The first of several upcoming reviews about short
film collections is in. Next article: vote for the
collection you want reviewed next.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Walt Disney supplied the voice of Mickey Mouse, and a
few others.
Pinto Colvig was still doing Goofy’s voice in the few
appearances he
had. Marcillette Garner provided Minnie’s voice.

This
DVD release

includes english language captions only. It does,
however, have 34 of
the early, black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Past movie reviews can be found here.

Premise

An oversized barnyard vermin tortures other animals
until he leaves
the farm, when he suddenly becomes a kind, caring,
and productive
member of society. I guess he just craved celebrity.

High Point

Mickey’s Service Station. I can see why
they chose to end the set
with it.

Low Point

Many of the early shorts (all of which are listed by
title in the
Amazon.com article above) are just random
choreography, with stories
that begin half way through (if at all), and just end
when the iris
closes for no apparant reason.

The Scores

In its time, this was remarkably original.
The year after
The Jazz Singer introduced the world to
synchronized sound
(and only for the musical numbers; dialogue was still
intertitled)
Walt Disney started doing this with animation. The
big difference?
In The Jazz Singer, there was somebody
actually there to make
the sound. In Steamboat Willie, we had a
collection of
drawings that made no sounds of their own. I can
understand why it
was such a surprise, and why the early cartoons were
basically music
with not much else. They don’t look that impressive
nowadays, but
they did a lot of this stuff first. This is where we
first met Goofy
(in his “Dippy Dawg” days), Peg Leg Pete (who
originally had two legs,
and later couldn’t decide which had the peg), Minnie
Mouse, and Mickey
himself. Pete has probably changed the least over
the years. Apart
from the leg, there’s really do difference in voice,
appearance, or
personality. The others develop as we watch the
cartoons included
here, spanning 1928 to 1935. Many of the jokes are
recycled from cartoon to
cartoon, but the rest was completely original. I
give it 5 out of 6.

The animation itself develops. In the early
stuff, you not
only have some choppy motion, you get instances where
some characters
disappear entirely for a few frames before popping
back in. Colours
used vary (as evidenced by changing shades of grey on
only one part of
the picture), and some of the relative sizes of
characters change.
Most aspects are impressive for the time, and the
actual production
quality itself takes a huge leap forward with
Mickey’s
Nightmare
, producing better characters than some
of the Saturday
morning cartoons being made today. I give it 5 out
of 6.

The stories told were weak in most cases.
Some of them had
some good stuff, such as Gulliver Mickey,
Mickey’s
Nightmare
, The Mad Doctor, Mickey’s
Service
Station
and the like, but others, such as
The Karnival
Kid
, Blue Rhythm, and Orphen’s
Benefit
had
little or no plot, and often had no resolution to
what plot they did
have. I give it 3 out of 6.

The voice acting was not bad. The actual
voices of the
characters went through significant changes over the
years, especially
in the period from 1928 to 1930, but that itself
isn’t a problem, as
the characters were being defined. Most of the voice
action, however,
was done with such extreme voices that there was very
little room for
expression. Donald’s voice is either “mad” or “not
mad.” Pinto
Colvig’s work with Goofy had more variation than the
others, and even
that wasn’t much due to the way the character was
written. Mickey’s
facial expression and body language could convey
great emotion, but it
never actually crept into his voice. I give it 3 out
of 6.

The emotional response to the first 20 or so
cartoons is
mostly historical interest. For example, I wasn’t
expecting Minnie to
flash her panties at all, let alone do it in the
first 10 or 15 cartoons,
and take them completely off twice. Many characters
had problems
keeping their pants on, actually. Mickey himself was
completely naked
in the second cartoon. Of course, all characters are
a uniform,
featureless black in these situations, but it’s still
surprising.
Once the second disk starts, Mickey becomes a bit
more sophisticated,
and so does his humour, so the cartoons becoming
entertaining for
their own sake, instead of just showing where things
came from. I
give it 4 out of 6.

The production was impressive for the time.
Backgrounds
become more involved as time goes on, and the number
of locations used
in a single cartoon was impressive from the start.
Steamboat
Willie
is just odd today, but it must have been
a revelation in
1928. Still, things like odd camera staging,
unsynchronized sound in
the early 1930s, and poor quality control on the
animation itself hold
it back. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this was certainly worth it’s
original $30 (roughly)
retail price, but now that’s it’s only easily
available through eBay
or other used outlets that have raised prices due to
this whole
“supply and demand” thing (only 125,000 sets were
issued) collectors
have driven prices up dramatically. If you’re not
looking for this
for its historical significance as well as its
entertainment value,
you’ll likely be disappointed at its present price.
I give it 4 out
of 6.

In total, Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in
Black and
White
receives 28 out of 42.