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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Walt Disney
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
Celebrate Walt Disney and his magical vision with this look back at several of the most memorable hours from his groundbreaking television shows. As its friendly, approachable host, Disney endeared himself to millions and became much more than an icon for family entertainment. He became Uncle Walt. Join Walt as he celebrates the rededication of Disneyland with a parade of celebrities and guest stars, the fourth anniversary of his weekly show featuring a surprise party arranged by the Mouseketeers, and a tenth anniversary program showcasing some of his talented Imagineers at work. And in a rare interview, Diane Disney Miller shares warm and personal memories of growing up with the man we all admired from afar.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 290 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 12/19/2006

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Leonard Maltin Introduction
• “My Dad, Walt Disney” Featurette
• Galleries
DVD Two:
• Leonard Maltin Introduction
• “I Captured the King of the Leprechauns” Bonus Episode
• “Disneyland USA at Radio City Music Hall” Featurette
• “Working with Walt” Featurette


• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


Your Host, Walt Disney: TV Memories (1956-1965)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 4, 2008)

A few of the “Walt Disney Treasures” packages concentrate on various episodes of the old weekly Disney TV series. It came with various titles over the years such as Disneyland, Walt Disney Presents and Walt Disney’s Wide World of Color, but they stayed true to a certain formula. Among other topics, they included cartoons, original programming such as Davey Crockett and looks at the Disneyland park.

Occasionally Walt himself played a more active role in the episodes, and it’s those sorts of programs that become the focus of this collection. Your Host Walt Disney offers five shows that aired over a span of 1956 to 1965. These more Walt-centric pieces cover a variety of subjects.

Where Do the Stories Come From? (1956, 51 minutes, 49 seconds): This one covers the ways Disney and his folks developed different projects. Composer Oliver Wallace shows us how he came up with a theme song for Daisy Duck, and this leads to a discussion about how the tune inspired the “Crazy Over Daisy” short.

From there Walt tells us that the footage from the “True-Life Adventures” also brought ideas. He claims they would see animals and use them in their animated cartoons, a concept that leads to a look at a Mickey and Pluto short called “R’Coon Dawg”. Next Walt says that historical events also influence story ideas, a notion that leads us to see two cartoons in which Donald enlists in the military. Hobbies arrive next as inspirational topics, a thought that allows Walt to show how animator Ollie Johnston loves model railroads. We see Ollie and others with an extremely elaborate backyard railroad as well as a full-size one created by animator Ward Kimball and Walt’s own train set-up on his lot. This eventually leads us to see a cartoon that posits Donald Duck as a model railroad buff.

As a look behind the scenes, “Stories” bites. While I can’t say I expected an in-depth look at the creative process, the framework actually exists for little reason other than to show a bunch of shorts. “Stories” devotes most of its nearly 52 minutes to cartoons. That was probably entertaining back when it aired – after all, it wasn’t like folks then had the easy access to this stuff that we have now.

However, since we can see most of these shorts elsewhere – and presented with higher quality – “Stories” usually becomes a waste of time. The only moderately interesting parts come from the shots of the Disney staff. It’s neat to see Wallace “at work”, even if his attempt to recreate his writing methods displays some of the hammiest acting on record.

I’m a little torn about the shots of the animators and their model railroads. On one hand, I think it’s cool to see some glimpses of them in real life. However, that segment goes on forever and it feels self-indulgent. Walt loved his model railroad, so this section seems like a dull attempt to promote his own hobby. A little of this footage would have gone a long way; as it stands, there’s so much of it that it becomes tedious. All these factors transpire to make “Stories” a disappointing launch to Your Host.

Next comes the mis-titled Fourth Anniversary Show (1957, 51:58), which actually coincides with the series’ third anniversary. (The Disney company has always had a loose concept of anniversaries.) Walt takes a look back to 1938 to show how he met composer Sergei Prokofiev and collaborated for Disney’s animated “Peter and the Wolf”. The episode then traces its path to the screen and discusses the obstacles along the way. This concludes with a showing of the cartoon.

