Television Reviews

DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black & White Volume 2

Following the popularity of the first collection of black and white vintage Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts, Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, the good folks at Disney decided to do a bit more digging and see what they could come up with from this era of animation. The result is a supplemental two-disc DVD set of black and white animated shorts featuring the Mouse, many of which were not seen for decades prior to this release.

Although Walt Disney made a Technicolor cartoon in 1932, Mickey Mouse was still consistently seen in monochrome black and white until 1935 because it was so expensive to produce a color cartoon. Since these shorts are presented from the original negatives, they are sometimes seen with rounded corners due to the lack of uniform aperture standards of the time. The images are clear, crisp and a treat to watch. There are some flaws in the print, but overall I would swear these were made recently, not 70+ years ago. Only a few of the cartoons seem to have been restored from terrible shape, and those are easy to pick out of the group. The sound quality isn’t so hot, but I have a new appreciation for just how far we’ve come in all those years! Some of the cartoons are missing the music in the title sequence. This seems to be one of those things that didn’t always survive the aging process too well.

Leonard Maltin gives the introduction with clips showing how popular Mickey Mouse had become in the world. The six to seven-minute shorts were often billed above the main attraction on theater marquees. Some of them contain more controversial subjects for our time. These have been bundled together on the second disc in a section titled From The Vault.

Animated shorts in this category are prefaced once again by Maltin doing a general “disclaimer” as to the decidedly “not politically correct” aspects of the cartoon where he cautions parents to watch the cartoons with their kids “so they don’t get the wrong idea.” In Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, for example, Mickey and the gang portray characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This was one of the most popular stage plays of its time, so there was nothing wrong with it in its day and I’m not quite sure what’s controversial about it now since Mickey doesn’t seem to represent a particular ethnicity or race. In fact, I would think this might stimulate children to ask a bit more about the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel and lead to a great learning opportunity.

However, some of the shorts in this section do depict racial or ethnic stereotypes. Despite this, Disney has released them uncut and unedited for content. I would think that most people who would be interested in a collection such as this would already know enough to take the subject matter in the context of the times, but apparently, Disney does not give viewers that same credit, or is afraid of backlash for releasing this subject matter without that introduction. I can deal with it, especially if it means Disney will someday release Song of the South with the same disclaimers… pretty please?

The two-disc set is once again inside a collectible tin. Instead of the tin itself is stamped with the series information, it’s on a Certificate of Authenticity inside. I don’t care about the collectible value of the set, as it’s the cartoons I’m really interested in. Apparently, the folks at Disney listened to some of the criticism on their initial “Treasures” discs and outfitted newer releases with a PLAY ALL feature allowing viewers to watch all of the short subjects on a disc without having to be brought back to the menu at the end of each selection.

I’ve had the black and white cartoons on with my children and I was surprised at how much they enjoyed watching them with me. No, these are not the slick, fast-talking, action-oriented cartoons we’re used to seeing today. Maybe there’s a time and place for just some lazy entertainment that’s not quite that intense. It’s not something they ask for, but it’s something that I know if I put it in the DVD player the entire family enjoys watching it together.

Titles on the discs:

The Barn Dance – 1928
The Opry House – 1929
When The Cat’s Away 1929
The Barnyard Battle – 1929
The Plow Boy – 1929
Mickey’s Choo Choo – 1929
The Jazz Fool – 1929
Jungle Rhythm – 1929
Wild Waves – 1929
Just Mickey – 1930
The Barnyard Concert – 1930
The Cactus Kid – 1930
The Shindig – 1930
The Picnic – 1930
Traffic Troubles – 1931
The Castaway – 1931
Fishin’ Around – 1931
The Barnyard Broadcast – 1931
The Beach Party – 1931
The Mad Dog – 1932
Barnyard Olympics – 1932
Musical Farmer – 1932
Trader Mickey – 1932
The Wayward Canary – 1932
Mickey’s Pal Pluto – 1933
Mickey’s Mechanical Man – 1933
Playful Pluto – 1934
Mickey’s Steam-Roller – 1934
Mickey Plays Papa – 1934
Mickey’s Kangaroo – 1935
The Haunted House – 1929
The Moose Hunt – 1931
The Delivery Boy – 1931
The Grocery Boy – 1932
Mickey in Arabia – 1932
Mickey’s Good Deed – 1932
Mickey’s Mellerdrammer – 1933
The Steeplechase – 1933
Shanghaied – 1934
Mickey’s Man Friday – 1935

Bonus Material

• Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchandise
• Mickey’s Portrait Artist: John Hench
• Mickey’s Sunday Funnies: A Virtual Comic Strip
• Background Painting Gallery
• Animation Drawings Gallery
• Mickey’s Poster Archive
• Mickey Mouse, Fully Covered