Television Reviews

DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios – Animation Appreciation 101

I was born just a bit too late to see the original broadcasts of the Wonderful World of Disney. I can remember an incarnation of the show from my younger years, but it wasn’t something which I appreciated until my fondness for all things Disney grew in my twenties.

This entry in the Walt Disney Treasures series is probably the least child-friendly, although if your child is a budding artist, he or she might be quite interested in it. Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios looks at the history of animation as well as the mechanics and techniques of animation in Walt Disney’s time. Three of the shows on the second disc were actual episodes of the Disneyland television show of the 1950’s (a precursor to Wonderful World of Disney).

More of a look at animation from an art lover’s or historian’s perspective, Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios, it gives an overview of Disney animation techniques in a fun and entertaining way, resurrecting seldom-seen footage to both entertain and give a peek behind the magic of Disney’s early animation successes.

Leonard Maltin once again narrates. His perspective is good, and he makes me long for the days of hand-drawn animation. It’s an art-form that is rapidly being lost in this day of CGI, and these two discs are a wonderful tribute to the artistry and hard work that went into creating those early animated films. This has more of a documentary feel to it, rather than the feeling of being a collection as is the case with other entries in the Walt Disney Treasures line.

Although all of the footage has been restored and remastered, some of the footage looks better than others. There are portions where the tell-tale speckles of a dirty print abound, yet at other times the sound is crisp and the picture restored to the point that it looks as if it were drawn yesterday. It’s the most uneven restoration project I’ve seen in the Walt Disney Treasures line, and I don’t know whether the fault lies with the material or the indifference with which this was made. Did Disney animation assume off the bat this would not be one of the more popular selections in the line and not treat it the same as other entries?

Really, that was a small issue to me. The material here is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. My 9 year-old, who loves all things creative, also enjoyed seeing what goes into making an animated feature.

DISC ONE

Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios isn’t something which will be enjoyed by kids or the average viewer. It’s a gift to the hard-core Disney fans who appreciate looking at the rise of Disney animation and the Disney studios from a historical perspective.

A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios can be played with or without an informational subtitle track. This was a promotional piece for RKO Pictures, which was about to distribute Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was something never intended to be shown to the public, but was to bolster the conviction of the executives at RKO who were about to take a big chance. The subtitles give information about who and what are on the screen, supplemental to the narration.

The Reluctant Dragon stars Robert Benchley in a tour of the Disney Studios. It was made in 1941 as a way for cash-strapped Disney to finance upcoming productions. It provides a look behind the scenes at the art department, a recording session for vocals and music, the sound effects department, and much more. Along the way we see Walt Disney himself. It also includes a look at the animated Technicolor short Baby Weems. I can imagine that a lot of people walked out of the theater during the beginning (non-animated) part, not taking in the informational content at all. By the time the actual cartoon of The Reluctant Dragon is shown, my kids had drifted off to other things and only returned when they saw something animated was on.

How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made was an infomercial-style release of the RKO promotional piece, A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios. It includes footage from the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This was designed at a time when movies weren’t widely released, but instead made their way around the country from theater to theater. The idea was to whet the appetites in towns where the film had not yet been shown.


BONUS MATERIALS

Leonard Maltin’s Studio Tour – Gives a complete background on how the Walt Disney Studio was created and developed through the years.
Behind the Boards on Baby Weems – Leonard Maltin interviews Joe Grant, an animator at the Disney Studios who developed characters in Fantasia, Snow White, and Pinocchio. He also worked at the Disney Studios in the 1980’s and was honored by Pixar in A Bug’s Life.
The Reluctant Dragon Gallery
Walt Disney Studios Gallery

DISC TWO

This disc features three installments from the 1950’s Disneyland Television show.

The Story of the Animated Drawing – Walt Disney explores the history of animation and demonstrates some of the early devices used in animation such as the zoetrope and the praxiniscope. It also includes a black and white animated sequence from Fantasia.

The Plausible Impossible – This was another episode of the Disneyland shows. The highlight is an unfinished sequence deleted from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It details the use of imagination to create things which seemed impossible (such as half-human, half-animal beasts) back to the earliest stories passed along, including the Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek Empires. It includes an animated mid-length cartoon featuring Donald Duck.

Tricks of Our Trade – This shows how the animators study various elements to incorporate into animation as well as the use of the multi-plane camera. It includes the cartoon The Dance of the Ollas.

BONUS MATERIALS

Tour of the Disney Studio Radio Program (Audio only)
Kem Weber Gallery

I thoroughly enjoyed Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios. It’s probably the most underrated of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD collections. Although people who like to simply plop a DVD in the player and be entertained probably won’t see the appeal in this selection, those of us with a deep appreciation for the magic and artistry that went into the early animated features such as Snow White will get a lot out of it.




To buy the DVD, click on the picture below to be directed to my Amazon Associates account. I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link.

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