Movie Reviews

DVD Review: Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 1 – 1935 to 1938

Sometimes it’s hard to believe there was once a time when Mickey Mouse was seen as more than just a character wandering around a theme park. With the release of Mickey Mouse in Living Color, we are once again shown just why this character has grown to be so beloved by so many people.

Leonard Maltin once again serves as narrator to this DVD collection of the first cartoons of Mickey Mouse to be released to theaters in technicolor. This also marks the transition of Mickey Mouse into more of a “team player” with characters like Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy sharing the screen with Mickey more and more often. In this setting, Mickey isn’t a clean-cut corporate icon, but more like a little boy filled with mischief and the desire to have some fun. As the shorts began, Donald Duck is Mickey’s rival and sometimes foil. This is a sharp contrast to the image I’ve seen more recently where Mickey is almost always the good guy and Donald is the one trying to get his goat. It’s a shame that Mickey lost the little boy charm and air of mischief as he became more and more Walt’s chief sidekick, but it’s also fun to watch the evolution of Donald Duck to fill that void.

The remastered, uncut, and unedited DVD is pretty good as far as quality. The print seems nearly flawless on each cartoon. The color level is good and not faded, nor have the colors been boosted to the point that they bleed into each other. It’s really something to watch these cartoons and appreciate hand-painted and drawn animation for what it was as opposed to the CGI animation currently being churned out. The sound is even better than the black and white cartoons were. I’m not sure if that’s due to the better condition of the source material or more perfection in the remastering techniques as we go along. It comes in a numbered collector’s tin.

My kids enjoyed watching this set with me. In particular, it captivated my four-year-old, who has rarely experienced Mickey as anything more than a six-foot rat, to quote Robin Williams. He really liked watching the early cartoons of Mickey Mouse and actually asked me to pause the DVD when we stopped to eat dinner. It’s nice that this collection has the PLAY ALL feature on each of its two discs so that I am not brought back to the main menu after each cartoon and prompted to select the next one.

While there may be some scenes no longer considered to be “politically correct” in this day and age, they are basically harmless and something I didn’t feel my kids would pick up on unless it was pointed out to them. A cat singing in blackface is just a cat with a black face to them. Likewise, I don’t see what the big deal is about a cartoon character using chewing tobacco, smoking a stogie, or getting drunk. If it was made now, there might be more qualms about it, but from the perspective of watching cartoons made almost seventy years ago, it’s not a big deal to me. There is also the usual cartoon violence of characters brandishing weapons and trying to blow each other up.

This is definitely a collection worth getting your hands on, although they are getting harder and harder to find. Especially for anyone who’s a fan of early animation, it’s a big coup to have something like this in your collection, and I just bet you’ll be surprised at how much your kids enjoy watching it with you.

Titles on the discs:

The Band Concert – 1935
Mickey’s Garden – 1935
On Ice – 1935
Pluto’s Judgment Day – 1935
Mickey’s Fire Brigade – 1935
Pencil Tests – 1935
Thru the Mirror – 1936
Mickey’s Circus – 1936
Mickey’s Elephant – 1936
Mickey’s Grand Opera – 1936
Mickey’s Polo Team – 1936
Alpine Climbers – 1936
Moving Day – 1936
Mickey’s Rival – 1936
Orphan’s Picnic – 1936
Hawaiian Holiday – 1937
Moose Hunters – 1937
The Worm Turns – 1937
Magician Mickey – 1937
Mickey’s Amateurs – 1937
Clock Cleaners – 1937
Lonesome Ghosts – 1937
Mickey’s Parrot – 1938
Boat Builders – 1938
The Whalers – 1938
Mickey’s Trailer – 1938
Brave Little Tailor – 1938

Bonus Material

• Pencil Tests – a nice feature here in that you can toggle between the pencil test and full color.
• Parade of Award Nominees – features Mickey Mouse with the Academy Award nominees in 1932
• “Mickey in Living Color” featurette – a bit about the career of Walt Disney narrated by Leonard Maltin
• Gallery
• “Easter Egg” on disc #1 – toggle up to Mickey’s head in the main menu for Walt Disney talking about the history of Mickey
• “Easter Egg” on disc #2 – toggle up to Mickey’s head in the main menu for “Mickey’s Surprise Party”, a cartoon from the 1939 World’s Fair

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