DVD One of Mickey Mouse In Living Color Volume II appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. However, DVD Two differs, as all three of its elements came with 1.78:1 dimensions, and all three offered anamorphic enhancement. Although the two discs featured material from such different eras, the visuals remained consistently excellent.
Sharpness appeared quite good. Virtually no examples of softness showed up during the shorts The cartoons always were nicely crisp and clear. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement. I noticed almost no instances of print flaws. A few specks of dust popped up and that was about it. Otherwise the cartoons looked remarkably clean given their age.
Colors consistently seemed strong. The tones were bright and vivid throughout the shorts, with very few exceptions on display. The cartoons stuck largely with primary colors, and these looked quite distinct and vibrant at virtually all times. Black levels also appeared nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was clear and accurate throughout the shorts. The material in this set may span 56 years, but it looked terrific across the board.
For the audio, I needed to separate things for the two discs. Everything on DVD One came with monaural audio, all of which seemed fine considering its vintage. Dialogue sounded a little edgy at times, but for the most part, the lines were acceptably clear and accurate. Effects showed a bit of distortion and harshness, but they stayed fairly clean and distinct through the shorts. Music also demonstrated variable levels of shrill and rough tones, but this wasn’t unexpected, and the score seemed reasonably solid. Decent depth accompanied some effects, such as stomping of large characters, and the music also offered some decent bass. A little background noise cropped up at times, but not much. All of the concerns related above remained minor; this seemed like pretty solid audio given its age.
On DVD Two, we found some variation. Both “Carol” and “Pauper” presented Dolby Surround 2.0 mixes, while “Brain” finally presented a full Dolby Digital 5.1 track. “Carol” offered a pretty restricted soundfield. It broadened out for some mild stereo imaging of the music, and occasional effects also cropped up from the sides. The surrounds lightly reinforced the material as well. Nonetheless, this was a restricted track that didn’t present much spread.
”Pauper” and “Brain” didn’t earn any accolades, but they seemed considerably more open. They featured a nice sense of general atmosphere and more distinctive localization and stereo imaging. The surrounds remained only moderately involved, though.
The quality of the three modern shorts seemed fine. “Carol” sounded a bit wan, admittedly, especially via some lackluster speech; the lines were intelligible but somewhat thin. The rest of “Carol” also presented moderate accuracy but could be a bit flat.
Similar concerns failed to mar the other two. Both showed nice delineation of speech, with good clarity and intelligibility. Music was fairly bright and bold, while effects sounded clean and accurate. Bass response was pretty solid and tight. Nothing here excelled, but the audio seemed positive in general.
Mickey Mouse In Living Color Volume II includes a few decent extras. DVD One starts with an introduction from film critic Leonard Maltin. He discusses the evolution of Mickey in the material found on this set during this 101-second piece.
Next we find the entire presentation of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from 1940’s Fantasia and Mickey and the Beanstalk from 1947’s Fun and Fancy Free. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” lasts 10 minutes, five seconds, and remains fun and lively. The cartoon defines the Mouse’s character as a lovable but flawed little guy who doesn’t have a mean or cruel bone in his body but who suffers from some weaknesses nonetheless. Here Mickey gets into trouble due to laziness; he uses magic to make brooms perform his chores, but he lacks the ability to stop them.
Mickey tended to be bland, mostly due to his popularity; the Mouse became so beloved that crowds rejected any attempts to make him anything other than perpetually good-natured and chipper. “Apprentice” modifies that presentation somewhat, but he certainly doesn’t compare with better-defined personae like Donald or Goofy. Anyway, “Apprentice” remains one of Fantasia’s high points, as it presents a fun and well-executed piece of entertainment.
The 35-minute and 15-second "Beanstalk" offers a fun retelling of the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk" with our heroes Mickey, Donald and Goofy ably filling Jack's shoes. Actually, Mickey's the real replacement for Jack, with the other two more or less along for the ride. And I'm happy they are, or at least that Donald's there. Goofy has little to do in the story, but Don provides some of the cartoon's funniest moments. Neither Mickey nor Goofy ever did much for me, but the Duck always could be counted upon to spice up a story, and he doesn't fail to do so here; the scene in which he goes nuts from hunger is terrific.
The rest of the program doesn't quite live up to that, though a few other scenes of Don's are pretty good (like when he sees the dragonflies). Mickey's just so darned dull; he makes a decent hero, but his dreariness almost leads us to root for the much more colorful giant. In any case, "Beanstalk" has some slow spots, but it's generally a pretty entertaining piece.
Although "Beanstalk" features dialogue, it is supposed to be told by a narrator. In this case, the story is led by Edgar Bergen, accompanied by his "friends" Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd while they attend a "party" for child actress Luana Patten. (Ah, such innocent times! Why is it I think that a celebration thrown by a grown man who plays with puppets for a very young girl would look rather creepy these days?)
Note that both “Apprentice” and “Beanstalk” come with more introductions from Maltin. As usual, he gives us some historical notes and perspective.
