Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities

For those without love for Mickey or Donald, there is this silver-tinned collection: two discs of one-offs and limited series done without Disney's trademark critters. Whether it will kindle new love is another issue. Disc one goes from the pre-Mickey "Alice" shorts, combining live action and animation at the dawn of the TV age, and includes famous traditional clips like "Chicken Little," "Lambert the Sheepish Lion" and the Oscar-winning "Ferdinand the Bull." Disc two deals with the pop-modern shorts done after the onslaught of television, including "Paul Bunyan," "Pigs is Pigs" and several experiments with stop-motion animation. But for all of the love and care lavished on these bits of Disneyana, something is missing. Often, they take tart, clever ideas and soften them for palookas from Palookaville — you can even see some wicked Chuck Jones inflections in the later films being crushed by Uncle Walt's heavy, sappy hands. Some wartime shorts are especially laboured and self-satisfied in their satire, hammering home points at cross-purposes. And surely a paper is to be written on how these "to the side" efforts are inordinately obsessed with fatherly, condescending narration and runts of the litter cutely asserting themselves. Watching them chronologically is an interesting look at the face of animation (it changes from total po-faced literalism to sharp stylisation), but unbelievers are not going to be rallied to the Disney cause by the product inside. Extras include intros by Leonard Maltin, an interview with original "Alice" actress Virginia Davis, a timeline on Disney's forays in the silent era, an audio commentary for "A Symposium on Popular Songs" by songwriter Richard Sherman, and animation art galleries. (Disney/Buena Vista)