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Yahoo! It seems Disney has finally announced the next set of 'Walt Disney Treasures' DVDs ... and finally, one of 'em's devoted to Donald Duck!

(Some of the earlier cartoons in which Donald co-starred, including his very first appearance ever in 'The Wise Little Hen', have already been made available on the Silly Symphonies and Mickey Mouse DVD sets -- and of course he is also featured in the 1940s feature films Saludos Amigos!, The Three Caballeros, Fun and Fancy Free and Melody Time.)

Apparently Disney is releasing four new sets on December 2 -- Chronological Donald, Mickey Mouse in Living Color Part 2, On the Front Lines and Walt's Tomorrowland. I never got the Complete Davy Crockett or Disneyland USA sets, so I can probably do without the Tomorrowland set, but the first two sound right up my alley, and so does the third, I think.

(Hmmm, on second thought, it seems Tomorrowland will be a collection of 1950s Disney TV specials devoted to the subject of space travel, etc. That could be VERY interesting, from an archival point of view anyway.)

Combine this with the four-disc Looney Tunes set coming out October 28, and we animation buffs could have a lot to feast on this winter. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Picked up the Looney Tunes set today. Hoo boy.

Y'know, I could quibble and quibble with their selections -- I mean, really, 56 cartoons and no What's Opera Doc? no One Froggy Evening? -- but once again, I've gotta say, Warner Bros. (the studio that did such a fantastic job with the two-disc sets for Singin' in the Rain and The Adventures of Robin Hood) has put together a wonderful stash of extras. And I'm saying this purely based on the first disc -- I haven't even checked out the other three yet.

Since I assume it's only a matter of time until they release the other classic cartoons too, I'll just focus on all the fun bonuses for now, rather than on what got left out.

Let's start with the menu design. It's perfect! You can select 'Play All', OR you can go to a list of all the cartoons, with buttons next to the titles indicating which cartoons have music-only tracks (I may have to rip these and make a CD mixing these with tracks from Bugs Bunny on Broadway and the Carl Stalling Project CDs), historian commentaries, or special featurettes, OR you can go to separate menu screens for each of those features -- music tracks, commentaries, featurettes -- and select individual shorts or 'Play All' as you will. Very easy to navigate.

Then, the extras. In addition to the items listed above, the first disc has a 1991 cartoon called Blooper Bunny, and it's pretty funny -- an exquisite mix of 2-D and computerized 3-D animation that feels perfectly of a piece with the original cartoons yet also has the realistic back-stage feel of Roger Rabbit; amazing to think this pre-dated the Pixar blooper-reel thing by seven years. So you COULD say there are actually at least 57, not 56, cartoons on this disc.

The first disc also features part one of a 1971 TV special on the Warner Bros. cartoons hosted by John Canemaker -- and yowzah! after seeing him do the wise-old-cartoon-historian thing on a bunch of Disney DVDs, it's a bit of a shock to see him when he was young (possibly even younger than I am now?) and had even less grey hair than I do.

And then, of course, there is even MORE archival animation footage, including the interstitial material from an episode of the Bugs Bunny Show that ran in the '60s and '70s (I didn't recognize any of it except for the opening and closing vaudeville song-and-dance routines, but oh, what Saturday-morning memories those clips brought back), and clips from two 1940s live-action films in which an animated Bugs made cameo appearances (in one of these clips, we even see Doris Day dancing around in a bunny suit with big floppy ears and feet).

Now THIS is how you do a DVD set!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Hey Peter, what are your thoughts about the On The Front Lines Treasures set? I think it looks really interesting. Old propaganda films have always been interesting to me.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Anders wrote:

: Hey Peter, what are your thoughts about the On The Front Lines

: Treasures set? I think it looks really interesting.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to that one, too.

: Old propaganda films have always been interesting to me.