DVD One concludes with deleted animation from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. After yet another quick intro from Maltin, we see about a minute of rough pencil animation. It’s a nice historical artifact.
Some easily-found Easter eggs show up on DVD One. As you cycle down through the DVD’s “Bonus Features”, you’ll highlight a musical note between “deleted animation” and “Beanstalk”. Another Maltin intro ensues to tell us what we’ll see, and then we watch a promotional piece that recaps Walt Disney’s career and achievements in a rather excited way. It concludes with the most interesting element, a specially-drawn color “parade” of Disney stars to tout Standard Oil. It lasts eight minutes, 13 seconds, and presents another good archival component.
From the main menu, click to the right of “Captions” and find a very cool piece. We find another Maltin intro and then watch a recording session from the Thirties with Billy Bletcher as Pete and Walt Disney as Mickey. It fills 11 minutes, 33 seconds and seems quite intriguing, even though a little of it lacks audio.
As we head to DVD Two, we open with another introduction from Leonard Maltin. He gives us a quick 30-second overview of what to expect from this platter.
Next we find a featurette called Mickey’s Cartoon Comeback. It fills 16 minutes and 17 seconds as Maltin leads us through an interview with modern Disney animators Andreas Deja and Mark Henn. They discuss elements of their work with Mickey, the various challenges and different approaches, and the depiction of Mickey over the years. It’s a pretty insightful look at the methods behind the Mouse.
In The Voice Behind the Mouse, we find a 23-minute and 48-second interview conducted by Maltin with vocal actors Wayne Allwine (Mickey) and Russi Taylor (Minnie). They discuss the history of the characters’ voices as well as how they got the roles and various other elements of the parts. This provides a superficial but generally informative examination of the subject.
At two minutes and eight seconds, Mouse Mania gives us a short created for Mickey’s 50th anniversary in 1978. It shows a man in a therapy session who sees Disney memorabilia all around him. It’s not terribly interesting but it’s cool to get as a piece of history.
The same will be true for much of the DVD’s remaining material. Mickey Cartoon Physics from “Plausible Impossible” runs three minutes and nine seconds. From a 1956 Disneyland episode, Walt chats while we watch new animation (at the time) of Mickey illustrate some techniques. The full program already appears on Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio, but this snippet should be useful for those who don’t own that set.
Another clip repeated from the Behind the Scenes set, Mickey on the Camera Stand from “Tricks of our Trade” runs five minutes and 10 seconds. Walt uses Mickey to demonstrate the multiplane camera during a 1957 Disneyland episode. Again, it’s a good piece and worth a look if you don’t already have the earlier DVD.
In Mickey Meets the Maestro, we get a three-minute and 27-second look at the creation of a sequence from Fantasia 2000. We hear from producer Donald W. Ernst as he leads us through the various stages for the bit in which Mickey chats with conductor James Levine. It’s a quick but very informative piece. (Note that it already appears on the bonus disc from The Fantasia Anthology.)
Color Titles from The Mickey Mouse Club presents just that: the original opening sequence from the series shown in color, even though it was first broadcast in black and white. It runs three minutes, 17 seconds as it displays one snippet for each day of the week. These represent the last time Walt did Mickey’s voice and gives us a cool tidbit.
Next we get The Making of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. In this 24-minute and 13-second program, we find movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from producer/director Burny Mattinson, animators Glen Keane and David Block, and Mark Henn, actor/sound man Jimmy MacDonald, and actors Allwine, Alan Young, Hal Smith, Will Ryan and Clarence “Ducky” Nash. They discuss the film’s prep work, casting the Disney characters as Dickens personalities, assigning characters to animators, design and animation issues, and vocal work. The program seems somewhat superficial, but it gives us a reasonable amount of useful notes, and it’s good to meet the folks behind the scenes.
Finally, we get some galleries. In the “Publicity and Memorabilia Gallery” we locate 32 frames of images compiled via enlargeable thumbnails. These show ads, posters, and Mickey-related artifacts. “The Story and Background Art Gallery” includes stills for four shorts: “The Little Whirlwind” (12 frames), “The Nifty Nineties” (14), “The Pointer” (14), and “Symphony Hour” (23). 18 of the stills can be viewed with commentary from Leonard Maltin; when you click on frames with a microphone icon, Maltin’s remarks appear. He gives us some notes about the various images.
A few physical materials round out the set. The booklet includes a short note from Maltin plus DVD details and small images of posters and rough sketches. A roughly 5X7 card presents a replica of a Fantasia poster with a few comments on the back. Lastly, a “Certificate of Authenticity” declares this set a limited edition of 175,000 and tells you which number belongs to your copy. Past Disney Treasures included these numbers embossed on the tin that houses the package, but that doesn’t happen here.
While not as solid as its predecessor, Mickey Mouse In Living Color Volume II provides a pretty good package. It suffers from a relative paucity of classic shorts, as the first set simply didn’t leave that many remaining, but the cartoons remain fun. The DVDs feature very nice picture along with reasonably positive sound and a smattering of good extras. Ultimately, Volume II complements the first release and should be welcomed by fans.