Walt Disney Animation Collection Volume 1 appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. All of the shorts in this set can be found elsewhere, and it would behoove you to track them down on other discs, as they looked bad here.
Rather than lift "Mickey and the Beanstalk" from Fun and Fancy Free - its source location - Collection takes it from a TV special "hosted" by Ludwig Von Drake. Why? I have no clue, but this choice meant that the short – one that filled about half of this DVD – suffered from a mix of problems. Source flaws abounded. Throughout the short, I saw lots of specks, marks, lines, blotches and tears.
Those weren’t the only concerns. Colors were runny and messy, and they also tended to be a bit pale. Sharpness was mediocre at best. The short never looked terrible unfocused, but it also failed to present real definition and clarity. Blacks were mushy, and shadows seemed too dense; since some parts were too bright, that issue was an odd one, but it’s what I saw. “Beanstalk” simply looked awful.
The other shorts fared better, but they had concerns as well. Most of “Brave Little Tailor” was satisfactory except for source flaws. Dust was the main problem, as the image literally crawled with little specks at times. That became a major distraction in an otherwise decent looking transfer.
Print defects continued to distract with “Gulliver”. I noticed a fair number of specks and marks throughout the short. It also displayed somewhat iffy contrast, as the black and white cartoon tended to look somewhat blown out and bright. Its grey tones were a little bland and without the sheen I like from B&W productions.
“Trip” proved to be the most satisfying of the five shorts. It suffered from minor specks but otherwise looked quite good. It displayed vivid colors and clean definition without much to detrect from the experience.
“Mirror” was acceptable but not great. Print defects created some distractions, and I also noticed more edge haloes than usual. Colors were decent to good, while sharpness was generally okay; the image could be a bit tentative but not to an extreme. Some positive elements appeared in this set, but too many negatives materialized for me to give this package a grade above a “D+”, primarily due to the disaster that was “Beanstalk”.
The folks behind the Collection decided to rework the material for Dolby Surround 2.0. Bad idea, at least in the case of “Beanstalk”. That short created an awkward soundfield that localized vocal elements in a hard manner. The majority of the speech came from the front left speaker, though some related bits – like Herman’s sneeze – popped up out of the right front channel. Does that make sense to anyone? One second Herman spoke out of the left, and then he sneezed out of the right!
The rest of the soundfield seemed more satisfying, but not by a lot. The music and effects tended to present mushy delineation. They spread across the front, but not with real delineation or clarity. Instead, they filled the speakers and left us with no sense of clean placement or integration. The surrounds added a bit of vagueness and that was it.
For “Beanstalk”, audio quality was weak. Speech tended to be rough and brittle, while the rest of the track was flat and lumpy. Both music and effects came with a strong bass layer that overwhelmed everything else; that meant those elements were dull and boomy. The disc’s presentation of “Beanstalk” was a disaster.
At least the other shorts went with their original monaural audio. “Brave Little Tailor” showed some brittle and edgy elements but seemed acceptable for its age. I got the impression someone had tarted up the sound for “Gulliver” though, as it presented more low-end than I’d expect in something from 1934. This gave it an artificial and boomy sense that didn’t sound right.
“Gulliver” also came with some source flaws; it suffered from a low rumble and some pops. Some of those issues marred “Mirror” as well; it provided hiss and a few noise-related concerns. Unlike “Gulliver”, though, low-end wasn’t an issue. Instead, “Mirror” sounded a bit too harsh and trebly. It remained acceptable for its era, but it didn’t do better than that.
As was the case with its visuals, the audio of “Trip” fared the best of all the set’s shorts. The cartoon displayed good clarity and definition for its age, and it also failed to suffer from notable source concerns. Honestly, the four mono shorts sounded acceptable, but the severe problems with “Beanstalk” caused me to lower my grade to a “D+”.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Up, The Princess and the Frog, Bedtime Stories and Disney Movie Rewards. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Monsters, Inc., The Black Cauldron, Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Mickey’s Big Splash and Disney Parks.
The set also provides a collectible litho print. This simply shows an image from “Beanstalk” on a card. Yawn.
In terms of the quality of its shorts, The Walt Disney Animation Collection Volume 1 succeeds. We get a nice set of cartoons here. Unfortunately, the disc fails to present these shorts in a satisfying way. Actually, most look and sound decent, but the horrible treatment given to “Mickey and the Beanstalk” saps the package of its value. Most fans will already own these cartoons via various other releases, and they should stick with those DVDs; this one is a problematic waste of money.