When Walt starts to launch into a chat about another composer, a batch of Mouseketeers storm into the office and drag him to their stage. There they celebrate the series’ anniversary, as the Mouseketeers put on a silly musical number. After the song, Walt tells us what to expect from the Disney empire before Fess Parker comes in to chat about Andy Burnett, the subject of then-upcoming work. This subjects us to another musical number, unfortunately, accompanied by some clips from this Burnett project and the eventually introduction of Jerome Courtland, the actor who would play Burnett. Inevitably, he croons a tune as well.

More promotional blather ensues, as Walt promises the adventures of Zorro over the upcoming year. Guy Williams makes a quick Mouseketeer set appearance in character and then the ‘Teers try to convince Walt to let them make The Rainbow Road to Oz. The rest of the program looks at plans for this project as well as a production number from it acted by the ‘Teers.

While “Stories” was just an excuse to bundle together a bunch of cartoons, “Anniversary” serves as little more than a promotional tool. It starts well with the look at Prokofiev, and it’s fun to see the composer and Walt “act” as themselves in the flashback scene. It’s not tremendously informative, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

Once the Mouseketeers enter, however, matters go downhill. The show turns into a glorified teaser for the upcoming year on the Disneyland series and doesn’t give us much else. To me, this makes it a dull enterprise, mostly because all those production numbers bore me to tears.

While I find little entertainment in “Anniversary”, however, Mouseketeer fans will clearly come to a different conclusion. If you enjoy those personalities, you’ll get a much bigger kick out of “Anniversary”. I can’t figure out an audience that would take much from the cartoon-heavy “Stories”, but at least “Anniversary” boasts lots of fun for Mouseketeer fans.

Matters become more interesting to me with Kodak Presents Disneyland ‘59 (1959, 89:27). Back in 1955 – and as found on Disneyland USA - Walt staged a live TV broadcast from the park’s opening day. This was a bit of a disaster, but he tried again on the occasion of Disneyland’s fourth anniversary “rededication” in 1959.

Again hosted by Art Linkletter, “Kodak” will remind fans of the 1955 opening day broadcast. Some pre-shot footage shows the development of Disneyland and various aspects of the park. After that we see all the action on the big day. We start with a long Main Street parade before we see the christening of the submarine fleet connected to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

We also get a tour of that ride before we head to the dedication ceremony for the monorail. Preceded by an only partially intentionally funny look at how the monorail will eliminate traffic concerns, we then watch as then-VP Richard Nixon and family open the new Disneyland transportation system. From there we check out another fresh attraction, the Matterhorn coaster. This shows us the ride as well as some climbers as they ascend the man-made mountain.

Look for many celebrity sightings. In addition to the Nixons, we’ll find many Disney-related actors as well as unexpected glimpses of Clint Eastwood and Dennis Hopper! These fly by pretty quickly, but they add to the weird fun of the program.

I’d argue that “’59” is more interesting as a historical curiosity than it is as entertainment, but that doesn’t make it a boring piece to view. Some parts really drag, especially that opening parade; it threatens never to end and becomes awfully banal. It might’ve been good in person but on poorly kept film, it becomes a dud.

Disneyland fans will love the up-close glimpses of the then-new attractions, though. We get a long ride through the long-defunct submarine voyage, and we also find solid takes on the monorail and the Matterhorn. Those compensate for the parade and some other dull dance numbers to make “’59” the most interesting of the first three episodes here.

At times one might feel that “Kodak Presents Disneyland ‘59” should be retitled “Disneyland Presents Kodak ‘59”. Lots of camera commercials appear, and you know what? They’re pretty cool and act as arguably the most entertaining aspects of this program. We see celebrities like Ed Sullivan and the Nelson family as they enjoy their cameras.

We head to the Disney lot for Backstage Party (1961, 51:51). After we arrive at the studio, we drive through various spots as we try to find Walt in Stage Four. Once we find Mr. Disney, he shows us some sets for Babes In Toyland and then takes us to watch the conclusion of that film’s shoot. The titular wrap celebration follows.

