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Walt Disney Treasures: Silly Symphonies

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // December 4, 2001
List Price: $32.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 26, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"Walt Disney Treasures" is another example of Disney's recent attempts to go back to the vaults and present some of their finest early efforts together on DVD. There aren't several single discs to buy; the features are all put together quite wonderfully on a two-disc set that is housed in an elegant tin. This particular set offers Disney's "Silly Symphony" cartoons, produced from 1929-1939. While the initial reaction to the idea of these cartoons was not entirely positive, the cartoons were widely praised upon released, with six of these cartoons winning Academy Awards.

Fables and Fairy Tales: Mother Goose Melodies, Babes in the Woods, Lullaby Land, The Flying Mouse, The Golden Touch, The Robber Kitten, Elmer Elephant, The Country Cousin, and The Tortoise and the Hare. Favorite Characters: Three Little Pigs, The Wise Little Hen, Three Little Wolves, Toby Tortoise Returns, and The Big Bad Wolf. Leonard Maltin's Picks: The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Flying Mouse, The Country Cousin, Wynken Blynken and Nod, and The Three Little Pigs.

Accent on Music: The Skeleton Dance, The China Plate, Egyptian Melodies, Flowers and Trees, The Cookie Carnival, Music Land, and Woodland Café. Nature on the Screen: Birds of a Feather, The Busy Beavers, The Ugly Duckling (1931), Just Dogs, Father Noah's Ark, Funny Little Bunnies, Peculiar Penguins, Mother Pluto, The Old Mill, and The Ugly Duckling (1939). Leonard Maltin's Picks II: The Skeleton Dance, Flowers and Trees, Music Land, and The Ugly Duckling.

All of the tins are limited edition. This does not mean limited edition in the way that some of the Disney cartoons have been released; these are literally limited to 150,000 - the exact number each copy is is imprinted on the tin itself. Other studios should really use something similar to these tins with future box sets. There's been too many box sets lately that are released in cardboard slip-cases. The tins look nicer on the shelf and are certainly more sturdy.


VIDEO: All of the cartoons shown here are offered in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratios. With the other edition that I've reviewed of the "Walt Disney Treasures" series ("Mickey Mouse in Living Color") those cartoons ranged in age from the mid-to-late 30's. These cartoons go back as far as the late 20's. While most of these cartoons appeared in suprisingly good shape after all these years, as with the "Mickey Mouse" set, there are some concerns that pop up. Sharpness and detail seemed fine, as the cartoons looked crisp and clear; what details the animation did offer where visible.

Where the problems arose were with some other issues. Colors could tend to waiver a bit, but usually appeared bright and crisp. Print flaws generally remained a small, but noticable issue - on occasion, some specks and the occasional mark could be seen, as well as some noticable grain. No pixelation or other flaws appeared throughout the programs that I noticed.

Overall, as with the "Mickey" series, these cartoons had their fair share of little blemishes, but considering the age of these features, I was definitely still pleased, as they looked better than I'd have expected.

SOUND: All of the cartoons are presented in mono audio. As with the picture quality, the sound occasionally does show its age, if not terribly. The score and general music that was presented in the cartoons sounded clear and reasonably crisp, but as with the rest of the elements, they could also sound a bit thin and edgy. While the sound quality was never uncomfortable to listen to, it was apparent that the sound could be somewhat weak at times.

MENUS: The menus are basic, but fun and nicely animated, with music in the background (although one may get a bit irritated by the music if its left on).

EXTRAS: Leonard Maltin offers the same introduction at the begining of both discs. Disc one offers a small group of additional features: highlighting one of the birds above the titles in the "Favorite Characters" menu as well as the "S" in "Symphonies" both reveal hidden featurettes. An additional featurette is available from highlighting "Leonard" from the "Leonard's Favorites" menu. There's probably additional hidden easter eggs that I've missed.

The second disc has an actual section for supplemental features. The first of these features is "Song of the Silly Symphonies", which is an interview with famed composer Richard Sherman and film critic/historian Maltin. They talk about the begining of this series with "The Skeleton Dance" and then the importance and role of music in animation. There's some terrific insights and stories, as Sherman discusses working with Walt Disney. This featurette runs 11 minutes and 41 seconds.

The second featurette included is "Silly Symphonies Souvenirs", which is a 17 minute featurette with Maltin and the head of the Walt Disney Archives. The two take a look at some of the merchandise of the "Silly Symphonies" series, showing that there was promotion of these cartoons, even way back when. While I didn't find this featurette as interesting as the one that came before it, I still thought it was neat to see all the toys and other items that were produced for these shows.

Last, but not least, there's an extensive gallery of various images (concept drawings, production stills, posters and other promotional art) related to the "Silly Symphonies". While I'm not too big a fan of galleries like this in general, it's always fascinating to see material like some of the drawings and posters that were produced around 70 years ago.

Final Thoughts: Although it may be a bit steep at $32.99, this particular "Walt Disney Treasures" set offers some real gems, all available in one set, complete with generally good audio/video. There's not much in the way of supplements, but cartoon fans will likely enjoy the opportunity to own these rare efforts all in one two-disc set. The classy tins also make nice gifts. Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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