Walt Disney Treasures-Silly Symphonies
Main Menu Introduction
Introduction-Leonard Maltin (Film Historian)
Featurette-The Song Of The Silly Symphonies
Featurette-Silly Symphonies Souvenirs
Easter Egg-6 - Walt Disney Intros
Introduction-Leomard Maltin's Picks
|Year Of Production||?|
|Running Time||287:56 (Case: 358)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Various|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney's birth, Disney created a series of special collections, known as the Walt Disney Treasures. The first four of these were released at the end of 2001 (and arrived here rather later...). The US releases were housed in special tins, each of which was a strictly limited edition of 150,000 (my copy of the Silly Symphonies tin is number 19234 I got in early!).
Why all the fuss? What's so interesting about old cartoons? Aren't they just kid's stuff?
Disney's first successful cartoon was the famous Steamboat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse, at the end of 1928. That cartoon is a fairly primitive black-and-white affair (yes, it's famous, yes, it's cute, but it's still quite primitive!), and Disney realised that he and his team would need to improve their skills and make better cartoons if they wanted to stay in business and pull ahead of their competitors. A collaborator, Carl Stalling, is credited with suggesting the writing of cartoons based around music, and that's what the inspiration for the Silly Symphony series is, starting with The Skeleton Dance. Although the Silly Symphonies were popular by themselves, Disney maintained that they were experiments, tests of new techniques and skills that he and his team were developing for use elsewhere, particularly in full-length animated features (Snow White did not appear until 1937 he spent quite some time building up those skills...).
The cartoons in this collection are history. They display quite clearly the evolution of the Disney cartoon team's style from the very primitive (The Skeleton Dance is included) through to the sophisticated six of these cartoons won Oscars. Pay attention to the year in which each cartoon was made, although you can often guess fairly accurately just by looking at it.
The cartoons on the first disc are:
|1936||9:46*||The Grasshopper and the Ants||intro by Walt Disney (Easter egg)|
|1934||8:17||The Tortoise and the Hare|||
|1936||8:55||The Country Cousin|||
|1932||7:24||Babes in the Woods|
|1934||8:58||The Flying Mouse|
|1935||9:39||The Golden Touch|
|1935||7:29||The Robber Kitten|
|1930||7:53||Mother Goose Melodies||black and white|
|1935||11:29*||Cock Robin||intro by Walt Disney (Easter egg)|
|1934||7:24||The Wise Little Hen||first appearance of Donald Duck?|
|1933||8:23||The Three Little Pigs|||
|1934||9:00||The Big Bad Wolf|
|1936||8:59||Three Little Wolves|
|1936||7:21||Toby Tortoise Returns|
|1938||9:34*||Wynken Blynken and Nod||intro by Walt Disney (Easter egg)|
* = runtime includes Walt Disney's intro
= Oscar winner: Best Cartoon Short Subject
The cartoons on the second disc are:
|1934||9:01||The Old Mill|||
|1934||6:53||Funny Little Bunnies|
|1938||8:38||The Ugly Duckling (1939)|||
|1931||6:29||The Ugly Duckling (1931)||black and white|
|1933||8:06||Father Noah's Ark|
|1930||7:46||Birds of a Feather||black and white|
|1931||6:49||Busy Little Beavers||black and white|
|1932||6:57||Just Dogs||black and white|
|1931||8:40*||Farmyard Symphony||intro by Walt Disney (Easter egg)|
|1931||7:15||The China Plate||black and white|
|1931||6:06||Egyptian Melodies||black and white|
|1932||7:31||Flowers and Trees|| the first Technicolor cartoon|
|1934||7:42||The Cookie Carnival|
|1929||5:19||The Skeleton Dance||the first Silly Symphony|
* = runtime includes Walt Disney's intro
= Oscar winner: Best Cartoon Short Subject
Leonard Maltin introduces the collection, provides the extras, and gives his comments on certain selected cartoons, but you can skip him if you find him annoying. He's worth a bit of a listen though, because he conveys some interesting information, even if it's a bit gushing in places he seems quite sincere in his admiration, though.
Perhaps the most compelling example of the advances in animation through the 1930s is provided by the two versions of The Ugly Ducking. I think they made a mistake by presenting them out of order. You should really watch the 1931 version first, to see what it is like in black and white, with comparatively primitive animation, then watch the 1939 version, in colour, and much more smoothly animated.
I didn't get to see any of these in the cinema on their first release (heck, some of these pre-date my father!), but I have seen a number of them on television over the years. But I hadn't seen all of them, and I'm glad to get the opportunity to do so now this really is historic stuff, yet there is animation being produced today that isn't up to the standard of some of these 70-year-old cartoons.
Do bear in mind that age when you see the occasional quite dated idea the one that struck me most forcefully was the grasshopper in The Grasshopper and the Ants: he spits a fair bit (I guess he's chewing tobacco?). The China Plate has a somewhat unenlightened view of China, too.
When you consider that when you choose the Play All options you get 130:52 on Disc 1 plus a further 157:04 on Disc 2, it's clear that you get a lot of cartoons in this collection. Add in the Easter egg introductions by Walt Disney (taken from shows in 1955), and this is quite a package. Strongly recommended if you have any interest in the history of animation, or if you just like good cartoons.
