Among the four Disney Treasures DVD sets that came out this year for Wave 5 of the popular collection, Disney Rarities, Chronological Donald Volume Two, Legendary Heroes, and Spin and Marty, I do believe this is the set I was most anticipating. "Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts" collects some of the most loved one-shot Disney shorts right alongside some of the most unseen! Starting all the way back with Walt's early Alice films and carrying all the way through to 1962's "A Symposium On Popular Songs," the mixed bag that is this 2-disc collection provides treat after treat of beautiful animation, charming stories and songs, and fond childhood memories! Here's what you get in this gorgeous DVD set!
Alice's Wonderland (1923): The first of Walt's silent Alice Comedies that combined live-action and animation, this charming short stars the adorable little Virginia Davis and costars a young Mr. Disney himself! In it, Walt gives Alice a tour of a magical animation studio which leads to an animated dream sequence for Alice that night.
Alice's Wild West Show (1924): Probably the best of the Alice comedies I've seen, and Virginia's favorite, the live-action sequences of this are very reminiscent of the early "Little Rascals" films, and, of course, there are animated sequences as well. Alice and her friends are putting on a wild west show, but when bullies chase her costars away, Alice resorts to telling tales of her adventures with Indians and baddies.
Alice Gets In Dutch (1924): Little Alice gets the dunce cap in school one day for playing with a balloon, and when she falls asleep on her stool, she has to deal with a cartoon teacher and her living schoolbooks!
Alice's Egg Plant (1925): Sadly, Virginia Davis is replaced by Anne Shirley in this short. Also, the charming live-action sequences give way to total animation, aside from the inclusion of live-action Alice, of course. In this story, there's trouble on Alice's egg farm when a fowl Russian bird incites a strike. Luckily, Alice and her cat Julius concoct a plan!
Alice In the Jungle (1925): Virginia is back one more time for this tale of animal hi-jinks and lion fighting adventure.
Alice's Mysterious Mystery (1926): Margie Gay plays Alice in this short where she and Julius go up against an early version of Pete who is an evil dogcatcher turning his captive mutts into sausage! Yes, this is a disturbing cartoon!
Alice the Whaler (1927): Lois Hardwick plays a slightly older Alice, who sails the seas with her animal friends in a cartoon that features a potato peeling mouse in sequences seemingly identical to those in the following year's "Steamboat Willie!"
Ferdinand the Bull (1938): This cartoon is our sudden jump to color and sound (not including the music that accompanied the preceding Alice shorts). This is the Oscar winning tale of Ferdinand, a pacifist bull that just loves to sit and smell flowers, mistakenly chosen to fight in a bull ring when a bee sting makes him appear ferocious and wild! This is one of those classics you'll likely remember from your youth, and it also features caricatures of Walt and his animators.
Chicken Little (1943): No, this isn't Disney's new, computer-animated feature, this is a classic short about not believing everything you hear and read, with a twisted but very funny ending! I believe this is one of the several Academy Award nominees in this collection!
The Pelican and the Snipe (1944): And, here's another, I believe. One of the many shorts Disney did with Sterling Holloway (the original voice of Winnie the Pooh) as narrator, this is the cute wartime tale of a sleep-flying Pelican and his loyal and protective, sleep-deprived friend living together on a lighthouse in Uruguay. This was originally planned as part of "The Three Amigos" but was instead released on its own.
The Brave Engineer (1950): Here's one of my many favorites, the rousing, musical tale of Casey Jones, the brave engineer! The singing narration from Jerry Colonna and crew make this a fun-filled American adventure!
Morris, the Midget Moose (1950): Disney's Bootle Beetle characters kick-off this classic short as an elder tells two younger bugs the story of two misfit moose...meese...mooses.... whatever. One is very small, despite having full size antlers. The other is huge, but his antlers are tiny. Together, they are a powerful force!
Lambert the Sheepish Lion (1952): A favorite for Disney fans all over, this is the classic story of a lion cub mistakenly delivered to an expectant mother sheep. He is mocked and shunned by his peers, not unlike Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but when he's all grown up, he's the only one who can keep the mean ol' wolf away!
The Little House (1952): This heartwarming classic, based on the children's book, is very similar to the oddly absent from this set "Susie, the Little Blue Coupe." It's the tale of a little house who grows old, lonely, and depressed while the world around her changes, but in the end gets cheered up by new owners, a new locale, and a new coat of paint.
Adventures In Music: Melody (1953): Originally released in 3-D (a first for an American animated film), but just as enjoyable in 2-D, this is the first of the Professor Owl shorts where he teaches his class full of young birds all about the world of music. Very enjoyable animation.
Football Now and Then (1953): Here's a fun animated short, even if you are like me and not really interested in football! Grandpa and grandson watch a televised football match pitting a modern football time with one from yesteryear!
Adventures In Music: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953): The other Oscar Winner in the bunch, here we learn the history of musical instruments in Professor Owl's class! A true classic!
Ben and Me (1953): A personal fave that is more of a featurette than a short, sure to be a hit with American history buffs that don't take it TOO seriously. This is the tale of Amos, a mouse voiced by Sterling Holloway, who is the real brains behind the legacy of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin!