Yeah, same here. I have a VHS with some of those old 'March of Time' news featurettes from World War II -- very interesting. And then, of course, there are the old cartoons that no one watches any more because of their anti-German or anti-Japanese elements. Actually, one of the documentaries on the Looney Tunes DVD includes clips from a cartoon in which some cartoon gremlins attack Adolf Hitler; I'd like to see more of those.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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On my computer I have the Bugs Bunny/Hitler cartoon as well as Walt Disney's The Making of a Nazi. Facinating stuff. I suppose many of my old Max Fleicher Superman cartoons would count as well, what with titles like "The Japoteurs" or "The Eleventh Hour" in which Superman proceeds to demolish the Japanese fleet at Yokohama.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Speaking of Looney Tunes. I have read a couple of questions regarding whether the dvd version was going to be cut or uncut.

Maybe it's ignorance on my behalf. But is there anything controversial in any of the cartoons that would warrant such a query?

I know that there has been some controversary over the violence over the years. But is there something else I am missing?

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Anders wrote:

: On my computer I have the Bugs Bunny/Hitler cartoon as well as Walt

: Disney's The Making of a Nazi. Facinating stuff.

I can imagine. FWIW, the Looney Tunes set doesn't have any war cartoons per se, but the third disc DOES have a 45-minute episode of some cartoon show that features excerpts from a Bugs Bunny war-bonds-promo cartoon, a 'Private SNAFU' cartoon (sexier and more profane than anything the public ever got to see), and a couple other similar items.

movielover71 wrote:

: Speaking of Looney Tunes. I have read a couple of questions regarding

: whether the dvd version was going to be cut or uncut.

Well, FWIW, the back of the box says "Completely Uncut."

Mind you, the Disney Silly Symphonies set said more or less the same thing, but the version of The Three Little Pigs that appeared on that set was actually the 1950s version which replaced a few shots of the Big Bad Wolf dressed as an ethnic Jewish stereotype with a few shots of the Big Bad Wolf dressed as a Fuller brush salesman. Then again, the only reason I even know that the ethnic-stereotype version exists is because the DVD includes an intro by Leonard Maltin in which he not only talks about this deleted footage, but we actually see the bulk of it.

: Maybe it's ignorance on my behalf. But is there anything controversial in

: any of the cartoons that would warrant such a query?

Haven't watched any of the cartoons myself yet, but there might be.

: I know that there has been some controversary over the violence over

: the years. But is there something else I am missing?

Well, over the years, people have gotten twitchy because they feared that Speedy Gonzales was a negative Mexican stereotype (as if! dudes, he's the hero!), or because they disliked the alleged sexist stereotypes (like when Witch Hazel accidentally transforms herself into a sexy she-bunny, and Bugs walks off with her and says to the camera, "Yeah, I know, but aren't they ALL witches inside?"), and so on. Nobody really debates the fact cthat there was an element of racist propaganda to the films made during World War II (e.g. in 1943's Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves, an ad for 'Murder Inc.' declares, "We rub out anybody $1.00; Midgets 1/2 price; Japs FREE!"), but there IS some controversy over these other, more contentious matters.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This is as good a thread as any ...

Has anyone else here caught the previews for Looney Tunes: Back in Action yet? I liked the film, myself, but probably not enough to pick up the DVD. (I said "probably.") The film is directed by Joe Dante, so it's got that iffy mix of things that work and things that don't work that has affected some of his other films -- and thanks to a Michael Jordan cameo it doesn't quite expunge the abominable Space Jam from my memory -- but it's clear that Dante understands this material well enough to be true to the SPIRIT of the old Looney Tunes without making himself a slave to the forms in which that spirit has expressed itself in the past; in other words, he doesn't recycle too many old gags. (Trivia note: the late, great animator Chuck Jones had cameo appearances in Dante's Gremlins (1984) and InnerSpace (1987).)

In addition to the old Looney Tunes, this film spoofs everything from James Bond flicks (Timothy Dalton plays a spy who poses as a movie star who plays a spy) to the Mummy flicks (Brendan Fraser plays a would-be stunt-man who says he did all of Brendan Fraser's stunts in those movies) to old B-movies to the Scooby-Doo movies, with throwaway you-have-to-pay-close-attention-to-the-background details such as a movie poster for Hoppin' in the Rain, etc. The film is kinda like what Who Framed Roger Rabbit might have been like if it had been an exclusive Warner Brothers party set in the present day.

