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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Vintage Mickey (1929-34)

"Oh, boy!"
- Mickey Mouse

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: July 11, 2005

Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:04m:24s
Release Date: July 12, 2005
UPC: 786936287943
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BCB- D-

DVD Review

Now that he's become the icon of a global entertainment empire, Mickey Mouse has gone uptown on us—decked out in his finest threads, he's busy greeting heads of state and Super Bowl champions at the happiest place on earth. But, as Walt Disney himself liked to say, it all started with a mouse, and this DVD provides a terrific look at Mickey's earliest days. Certainly the technical quality of animation has improved by leaps and bounds in the intervening decades—all of these shorts are in black and white, for one thing, and they've been pretty shoddily treated by the years, as well. But if you only know Mickey from t-shirts and theme parks, this is a great way to see a portrait of a young mouse.

It all begins, of course, in 1929, with Steamboat Willie, and a star is born—this is Mickey's first appearance ever, and he's joined by familiar faces Minnie and Clarabelle the cow. This is a brasher, sassier Mickey than the one we're used to—here he's got an anarchic spirit that's not characteristic of what we think of as the classic Disney style, and this Mickey would in fact be more at home in the Warner Bros. universe. Made in the earliest days of sound film production, this short, like the others on this disc, are light on dialogue and heavy on the music, presumably to make the tales as enjoyable and understood in non-English-speaking countries as here in the U.S.

Next, Mickey goes all Lindy on us when he goes Plane Crazy, also from 1929; strains of Hail to the Chief play when Lindbergh's caricature comes up, which can make for an uneasy feeling, if you've read Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. That same year also brought The Karnival Kid, featuring Minnie the Shimmy Dancer—and while she tried to be a star, boyfriend Mickey tended bar—or ran a hot dog stand, anyway. There's nothing highfalutin' about Mickey and Minnie being carny folk, and the highlight here may be the alley cats singing Sweet Adeline.

The next three shorts are all from 1931—first up, don't spoil the surprise, because Minnie is the host and Mickey is the guest of honor at The Birthday Party. This is the first of these shorts that give Mickey and Minnie the voices we now associate with them; mostly, this is a jukebox of pop tunes, including our two favorite mice performing a duet on I Can't Give You Anything But Love, and a whole mess of cows cutting a mean rug to I'll Be Comin' to Get You in a Taxi, Honey. Next, though Wilson is nowhere to be found, Mickey is The Castaway—his remote tropical island, conveniently enough, comes with its own piano. The tots have the run of the joint at Christmas in Mickey's Orphans, most notable for the inaugural appearance of Pluto—for the kids, he serves as a makeshift reindeer to go along with Mickey's Santa.

Maestro Mouse takes up the baton, leading an orchestra through Mickey's Revue, from 1932; it's a loving tribute to vaudeville, and features an appearance by what seems to be a proto-Goofy, a hayseed in the audience yukking it up with a bag of peanuts. On to 1933, where Mickey has his union card and does battle with his foreman as they're Building a Building—the real trouble comes when the foreman tries to put the moves on Minnie, the lunch girl. Mickey is on the job again in 1934, when Minnie is a nanny, looking after a pair of rascally twins who hijack Mickey's Steam Roller. This one is especially worth watching because the evolution in the Disney visual style is so clear; the other eight are very much of a piece, but this one is closer to the signature Disney style of the following years.

See you at the Magic Kingdom!

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Perhaps there's no great financial incentive to do so, but these shorts could have used a good cleaning up; you might think that Disney would be interested in spending a modest amount of money to preserve its legacy, but you'd be wrong. Lots of tears, scratches and bacterial decay are evident on all of these.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A good amount of hissing and crackle throughout, but since there's almost no dialogue, it's not nearly as jarring as the poor video quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cinderella, Old Yeller, Chicken Little, Lilo & Stitch 2
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Only some ads for more Disney product.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

These are vital documents in the evolution of American popular culture, but, more important, they're still terrifically entertaining little films. The technical elements are significantly compromised, and the kids today may not know what to make of animation in black and white, but everybody loves Mickey Mouse, and these shorts explain much of the reason why.

 


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