Disney // 2007 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 13th, 2007
Present-day purveyors of the Disney cartoon catalog take us along for a journey to any land where money can be mined. And, with this being just one of four such excursions, the mighty dollar does indeed make this a small world, after all.
Long-time lovers of the Disney kingdom and all that dear Uncle Walt conjured up for their entertainment and amazement regularly wax nostalgic for the classic pieces of animated magic. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and others are the staples of the Disney "cartoon consciousness," and the various adventures and misadventures of the beloved characters are in constant demand by those who have grown up with them and by those newer generations who have grown to love them. And since "Disney" is generally regarded as synonymous with "delightful," we would expect that any release of classic Disney cartoons would be handled by the renowned studio with style, class, and ultimately with the "guest" in mind.
But, today, Di$ney has arguably become synonymous with "dollars."
It's difficult -- unpleasant, really -- to think of growing disregard of the House of Mouse, but it would be naïve to deny it. When Michael Ei$ner grabbed the reigns of the untainted empire back in 1984, the studio's tradition of excellence in animation was summarily shoved aside in deference to stifling bureaucracy and pocket lining. Ei$ner got the boot in 2005 and Robert Iger stepped forward to lead the kingdom proudly past the dollar-driven dark days. Unfortunately, even under Iger, Disney is more about marketing than it is about magic anymore, and, to the point of this review, here's irrefutable evidence that marketing angles, avenues of accessibility, and pathways to parlayed profits is what drives this modern day Clubhouse.
With complete disregard of one of Disneyland's most cherished attractions, Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun, Volume 3 arrives to sully the integrity of Walt's original vision: that all the cultures of the world could embrace their differences and rally their commonalities in altruistic and uplifting ways. To that end, a disc with this title must certainly contain poignant messages that help viewers understand different peoples from different lands and learn how to foster and celebrate the unity to be had in this "small world." Well, that would be a good message, but it won't be found here. Instead, you'll get a quick and cost-effective a la carte offering of Disney cartoons that are, shall we say, very loosely based on the principle of "exciting adventures in exciting lands." This is a sham, plain and simple.
But, to take a brief respite from the railing, here are the cartoons you'll find on this particular volume, each assigned its own country of representation:
* "Johnny Appleseed" (U.S.A.)
Here we witness the legend of John Chapman, more colloquially known as "Johnny Appleseed." As an apple farmer in the colonial East Coast provinces, young Johnny sees others heading West to explore new areas of the emerging nation but lacks the confidence to make a go of it himself. Up pops an aged angel to help give Johnny the courage and motivation he needs to take up his own trek westward. And so he does, stopping at every plot of fertile soil to sow rows of apple seeds. By the time his life on this Earth is done, he's single-handedly brought forth healthy apple orchards from coast to coast and everywhere in between.
This is perhaps the most interesting of the tales on the disc, as this 17-minute short produced in 1948 is heavily anchored in spiritual sensibility. Johnny sings how "the Lord's been good to me" (with voices and songs by Dennis Day) just as the aforementioned angel appears to arm Johnny with the Good Book to help guide him on his journey. The tale speaks to the power of faith and trust and the gifts we each possess to help in the Grand Plan for mankind. While there's no objection here to the message, it's just interesting how such a now-polarizing message could be included, unaltered, in a current-day product intended for mass consumption. The image quality here is decent with good coloring, but far too many speckles and flecks to think it had been dutifully restored in any way, shape, or form.
* "Pueblo Pluto" (Mexico)
Well, this looks like a side-road excursion just on the Arizona-Mexico border. Mickey Mouse and Pluto stop at a dusty souvenir stand to gander at the local wares. While Mickey ventures inside the shack, Pluto gnaws on a fresh bone. Beneath the planked porch, however, a small pup sniffs the marrow-filled treat and snatches it away from the flop-eared dog. Pluto gives chase and winds up corralled in a bracken of prickly cactus. The small pup sees Pluto's dilemma and helps him escape the stranglehold of succulents.
This one is just another routine Disney short from 1949, running a trim 6:21. The Mexican locale really doesn't have any bearing on the situations, as this could likely occur anywhere (given the cactus would likely be replaced by any other natural or man-made snare). The image quality is a bit shaky with too-frequent graininess cropping up. Lightly enjoyable, but not memorable for its setting at all.
* "Tiger Trouble" (India)
It's 1945 and Goofy is on safari in the deep jungles of India in search of the ferocious Bengal tiger. Mounted atop his stout elephant steed, Goofy trudges along in hopes of bagging a prize specimen. The tiger lays in wait and easily outwits and out-muscles the dopey dog. Within the confines of the feature's 7:37 run time, it's the elephant that saves the day and sends the tiger packing.
The Goofy cartoons are among the more clever of the Disney cavalcade thanks to the usual voice-over narration that provides sly comment on the dog's feeble nature. Although the narrator remains ever hopeful of Goofy's potential, the humor lies in the miscalculations that afflict every Goofy outing. The image quality here is decent; it's one of the cleanest of the bunch, showing only occasional film damage and debris.
* "Alpine Climbers" (Switzerland)
Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto are scaling the Swiss Alps, but we're not exactly certain why. Donald gathers a bunch of edelweiss only to lose them to a hungry mountain goat. Mickey attempts to plunder a nest full of eagle eggs, much to the ire of the attending mother eagle. Pluto succumbs to the elements and develops a fancy for a grog-bearing St. Bernard.
This is the worst looking transfer of the bunch, the image bearing a severely distracting dirty graininess throughout. Frankly, this has the visual quality of a cheapo DVD full of public domain cartoons. This is really a disgrace to see as certainly no consideration was given to the poor shape of the source material. As a side note, Walt Disney himself provides Mickey's voice in this 1936 'toon that runs 9:31.
* "Hello Aloha" (Hawaii)
Odd, but I thought Hawaii was a one of the fifty states. Well, according to this disc's driving notion, it's a country all its own. This is actually the most amusing of the cartoons as we again meet up with Goofy, playing the role of 1952's "everyman," a put-upon, stressed-out office worker who simply can't take it anymore. Instead, he quits his job and heads off the island paradise of Hawaii. Enjoying swaying in a hammock, fashioning a grass hut, and partaking of the local luau, life is tranquil -- that is, until the natives come looking for someone to sacrifice to the rumbling volcano.
Again, the humor works in this one thanks to the patented voice-over commentary that juxtaposes Goofy's exploits. The image quality of the 6:36 outing is quite good with strong colors and very little grain or source defects.
Taken separately, the six cartoons here are generally innocent of any ill intent, yet packaged as some sort of Disney excursion through the wonderful lands of the world, it's a rip-off. There is no meaningful exposition to the resident cultures of the different locales (save for the Hawaii lark), and therefore the collection is without any context. It's just a collection of cartoons brought forth in low-cost, low-effort manner. There are no extras to be found, either.
Again, it's a shame to bag on the joy that was once Disney, but with grabs like this, its difficult not to find offense in blatant attempts to snag a quick sale. The addition of the "limited time only" sticker on the disc's cellophane wrapper further infuriates those who are tired of being exploited by the Magic Kingdom's current caretakers.
Guilty of commercial indiscretion and cultural indifference.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site