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Vintage Mickey

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // July 12, 2005
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted July 3, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Shorts

Perhaps more appropriate for animation enthusiasts than their movie-hungry children, Vintage Mickey is a fantastic collection of nine old-school classics from the Disney vaults. It's tough to say if children raised on the colorful splendor and ingenuity of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the Pixar films will be able to sit still through this 65-minute compilation -- but for those who love the art of animation in general, and Disney history in particular, this DVD is a wonderful (and inexpensive!) little treat.

We begin where all Mickey Mouse discussion should logically begin:

Steamboat Willie (Dir: Ub Iwerks, 1928) Here it is: the celebrated debut of the now-legendary Mickey Mouse. Our favorite animated rodent has a grand old time aboard a rickety steamboat as he and Minnie get musical while pounding on a variety of farm animals. (7:41)

Plane Crazy (Ub Iwerks, 1928) Inspired by the exploits of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Mickey and his barnyard pals put together an airplane so the mouse and his girlfriend can enjoy a rather chaotic ride. When Mickey's amorous advances are rebuffed, he gets angry and inspires Minnie to leap off of the plane! (5:56)

The Karnival Kid (Ub Iwerks, 1929) Random Mickey nuttiness at the carnival. Here he's working as a hot dog vendor who incurs the wrath of an unhappy dance hall manager. Then he's offering a strangely sentient hot dog treat to Ms. Minne. The adventures close with a serenade from two bedraggled pussycats. Also worthy of note: Mickey speaks for the first time in this short -- with a voice contributed by Walt Disney himself. (7:38)

The Birthday Party (Ub Iwerks, 1931) Mickey is thrown a rollicking surprise party by his animal pals. Minnie presents her man with a lovely new piano, and the rest of the shindig is wall-to-wall music, dancing, and general merrymaking. (7:27)

The Castaway (Wilfred Jackson, 1931) Mickey is washed ashore on a deserted island, where he dines on bananas, discovers a water-logged piano, and performs a concerto for a trio of hungry seals. It doesn't take long for a mischievous tiger cub and a long-limbed gorilla get into the act. (7:23)

Mickey's Orphans (Burt Gillett, 1931) Mickey and Minnie are enjoying a very cozy Christmas Eve together (along with their dog Pluto, in what I believe is his debut appearance!) when a mysterious figure leaves a basket of kittens on their snowy doorstep. The newborn kitties promptly proceed to turn a quiet holiday evening into a night of unmitigated chaos! (7:04)

Mickey's Revue (Wilfred Jackson, 1932) Mickey conducts the orchestra while a bunch of the animals put on a variety show for an appreciative audience. But, again, that deluge of pesky kittens hits the scene, thereby creating all sorts of mayhem. (6:54)

Building a Building (David Hand, 1933) Mickey's hard at work on a construction crew, but (logically) becomes distracted when Minnie stops by to sell her box lunches. And when break-time hits, the furious foreman takes a shine to Ms. Minnie -- and earns a chaotic comeuppance for his behavior. (7:11)

Mickey's Steam Roller (David Hand, 1934) Mickey's found himself a job driving a steamroller, but he unwisely decides to take his baby nephews for a ride. The mischievous mini-mice end up trapped on the runaway roller, and cutting a huge line of destruction wherever they go. (6:53)

Clearly these are not exactly what you'd call "plot-driven" animated shorts -- but that's not exactly a criticism. We're talking about the infancy of the American animation industry, and when watched with that perspective, the shorts included on Vintage Mickey are pretty darn impressive. Despite the obvious scratches and "flaws," Disney's earliest cartoons contain the exact same charm as his later classics.

One would be interested to note that this earliest incarnation of Mickey Mouse is, well, he's pretty darn callous to his fellow farm animals! More than half of these shorts feature Mickey beating on his friends -- or using them as musical instruments. I guess good ol' Mickey lost some of his edge as he grew a little older, but these early shorts make for a great little slice of animation history.

A note to the collectors out there: If you already own both volumes of "Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey in Black and White" series, then you (obviously) already own all nine of these shorts. The Castaway and Mickey's Steam Roller are on Volume 2; the other seven shorts are on Volume 1. But if you don't own these (somewhat pricey) limited edition releases, then the 12 bucks you'll drop for the single-disc Vintage Mickey is like a donation to the Animation Hall of Fame.

The DVD

Video: Full frame all the way, of course, and Steamboat Willie even comes encased in a smaller box-shaped presentation. All the scratches and minor animation glitches serve to add some old-school charm to the cartoons. Considering the age of these shorts, the visual presentation is pretty darn impressive.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, which brings the music-laden adventures home in fine aural form. Optional English subtitles are available ... not that there's all that much dialogue to worry about.

Extras: Just a collection of Disney trailers for Cinderella: Special Edition, Old Yeller: Special Edition, Chicken Little, and Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. You'll also find two promotional clips for Disneyland 50 and the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Celebration CD.

Final Thoughts

Who could have believed that one teeny little mouse on a steamboat would lead to an empire like Disney's? Well, nobody, that's who. But here you can enjoy the very first adventures of everyone's favorite animated rodent -- and you can do it for less than 15 bucks. Sure, a few historical supplements would have been a nice inclusion, but that material is apparently reserved for the "Collector's Tins." But the "average joe" DVD buyer / animation fan will undoubtedly want to add Vintage Mickey to their collection all the same.

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Highly Recommended

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