With the recent release of the WALT DISNEY TREASURES Wave Four DVD titles (Disney Home Ent., $32.99 each), MICKEY MOUSE IN BLACK AND WHITE, VOLUME TWO, THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB and THE COMPLETE PLUTO, VOLUME ONE, consultant Leonard Maltin help put them in perspective.
As far as Mickey is concerned, the second black-and-white volume and fourth volume altogether completes the legendary mouses oeuvre.
The earliest Mickey talkies are very rare, the critic/historian told AWN. Everyone knows STEAMBOAT WILLIE, but I dont know how many people know the ones that followed. We have a lot of cartoons from 1929 and [the early 30s]. Id put THE DELIVERY BOY from 1931 against anything that Mickey ever did, for gags, for energy, for the integration of music into a story. This is the primitive, sometimes rude Mickey Mouse before he became rounder, literally, softer, figuratively, and more of the corporate symbol. And of course we have the politically incorrect Mickey. It speaks of the times in which the films were made. And thats part of what makes them so interesting. People can make their own judgments and their own conclusions. Suppressing them doesnt do anyone any good.
In terms of the initial MICKEY MOUSE CLUB volume, which encompasses the first week on the air in 1955, Maltin said: To revisit week one of the show, was the ultimate time trip for me. I was of that generation that couldnt wait to get home from school and watch THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB. Its hard to explain meaningfully to anyone today the kind of excitement that show generated. Part of it was that it was a smaller world then [And in revisiting them], I didnt remember the full-length openings because in recent years they cut them down to half an hour for syndication. Well, there is more animation, there is more of the song and you even see characters who dont appear elsewhere. Oh, my god, is that Toby Tortoise? Yes, it is.
Plus theres the added bonus of Walt Disney voicing Mickey for the last time. It came about inadvertently when Walt casually walked by and looked in to see what Jimmy McDonald was doing and said that he could do that too. Whats funny is once thats pointed out to you, you can really hear that its Walt
Of Plutos first chance to shine in the Treasure DVD series, which has been extended another four years, Maltin observed: He was a pantomime character and what Norm Ferguson achieved, where you could see Pluto thinking, and that piece of animation with the flypaper, is justly famous. And theres a reason that it was studied so carefully by young up and coming animators.
And Maltin is justly proud of the fact that his interview with the late Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston about Ferguson turned out to be Thomas last. Frank had already fallen and that night they discovered there was internal bleeding and it was the beginning of the end. So I realized, My God, this was his last interview. No revelations, but it was a privilege to talk to someone firsthand about something that happened 70 years ago.