DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Mickey Mouse
Writing Credits:

The celebration of Mickey's color capers continues in this second volume of shorts - from "Society Dog Show" in 1939 to his last short, "The Simple Things" in 1953 - and feature film appearances, giving you a decidedly colorful history of the most famous mouse in the world.

This outstanding review of Mickey's color career spotlights some very special features, including his groundbreaking performance in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and a commercial film created for the Standard Oil Company, which hasn't been seen since 1939. You'll also get an inside look at Mickey's recent career through the eyes of his most recent animators Mark Henn and Andreas Deja and voice actors Wayne Allwine (Mickey) and Russi Taylor (Minnie).

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
• English monaural (DVD One)
• English Dolby Surround 2.0 (“Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and “The Prince and the Pauper”
• English Dolby Digital 5.1 (“Runaway Brain”)

Runtime: 345 min.
Price: $32.99
Release Date: 5/18/2004

Disc One
• Introduction from Leonard Maltin
• “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
• “Mickey and the Beanstalk”
• Deleted Animation from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Disc Two
• Introduction from Leonard Maltin
• “Mickey’s Cartoon Comeback” Featurette
• “The Voice Behind the Mouse” Featurette
• “Mouse Mania” Short
• “Mickey Cartoon Physics from ‘Plausible Impossible’”
• “Mickey on the Camera Stand from ‘Tricks of Our Trade’’
• “Mickey Meets the Maestro” Featurette
• Color Titles from The Mickey Mouse Club
• “The Making of Mickey’s Christmas Carol
• Publicity and Memorabilia Gallery
• Story and Background Art Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Mickey Mouse In Living Color: Volume II (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 13, 2004)

For the initial set of color Mickey Mouse cartoons released in 2001, we got 26 color shorts made from 1935 to 1938. Volume II picks up where that package left off and offers material from 1939 to 1995. Apparently this means fans can now get all of Mickey’s color cartoons on DVD.

The new set starts with 1939’s “Society Dog Show” and proceeds through an additional 17 shorts. After that, we leap ahead to Mickey’s “comeback” in the 1980s with 1983’s “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”. We also find 1990’s “The Prince and the Pauper”. Neither of these really qualifies as a “short”, since each lasts about half an hour. The set concludes with an actual short, 1995’s “Runaway Brain”.

Here’s the breakdown of the shorts found on DVD One. From 1939, we get “Society Dog Show” and “The Pointer”. 1940 gives us “Tugboat Mickey”, “*Pluto’s Dream House”, and “*Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip”. When we get to 1941, we locate “The Little Whirlwind”, “*The Nifty Nineties” and “Orphans’ Benefit”, while 1942 presents “Mickey’s Birthday Party” and “*Symphony Hour”.

After that we jump to 1947 for “Mickey’s Delayed Date” and then 1948 for “Mickey Down Under” and “Mickey and the Seal”. 1951 offers “*Plutopia” and “R’Coon Dawg”, while 1952 gives us “Pluto’s Party” and “Pluto’s Christmas Tree”. Finally, DVD One ends with 1953’s “The Simple Things”.

(If you’re curious about those occasional asterisks in the listing of shorts, they denote the appearance of introductions from Leonard Maltin. Prior to the shorts in question, Maltin pops up to explain the less than politically correct elements of the cartoons we then watch. He did similar intros for the other Disney Treasures sets.)

Technically, we consider Mickey to be the star of Living Color, but much of the time, he takes the lead only in name. As I watched the shorts, I took note of the nature of each one’s cast. By my reckoning, Mickey only truly stars in two of DVD One’s cartoons: “The Little Whirlwind” and “The Nifty Nineties”. For six others, I felt Mickey played a prominent role but shared the lead with Pluto. Three others came across as true ensemble pieces, while another – “Tugboat Mickey” – highlighted the tried and true trio of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy.

For the remaining six, Pluto really acted as the star. Frankly, at times I thought this set should be called Pluto in Living Color, for he easily played the most prominent role across the board. Pluto either starred in or played co-lead for 12 of the 18 shorts!

As such, Mickey often comes across as an afterthought in this set. Nonetheless, the shorts maintain a pretty high level of quality. With Disney’s cartoons, you pretty much always have some idea of what you’ll get. On the positive side, that means that you’re largely guaranteed a reasonably entertaining and satisfying experience. However, it also results in very few stellar pieces. As I watched these shorts, I gave them individual scores. The highest – “Symphony Hour” - earned 8 out of 10, while the worst fell to 5 out of 10, which happened for four of the shorts. The rest landed in the range of 6 or 7. I enjoyed virtually all of the clips, as even the worst seemed reasonably entertaining, but few of them stood out from the crowd.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol runs 25 minutes and 40 seconds as it casts Disney favorites in the main roles, with Scrooge McDuck logically put in the lead as Ebenezer Scrooge. Mickey himself plays Bob Cratchit, while Donald Duck portrays Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Goofy comes back as the ghostly Jacob Marley, while Jiminy Cricket, Willie the Giant, and Pete all perform as various Christmas ghosts.

There’s nothing new on display here, but the retelling of the classic works reasonably well. The program zips through the tale awfully quickly, and that leaves little room for nuance or detail. Nonetheless, our collective exposure to the story over the years helps fill in the gaps, and the brevity means that it becomes more suitable to shortened kiddie attention spans. Overall, Carol isn’t a classic but it’s an entertaining version of the narrative.

The Prince and the Pauper goes for 25 minutes, 25 seconds as it puts Mickey in the classic fable. When compared to Carol, it benefits from less familiarity. Not that Pauper presents a tale that’ll seem fresh, but at least it’s not been done to death. The cartoon uses Mickey in a dual role – as both prince and pauper, natch – and also features old stand-bys Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Pete. It’s not a great piece, but it works pretty well.

Finally, DVD Two’s only true short, Runaway Brain lasts seven minutes, 45 seconds. Here Mickey gets his brain switched with that of a monster, and he needs to reclaim it. The short doesn’t compare with Disney’s best, but it seems reasonably fun and entertaining. (By the way, note that Maltin again turns up to introduce all three of the modern shorts.)

As a whole, I’m very pleased with Mickey Mouse In Living Color Volume II. It doesn’t seem as much fun as the first set, mainly because it includes so many fewer classic shorts. The modern stuff’s moderately entertaining but not great, so DVD One seems to be the most interesting one.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4761 Stars Number of Votes: 21
3 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.