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With: Virginia Davis, Clarence Nash, etc.
Written by: Dick Huemer, T. Hee, Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson, etc.
Directed by: Walt Disney, etc.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 326
Date: 03/18/2013

Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts: 1920s - 1960s (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Fables, Tall Tales and Music Lessons

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Encased in their metal boxes, the celebrated series of "Walt DisneyTreasures" DVDs has been a mixed bag. Watching so many Mickey Mouse orDonald Duck cartoons in one sitting reveals their weary formula all tooquickly. The best collections so far have been the Silly Symphony set(now out of print) and the Goofy set -- his formula adapts itself toconsecutive viewings -- as well as the new Disney Rarities set.

The Celebrated Shorts box starts off with a bang, introducing us to a nearly forgotten star, Disney's first, Virginia Davis, known on camera as "Alice." Made during the silent era, the seven Alice shorts contained herein all feature Alice entering into a cartoon world and surviving some sort of conflict, whether it's being chased by lions or trying to get off-duty hens to lay eggs. The shorts are decidedly two-dimensional and their technical tricks are fairly obvious, but they're still quite a bit of fun for their unabashed imagination and for Davis's adorable star power. (Davis is still with us today at age 87; Leonard Maltin interviews her for this disc.)

The set also comes with one of Disney's very best cartoons: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953). Animated in Cinemascope with a dazzlingly fluid, angular design, the short describes the history of music and its four basic sounds, tracing each from the caveman days. The only drawback is that the short is not enhanced for widescreen television sets.

From there, the box is a mixed bag of vaguely familiar faces. (I think I may have seen a few projected in flickering 16mm prints in my grade school classroom.) The lovely Ferdinand the Bull (1938) is here, but is also available on the recently released single-disc "Timeless Tales" collection.

Disc One winds up with Chicken Little (1943) -- far superior to the new CGI theatrical version, The Pelican and the Snipe (1944), The Brave Engineer (1950), Morris, the Midget Moose (1950), Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952), The Little House (1952), Adventures in Music: Melody (1953), Football Now and Then (1953) and the 20-minute Ben and Me (1953). The disc also contains a brief featurette on Disney during the silent era.

On Disc Two, the animation gets crazier, then sloppier, with more use of Cinemascope. We get two adventures of Humphrey Bear and his nemesis Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore (voiced by Bill Thompson, also known as "Droopy"): Hooked Bear (1956) and In the Bag (1956).

After that, the selection includes: Pigs Is Pigs (1954), Social Lion (1954), Jack and Old Mac (1956), A Cowboy Needs a Horse (1956), The Story of Anyburg, USA (1957), The Truth About Mother Goose (1957), Paul Bunyan (1958), Noah's Ark (1959), Goliath II (1960), The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961) and A Symposium of Popular Songs (1962).

Note: Disney Rarities was released simultaneously with: Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume Two (1942-1946), Walt Disney Treasures - The Adventures of Spin & Marty - The Mickey Mouse Club (1955)andWalt Disney Treasures - Elfego Baca and The Swamp Fox - Legendary Heroes (1958).

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