Boy, that description sure makes “Party” sound like a long ad for Babes In Toyland, doesn’t it? Honestly, that’s what the show is. The episode dollops out behind the scenes bits and pieces so it can aspire to greater pretensions, but don’t be fooled; this thing borders on infomercial status.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t include some fun elements, though. I like the opening drive through the studio, and despite my usual disdain for production numbers, the one Ray Bolger does here offers some entertainment. I can’t find a lot of gems here, but they exist in between all of the promotion for Babes.

For the set’s final episode, we get a retread from the Disneyland USA DVD: Disneyland Tenth Anniversary Show (1965, 45:22). Actually, the program fell a few months short of the park’s 10th anniversary mark; with an airdate of January 1965, it was really the 9th-and-a-half Anniversary Show. However, they like their heavy promotion at Disney; the 25th anniversary celebration at WDW lasted about a year and a half, so we’ll spot Walt the six months here.

This program mainly features Walt himself as he tours parts of the park with “Miss Disneyland Tencennial” Julie Reems. She was apparently chosen as the spokesbabe for the park’s anniversary, and she accompanies Walt as he relates the location’s future growth.

“10th Anniversary” starts with a walk through the Imagineers’ headquarters. There we meet a number of workers, including Disney legends Mary Blair – who shows the design-in-progress for “It’s a Small World” – and Marc Davis. One of Walt’s famous “Nine Old Men”, Davis offers a glimpse of the upcoming Haunted Mansion attraction. Excellent material all, we learn a lot about a number of rides – including Pirates of the Caribbean – that remain exceedingly popular more than four decades later.

Once we finish at the studio, we head to the park, where we find many fine looks at Disneyland circa 1965. We watch clips that demonstrate its history and growth, and even view some notables who went to Disneyland; there are shots of Richard Nixon, the Shah of Iran, and Jawaharlal Nehru. We also take a tour of some rides that cropped up over the prior decade and get decent glimpses of the Matterhorn, the Submarine Voyage, a mine train and the flying saucers. Of all of these, only the Matterhorn remains, and it receives the best attention here as we took a first-person ride on it.

We also get a very long look at a then-new attraction called the Enchanted Tiki Room. This was the first Disneyland ride to use extensive audio-animatronic performers, and we encounter a nice view behind the scenes as well as a fairly long glimpse of the program itself. Although the WDW version of Tiki was radically updated a few years back, I believe the Disneyland version hasn’t changed a bit; what you’ll see today matches what you’ll watch in this program.

Overall, “10th Anniversary” is a genuine treat for Disneyland fans. It provides a simply terrific look at the park and is consistently entertaining. I could have lived without shots of the Mary Poppins production number staged in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, but even that offers a glimpse of the era, so it merited my time.

One trivia note: Julie Reems was a tour guide at Disneyland before appointed Miss Tencennial. She wore a riding outfit, and female tour guides at the park still wear the same clothes, as I discovered when I took the “Walking in Walt’s Footsteps” trek a few years ago. Actually, we had a male guide, but I saw the women who had on those same odd outfits.


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

Your Host Walt Disney 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. With episodes that cover 10 years, I expected inconsistent visual quality, and that’s what I got.

The oldest wasn’t the ugliest. Sourced from a nearly 50-year-old Kinescope, “Kodak Presents Disneyland ‘59” presented by far the crummiest visuals of the bunch. This sucker was actually filmed off of a TV screen, and that’s not a recipe for appealing picture quality. Since this program was lost for years, however, it’s good to have it in any format.

But remember those caveats as you watch it. “’59” tended to be mushy and gray. Sharpness was never better than mediocre, and contrast seemed flat. Source flaws like lines and marks cropped up through the program. Note that some parts of “’59” looked pretty good, though. The live broadcast used some pre-shot film, and the Disney folks were able to resuscitate that original footage. Those pieces didn’t account for most of “’59”, but they provided significantly improved clarity and depth. Source flaws distracted a bit, though, as marks, specks and other debris appeared. Nonetheless, the pre-shot stuff worked best. Even with those stronger elements, though, too many problems materialized here to earn a grade above a “D”.

