Sunday, 16 November 2008

Walt Disney Treasures - What's Missing? What's left? What's possible? (part 2 - TV Animation)

The titlecard that signaled one of Jiminy Cricket's educational cartoons.

Well before I start, I realise I'm stepping into a potential minefield here for three reasons. A) There's such a colossal amount which potentially could be included. B) Such a large amount incorporates re-used material from theatrical shorts, and rather like my suggestion about re-using elements of the package features in my last post, some could be annoyed at "double dipping". And C) I'm never going to please everyone no matter what I say! Also keep in mind I'm only going up to the end of the 1966-1967 season of the anthologt programme (Walt's last) and I'm skipping over any episodes already included in full (or near full) already released on DVD.

So with that in mind, I shall proceed as best I can.

When it comes to Television content for animation, there's only two main stops. "Disneyland"(and all the other names it went by) and "The Mickey Mouse Club". "The Mickey Mouse Club didn't offer us much new animation, only a selection of Jiminy Cricket Shorts titled eiether "I'm no fool..." or "You and Your..." and there purpose was education as well as entertainment. The 12 I'm No Fool shorts (I'm No Fool... In a Car, Having Fun, With Fire, In Water, On Wheels, In Unsafe Places, In Unsafe Places II, In an emergency, As a Pedestrian, With Electricity, With a Bicycle, With Safety at School) and the 8 You and Your... shorts (You and your... Eyes, Ears, Food, Five Senses, Sense of Smell and Taste, Sense of Touch, The Living Machine, The Human Animal) saw Jiminy Cricket impart his wisdom of staying safe and teaching children about their bodies.

A caveman plays with fire in "I'm No Fool... with Fire".

But 20 shorts would not fill up a set, so what could go with them? Well one option would be to round it out with some of the other educational material mentioned in my last post, such as "Steel and America". A second option would be to dedicate an entire set to Jiminy by including the anthology episodes he hosted. Four episodes had Jiminy Centre stage, "Donald's Award" (1957) saw him acting detective for Walt, interrogating members of the Disney family about their feelings towards a certain duck. "This is Your Life, Donald Duck" (1960) saw him lead a look back at Donald's career and "On Vacation" (1956) saw Jiminy running the show while Walt was away. The 4th episode "Jiminy Cricket Presents Bongo"(1955) was essentially the entire "Bongo" segment from the 1947 film "Fun and Fancy Free", with "Chicken Little"(1943) and "Figaro and Cleo"(1943) lumped in, so wouldn't perhaps be as vital an inclusion as the other three. Of course the trouble is these episodes usually featured around 15 mins of bridging animation around older shorts. On the one hand you can grumble at dedicating a release to material already released individually. However at the same time these episodes also have an undeniable charm and value all their own. Even though I love Disney cartoons, I have to admit the gags and slapstick humour never make me laugh. But there is one moment in the bridging segment of "Donald's Award" featuring Jiming interrogating Daisy Duck, that just makes me smile every time! There could be the option to simply present the bridging material alone, however that would certainly impact on the viewing since the shorts usually were interweaved into the story and having cuts every few minutes would certainly result in a very unsatisfactory viewing experience and I would argue they should be included in tact. See the bridging segments included on the Looney Tunes sets, to see just how stunted they are to watch without the bits inbetween.

Moving on to other ideas, surely one of the most obvious would have to be a set dedicated to the first character created for color TV, Professor Ludwig Von Drake.

Von Drake in the first color episode "An Adventure in Color"

But what to include? Surely "An Adventure in Color"(1961) is a must, being the first episode of the anthology series broadcast in color under the new title "Walt's Disney's Wonderful World of Color", but what about the others? "The Hunting Instinct" (1961), "Inside Donald Duck" (1961), "Kids is Kids" (1961), "Carnival Time" (1962), "Von Drake in Spain" (1962), "Man is His Own Worst Enemy" (1962), "Inside Outer Space" (1963), "A Square Peg in a Round Hole" (1963), "Fly With Von Drake"(1963), "Three Tall Tales" (1963), "The Truth About Mother Goose" (1963), "Mediterannean Cruise" (1964), "In Shape With Von Drake" (1964), "A Rag, A Bone, A Box of Junk" (1964), "Music For Everybody" (1966), and "A Salute to Alaska" (1967).

Now whilst some of these episodes were compilations ("Three Tall Tales" for example) some consisted of largely new material and saw the professor lecturing us on various things. Some even were given theatrical airing in parts of Europe such as "Von Drake in Spain" and in "A Rag, A Bone, A box of Junk" we see a behind the scenes look at the making of the tiles from "The Parent Trap" (1961). Surely there's more than a wealth of material for 1 if not more Treasures sets just with Ludwig?

