L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

 

Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald IV (Walt Disney Treasures: Limited Edition)

(Jack Hannah, 1951)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Walt Disney Studios

DVD: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: 1

Runtime: 5 hours

Chapters: 31

Case: Oversize locking case inside Disney Treasure Collector's Tin

Release date: November 11, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (plus 5 in 2.40:1 CinemaScope)

Resolution: 480p

 

Audio: English 2.0 Dolby

 

Subtitles: English SDH, none

 

Extras:

• Introductions by Leonard Maltin (3:29, 3:04, 0:25)

• Featurette: Donald Goes to Press. (12:48)

• Featurette: The Unseen Donald Duck. (10:12)

• Audio Commentary on Working for Peanuts and Grand Canyonscope by Leonard Maltin & Jerry Beck

• 10 Mouseworks Cartoons (1:01:52)

 

 

 

The Film:

Donald first came into being in 1934 as little more than a barnyard animal, but by the 1950s, when the current DVD set gets going, Donald, like many Americans, has moved to the suburbs. It's a kinder, gentler world, though one not without its hazards.

Cartoons featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner generally posit an objective that one character wants to achieve and another thwarts their every move in a series of gags, thrills and pratfalls. What I find most different and engaging about Donald is that, being a duck, he doesn't move all that quickly, so there is more reliance on storyline, less on a series of gags, though there are those. Donald is less cagey than Tom, less tricky than Bugs, and far less mean than just about anyone this side of Mickey. In fact, according to Wikipedia , the very reason why Donald came into being was to offer a less likeable character than Mickey, who was becoming just too good to suit.

 

 


Still, it's harder to imagine a duck reconstituting himself after being squashed against the wall or having a piano dropped on him. Chip 'n Dale often provides the speed as well as the antagonist – or is it the protagonist – in this colletcion. With Donald, I'm never quite sure. Donald is also relentlessly harassed by his nephews, Huey, Dewey & Louie (on loan from Car Talk) and, in several cartoons in CinemaScope, by Humphrey the Bear. Donald often starts off being a good and considerate fellow, as he does in Out of Scale, and then, unable to leave well enough alone, he must make trouble for whomever it was unlucky enough to have received his benevolence. Can comeuppance be far behind! Donald can't stand being a good duck for long and it's often his temper that escalates a mere troublesome situation into catastrophe.

Chronological Donald IV includes some 16 short subjects entirely new to DVD, several of which are new to home video altogether, plus ten 6-minute Donald Duck cartoons that were first shown on the Saturday morning TV show, Mickey Mouse Works from 1999-2000. Except for these and the two educational short films, Donald in Mathmagic Land and Donald and the Wheel, the average cartoon is about 7 minutes.

Here's the listing.
1951
DUDE DUCK (new to DVD)
CORN CHIPS w/ Chip 'n Dale
TEST PILOT DONALD w/ Chip 'n Dale (new to DVD)
LUCKY NUMBER w/ Huey, Dewey & Louie
OUT OF SCALE w/ Chip 'n Dale
BEE ON GUARD (new to DVD)

1952
DONALD APPLE-CORE w/ Chip 'n Dale
LET'S STICK TOGETHER (new to DVD)
UNCLE DONALD'S ANTS (new to DVD)
TRICK OR TREAT w/ Huey, Dewey & Louie

1953
DONALD'S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH w/ Huey, Dewey & Louie
NEW NEIGHBOR (new to DVD)
RUGGED BEAR (new to DVD)
WORKING FOR PEANUTS w/ Chip 'n Dale
CANVAS BACK DUCK w/ Huey, Dewey & Louie

1954
SPARE THE ROD w/ Huey, Dewey & Louie (new to home video)
DONALD'S DIARY w/ Daisy
DRAGON AROUND w/ Chip 'n Dale
GRIN & BEAR IT w/ Humphrey the Bear (new to DVD)
GRAND CANYONSCOPE (in CinemaScope)
FLYING SQUIRREL (new to DVD)

1955
NO HUNTING w/ Humphrey the Bear (in CinemaScope) (new to home video!)
BEARLY ASLEEP w/ Humphrey the Bear (in CinemaScope) (new to DVD)
BEEZY BEAR w/ Humphrey the Bear (in CinemaScope) (new to DVD)
UP A TREE w/ Chip 'n Dale

