match them as entrepreneurs of some sort. Here they run a mechanic’s shop and need to fix Pete’s car within 10 minutes or else. The cartoon revolves almost totally around slapstick, but it does so in a clever way, and it seems like a treat to see such an early conglomeration of these three animated legends.

I feel like I’m beating a dead mouse, but the more I consider the progress made through Mickey Mouse In Black and White, the more impressed I become. The series went from crudely drawn, plotless packages of sight gags to detailed and elegantly depicted and animated offerings with witty and inventive material. Many of the early shorts seem formulaic, as they do little more than mix slapstick with incessant song performances. That motif gets quite tiresome, which can make some of DVD One’s cartoons a chore to watch. However, things do improve, and DVD Two offers some good material.

Ultimately, as an animation fan, I’m quite happy to own a copy of Mickey Mouse In Black and White. The collection includes many historically significant shorts along with a number of others that provide ample fun. For a look at the development of Disney’s animation, this package offers an excellent start.

Note that B&W most definitely does not include all of Mickey’s monochrome adventures. As far as I could tell, he appeared in 73 black and cartoons, which leaves 39 absent from this set. That sounds like the perfect number to fill Mickey Mouse In Black and White, Volume 2, doesn’t it? Hopefully Disney will present that complementary set in the not-too-distant future. Heck, they could even package those 39 cartoons with the score or so of unissued color shorts and call it The Missing Mickey.


The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B- / Bonus B

Mickey Mouse in Black and White appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Actually, the aspect ratio of B&W deserves some explanation. The dimensions varied slightly throughout the program, as the shorts often demonstrated various levels of windowboxing. According to the booklet that came with the Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years laserdisc, the first seven shorts in this collection – “Steamboat Willie” through “The Fire Fighters” – used 1.17:1 aspect ratios. These required windowboxing to retain their dimensions.

What doesn’t make sense relates to the varying degrees of windowboxing seen in B&W. “Steamboat Willie” showed the heaviest levels, as it presented very thick bars on all sides of the image. For a few cartoons, they displayed thin bars on the sides but none on the top and bottom, while some others featured small bars on all four sides.

Even after “The Fire Fighters”, a few B&W shorts featured windowboxing. “The Chain Gang” and “The Gorilla Mystery” looked like standard 1.33:1, but “Pioneer Days” then displayed mild windowboxing. From “The Birthday Party” through the end of the package, I noticed no signs of windowboxing for any of the cartoons except one; mysteriously, bars show up on all four sides for 1934’s “Orphan’s Benefit”. (A lot of TVs lose windowboxing due to overscan, but I’ve reduced the overscan on my set to virtually nil, so I should see any bars that exist.) I don’t know why the set treated a couple of these shorts in a non-standard way, since I’d expect all of them after “The Fire Fighters” would use the same dimensions. For that matter, I don’t know why the degree of windowboxing varied so much for the first seven cartoons.

With that confusing issue out of the way – or made even more perplexing - I can move to the quality of the cartoons themselves. Not surprisingly, just like the degree of windowboxing varied, the visuals demonstrated erratic images as well. I find it exceedingly difficult to grade the quality of older material such as this, since we obviously can’t expect almost 75-year-old films to look like newer offerings. The farther back in time you go, the worse it gets, especially when you find movies from times prior to the mid-to-late Thirties. We tend to find reasonably good quality for some late Thirties flicks like The Wizard of Oz, whereas I can’t think of anything from the early part of the decade or from the Twenties that remotely approaches that level.

Since all of B&W came from years prior to this era, that meant I didn’t feel surprised by the many problems I saw. As one might expect, print flaws created by far the highest level of concerns. At various times, I noticed examples, of flickering, spots, jumps, tears, marks, grit, specks, grain, blotches, nicks, scratches, and lines. Pretty much any print defect you can name showed up at some point during these shorts. However, I fully expected to see these, and in general the cartoons looked fairly good for their age. Edge enhancement didn’t seem present, though a few shorts – like “Mickey’s Orphans”, “The Klondike Kid”, and “Gulliver Mickey” – showed an odd streaky glow that emanated from the tops of characters’ heads.

In addition, the level of flaws decreased as the series progressed, so the newer clips usually looked cleaner than the older ones. Some exceptions occurred, though. “Steamboat Willie” presented one of the most problem-free shorts in the collection, most probably because of its historical status, which would accord it greater attention than the others. In addition, though the clips slowly improved as the series went on, occasional regressions happened. For example, “The Klondike Kid” looked notably grainier than its immediate predecessors. Nonetheless, the cartoons became distinctly cleaner as they got newer, so the shorts found on DVD Two showed significantly fewer defects than those on the first platter.

Sharpness looked fairly good most of the time. Some of the shorts appeared slightly soft at times, and the material rarely appeared tremendously precise and distinctive. Nonetheless, the cartoons generally came across as reasonably accurate and detailed, so I noticed no real concerns in that regard. Blacks usually seemed pretty deep and dense, and shadow detail looked acceptably appropriate. Some of the darker shots were somewhat too dense, but that issue didn’t cause too many concerns.