My main complaint, I think, would be that Steve Martin's character, who runs the nefarious Acme corporation, is too over-the-top in his efforts to act cartoonish -- I think comedies work better when you can take the bad guy seriously (a la Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester). Oh, and the Heather Locklear sequence did nothing for me at all.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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Just another note to say that I've finally gone through the audio commentaries on the first disc, and wow, they're better than I thought -- I was thinking it wouldn't be much fun listening to a historian yak and yak through these cartoons, but quite a few of the commentaries actually include INTERVIEW EXCERPTS from interviews these historians did with Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Carl Stalling and perhaps others before they died. So, wow, there's some pretty informative stuff here, and we're getting it straight from the legendary artists themselves. Listening to these feels like eavesdropping on another journalist's notes -- the stuff you normally keep to yourself while you polish off your article. I can't think of any other commentary I've heard that comes even close to resembling this, except for the Walt Disney track edited together from archival recordings by John Canemaker for the Fantasia DVD.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I was wondering what Rosenbaum would say, and I'm not surprised he liked it -- I remember him singing Joe Dante's praises back when he made Small Soldiers. I've gotta love any film review that references Bob Hope's Son of Paleface (directed by Frank Tashlin, a former Looney Tunes animator). And hey, and I've got that Beck/Friedwald book that Rosenbaum cites, too!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

: Apparently Disney is releasing four new sets on December 2 --

: Chronological Donald, Mickey Mouse in Living Color Part 2, On the Front

: Lines and Walt's Tomorrowland.

Aw, man! Apparently Disney has broken with tradition and postponed all four of these sets -- according to Amazon, they will not be released in December of this year, but are now all scheduled to be released IN MAY 2004. Grrrr. What's the hold-up?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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In addition to the old Looney Tunes, this film spoofs everything from James Bond flicks (Timothy Dalton plays a spy who poses as a movie star who plays a spy) to the Mummy flicks (Brendan Fraser plays a would-be stunt-man who says he did all of Brendan Fraser's stunts in those movies) to old B-movies to the Scooby-Doo movies, with throwaway you-have-to-pay-close-attention-to-the-background details such as a movie poster for Hoppin' in the Rain, etc. The film is kinda like what Who Framed Roger Rabbit might have been like if it had been an exclusive Warner Brothers party set in the present day.

Yet again we have another one of those "let's do a movie that spoofs another movie".

I don't have anything against this per say. But can such spoofs often be the death of a movie? I guess it depends if you've seen those movies that they are spoofing. If you have, then you may laugh yourself silly. But if you haven't, you maybe sitting there scratching your head and saying "I don't get it."

I haven't seen this movie. But as a lover of the old Looney Tunes cartoons, I'm sure I will find it fun to watch.

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Mark Steyn's year-end wrap-up begins by singing the Looney Tunes boxed set's praises:

- - -

My favourite screen experience in 2003 was Looney Tunes. No, not Looney Tunes -- Back In Action, this year's big-screen feature in which Warner Brothers demonstrate that they haven't a clue what to do with one of the most glorious franchises in motion pictures other than dilute it by tossing in already forgotten hot names like that gal from "Dharma & Greg" -- or is it "Will & Grace"? No, I'm talking about the 4-DVD set, The Looney Tunes Golden Collection, which came out in October and I've been watching more or less ever since -- hence, the Wile E Coyote references in my review of Brother Bear. For some reason, it's not yet available on British-format DVD, but order the US set and buy a special player. Or wait till George W Bush invades and makes you forcibly convert to NTSC, which always sounds like a sinister Washington national security acronym anyway.

