Mickey

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.....An unsurprising choice for the flagship volume of the Limited Gold Edition, the Mickey video gives about as accurate a portrait of animation's biggest star as is possible, taking him from his 1928 debut in "Steamboat Willie" to his 1953 theatrical swan song, "The Simple Things". As such, it's probably the most balanced of these cassettes, although Mickey's rise and fall has always been easier to chart than, say, Donald or Goofy, who were frequently used throughout the '60s and '70s, long after their theatrical series had collapsed. (Goofy in particular had a massive boost of prominence when this video came out, as Disney was successfully milking the "Sport Goofy" theme.) If anything, this tape stands as the definitive "primer", with its shorts and the standard Limited Gold Edition historical trailer, on Mickey Mouse. (Which is definitely a good thing!) Running Time: Approx. 51 Minutes

Contents



Introduction - I have the intro video posted, so I'm not going to give a play-by-play or anything. The Limited Gold tapes have, for the first time, an FBI warning, possibly because of the landmark legal decision in earlier in 1984 that essentially legalized the recorder function of VCRs everywhere (a legal precedent which is in danger in the DVD era). The blue "licensed for home use" page is a blatant use of a video-edited still frame (as is the Limited Gold Edition logo screen), and the Walt Disney Home Entertainment logo is complete here, unlike the cut off logo sequence in the regular Cartoon Classics videos.

The intro video begins before the Limited Gold Edition logo has even faded to black, and begins with what sounds like a very youthful Wayne Allwine doing the voice of "present day" Mickey. The short itself starts with a great retelling of the official Mickey story ("I was in New York at the time; I had been producing a series of pictures for a company there, they were about a rabbit, called Oswald. But I lost that-they took it away from me. So I was all alone, and had nothing, and Mrs. Disney and I were coming back, from New York, on the train, and I had to have something. I said, 'By the time I get to Hollywood, I must have something to uh, I can't tell them that I've lost Oswald.' So, I had this mouse in the back of my head, 'cause a mouse is sort of a sympathetic character, in spite of the fact that everybody is frightened by a mouse, including myself."), but there are inaccuracies, as the footage from the Alice shorts are from two pictures-one being the pilot, and another that does in fact feature a room full of mice. Also, the headlines shown are from much later on-the cover of Time is of course the one from 1937 when Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Mickey's first official words are actually the first words performed by Walt Disney, in "Haunted House".

Despite this, the presentation does accurately capture those heady days, as does the use of footage from "Mickey's Gala Premier" to commemorate Mickey's special Oscar, given to him in 1932 (which is still Mickey's lone Oscar win, as "Lend A Paw" is considered a Pluto cartoon). There is a huge strip of tape (see bottom left screen grab) in the footage of Hollywood's elite congratulating Mickey, by far the worst tape splice of the intro. Also of note is how Br'er Bear and Br'er Rabbit (from Song of the South) are in the final video montage, a bit of a shocker, even if their film made it into theatres in 1983 (and would make a very brief, and very successful, appearance in 1986), sharing the stage with a who's who of Disney animation. After the sequence ends, we get a few moments of a tape-specific title card, which isn't a still frame image.

"Steamboat Willie" - Mickey's initial appearance looks, to be extraordinarily kind, like garbage. Less a black and white short than a sepia toned one, this short screams, "Restore me!" especially in comparison to the snippet seen in the Limited Gold Edition intro. The reason for the sorry state of this short, though, is because Disney used the 1953 reissue print (which, since it has an optical soundtrack, is far easier to transfer to video), which has a scene excised because of the old Hays Code (which went into effect some 5 years after the release of "Steamboat Willie"), which frowned upon nipples (apparently even the pig nipples that cut out to make this version). Like the present restored version, one can easily notice the jump in the soundtrack when the edit occurs.
"Mickey's Grand Opera" - Oddly, this short is not only without its original titles (beginning and end), but they have been replaced by the ones from "Symphony Hour", resulting in a rather abrupt cut in the opening and no title card whatsoever. However, the short itself looks magnificent given its age and the lack of restoration technology in 1984. The short itself is a bit more of a Pluto piece (to say nothing of featuring a classic Donald/Clara Cluck scene, the recording for which was re-enacted in 1941's The Reluctant Dragon), but manages to use Mickey just enough, so as to remind the viewer just who's short this is. Also of note is the frog at the end, which may just have been Chuck Jones' inspiration for "One Froggy Evening".
"The Worm Turns" - A fun short that later inspired a similar Tom & Jerry short, this short shows off Mickey at his most devious, creating a super formula that is capable of turning the food chain on its heel. Not only is this short faster paced than most Disney shorts of the '30s, it has lots of little jokes (such as the cat's nine lives retreating as Pluto closes in for the kill) that make the short. Perhaps the only flaw in its presentation is a thin vertical line that appears near the end of the short, and goes away only at the end title.
"Mickey's Parrot" - This short was probably included not just because of the iconic image of Mickey as he realizes that "the killer" is right behind him, but because of the parrot featured in the short, who is without a doubt the best one-shot character to appear in a classic Mickey not named Mortimer. The print is a bit dark and yellowed at times, but is still a wonderfully charming cartoon.
"Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip" - Speeding past Mickey's Fantasia redesign and into his last years of real use (as World War II would all but halt Mickey's film career after the early part of 1942), this short represents a somewhat surprising resurgence for Mickey in the early '40s in terms of story quality before he would fade away. The opening titles are noticeably darker and more worn than the rest of the short, which means that Disney had to do some deep searching for the original titles. While dated (as trains are no longer the mainstream transportation that they were then), it's as fast and furious on the laughs as classic Disney shorts get.
"Symphony Hour" - Perhaps one of Mickey's greatest shorts (and his last real ensemble piece before Pluto all but took over the series for its final dozen installments), this short is everything a Mickey should be: well-animated, majestic, charming, funny, and, above all, eminently likable. Somewhat fittingly, the most prominent "voice" outside of Walt Disney (as Mickey), Pinto Colvig (Goofy), and Billy Bletcher (Pete) is the sound effects wizardry of Mickey's second voice, the late, great Jimmy MacDonald. The titles are replaced for those from a ragged first release print (as the reissue titles were totally different for this cartoon), but is otherwise in perfect shape. Also, not only is this short the only time that Mickey pulls a gun on Donald, but Pete is referred to as Sylvester Macaroni and Donald scores the holy trinity of classic cartoon racial stereotypes: African native, Chinaman, and Indian chief.
"The Simple Things" - Mickey's last classic short is included for historical reasons, as Mickey has severely devolved as a character by this point, cashing in on Mickey's easy going charm and Pluto's humorous potential more than Mickey Mouse as a character. The gags are unfortunately derivative of past efforts like "Hawaiian Holiday". This is truly sad, not only because Jimmy MacDonald is a really good Mickey (and gets short shrift compared to his other "official" peers, Walt Disney and Wayne Allwine, because of the lack of opportunities he got to prove himself as Mickey), but because this cartoon was one of the final works of Mickey's greatest artist, Fred Moore, who burned out after his stunning early Disney career, and died from internal injuries suffered in a car accident. However, Mickey's story would not end here.....

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