Of course, most of the shorts failed to include much information of that sort, especially in the earlier days. As I noted during the narrative portion of this review, the complexity of the backgrounds and sets dramatically increased as time passed. That meant that the oldest shorts seemed either black or white much of the time, whereas as we got into the Thirties, the pieces displayed greater subtlety and literal shades of gray. Contrast occasionally seemed somewhat erratic. The image periodically came across as too bright. However, the images usually appeared nicely clean in that regard. Overall, Mickey Mouse in Black and White showed too many problems to merit a high grade, but it got a “B-“ because the shorts generally looked quite positive for their age.

One disappointment: I got the impression that most of these transfers came straight from the 1990s Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years laserdisc boxed set. It certainly appeared that way, since they showed the same date cards that marked the transitions between years. While I don’t know if newer transfers of these shorts would improve the quality, I’d have appreciated additional effort put into the visuals. They looked good, but fresher mastering might have made them even better.

As for the monaural audio of Mickey Mouse in Black and White, the audio also demonstrated significant concerns, but the elements remained acceptable for its age. Speech came across as very thin and tinny, and some edginess showed up at times. Given that the Mickey shorts weren’t exactly dialogue intensive, this didn’t create any great concerns, and I felt the lines sounded acceptably intelligible.

Music and effects came across in similar ways. Treble dominated the presentation, as these elements showed virtually no depth or low-end response. They came across as somewhat harsh and unnatural, though they displayed no excessive distortion or other problems. Actually, the material seemed surprisingly clear, as I’d expect greater shrillness from such old audio.

Noise caused concerns, though these occurred erratically. At various times, I noticed signs of hiss, popping, clicking, humming, and clicking. Again, these instances showed up inconsistently. Some shorts sounded fairly clean, while others came across as significantly messier. As with other aspects of the presentation, the noisiness generally decreased as the series progressed, and the quality of the fidelity improved. Ultimately, the audio showed the sort of flaws I expected from roughly 70-year-old films, and I felt the clips generally sounded slightly superior to most material of that era.

One odd note about the soundfields: the collection’s final cartoon – 1935’s “Mickey’s Service Station” – actually seemed to approximate a stereo presence. Unlike the prior 33 shorts, this one used the side and rear speakers to offer reinforcement of the music. The track remained based in the front center, but the other channels broadened the score. I noticed no distinct delineation on the sides, as the spread seemed somewhat vague. Nonetheless, it actually worked quite well, as the music appeared smoother here than on the other clips.

On Mickey Mouse in Black and White, we get a moderate collection of supplements. As with other “Disney Treasures” releases, Disc One of B&W started with an introduction from Leonard Maltin. This clip lasts three minutes, 46 seconds and tells us some historical perspective about Mickey’s debut. Maltin also briefly covers the character’s future developments.

Some of the individual cartoons feature separate Maltin introductions. We find two of these. One of them shows up prior to these shorts: “The Gallopin’ Gaucho”, “Pioneer Days”, and “The Klondike Kid”. That one lasts 47 seconds, as Maltin places the rather “anti-social” Mickey into context. The other introduction appears prior to these cartoons: “Mickey Steps Out”, “The Whoopee Party”, and “Gulliver Mickey”. In this 63-second piece, Maltin chats about the acceptability of stereotypes during the era in which these shorts were created, which sets us up for the blackface segments seen in those cartoons. For most people who will watch B&W, these discussions will be unnecessary, but I applaud Disney’s attempts to educate folks about the nature of the period’s politically incorrect humor. However, it seemed odd that they added no disclaimer before “The Pet Store”, which featured a very broadly stereotypical Italian.

A new featurette called Frank and Ollie... and Mickey appears next. This piece lasts 18 minutes and 17 seconds as it presents a conversation between Leonard Maltin and legendary animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. They go over their early days at Disney Studios and discuss some impressions of early Mickey as well as memories of working on the shorts. Their recollections seem warm and endearing, and they cover a lot of intriguing information during this too-short program.

The next two sections include some cool archival materials. Story Scripts demonstrates an early planning method used at the Disney Studios. Maltin provides a 70-second introduction that gives us an overview of this topic, and we then can check out “story scripts” for two different shorts. These collections show each page of the scripts individually and then isolate the various elements. The scripts mix text and drawings, so after we look at the whole single page, we get close-ups of the other pieces. Presented in a stillframe format, we find story scripts for “Steamboat Willie” (102 frames) and “Mickey Steps Out” (119 frames). These seem very interesting and add a lot to the package.

