Walt Disney’s Timeless Tales – Volume One appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Since half of this package offered shorts from the Thirties while “The Prince and the Pauper” came from 1990, it made sense for me to look at the set in two different ways.
For the older shorts, sharpness generally appeared quite good. At times, some softness interfered with the presentation; periodically, sequences looked a bit blurry or out of focus. This was especially noticeable during “Ants”, as it showed some rather soft shots. However, those instances seemed fairly infrequent, as the cartoons largely were reasonably crisp and clear. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but some light edge enhancement did seem visible on occasion.
Print flaws varied but generally stayed minor for material of this vintage. Overall, the most significant issues related to light dust and/or grain along with some occasional marks, speckles, grit and blotches. A few examples of debris and spots occurred as well as a periodic flickering quality on the right side of the frame. Actually, the shorts remained pretty clean with the exception of “Pied Piper”; it displayed more problems than the others, as they were largely devoid of flaws.
Colors usually looked reasonably good, but they also seemed somewhat erratic. Much of the time the tones appeared nicely bright and vivid. They stuck mainly with primary colors, though some of the shorts provided more varied and rich tones, and they normally appeared fairly lush and distinct. However, the hues could look somewhat drab and flat at times. They were never bad, but they occasionally lacked much depth and vibrancy. Black levels also appeared nicely rich for the most part, while shadow detail was clear and accurate throughout the shorts. As a whole, I was very pleased with the quality of the older cartoons.
As for “The Prince and the Pauper”, sharpness remained positive. Virtually no examples of softness showed up during the short. The cartoon was always nicely crisp and clear. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement. A little grain crept in at times, but otherwise the image looked clean.
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. “Pauper” offered solid visuals.
The monaural audio of the older shorts demonstrated the usual age-related concerns. 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, but the track was pretty thin and tinny as a whole.
Speaking of the score, I got the impression at least some parts of “The Pied Piper” were re-recorded. The music often sounded just a little too clear and modern. I also thought it sounded like it came from a synthesizer. I could be wrong, but I’d not be surprised to learn that short’s music was redone at a much later time.
No significant issues with background noise occurred. The tracks seemed pretty clean for audio of this era. Overall, the sound heard during the Thirties shorts won’t win any awards, but I found the mixes to come across as pretty clear and accurate for their age.
”Pauper” presented a decent Dolby Surround 2.0 mix. It didn’t earn any accolades, but it featured a nice sense of general atmosphere. It also offered reasonably distinctive localization and stereo imaging. The surrounds were only moderately involved, though.
The quality seemed fine. It 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.
When we look at supplements, we get virtually nothing. A mix of ads appear under the Sneak Peeks banner. This area includes trailers for Cinderella, Kronk’s New Groove, Chicken Little, Lilo & Stitch 2, The Parent Trap, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween, and Kermit the Frog’s 50th Anniversary.
Normally I recommend these compilations to casual fans, but not in this case. The five shorts on Timeless Tales, Volume One are pretty lackluster. Actually, all except “Pied Piper” are good, but I don’t think they stand out as exceptional. This set comes with a higher than usual list price of $20 – compared to the normal $15 – but doesn’t include more content. The other sets are as good or better and more of a bargain.
It goes without saying that diehard fans should skip this one. They’ll already own four of the five shorts, and since the exclusive one – “Pied Piper” again – is a dud, it doesn’t warrant a purchase. This is one of the weaker Disney compilations.