1956
CHIPS AHOY w/ Chip 'n Dale (in CinemaScope) (new to DVD)
HOW TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT AT HOME (new to DVD)

1959
DONALD IN MATHMAGIC LAND (27:35)
HOW TO HAVE AN ACCIDENT AT WORK (new to DVD)

1961
DONALD AND THE WHEEL (new to DVD) (17:54)
THE LITTERBUG (new to DVD)

1999
10 Mickey Mouse Works Cartoons


 

Image:

Image quality varies, mostly with age. The main body of these cartoons, especially the ones distributed by RKO (prior to 1954), while without scratches or dirt and while the color and contrast is always good, still appear noisy – either from more grain than we're used to or from overprinting. Whatever the reason, they are less than pristine. The Mickey Mouse Works cartoons, on the other hand, are stunning: entirely without noise or blemishes. The art work is evidently not painted and has a translucent quality about it that clearly sets it apart from the Technicolor efforts of the 1950s. I'm not saying I prefer these, only that they are so remarkably different. In any case, the target audience is younger, and their naiveté is refreshing.

The CinemaScope cartons are very good. Shown in 2.40:1 anamorphic renderings some of these, especially the first one, Grand Canyonscope, is still stunning to look at. By the way, this is the only piece I noticed whose backgrounds were created by Eyvind Earle, the same man who was responsible for Sleeping Beauty, and the resemblance shows. If you've never seen this piece, you owe yourself one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music:

The RKO cartoons are nicely preserved in basic 2-channel mono. I suppose the dialogue is clear, I couldn't say. Without subtitles I'm unsure. Things change with CinemaScope, which incorporates stereophonic sound by default. We're still at 2.0 but the improvement in clarity is noticeable – not because it's in stereo, but because greater care was necessary, and taken. The audio, both music and dialogue, is bumped a couple of points further for the Mickey Mouse Works material.

 

Operations:

The rather pedestrian menu permits access to cartoon titles three ways: alphabetically, chronologically, and a few that are thought to be worrisome for today's young children, so they're located in the Vault.

 

 


I find these Walt Disney Treasure Tins are among the least user-friendly ideas to come along the home video front. At least you can take the enclosed DVD case out of the tin and file it. The problem with the tin is that it has no identification on the spine, so what are we to do with it?

 

Extras:

There are three main Extra Features (in addition to the Mickey Mouse Works cartoons): Donald Goes to Press looks at Donald as he appeared in comics. Bob Foster, Bret Blevin and Brian Sibley discuss how Donald the comic is differentiated from Donald the cartoon. In The Unseen Donald Duck, Leonard Maltin invites storyboard artist Eric Goldberg to talk about what he knows best. Both of these featurettes are aided by considerable amount of artwork, and both are worth your trouble. There are also Audio Commentaries by Maltin & Jerry Beck on: Working for Peanuts (because it was made in 3D, though not rendered in 3D on the DVD) and Grand Canyonscope, Disney's first venture into the new widescreen medium – even predating the release of the feature film Lady & the Tramp.

You'll find an area on the Main Menu called "From the Vault" which is Disney's way of culling out potentially objectionable cartoons on PC grounds. Maltin introduces these briefly with a disclaimer (far less insulting than the one that appears in front Warner features and extras) and an invitation for the adults to watch these with their children and encourage discussion. It's a nice touch, though I confess I failed to pick up on whatever might have been problematic with Rugged Bear, a clever title as you shall see.

Speaking of Maltin, when a dinosaur scrambles out of the Grand Canyon, he observes in his otherwise informative commentary on Grand Canyonscope "Maybe he's left over from Fantasia." Not very funny, and misses the point entirely. Makes one wonder about what else he's missing.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
I must admit that I had never taken Donald Duck seriously as a cartoon protagonist. But having to write this review, I discovered what I find so endearing: he is less heroic, less sneaky, yet more split in his loyalties. Donald is more like us than the other guys. In a word, he's more adult. Worthy, if skimpy, extra features and the rarely seen Mickey Mouse Works cartoons round out this well-produced 2-DVD tin.

Leonard Norwitz
November 16th, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 





 

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