When I looked at the actual oldest episode found here, “Where Do the Stories Come From?” actually provided pretty solid visuals. Grain and minor specks were the biggest distractions, and they remained acceptably modest. I couldn’t describe this as a clean presentation, but it suffered from fewer concerns than I expected, and I never thought the source flaws created real distractions.

Everything else seemed pretty solid. Sharpness was reasonably concise and accurate, with no significant softness on display. Contrast also appeared positive, as the black and white image gave off an appropriately silvery tone. Blacks seemed dark and tight, and the smattering of low-light shots were clear. Chalk up “Stories” as a satisfying “B” for visuals.

I thought the “Fourth Anniversary Show” marked a decline in quality after “Stories”, though it improved as it progressed. Grain was a particular culprit here, as much of the first act suffered from an excess of it. This seemed less problematic after the Prokofiev segment, though. Sharpness was also iffier than with “Stories”, and that trend accompanied the whole episode. While most of the program displayed good delineation, softness became more prevalent, and some jaggie tendencies came along for the ride as well.

Other than the grain, source issues weren’t objectionable. A smattering of specks and marks appeared, but not to a significant degree; the grain remained the biggest distraction. Contrast was a bit weak, though, as the image often seemed rather dark. This was a denser image than its predecessor, as it lacked the same nice silver sheen. Objectively, “Fourth” was acceptable but not better, so I gave it a “C+” for visuals.

Note that one clear exception to that show’s rules occurred. The episode left the old 1950s programming to show a full color transfer of “Peter and the Wolf” around the eight-minute mark. Already found on the Make Mine Music DVD, it looked quite good. I didn’t factor it into my grade for the episode, though, since it came from different sources.

With the two 1960s episodes, we went to color. “Backstage Party” offered an erratic image. Colors were one of the concerns. Some shots – usually those that featured shots from Babes In Toyland - offered fairly good vivacity, but the pieces filmed expressly for the series tended to suffer from a rather brownish hue. Some brighter tones occasionally emerged, but I thought the colors looked a bit “off” much of the time; they sometimes looked like they came from a colorized production.

Sharpness was decent. Some softness interfered at times, but the show usually displayed satisfactory delineation and accuracy. Blacks were acceptably dense, but shadows tended to be murky. The low-light shots suffered from more density than I’d like.

Source flaws were another up and down circumstance. Many parts of “Party” emerged unscathed, but others could be noticeably dirtier. I noticed instances of specks, marks and scratches. Overall, the show was reasonably clean, though. This mix of good and bad left this episode as a “C+”.

Happily, “10th Anniversary” ended the set on a pretty good note. Sharpness still could be a bit soft and tentative at times, but largely the images looked reasonably accurate and distinct. Some minor moiré effects and jagged edges appeared, and I also detected a little edge enhancement.

Print flaws still occurred, but they were less problematic. Some grain cropped up, and I also saw periodic examples of speckles and grit. Otherwise, this show looked pretty clean and fresh; clearly it received decent care over the years.

Colors weren’t fantastic, but they seemed fairly bright and vivid for the most part. They could appear slightly heavy at times, and some blotchiness also occurred, but I generally found the hues to seem satisfying and clean. Black levels also came across as nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dark but not too thick. I liked this one pretty well and figured it earned a “B-“. That left Your Host with an averaged out grade of “C+”.

When I examined the monaural audio of Your Host, it also showed some variations among episodes, but I thought they were consistent enough that I didn’t need to examine the shows individually. Across the board, the sound was satisfactory but never better than that. Speech always came across as intelligible and usually demonstrated reasonable naturalness. However, more than a little edginess could interfere, as I noticed some brittle dialogue at times.

Similar concerns crept into the other elements. Music lacked much range and could be a bit rough. Some songs became a smidgen crackly, though most offered acceptable clarity. Effects demonstrated more harshness on occasion. They varied from clear and fairly accurate to somewhat distorted. Background noise sometimes crept into the proceedings, as I noticed occasional examples of pops and clicks. Dynamic range was modest, though to my surprise, a few parts of “’59” – generally the worst reproduced episode – provided a decent sense of bass. In the end, the audio seemed mediocre and deserved a “C”.

