After a five-year hiatus from hand drawn animation, The Walt Disney Company will return to the medium with its latest animated feature The Princess and The Frog, tentatively set for a December 2009 release date. In anticipation of this occasion, the studio has begun releasing its classic animated shorts from its heyday of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and packaging them in gorgeous, newly remastered DVD editions; the latest of these being The Walt Disney Classic Short Films Animation Collection Volumes 4-6 which again showcase the rich history of Disney’s animated story telling.
Each volume in this set is centered around a main, featured short and accompanied by a handful of other classics that will often reflect the time period of the featured title.
The stand out of Volume 4 is one of Disney’s all-time classic shorts The Tortoise and the Hare. This of course being one of the most recognized fables in classic literature, the story gains a vibrancy in this Disney edition through its humor and eccentric portrayals of the main characters. The volume also contains a lesser known gem The Goddess Of Spring. Personifying the changing of the seasons, Spring here is depicted as a beautiful, young woman, who is snatched away and forced to remain half of the year in the fiery underworld of hell, thus bringing about winter. There are certainly dark and almost frightening moments in the short, but the music and colors contained within the scenery and characters strongly reinforce the idea of Spring melting away the coldness of Winter.
With Volume 5 comes one of the most famous and beloved shorts in Disney’s cannon Wind in the Willows. Narrated by perhaps the most famous Sherlock Holmes of all-time Basil Rathbone, the story follows J. Thaddeus Toad and his friends Rat, Mole, and Angus MacBadger as they try to reclaim the deed to Toad’s house that was stolen by a gang of weasels. The story humorously examines the bonds of friendship and the consequences of becoming obsessed over material possessions. The short gets its due with this remastered edition, allowing the richness of the colors to leap off the screen.
Highlighting volume 6 is The Reluctant Dragon, which follows a young boy enthralled by tales of knights in shining armor and fire breathing dragons who happens to come across both a knight and dragon that would rather drink tea and recite poetry than fight one another. The story illuminates the idea of myth, and takes an entertaining approach at bringing forth the reality and causes for many of these myths.
These volumes cover a large spectrum of literary lore from the American tall tale with such shorts as Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan, to fairytales like Babes In The Woods and The Ugly Duckling to morality plays like The Wise Little Hen, many of these stories remain universal in their themes, and through Disney’s rich character portrayals bring forth a freshness that is just as entertaining as when they were first released.
The timelessness of these stories is evident, and with Disney’s dedication in the preservation and restoration of these titles, a new generation can experience the beauty, humor and enlightenment of these beloved classics.