Next we get a collection of Story Sketch Sequences. This area begins with an 87-second introduction from Maltin and then presents materials related to six different shorts: “Blue Rhythm” (77 seconds), “Mickey Cuts Up” (2:29), “Mickey’s Orphans” (117 seconds), “Mickey’s Nightmare” (2:43), “The Whoopee Party” (2:34), “Touchdown Mickey” (3:25), and “The Klondike Kid” (2:47). The “story sketches” are pretty much the same as what we now call storyboards, and these filmed sequences accompany the art with music. Not surprisingly, the segments get more complex as the years progress, and all of them provide a nice look at the creation of these older shorts.

Also on DVD One we find an Easter egg. Go to the “Bonus Material” page and highlight “Register your DVD”. Click “up” from there, which will light Mickey’s cowboy hat. Press “enter” and you’ll learn about the 1929 start of a group of theater-based “Mickey Mouse Clubs”. Maltin narrates this 14-minute program that tells us about these groups. It also includes a special version of “Minnie’s Yoo-Hoo” created for the Clubs’ roll-call and we also see newsreel footage of a giant Mickey celebration staged in Worcester, Massachusetts. A fun program, this gives us a nice look at the public popularity of Mickey.

Like many Disney DVDs, B&W opens with an ad for “Disney Treasures” line. Oddly, however, it touts last year’s four releases and doesn’t mention the 2002 batch.

When we move to DVD Two, we find another Leonard Maltin introduction. This two-minute piece presents a quick overview of the shorts we’ll find on this disc, with a few specific comments about some of the cartoons.

After this we move to a Pencil Test for “The Mail Pilot”. It provides a 64-second Maltin introduction that describes the origins of pencil tests, and we then see the two-minute, 24-second clip. Maltin states that “Pilot” offers the only surviving pencil test from the era, and it indeed seems very cool to watch Mickey in this rough state.

On DVD Two, we also get more Story Sketch Sequences. We find almost the same 87-second Maltin introduction that preceded DVD One’s sequences; it alters some of the drawings it shows, but Maltin’s comments remain identical; that makes it sound odd when he comments upon the crudeness of the art, since DVD Two’s sketches demonstrate ever-increasing sophistication and depth. We then we launch into the pre-visuals for these different shorts: “Building a Building” (three minutes, 17 seconds), “The Mad Doctor” (2:38), “Ye Olden Days” (3:39), “Puppy Love” (3:09), “The Pet Store” (1:52), “Giantland” (3:22), “Camping Out” (4:04), “Gulliver Mickey” (3:52), “Orphan’s Benefit” (3:27), “The Dognapper” (1:17), “Two-Gun Mickey” (6:17), and “Mickey’s Service Station” (2:51). As with the sequences seen on DVD One, these provide a fascinating look at the planning process and add a lot to this set.

Next we find a Poster Gallery of 21 thumbnailed ads. We can click on these to see fullscreen versions of the images. They present a fun look at Mickey’s early promotion. Four of the stills include audio comments from Maltin, who offers some salient details about those pieces. Finally, the DVD’s booklet includes a short text overview from Maltin as well as some archival images, and an insert card displays a 1978 “Steamboat Willie” poster created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mickey.

Some folks may wonder how this package compares to the Mickey Mouse: The Black and White Years laserdisc set. The DVD package includes all of the shorts from that box as well as one extra: “The Karnival Kid”. It replicates most of the LD’s supplements too. The two releases share the story sketches and story scripts as well as the “Mail Pilot” pencil test. The LD included “Parade of Award Nominees”, a short created for the 1932 Academy Awards. It doesn’t appear here since it already showed up on 2001’s Mickey Mouse In Living Color; that makes sense, since “Parade” offered Mickey’s first color cartoon. Finally, the LD set also provided a booklet with some brief but nice notes about each of the shorts as well as a general overview of Mickey’s early career and some cool archival images.

Though it’s a shame that booklet didn’t translate to the DVD release of Mickey Mouse In Black and White, given that this package retails for more than $90 less than the original price of the LD package and tosses in one extra short, I think I’ll live. The cartoons found on B&W seem to lack the same enduring appeal of those that appeared on In Living Color, but this edition appears more crucial for the animation historian.

Actually, both should be considered vital for those with an interest in the genre’s formative years, but B&W traces the format’s growth and development in more obvious and radical terms; we see a much greater difference between 1928’s “Steamboat Willie” and 1931’s “Mickey’s Orphans” than we do between 1935’s “The Band Concert” and 1938’s “Brave Little Tailor” from Color, at least in regard to the sophistication of the art and animation. Of course, the field grew immeasurably between “Willie” and “Tailor”, but that’s a different issue.

In any case, many of the shorts on B&W seem crude and may lack much humor for today’s audiences, but they remain reasonably charming much of the time, and it’s very cool to watch the genre develop in front of our eyes. As one might expect, picture and sound quality varied heavily throughout the shorts, but they usually seemed more than acceptable for their age, and I felt no great qualms about either. The package also included a fairly decent roster of supplements. For general cartoon fans, other compilations like Mickey Mouse In Living Color probably will seem more satisfying, but animation buffs – and those with a definite jones for the Mouse – will definitely want to grab this set of seminal shorts.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 98
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