A smattering of extras fill out this set. On DVD One, a featurette called My Dad, Walt Disney lasts 20 minutes, 59 seconds. It provides an interview between Leonard Maltin and Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller. She discusses life with her famous dad. This covers his home behavior as well as her experiences at the studio. Inevitably, this offers a sunny view of things, so you shouldn’t expect dirt. But that’s fine with me, as the show doesn’t need to indulge in the darker side to inform and entertain. We get some nice reflections on Walt along with some excellent archival footage.

Also on DVD One, we get some Galleries. These offer photos of Walt in three domains: “Hyperion Days” (53 stills), “Walt at Work” (78) and “Walt’s Playground” (61). All are excellent, though I think I most like “Playground” since it offers a lot of glimpses of the early Disneyland.

Going to DVD Two, we start with I Captured the King of the Leprechauns, a bonus TV episode that runs 48 minutes, 50 seconds. In this 1959 program, Walt tells Pat O’Brien that he wants to make a flick about leprechauns. O’Brien insists that if Walt wants to do this, he must go to Ireland and capture an actual leprechaun. Incredulous at first, Walt comes to believe O’Brien enough to jet to Ireland and attempts to catch himself the king of the “little people”.

Ultimately all of this exists to promote Darby O’Gill and the Little People, but unlike programs such as “Backstage Party”, it doesn’t feel like an extended ad. Much of the charm comes from Walt’s active involvement; not only do we see him through most of the show, but also he actually acts. And he’s pretty good, too, as he provides nice comic timing as a straight man. Film clips bog down the show’s second half, but this remains a fun and enjoyable program.

Curious footnote: why is “King” regarded as a “bonus episode”? Why not just make it part of the main set? I have no idea.

For something unusual, we head to Disneyland USA at Radio City Music Hall. As we learn from an opening text, Disney staged a production at Radio City Music Hall in 1962, and as part of it, audiences saw a short film that allowed a recorded Walt to “interact” with a live-action Mickey Mouse. This six-minute and eight-second piece shows the Cinemascope flick with Walt. It’s silly, of course, and often little more than an ad for Disneyland, but it’s highly entertaining and a blast to see.

Acting footnote: if I’m not mistaken, Walt did a rare turn as Mickey’s voice here. It sure sounds like him in the role, so if it isn’t, someone did a poor job. Walt originated the part, but he stopped playing Mickey many years before 1962. That’s part of the reason I think it’s him; not only does it sound a lot like Walt, but also it just doesn’t sound much like the Mickey we know. I think a professional actor would do a better job of capturing the “usual Mickey” sound.

Working With Walt lasts eight minutes, 44 seconds and allows for some reminiscences from those who knew Disney. Hosted by Maltin, it includes statements from actors Tommy Cole, Cheryl Holdridge, Tommy Sands, Marge Champion, Don Grady, Tim Considine, Tommy Kirk, and Bobby Burgess. The participants tell us what it was like to work at Disney and with Walt. As usual, the tone stays fluffy, but we get some decent insights along with enough fun archival footage to make it worthwhile.

Potentially catty notes: Grady gets the “Aging Gracefully Award”, as he looks like he’s about 42 here even though he’s actually 62. On the other hand, someone needs to swat that ridiculous wig off of Sands’ head. Dude, you’re almost 70 years old; stop trying so hard to look like you’re 25.

As always, we get some introductions from Leonard Maltin. On DVD One, he chats for four minutes, 15 seconds as he tells us about the nature of the Disney series and gives us some details about the episodes included. Over on DVD Two, Maltin provides a three-minute and 57-second look at that platter’s contents.

Finally, the DVD’s booklet includes a short text overview from Maltin as well as some archival images. An insert card also displays a publicity photo of Walt Disney.

Not all of Your Host Walt Disney entertains, as some of the episodes feel like little more than generic promotional reels. However, there remains more than enough cool historical content to make the package worthwhile for fans. The DVDs offer erratic but usually acceptable audio and sound plus a few good extras. I don’t think Your Host will do a ton for the casual Disney fan, but more ardent partisans will enjoy it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main