Chuck Jones is rightly hailed as the pre-eminent genius of the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies stable. He directed the great Bugs-meets-Wagner opus "What's Opera, Doc?" and "One Froggy Evening", which Spielberg calls the Citizen Kane of animation and whose "Hello, Ma Baby!" sequence Mel Brooks paid hommage to in Space Balls. (Neither of them are included here, presumably because they're destined for Vol II.) But look at Looney Tunes' under-rated Number Two helmer, Fritz Freling. I don't think there's a funnier six minutes in motion pictures than "High Diving Hare", in which a high-dive act fails to show up and Yosemite Sam demands Bugs Bunny take his place. No matter how often Sam forces Bugs up the ladder and on to the diving board, somehow it's always Sam who ends up plunging off and into the tub of water, or in the general vicinity thereof. I especially enjoy the bit where Bugs forgets to refill the tub and so throws the water over after Sam's halfway down. The sequence where Sam is falling through the air trying to force the liquid to go down faster so he'll have something to land in is a masterpiece of comic ingenuity and timing, even if, in the end, he misses the tub and crashes through the floorboards.

Likewise, Freling's "Canary Row", in which Sylvester the puddy tat, disguised as a hotel bellhop, snaffles Tweety's covered cage down from Granny's room and into the back alley, only to find that it's not Tweety but Granny waiting under the cover to thwack him. The sight of Granny hunched up in the cage with her umbrella drawn is one of the all-time great sight gags.

Something seems terribly wrong when there's more character, narrative and ideas packed into a cheap six-minute cartoon than into the 90-minute mega-budget feature version. A year ago, I mentioned the remarkable fact that the three most valuable Hollywood properties were all drawn from British books -- Bond, Harry Potter, Tolkien -- a strange statistic that indicts almost incidentally the UK film industry but far more profoundly the US one. In his what-if fantasy Making History, Stephen Fry has a cute riff on the differences between novels and movies -- novels are passive and reflective and interior, movies are active and muscular and dynamic, etc. True, as far as it goes. But that's mostly a self-inflicted wound by modern novelists. The reality is that when a writer for the page decides he's going to go for action heroes (Bond), special effects (Potter) or an almighty road movie (Tolkien), he can prove pretty conclusively that, even in what's meant to be Hollywood's main areas of expertise, almost any half-decent wordsmith can do it better. Plus they get the interior stuff in. In that respect, I hesitate to take issue with the editor, who evidently had a ripping time at Master And Commander. But it seemed to me they got the boat, the narrative, the shiver-me-timbering right, but missed everything else going on in the books.

2003 was the year Hollywood's storytelling failure started to look, at least to yours truly, terminal. The most celebrated directors, Spielberg and Tarantino, are masters of allusion, and not much else. For example, I loved Catch Me If You Can, Spielberg's tale of conman Frank Abagnale, who learned to pass for a surgeon by watching "Doctor Kildare" and to pass for a lawyer by watching "Perry Mason". Spielberg wanted to do a glossy Sixties thriller in the style of Stanley Donen, full of period charm beginning with the Saul Bass titles. But here's the thing: when Stanley Donen was doing Charade, he wasn't trying to do anything in the style of anybody; he was just doing it. Like the Broadway musical, film has always been, to some degree, an adaptive form; its finest moments have often been based on books (The Wizard Of Oz) or plays (Casablanca). But, in Hollywood as on Broadway, when the art of adaptation degenerates into the art of allusion, you know your greatest days are past. The sequence in Catch Me when Leonardo Di Caprio gets a tailor to make him a copy of Sean Connery's suit in Goldfinger is delightful but also a reminder of Hollywood's major problem: the burden of its past.

In Kill Bill Vol 1, Quentin Tarantino struggles out from under this dead weight through the clever trick of alluding to stuff 99% of American filmgoers wouldn't recognize -- obscure instrumental LPs, Asian movie legends, etc. He does it so brilliantly that you can't help noticing that he misfires only once, when he tries to do something for real -- kill a woman in cold blood in front of her four-year old daughter -- and you realize he can't do it. Without the allusions -- the kitsch and swagger and style -- the scene feels fake and you're aware only of the director's limitations.

