Disney has released several of their most beloved animation classics on DVD in their new Animation Collection of Classic Short Films. The first three volumes featured adored characters such as Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck, and several other well known favorites. While Volumes 4, 5 and 6 don’t feature the iconic characters, they offer several memorable stories and loveable characters that stand the test of time. Whether you’re a fan of Disney classics such as these, or you’re looking for something different to watch and entertain the family, these new DVDs are definitely worth looking into.
The main feature on Volume Four is the 1935 classic, “The Tortoise and the Hare”. Disney’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” is the memorable telling of Toby Tortoise and Max Hare, who compete in a race. Max Hare is the likely winner, but his ego is always getting in the way and he stops to flirt and show off while Toby Tortoise does his best to make it to the finish line before his competitor. Toby Tortoise and Max Hare make another appearance on this DVD in “Toby Tortoise Returns” where the two end up boxing. Also included on Volume Four are several other short films that tie in nicely with “The Tortoise and the Hare” and each other. The films included are: “Babes in the Woods”, “The Saga of Windwagon Smith”, “The Goddess of Spring”, and “Paul Bunyan”.
“Babes in the Woods” is a take on Hansel and Gretel from the “Silly Symphonies” series in 1932. Also from “Silly Symphonies” in 1934, “The Goddess of Spring” has stretches of beautiful animation that tells a story of how we get our seasons. The 1958 animated short, “Paul Bunyan” is the well known tale about the life of lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his Ox, Babe. He eventually races against the new chainsaw that threatens to takeover the old way of doing things. The look of the animation here is some of the most enjoyable and memorable, as are the songs.
“The Saga of Windwagon Smith” brings to life the new animation and music of the early sixties. “The Saga of Windwagon Smith” is certainly one of the more humorous and interesting shorts that follows a sea captain who travels the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails at the helm of a wagon topped with Sails. Captain Smith thinks a regular wagon will take too long, so he decided to use the prairie winds to take him along the trail. He quickly convinces the townspeople to sign up and finances his wind wagon. When he sets off, he encounters a tornado that takes him West (he calls it a hurricane). Several of these shorts have a somewhat bittersweet ending, which again complements the fact that they’re included in the same volume.
Volume Five features the beloved classic, “Wind in the Willows”. Watching it now, “Wind in the Willows” feels far more relevant today then when I watched it as a child. J. Thaddeus Toad has a problem spending money on any new hobby or object that catches his eye. Due to his frivolous spending habits, he’s in danger of going bankrupt and losing his home that’s been in his family for years. Toad gets into some mischief when he becomes determined to have a motorcar (despite having just acquired a new coach). His friends, Ratty, Moley and Angus MacBadger try and help him change his ways, but nothing they say or do seems to help. It’s only when Toad is wrongfully accused of stealing a motorcar and nearly losing his house, that he finally starts to understand what his friends were warning him about…or does he? “Wind in the Willows” is a classic story that still resonates today and is certainly worth a look.
Also included on Volume Five are: “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Robber Kitten”, “The Grasshopper and the Ants”, “The Wise Little Hen” and “The Golden Touch”. “The Ugly Duckling” follows the adorable duckling who isn’t like the rest of his family or even accepted by them, so he sets off to find a place where he can belong. “The Robber Kitten” is a story of a kitten who imagines being a robber - but when he takes playing make believe to a new level, he runs into trouble with a real robber. “The Grasshopper and the Ants” follows a lighthearted grasshopper who merrily goes about his day playing his fiddle and singing. When he meets some ants, he sees how hard they work all day and tries to convince them to stop and enjoy singing and dancing instead. He’s eventually warned by the queen ant that he‘ll regret not working when winter comes. Grasshopper ignores her warnings, but when winter arrives he’s faced with no food and no warmth. The ants take him in, but on one condition, he must play his fiddle as work for the warmth and food.
“The Wise Little Hen” is the story of a hen who needs help planting and picking her corn. When Donald Duck and Peter Pig tell her their stomachs hurt and can’t help, she ends up planting and picking the corn on her own. When she arrives to offer them some food she’s made with her corn, they think she’s come for help again and fake stomach aches. “The Wise Little Hen” is a marvelous story of helping others and shows how clever the little Hen is when she finds out Donald and Peter were faking. “The Golden Touch” is the story of Midas who asks a magical elf to give him the power to turn anything he touches to gold. At first Midas is excited about his new found riches, but when he suddenly realizes that he can’t eat because all of his food has turned to gold, he’s far less enthusiastic about the value of gold.
Volume Five is one of the more cohesive and interesting animation collections in classic short films series. With focus on greed, laziness, and the value of hard work, this collection is definitely worth more than one look.
“The Reluctant Dragon” is featured on Volume Six. “The Reluctant Dragon” definitely takes me back to when I was younger and watched this animated short with my cousin. It’s a very endearing about a young boy who takes it upon himself to battle the dragon that the townspeople fear. He makes his way atop a hill and instead of finding a fire breathing, harmful dragon he discovers that the dragon is very kind and likes to spend his time reading and writing poetry. The young boy and the knight decide to convince the dragon that he must fight, or else he’ll disappoint the villagers. When he refuses, they convince him of a way to make it look like a real fight is taking place, where after the knight will reform the dragon so he can live amongst the townspeople in peace. One of the best parts of this short film is when the knight and the dragon pretend to battle.
Also included on Volume Six are: “Goliath II”, “Ferdinand the Bull” and “Johnny Appleseed”. “Ferdinand the Bull” has similarities to “The Reluctant Dragon” seeing as how Ferdinand isn’t like the other bulls since he’d rather spend time smelling the flowers than fighting in bull fights. In “Goliath II”, Goliath II is a tiny elephant whose father is ashamed of his small son, but whose mother believes in him despite his small stature. Goliath II tries his best to impress his dad, but he ends up getting into trouble because he’s so small. Finally, one day he gets the chance to stand up to a mouse and change the way his dad and the rest of the elephants see him. “Johnny Appleseed” is a telling of real life John Chapman who planted seeds across America after being visited by an Angel. The matte paintings and animation here are vibrant and the story is remarkable and enjoyable to watch.
Volume Six once again manages to provide a solid group of classic short films. Volumes Four, Five and Six are definitely worth a look because they not only provide wonderful stories that never fail to entertain, but they also offer life lessons that are told in wonderful ways that only Disney can.
If you’re looking for classic tales told with beautiful animation and loveable, memorable characters, then you’ll definitely want to check out Disney’s new Animation Collection of Classic Short Films. Each volume offers a fine collection of beloved classics and all are combined in a solid group of complimentary stories.
VIDEO: The shorts are presented by Disney in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Although there is some minor-to-mild wear visible on a few occasions, these shorts otherwise look to have received excellent treatment over the years, appearing mostly clean. Sharpness and detail are respectable (considering the age of the shorts) and colors look crisp and nicely saturated.
SOUND: The shorts are presented in Dolby 2.0. Audio quality is satisfactory, as although the shorts sounded their age, there were no instances of distortion or other sound quality problems.
EXTRAS: The DVD’s don’t include any special features except for Sneak Peeks from the studio. Each DVD includes a collectible litho print from the film.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Disney Movie Rewards
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Tigger Movie: 10th Anniversary Special Edition”
“Race to Witch Mountain”
“Princes Protection Program”
“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”
“The Black Cauldron: Special Edition”
Final Thoughts: Fans of these classic shorts should be quite pleased by these terrific collections. Recommended.