Disney has recently released a series of “treasures” from their vaults. A collection of cartoons and shows which highlight the classic productions they’ve put together over the decades.
The first of them that I’ll be looking at this week is The Mickey Mouse Club, which features the first five episodes of the series from October, 1955. It’s a trip into the past that is telling of the time that they were made in. A time in which I was not yet in this world.
These episode aired about twenty years before I was born, and represent an era that was long, long gone by the time I’d grown up. The Mickey Mouse Club I remember was pretty different, although I honestly never watched it much. But it was a curious oddity for me to see these episodes, which at times I actually had a hard time getting through.
Perhaps I’m the wrong person to comment on this collection. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have fond memories of watching this series. It seems like fun, harmless entertainment. It’s just not my generation, however. I think the only comparison I could make to modern entertainment is something like Barney, or the Wiggles. These live-action children shows have the same kind of innocence, with the only difference being that they have more of a focus on education than The Mickey Mouse Club appeared to have.
The presentation is pretty clean. Good contrast, sweet sound. I can only imagine what these shows looked like when kids were squat in front of the smell, black-and-white screens as Annette Funicello and the rest of the Mouseketeers sang that famous song:
“M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E! Mickey Mouse!”
Each episode had a different theme, and each was broken up into different segments. There was a general cartoon, musical numbers, a special newsreel that showed different Disney activities around the globe, and an educational segment about how to learn to be a pilot and an “airline hostess”.
The job bit is probably the one part of the collection that speaks a lot about the time period in which this series aired. It’s pretty defined regarding the roles of men and women. I don’t criticize it for that, as it’s a simple part of the 50s, but I think it’s the one element to this collection that doesn’t stand the test of time.
Leonard Maltin, who seems to be a regular on the Disney payroll when it comes to these DVDs, hosts a little Q&A with some of the former Mouseketeers. They talk about their experiences and the show’s main adult star, Jimmy Dodd, who I was surprised to learn was also the guy who wrote the famous theme song. A few clips of home movies were spliced into parts of the discussion, and I have to say I thought it was actually a well done chat.
Another interesting presentation was “The Mouseketeers Debut at Disneyland”, which intercut the originally aired black-and-white footage with color footage of a rehearsal from the day before. It was pretty interesting, because they all seemed more real when it switched to the color footage. Guess that’s just my generation talking, but it was strange.
Plus, the opening animation sequence is viewable in color. And, oddly enough, it seemed more familiar that way. All of a sudden I realized I’d actually seen it before. I didn’t even pick up on that when I watched it in black-and-white.
This DVD set is a wonderful step back into the past. I think adults who grew up watching this series would have a great time showing this to their grandchildren.
But for those looking to catch Annette’s name curving around the sides, as so comically detailed in the famous chat in Stand by Me, you’re apt to be disappointed. From what I understand, that wasn’t until later in the show’s run.