These cartoons are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and therefore are not 16x9 enhanced. I would expect that the original aspect ratio was 1.37:1, so this is extremely close.
They have done a lot of restoration on these cartoons, and it certainly shows. I doubt anyone outside the studio has seen them looking this good, even in the original cinema releases.
The picture is generally a little soft, but no worse than many a current transfer, with a dusting of light film grain. Shadow detail is not a consideration in this style of animation. There is no low-level video noise, but there's a fair bit of mosquito noise and/or background shimmer (depending on the cartoon).
Colour is startlingly good, much more saturated that one might have expected, and with a lot less in the way of colour-related artefacts: there is no oversaturation and no colour bleed. The only colour-related artefacts to be seen are in the extras: there are some amazing false colour effects to be seen, such as at 11:23 in Silly Symphony Souvenirs, where a black-and-white cartoon shows a wonderful rainbow. Well, there is one other minor glitch: at 1:44 into The Wise Little Hen there is one frame where the strips of the Technicolor have moved apart resulting in an effect like a loss of convergence (come to think of it, that's exactly what it is!) it's a single frame, so you have to be watching closely to notice it.
There are lots of film artefacts, but they are all small or fine, such as some fine vertical scratches, or small spots and flecks. A few cartoons show traces of light staining. For 70 year old film, this is close to perfect.
There's some light aliasing, but no moirι to be seen. There are no MPEG artefacts other than a fair bit of background shimmer.
There are subtitles in five languages, including English, plus English for the Hearing Impaired. I sampled both the English subtitle tracks. Where there is dialogue, it is subtitled accurately, and the subtitles are easy to read and well-timed. Note that a lot of Silly Symphonies don't have much in the way of dialogue, anyway.
Both discs are single sided and dual layered. The layer changes are placed between cartoons, so they are invisible.
The only soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, in English, at 192kbps.
There have been impressive advances in audio since the 1930s, and there are limits to how much you can clean up the sound. All these cartoons exhibit limited fidelity recording, with restricted bass, limited high frequencies, and a fairly constant hiss. There are occasional pops and crackles, but a lot fewer than one expect. Even with the artefacts, the sound is not hard to listen to.
The dialogue (what there is of it) is clear and readily understood. Audio sync is not readily judged on animation of this kind, but there are no egregious errors in sync.
The score is bouncy and bright for the majority of the Silly Symphonies. A variety of composers worked on these cartoons, and unfortunately they weren't credited on the cartoons, so I can't tell you who they were.
The mono soundtrack makes no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is static, with music. It's easy to operate, and there's an Easter egg on almost every menu.
A brief introduction to the idea of the Silly Symphonies.
Leonard Maltin interviews one of the composers who scored the Silly Symphonies, talking about, amongst other things, how Walt Disney conveyed instructions about the music.
Leonard Maltin talking to one of the curators of the archives, about merchandising and the Silly Symphonies, including a few tips on what would be an affordable collectible.
Leonard Maltin providing a few words of introduction to each of several cartoons:
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor up to the S in Symphony on the opening menu, and pressing Enter.
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor left to highlight the kitten's sword(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) on the second page of the Fables and Fairy Tales menu, and pressing Enter.
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor up to highlight the chick in the Favourite Characters menu, and pressing Enter.
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor up to highlight the "Leonard(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) " on the Leonard's Picks menu on the first disc, and pressing Enter.
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor to the bunny on the Nature On Screen menu, and pressing Enter.
You get to this Easter egg by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) moving the cursor to the hat on the saxophone on the Accent on Music menu, and pressing Enter.
This is a long gallery, visible as thumbnails and full-sized images. Unless I've miscounted, there are 119 images in all.
This is a nicely made little booklet about the Walt Disney Treasures series, but it's kind of an advertisement, too.
A reproduction, about postcard size, of the theatrical poster for Flowers and Trees.
The Region 1 release of this title came in a numbered limited edition tin. (I don't know what they intend to do once the limited edition version runs out...) Inside the tin is a normal double Alpha case, which holds the two discs, a booklet, and a postcard of the poster for the original release of Flowers and Trees. This Region 4 includes the same booklet and the same postcard (that's a pleasant surprise!), and two discs which are essentially the same (the same cartoons, the same extras, and similar menus they get some fancier transitions, but that's about the only difference). The Region 4 doesn't get a double Alpha case. The Region 4 discs are packed in digipack clear plastic holders on a heavy glossy card background this is not a bad package, although not as durable as a plastic keep-case. So all that's really missing from the R4 package is a cutesy metal tin not a big sacrifice, given that the tins would probably raise the price at least $5. I'm going to call this a draw, because all the important stuff is the same, including the quality of the transfer, which is really very good in both regions.
Real animation history, and some fine cartoons, on a pair of DVDs that are excellent value. I'm rating the package as a whole higher simply because of the historic value.
The video quality is far better than one might expect for 70 year old film.
The audio quality is adequate. Considering what the original material must have been like, this is very good.
The extras are extensive, and carefully thought out.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|