Pigs Is Pigs (1954): Disc 2 kicks off with an extremely enjoyable, highly fun musical romp about Flannery, a railroad station clerk whose strict adherence to the rules lands him in deep trouble when a shipment of lovestruck guinea pigs arrives.
Social Lion (1954): A lion captured on safari in Africa gets loose in the big city, but hardly anyone notices him! Very cute and funny, light social commentary short!
Hooked Bear (1956): One of the two widescreen cartoons in this set, this Humphrey the Bear short is as funny as anything the Looney Tunes ever did! In it, Humphrey does his best to outwit the fish, the tourists, and Ranger Woodlore in his attempts to load up some fish of his own!
Jack and Old Mac (1956): This imaginatively animated musical offering creatively illustrates jazzy renditions of "The House That Jack Built" and "Old MacDonald." Nicely entertaining.
In the Bag (1956): The other Humphrey the Bear widescreen cartoon in this set, this hilarious short has Ranger Woodlore scheming to use the park bears to clean up after the tourists. When the reward becomes a delicious dinner, Humphrey tries and tries but can't seem to keep his section clean! This butt-bumping extravaganza even features a cameo by Smokey the Bear!
A Cowboy Needs a Horse (1956): This captivating, musical dream shows a little boy's sleeping fantasy of being a real cowboy, battling bandits and Indians, and saving the damsel in distress. Always wanted this one in my collection!
The Story of Anyburg, USA (1957): In a humorous and twisted tale of injustice and frivolous lawsuits, this short tells the tale of a town that places the blame for automobile accidents on the automobiles themselves!
The Truth About Mother Goose (1957): This memorable old fave is one of the gems of this set! Telling the grim, true tales behind the nursery rhymes "Little Jack Horner," "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary," and "London Bridge Is Falling Down," this highly entertaining short is pretty dark for a Disney cartoon!
Paul Bunyan (1958): The bigger-than-life tale of Paul Bunyan the giant lumberjack is told here from his infancy to his retirement in a wonderful old Disney favorite!
Noah's Ark (1959): Stop-motion animation and household items are used for a change in this tale from the pages of Genesis in the Bible. Noah builds a great Ark to carry two of every animal, along with his family, through a flood that covered the entire globe in ancient times. This reasonably loyal and jazzy cartoon is great fun, though maybe it runs a tad long when it gets into some unnecessary Hippo romance subject matter. Still, very good little short!
Goliath II (1960): This Oscar nominated classic is the funny story of a tiny elephant the size of a mouse born to the biggest elephant in the herd! Little Goliath is nothing but trouble until he wins the others' respect by being the only one who can take on their greatest fear!
The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961): Some may disagree, but I find this to be another of the best shorts in the set! Windwagon Smith is the tall tale of a sea captain with dreams of sailing over the American plains in a covered wagon that is part sailing ship! It's a very fun and imaginative tale!
A Symposium On Popular Songs (1962): And, finally, my favorite cartoon on this set, simply because who doesn't love Ludwig Von Drake, especially coupled with tons of Sherman Bros. music! Also pretty much a featurette at 19 minutes and 44 seconds in length, "A Symposium On Popular Songs" is hosted by the oddball relative of Donald Duck who takes us through the history of popular music in America, until 1962 at least. He does this for the most part by playing timely songs that he wrote himself, running with visuals of stop-motion cut-out animation same as was used for the opening of the original "Parent Trap." For Ludwig fans, this cartoon is really the highlight of the discs! Paul Frees is hilarious!
As an obsessive Disney fan, I am likely to tell you that ALL the Disney Treasures sets are a must have, and keep `em coming! I certainly have them all! But, even for the collector who doesn't get every tin box that Disney puts out, "Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts" is a must! Sure, there are some shorts that are oddly absent. Some of them are available on other Disney releases though. Many seem likely to appear in an educational shorts set in the future, hopefully. I'm dying for "Scrooge McDuck and Money," "Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons," the "What Should I Do" series, "Harold and His Amazing Green Plants," and Jiminy Cricket's shorts, among others. I also am desperate for a good, unedited release of "Small One," Sport Goofy in "Soccermania," and "Fluppy Dogs," to name a few. And, to be honest, even if they can get a bit redundant, I'd like to get as many of the over 50 Alice shorts (that have not been lost) as possible. Nevertheless, this set is a REAL treasure! Extras include a wonderful interview with the original Alice, Virginia Davis, enthusiastic intros by Leonard Maltin that some find annoying but I have no problem with (there is only one per disc this time, and we really should regard this man as a hero, anyway), the VERY short advertisement cartoon "A Feather In His Collar," starring Pluto, a lovely timeline featurette showing us Walt's history up to the introduction of Mickey Mouse, a fascinating audio commentary for "A Symposium on Popular Song" with Richard Sherman and Leonard Maltin, and, of course, a few selective art galleries. Yes, there is talk on the disc of an excerpt from a Disneyland episode detailing the making of the "Parent Trap" opening credits, however, it seems none of us have been able to locate that in the set except as snippets during Maltin's intros. The set comes in the expected snapcase within lovely tin box, though they are continuing with not printing anything on the back of the tin and not including the paper band, and within is the standard, handy booklet, the numbered certificate of authenticity, and a nice collectible card featuring Paul Bunyan promo art. It all makes for a glorious package for the Disney fanatic. Can't wait for wave 6!