If this problem gets any more widespread, they'll have to teach it in film school.

That said, my favourite picture of the year -- not yet released in Britain -- is also a film about films and film-makers, if only on the surface. In Sofia Coppola's rueful mood piece Lost In Translation, a saggy, sad-faced, past-his-best movie star is holed up in a Japanese hotel to shoot a whiskey commercial and finds a sweet college kid precipitating him into the dangerous stages of mid-life crisis. The picture's a lot funnier than some of the rave reviews would have you believe, mainly because the jokes are so true. It has two great performances: Bill Murray, who should get an Oscar, and Scarlett Johansson, who won't get noticed but gives a lovely note-perfect turn. Bill and Scarlett were the movie couple who redeemed the year for me. If you exclude Bugs and Daffy.

The Spectator, December 27th 2003

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Picked up Silly Symphonies at my local library yesterday. Caught Flowers and Trees and The Skeleton Dance last night and was enchanted. Not sure I'll get a chance to watch everything on the discs before they're due, so which cartoons should I be sure not to miss? And how weird is it that some of the cartoons are hidden eggs? Granted, the eggs I've run across were easy to find, but I don't want to miss anything great.

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Your timing is fascinating! Silly Symphonies includes the first-ever appearance of Donald Duck, who was a supporting character in The Wise Old Hen; I understand that only an excerpt from this cartoon will be available on The Chronological Donald, which comes out in six days.

In addition to that, off the top of my head, I would say other significant cartoons to watch include The Three Little Pigs and its three sequels (The Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Wolves and The Practical Pig, the last of which, I believe, has been bizarrely relegated to easter-egg status), as well as The Old Mill (which marked the first use of the multi-plane camera, which gave greater depth to the images), Father Noah's Ark (note how it uses the same rabbit gag that the Noah's Ark sequence in Fantasia 2000 uses), The Grasshopper and the Ants, Music Land (a Romeo-and-Juliet story about a war between classical music instruments and jazz music instruments), and Peculiar Penguins (just for the theme song: "There's nothing so peculiar as a penguin / Unless it's you ... and ... I!").

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Thanks for the tips, Peter. I think I've got some great viewing ahead of me. When I picked up Silly Symphonies, I also checked out Fantasia, which I've never seen. eek.gif

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Do any of these have The Rabbit of Seville? This is one of our absolute favorites and would be worth it for that alone. Plus it would ensure that our son would be able to see some of the classics.

Edited by asher

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

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Diane wrote:

: I also checked out Fantasia, which I've never seen.

Really? I'd be interested to hear what you think (possibly on a Fantasia-specific thread in the regular film forum). I grew up with that film and have a somewhat irrational devotion to it -- I like the bold experimentation of the 'Toccata and Fugue' sequence, the stark, adult portrayal of evil in the 'Night on Bald Mountain' sequence, the balletic treatment of the 'Nutcracker' suite and the 'Dance of the Hours' (the latter of which is quite funny), and especially the ingenious pairing of Stravinsky's 'Rites of Spring' with the evolution of life on Earth; the classical-myth buff in me also likes the 'Pastoral Symphony' sequence, though as I get older I find it a bit cheesier than I did when I was a kid. (The 'Ave Maria' sequence and 'Sorceror's Apprentice' sequences are also pretty good -- I love 'em all!)

FWIW, as a kid, I was bored by some of the experimental and balletic bits, but I find I really appreciate that stuff nowadays. One of the things that really disappointed me about Fantasia 2000 was the way Every Single Sequence had to have a Plot -- even the so-called 'abstract' sequence had a story; the only 'abstract' thing about it was that the flying creatures were shaped like triangles and not like birds or butterflies. Nothing wrong with a story every now and then, but the original Fantasia was such a wild expression of creative freedom on Walt's part that it's a shame it was never repeated; but that, of course, is due partly to the fact that the original Fantasia didn't earn its money back until after Walt's death, when it found a new audience during the psychedelic late '60s.

asher wrote:

: Do any of these have The Rabbit of Seville?