There's no doubt that Von Drake offers the most logical choice for a set of episodes given he had episodes comprising of new material, but what of the other Disney stars?

Poor old Mickey didn't fare too well when it came to episode compilations and only "The Adventures of Mickey Mouse" (1955) and "Four Tales on a Mouse"(1957) go unreleased. Goofy however did fare better with a number of episodes featuring new bridging animation.

Goofy is carried away to be a star in "The Goofy Success Story" (1955)

"The Goofy Success Story"(1955) has already found its way to DVD, which leaves us with "The Goofy Sports Story" (1956), "Goofy's Cavalcade of Sports" (1956), "The Goofy Adventure Story" (1957), "How to Relax" (1957), "A Salute to Father" (1961) and "Holiday For Henpecked Husbands" (1961). Certainly enough to fill a treasure, but would there be uproar at a Treasure containing just these?

Pluto was another character who got off lightly during the anthology series. With only "Pluto's Day" (1956) and his appearance in "The Coyote's Lament" (1961) (another episode released theatrically overseas). Chip and Dale had one episode dedicated to them "The Adventures of Chip and Dale" (1959) which consisted of some of their shorts packaged together, but also featuring some highly entertaining new animation of them dancing.

Donald undoubtedly got the most. Aside from the previously mentioned titles bearing his name, but featuring either Jiminy Cricket or Von Drake more prominently and "A Day in the Life of Donald Duck" (1956), which is already in the Treasures series as a bonus feature, we are left with: "The Donald Duck Story" (1955), "At Home With Donald Duck" (1956), "Your Host, Donald Duck" (1957), "Duck For Hire" (1957), "Donald's Weekend" (1958), "Duck Flies Coop" (1959), "Highway to Trouble" (1959), "Two Happy Amigos" (1960), "The Mad Hermit of Chimney Butte" (1960) and "Donald's Silver Anniversary" (1960).

Audoban J. Woodlore talks to the critters in "The Ranger of Brownstone" (1968)

Breaking My Own rule slightly regarding post Walt content, I also would think perhaps a set dedicated to Ranger Woodlore wouldn't be too terrible. Of his four episodes only one "The Ranger of Brownstone" (1968) used old shorts but again was bridged rather charmingly with new material and some quite nice songs. The other three "A Ranger's Guide to Nature" (1967), "Nature's Charter Tours" (1968) and "Nature's Better Built Homes" (1969) showed us the world of nature by using clips, mostly from the True Life series.

But aside from episodes that feature these known characters were there any animated eps that featured other characters that could be good choices? Well yes! "Magic Highway USA" (1957) is one that instantly leaps to mind, projecting ahead and looking into the future (from a 1950s perspective of course), this episode showed a hypothesis of what the future of travel could be like. With some wonderfull stylised scenes and clearly an imagination that had been left to run loose. "An Adventure in Art"(1958) was the episode that the "Four Artists Paint One Tree" segment, found on both incarnations of the Sleeping Beauty DVD comes from. "The Great Cat Family" (1956) showed cats through the ages with the use of animation and live action (again a portion has surfaced on the DVD for "The Aristocats". "From All of Us to All of You" (1958) is a Christmas episode that many remember fondly too. "Our Unslung Villains" (1956) took a look at the villainous characters throughout Disney history using mostly clips. "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" (1959) was an hour long, extended version of the short of the same name and "Magic and Music"(1958) took a look at how Disney films combine both music and magic to make memorable films. "An Adventure in Fantasy" (1957) took a look at how magical things can be made to happen through animation.

A Flying ambulance of tomorrow comes to the rescue on the highway of the future in "Magic Highway USA" (1957)

But also some Disneyland episodes that consisted of old theatrical stuff weren't always identical simply reused material either. Take for example the "The Liberty Story and Ben and Me" (1957). The first portion was a teaser for the live action "Johnny Tremain", whereas the 2nd half of the show was the short "Ben and Me". However this was an extended version of the short. The original version shown in theaters (and released on the Disney Rarities DVD) ran to 21 minutes. But an additional 5 mins were added to the TV version, making the anthology version 26 mins in length!

A Scene from the extended TV version of "Ben and Me" (1957)

It's a genuine conundrum when it comes to picking from what's left of the TV material. I know that I (and many others) would like all of the above material to be released. But would it be viable considering how much of the material is already available and essentially people would be buying mostly bridging material? I have to say I wouldn't bother me! Certainly only a select few pieces of what I've mentioned above would be likely to find its way into the Treasures line, if any. And perhaps the material would be better suited to being released in a different way, but that begs the questions "How? and When?"

Next time I'll take a look at live action and see what could potentially appear from the many of Walt's TV serials.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Any idea where I can get a copy of "Duck for Hire" or "Inside Donald Duck" I remember them both from watching the Disney Channel in the late 80's but have not been able to find them anywhere.