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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares (Blu-ray)
Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares (Blu-ray)
Thunderbean // Unrated // August 2, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $17.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 3, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Cartoons:

Thunderbean has long been the go-to source for quality classic animation. They've released a collection of Famous Studios' Noveltoons, a disc of Oswald short from Lantz Studio Treasures, and several discs of Van Beuren releases including complete collections of The Little King and Tom and Jerry (not the cat and mouse, the other animated Tom and Jerry). Thunderbean searches out rare and unusual animated films, cleans them up, and releases some of the best animation DVDs. With Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares they release their first Blu-ray collection of cartoons, and what an impressive set it is. Filled with wonderful movies and some gorgeous transfers, this is a must-buy for even casual animation fans.

 

This collection is pretty impressive when you just read to list of 14 shorts that are included: there's an early color cartoon that used the Brewster Color process, a pre-Mickey Mouse Walt Disney work, silent films, a Fantasia-like animation set to classical music, and the first color rendition of The Wizard of Oz. The creators included in this collection are a stellar bunch including Walter Lantz, Cy Young (who would work for Disney on such projects as Snow White, Dumbo, and Fantasia), and Bill Hanna (who would later co-create the cat-and-mouse Tom & Jerry with partner Joseph Barbera). There is a lot of quality animation here, most of it sadly forgotten.

There are several highlights but one of my favorite cartoons is the beautiful Technicolor film To Spring, presented in a high-quality version at last. This MGM short is wonderful to watch: colorful, entertaining, and beautiful. It tells the semi-humorous story of gnomes living underground who bring the world back to life every spring. This year, Winter doesn't want to go and fights back. The scenes where the gnomes are digging and processing colorful ores to create all of the scenes of the rainbow is magnificent, and the running gag of the gnome who can't dress himself works well too. It's a fun short that proves not only Disney could make impressive animation.



There are also three (!) shorts created by animator Ted Eshbaugh. Though he's largely forgotten today, Eshbaugh made some very impressive movies, as the trio on this disc attest. First is The Snowman from 1931. Filmed in Technicolor (though rarely shown in color today... it's usually found in black and white) it tells the story of a animals that team up to build a snowman, only to have it come to life and terrorize them. The creative short looked fine in B&W, but it really comes to life in color.

Eshbaugh also directed Tea Pot Town, an advertising film made to promote the pick-me-up qualities of tea, is a fun little romp. A real treat however is Eshbaugh's Wizard of Oz. With a script penned by L. Frank Baum's son and vibrant Technicolor animation, this adventure in the magical land of Oz begins with Dorothy, in drab sepia-toned B&W, living in the 'real' world until a tornado picks up her house and flies her to Oz. As she falls into the fantasy land, she becomes a full-color character. It's a great effect and one that MGM would use in their famous live-action version that was released six years after this film was completed.


 
There are two Tom and Jerry cartoons made by Van Beuren Studios. I've enjoyed most of the shorts in this series, that these two (A Swiss Trick and The Magic Mummy) are no exception. The two main characters live in a world that's just a little off kilter. They ride on a train the steams up a nearly vertical mountain, with cars that tilt so that passengers are always level. There are villains who steal multiple mummies from museums so that they can listen to them sing. While you're watching them they seem like regular gag-filled shorts, but afterwards it starts to dawn that they're just a little bit strange.


The cartoons included in this collection are:

Dolly Doings (1917)
The Wrong Track (1920)
Alice Rattled by Rats! (1925)
Playing With Fire (1925)
Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1928)
Mendelssohn's Spring Song (1931)
The Bandmaster (1931)
The Snowman (1931)
A Swiss Trick (1931)
The Wizard of Oz (1932/33)
The Magic Mummy (1933)
Tea Pot Town (1935)
To Spring (1936)
The Enchanted Square (1947)


The Blu-ray:


This combo pack arrives in a standard double-disc Blu-ray case with a Blu-ray and DVD. Each disc has the same content, with the exception of some additional extras included on the DVD but not the BR. There's also an eight-page insert with liner notes that is very informative.

Video:

I've seen a couple of these before (and only a couple... which means there are some rare cartoons included here) and I've never seen them look as good as they do here. Some of you will be familiar with The Wizard of Oz (1932/33) cartoon which was include with the "70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition" release of the classic Judy Garland film. The version that Warners put on that set was in color, but the tones had faded. The copy on this disc however really pops! The colors are bright and vibrant and are incredibly impressive. The difference is like day and night.

I had also seen Eshbaugh's The Snowman, but only in black and white, so this original color version was a revelation. The only other film I'd seen was To Spring. For the life of me I can't find the DVD that contains this short, it's most likely on one of the many collections of public domain cartoons that I've acquired over the years or else as an extra included with a full length movie. While it was in glorious color on the not-to-be-found disc, it was plagued by heavy compression artifacts, something that bothered me to no end. I can't describe how tickled I am to finally have a good version of this favorite of mine.

The rest of the films look very good too, especially when you realize that some of the films date back nearly 100 years. A lot of time and effort went into mastering the disc as compression artifacts and digital defects are not present. Aliasing, something that tends to plague animation when it's converted to a digital file, is happily absent. Overall this is a wonderful looking set.

Audio:

The audio (mostly music) is fine. The soundtracks taken from the prints are occasionally a bit scratchy and there is some hiss present in a few, but overall the quality is pretty good.

Extras:

There are some great extras included with this combo set. In addition to the 8-page insert with information on the films, there are a good number of on-disc extras. The Blu-ray includes some nice rarities like Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid, a film shown to possible investors to raise money for the Bosko animated shorts. It's a fun cartoon, showing Bosko's real-life animator drawing him on an easel and then interacting with the newly-created drawing. There are also some neat cartoons advertising Coke the Walter Lantz made. Next up is a copy of a Tea Pot Town promotional coloring book (so kids learn the advantages of tea at an early age presumably), and the Blu-ray extras are rounded off with a short photo gallery.


 
That was honestly more than I was expecting, but popping in the DVD reveals more goodies. There are several cartoons included on the DVD (in SD, naturally) which are generally in rougher shape than those featured in the main program. That's fine... I'd much rather have these than not. The bonus cartoons include:

The Hasher's Delirium (1910) - a nice mix of drawn and stop-motion animation
The Great Cheese Robbery (1920) - Krazy Kat
Dog Gone (1926) - from the Mutt and Jeff series
The Wild Goose Chase (1932) - a Van Beuren cartoon
Simple Simon (1935) - An Ub Iwerks creation

Final Thoughts:

There are no two ways about it, this is a great collection! Filled with rare, odd (in a good way) and wonderful cartoons this is a must-buy for anyone who has the slightest interest in animation. Not only are the cartoons included in the main program great, but there is some really good odds and ends that are found in the extras menu. Well worth seeking out. Highly Recommended.
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