I think it’s probably safe to say that the animation industry would not exist without Walt Disney. Say what you want about the company, it’s politics or whatever, it established the standard by which all animation films and shorts have been judged.
And the characters who helped set those standards are Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Those three iconic figures grew beyond the two-dimensional drawings they are into pop culture standards. But it always seems to me that Disney has shied away from using these cartoon greats too often. It’s been years since any of them have been seen on the big screen. The closest we have is Goofy, who made his most recent big screen appearance along side his son.
I think it would be in Disney’s best interest to give these icons a chance to shine again, and present them in a full-length motion picture. But, since that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, we still get to enjoy these guys in short form on a collection of DVDs recently released by Disney.
And, yes, I did avoid mentioning another pair. Although not on the same billing as the big three, Chip and Dale have also been handed their own DVD. To be honest, I was never a Chip and Dale fan. They were always on par with Woody Woodpecker, often obnoxious and generally troublemakers more than likable characters. But, I’ll get into that more later. Right now, I want to take a look at the four DVDs in the Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites series.
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 1 — Starring Mickey
The first in this series is, of course, Disney’s top star: Mickey Mouse. I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed the shorts here. Like with the other cartoon DVDs, I watched them with my son, curious to see how and if he will react to them. I actually didn’t expect much, but his attention was grabbed a few times.
One particular moment was during “Mickey’s Circus”, when the seals played the instruments. He chuckled, and seemed to really enjoy the entire short. The selection of shorts in this volume was actually pretty good, but what surprised me most was how several of them hardly featured Mickey. For example, “On Ice” is more an ensemble short that probably focuses more on Donald Duck and Pluto than any of the others. Even “Mickey’s Circus” is an ensemble, although Mickey does play a larger role. “Moving Day” is also a group short, where Donald, Goofy and Mickey team up.
I think “Orphan’s Picnic” really captured the family friendly, goody-goody Mickey most. That wholesome image that has made the character a lasting figure in American society, but also the bane of some people’s existence. Regardless of what you may thing of him, the Mickey cartoons are fun entertainment with a positive message, and that’s good enough for me.
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 2 — Starring Donald
I always thought the Donald Duck cartoons were much more of a hit and miss than any of the other Disney characters. They are often funny, but sometimes a little hard to get into because Donald is so often the victim of his own failings, chiefly his temper. As much as I understand that is the appeal of the character, for me it got old sometimes.
It had been a long time since I’d seen any of the classic Donald Duck cartoons. When I sat with my son to watch this DVD, honestly, I laughed a lot more than I expected. The short that had me chuckling the most was “Bee at the Beach”. Although the concept was standard Donald fair, it was smartly done. Plus, the animation is rather clean, which for some reason is a real issue for me.
Of the Disney characters, Donald Duck always stood out as probably the most unique cartoon creation. From the voice to his bad temper, that uniqueness helped make his shorts really stand out from the rest. The tone and feeling of this set is, I think, starkly different from the others because Donald is basically the exact opposite from Mickey. Where the mouse is happy and friendly, the duck is grouchy and self involved.
Perhaps it’s that edge to him which makes him such a popular Disney icon.
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 3 — Starring Goofy
Of the four volumes in this set, I’m pretty biased. Ever since I was a small kid, Goofy was my favorite Disney character. Forget the rest, that accident prone dog-thing was the one for me. I loved the character, I loved his films. He was the prime example of innocent fun, who always tried to do his best but always failed.
Watching this collection with my son was something I was really looking forward to, because I wanted him to see Goofy as I do. And while he didn’t laugh as much as I’d hoped, the Goofy DVD is the only one he watched all the way through. Every short.
The best of the collection here are the “How to…” shorts. The narrator’s dead pan delivery is part of what makes the humor in these stories so classic. He’s the straight man to Goofy’s comic genius. The rest of the shorts are more story oriented, and are just as entertaining. “Lion Down” is a classic piece of slapstick, while “Father’s Day Off” serves as the clear primer to what led to Goofy’s television series — the only one of the iconic Disney characters to have one — Goof Troop.
Goofy is the everyman. A loser who never sheds his good humor no matter how bad things get or how many times he fails. When it comes to animated characters, he’s my hero.
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Volume 4 — Starring Chip ‘n’ Dale
The problem I always had with these two is that I just never saw them as the good guys. They were not bad, exactly, but more often than not they always seemed to be the ones causing the trouble for someone else. I don’t know how much of that is true, and how much of that was my own perception, but my view of these two chipmunks were always forged with that idea.
After watching this collection, I’m in a bit of limbo about the two. I’m still not too fond of either of them, and while when in the wrong they often try to make right somehow, my feeling about these two haven’t changed much. At least in this form.
That brings me to something I wanted to talk about, and figured this was a good opportunity. I’m not that crazy about the way Chip ‘n’ Dale come off in some of these shorts, but when I was young I was a regular fan of the Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, a series that ran in the late 80s and early 90s. I think they made only about two or three seasons worth of episodes, but it was a fun show that actually made the two rodents likable.
This series also ran along with another Disney show, which I thought was their best animated series: Tail Spin. That show used Baloo from The Jungle Book as a pilot who existed in a world made largely of islands. It was an outstanding series, with some great animation and really great stories. I was a big fan of that show.
If Disney is really serious about DVDs, can I take this opportunity to request that they release Tail Spin, as well as Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, on DVD. The complete shows, all seasons. But not just the episodes, because I’d really love to see a documentary about each series. How they were created, where the idea of taking these familiar characters and putting them in completely new environments came from, because personally I thought it was brilliant.
Okay, that’s all I wanted to say. Thank you for your time.