Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, Judge Clark Douglas smells a double-dip!
"You traded our cow for three stupid beans?"
Mickey and the Beanstalk is the first volume in new Disney DVD series called the "Disney Animation Collection." Each volume picks one classic, popular Disney animated short as the lead feature, and offers several similarly-themed animated shorts as backup. So, let's take a look at the shorts included in this set.
"Mickey and the Beanstalk" (29 minutes): Our first story is
narrated by the esteemed Professor Ludvig von Drake, a German Duck (whose voice
sounds precisely like that of Johann Krause in Hellboy II: The Golden Army). He
is accompanied by his very easily persuaded companion, a cricket named Herman.
Professor von Drake takes us to the legendary Happy Valley, which was once the
happiest place in the world. It was the happiest place in the world because a
singing harp lived there. Every day, the singing harp would sing a song called,
"My, What a Happy Day!" This made everyone extraordinarily happy.
Alas, one day the singing harp was stolen, and the happy land was turned into an
impoverished and miserable place. Three miserable peasants named Mickey Mouse,
Donald Duck, and Goofy lived there. They were very poor, and had almost nothing
to eat. It was driving them all mad. In a moment of desperation, Mickey sold the
cow for three magic beans. Angry at Mickey's seemingly foolish decision, Donald
Duck throws the magic beans out the window. Overnight, the beans grow into a
magic beanstalk, which takes the three peasants to a giant castle in the sky
inhabited by…well, a giant. The very same giant who stole the singing
harp! This fun take on the classic fairy tale is a very entertaining outing,
filled with clever visual gags and an amusing take on a familiar story. I
remember enjoying it as a kid, and was glad to discover that it's held up quite
well. The banter between Von Crause and Herman is also quite amusing. This short
was previously included in the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living
Color, Volume Two set.
"The Brave Little Tailor" (9 minutes): A giant is coming to a
small village, and all of the villagers are understandably paranoid. All except
for the local tailor (Mickey Mouse), of course. He's just minding his own
business, making clothes and swatting flies. When he tells the villagers that he
just killed seven flies in one blow, the villagers mistakenly think he said that
he killed seven giants in one blow. So, they recruit him to kill the giant
that's coming to town. At first, the peasant refuses, realizing that he is
entirely outmatched. He changes his mind when he realizes that he will win the
hand of the fair Minnie if he slays the giant. The fun ensues when Mickey
attempts to destroy the giant from the inside out. This one is less impressive
than "Mickey and the Beanstalk," but nonetheless enjoyable. This short
has been included on several previous DVD compilations.
"Thru the Mirror" (9 minutes): Poor Mickey Mouse eats a walnut and
is shrunk down to 1/20th of his normal size. During this time, he engages in
playful interaction with a variety of appliances and items of furniture in his
household. This Alice in
Wonderland-inspired story is pretty weak and generally lacking in humor,
probably the least interesting short of the set. It was previously released as
part of the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume
"Thru the Mirror" (8 minutes): The first black-and-white short
included here. Mickey offers his own re-telling of Jonathan Swift's
Gulliver's Travels. As with most adaptations of the Gulliver story, this
one focuses exclusively on the hero's interaction with the puny Lilliputians.
Mickey is particularly obnoxious in this adventure, tickling the rear ends of
the Lilliputians (no jokes) when they try to communicate with him. He then
proceeds to do battle with the tiny warriors. The poor little people don't stand
a chance against such a tyrannical mouse. There's an incredibly weird moment in
which Pluto appears as a giant hairy spider. Not bad, not great, just kind of
odd. This short is appearing on DVD for the very first time.
"Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip" (8 minutes): Mickey and Pluto get on a
train and go on a vacation. Unfortunately, they only have a ticket for one. The
conductor gets angry when he discovers that a dog is onboard, and much chaos
ensues. A reasonably typical chase cartoon with a few engaging bits. The
blustery conductor character is a bit irritating, though. It was previously
released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color,
Volume Two set.
My biggest problem here is the transfer. Disney usually does a pretty good job of cleaning up their releases, but there are far more scratches and flecks than usual on this release. These shorts are well below the high standard of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection releases. The colors here are fairly vibrant, but the level of detail is lacking at times. Audio is mostly acceptable, though occasionally a bit dirty and distorted. I was generally pleased with Disney's 5.1 mix, which does a nice job in the musical department. There are no extras on the disc.
Transfer issues aside, I mostly enjoyed the shorts on this disc. For the casual viewer, this is an affordable alternative to some of the more lavish collector's sets. For fans of classic cartoons, the aforementioned Walt Disney Treasures set is a better choice. Here's hoping Disney does a better job cleaning up future releases of this sort.
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