On the Disney discs? Definitely not! But it IS on the Looney Tunes set. Oddly enough, though, the Looney Tunes set does NOT include What's Opera, Doc? or One Froggy Evening or any of a number of countless OTHER musical classics. They must be saving those for the next boxed set(s).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
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Today I picked up the Walt Disney Treasures On The Front Lines and The Chronological Donald.

Spent about 45 min going through the Front Lines discs. Wow, some really interesting stuff. I find Leonard Maltin a little bit grating, but his introductions are somewhat interesting and informative, though I question his opinion on some items drama. I watched a couple of shorts, including "Line In, Line Out", "Donald Gets Drafted" and "The Army Mascot." Funny stuff, which is really just classic Disney animation with a topical (to 1943 anyway) references to war and the military.

Then I looked at a couple of pieces from "The Vault," "The Fuehrer's Face" and "Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi." This stuff is really crazy. Amazingly interesting though, giving tremendous insight into times. I had seen "Education for Death" before (my brother found it on a file sharing program), but they really cleaned it up for this disc and made it watchable. The ending of "The Fuehrer's Face" involves Donald kissing the Statue of Liberty and proclaiming "Thank God I'm a citizen of the United States of America." Wow, this stuff is timely.

And if us Canadians think we can get away with laughing at the Yanks, no such luck. In the educational pieces is one entitled the "The Wise Seven Dwarfs," which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and involves the Dwarfs (even Dopey) investing their hard earned diamonds in Government of Canada War Bonds.

Tomorrow I hope to check out the feature length piece on the second disc entitled Victory Through Air Power. I had been looking forward to this set for some time, and its as good as I had hoped.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Drool, drool, drool.

I picked up all four sets today, but since I'm behind on a couple of assignments and I'm juggling my freelancing with my StatsCan work this week, I won't get a chance to watch any of these DVDs for a few days, at least.

But boy, the various tables of contents sure look interesting. I am curious to see whether the Mickey Mouse set's version of 'Mickey and the Beanstalk' includes the narration from the version of that cartoon that was part of the 1947 film Fun and Fancy Free -- I grew up with a version of that cartoon that my parents taped off of TV, and I don't remember any narration there.

I also note that the Mickey Mouse set includes the 1983 short Mickey's Christmas Carol. I find this both good and bad. Good, because hey, why NOT have all of Mickey's cartoons in one place? Bad, because I had been hoping that Disney would put out an archival Christmas DVD at some point that would have this cartoon and Don Bluth's biblical short The Small One (1978), and the odds of Disney putting out such a disc would be greater if cartoons such as Mickey's Christmas Carol were not already available in this format.

BTW, is the version of 'The Wise Hen' on The Chronological Donald the complete cartoon, or just an excerpt? The complete cartoon is available on the Silly Symphonies set.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I've been so swamped with work this past week that I simply haven't had a chance to watch any of these discs, but last night my girlfriend and I did make time to watch two of the five episodes on the Tomorrow Land set -- and they were rather interesting!

Interestingly, the two episodes in question, 'Man in Space' and 'Man and the Moon', were both initially broadcast in 1955, which means they were broadcast a good two years BEFORE the Russians launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. (However, one of the episodes refers to a rocket that apparently became the first man-made object to touch outer space in 1949 -- but it just went up and came back down again.)

Come to that, 'Man and the Moon' was broadcast a good dozen years or so before the first man actually made it up there. The episode itself actually doesn't show people walking ON the moon -- instead, it dramatizes the first flight AROUND the moon, and I have to say I find it kind of strange and weird and intriguing to go back to a time when nobody had EVER seen what the far side of the moon looked like.

It's funny to see Werner von Braun talk so confidently about how missions into space and to the moon WILL be done, considering that many of the elements he describes never came to pass. The rockets have enormous fins, and the final stage -- the one that houses the astronauts -- has sharp, wide wings with which it can glide back down to Earth (essentially, it's a more angular Space Shuttle -- and instead of riding a big fuel tank piggy-back, it was supposed to sit at the top of the rocket). He also predicts that FIRST we will build an orbiting, rotating space station above the Earth (it looks very much like the one we see in 2001: A Space Odyssey), and THEN we will launch missions to the moon from there.

The dramatized moonflight has the writing and acting that you would expect from a non-dramatic science-education film, but I was impressed by the effects, which do look a little hokey, but you have to remember that this was (1) produced for TV, not the big screen, and (2) it was produced for broadcast in black-and-white, even though it was shot in colour (and I find effects are always easier to accept in black-and-white), and (3) it was produced for an era when TVs were smaller than what many of us now use, so the visuals would not have had to stand up to quite the same degree of scrutiny. All things considered -- and considering the sorts of effects big-screen movies had in the '50s, and considering that Star Trek wasn't THAT much better when it debuted eleven years later -- I think Disney probably did more than the medium required of him.

Can't wait to see the rest of these sets.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm putting Tomorrow Land on hold until the girlfriend can watch some more of those episodes with me, so last night I checked out Victory Through Air Power on the 2nd disc of the Walt Disney on the Front Lines set -- and wow, I like it!

An "animated documentary" is an interesting concept in and of itself, but I especially like the way the film segues from a more cartoonish treatment of the history of aviation to a much more realistic depiction of modern warfare in the later sequences -- there is a beautiful naturalism to these parts of the film that brings to mind the battling-dinosaurs red-in-tooth-and-claw sequence from Fantasia. Indeed, watching these beautifully crafted animated images of Spitfires downing Messerschmitts, it occurred to me that I don't think Disney really tried anything as industrial or explsoive or action-oriented as this in its other animated feature films until ... oh ... Atlantis: The Lost Empire, maybe? And by then, of course, they had computer animation to help them out.

Fascinating to see the film speculate that the war might last until 1948. (It came out in 1943.) Also fascinating to see the trailer declare that "only in a democracy!" would a film released to the general public openly and critically discuss its country's weaknesses (e.g. its lack of a separate air force) during wartime.

And also sobering to see the film's forward-looking portrayal of the devastation of Japan by bombs -- I don't know how much bombing had already been done at this point, but at this point, the film is dealing with FUTURE bombing runs, and I can never think of the devastation done to Japan during WW2 without thinking of those numbers that Errol Morris flashes on the screen in The Fog of War. (Plus, of course, we can never see such footage NOW without thinking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

And thank goodness they put chapter breaks on this film. I still haven't forgiven them for neglecting to put chapter breaks in The Reluctant Dragon, a feature-length film with animated segments that was included on the Behind the Scenes DVD set a year and a half ago.

Also interesting: The cartoon-slash-instructional film Stop That Tank! was produced and copyrighted by the National Film Board of Canada. I'm just TRYING to imagine the current NFB producing anything as overtly pro-military as this.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a note to say I love, love, love Donald Duck. What a CHARACTER. I am not at all surprised that Donald's rising star came to eclipse Mickey's in the mid- to late '30s. Such a lovely mixture of curiosity, enthusiasm, temperament, etc., etc., etc. My one gripe with these cartoons, as with a number of Disney cartoons in the '30s and '40s, is that the humour is a little too obsessed with the rear ends of various characters (one cartoon about sailing even ends with a dinghy around Donald's posterior that bears the words "rear admiral").

I also love the cartoon on the Front Lines set in which the body's immune system is explained in military terms -- that's definitely one to add to my list of Movies That Take Place Inside The Body (which already includes the way-under-rated Osmosis Jones, Fantastic Voyage, InnerSpace and the concluding segment of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex...).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 months later...

Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness.

Assuming Amazon.com has its info right, December 7 will see the release of three new sets: The Complete Pluto Vol. 1, Mickey Mouse in Black and White Vol. 2 and, um, Mickey Mouse Club.

Since I'm generally interested only in the classic animation, and not in the TV shows, I might skip that last one (the only other 'Walt Disney Treasures' sets I do not have are Disneyland USA and The Complete Davy Crockett).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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