Over the past century, Disney has created several hundred animated shorts featuring characters that are still popular today. Back in 2005, the studio decided to start releasing these cartoons on hour-long compilation DVDs. These DVDs were released under many different names including “Classic Cartoon Favorites,” “Timeless Tales,” “It’s a Small World of Fun,” and “Funny Factory” discs, among others. But it has been two years since Disney has released any new DVD sets. Welcome to 2009 and Disney’s new cartoon compilation DVD line called “Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films”. The fourth volume of this set features Disney’s version of the famous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” along with five other animated shorts.
In the Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films – Volume 4, The Tortoise and the Hare is the featured animated short. This is the 1935 Oscar-winning short based on an Aesop fable that everyone knows by now, and where you learn that “slow and steady wins the race”. In addition, also featured on this disc, are 3 other “Silly Symphonies” shorts from the 1930s, Babes in the Woods, The Goddess of Spring, and the sequel to Tortoise and the Hare, Toby Tortoise Returns. Then, from 1958 we also get Paul Bunyan and 1961’s The Saga of Windwagon Smith.
Some would argue that The Tortoise and the Hare is not the most popular short on this set, but it is the only one that won an Oscar, so that is why it likely gets top billing here. However, you can’t argue with the message that The Tortoise and the Hare delivers. That main reason it has become so popular and memorable is it has all kinds of great applications to every day life today including the importance of humility, having strong determination, the danger of being prideful and many other important parts of life. Plus, the main characters, Toby the Turtle and Max Hare, are also memorable. In fact, Warner Brothers has pretty much admitted to getting the idea for their famous character, Bugs Bunny, from watching Max Hare in this short.
The three other “Silly Symphonies” cartoons shouldn’t be looked down as subpar to The Tortoise, though. Overall, this is a good sampling of these cartoons, although two of them feature adult characters and aren’t necessarily targeted towards young children. The last two shorts, Paul Bunyan and The Saga of Windwagon Smith aren’t awful, they just don’t seem to fit in with the other shorts that precede them. That is the biggest complaint with this set. Although, it should be noted that all of these shorts are available on previously released Disney compilation sets.
THE ANIMATED SHORTS:
“The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)” –
Max Hare and “slow but sure” Toby Tortoise compete in a mismatched, two-animal foot race. Using gags and rhymes, this short follows the speedy Hare as he uses his big lead to impress girl bunnies and play against himself in other sports. But who will win?
“Babes in the Woods (1932)” –
Hansel and Gretel wander into the forest, where they’re entertained by merry dwarves, but whisked away by a feared witch to her house made of candy. She’s not a very nice host, but all is not lost.
“The Goddess of Spring (1934)” –
Life is grand for the Goddess of Eternal Spring, with the gnomes, birds, and flowers around her all quite content. Then, an underworld king shows up with storm clouds and hobgoblins to make the Goddess his queen. While Hades welcomes her down below, cold grips the saddened Goddess’ world above. Happily, the Devil is not opposed to compromise.
“Toby Tortoise Returns (1936)” –
Toby Tortoise and Max Hare square off again, this time in the boxing ring. In front of an audience that includes the Three Little Pigs, ready medics, sexpot wren Jenny (inspired by Mae West), and those adoring girl bunnies, the one-sided match has a now-expected “surprise” ending.
“Paul Bunyan (1958)” –
Regional timber workers take turns telling the story of the American folk hero. Adopted as a giant baby by a whole town, Paul Bunyan grows up and becomes an expert woodsman. Moving west to find more trees to clear, he meets Babe, a big blue ox who becomes a real pal. Together, they change the nation’s landscape. The short concludes with a man vs. machine showdown.
“The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961)” –
Riding into Kansas in a cloud of dust, proud Captain Smith excites the whole town with a horseless wagon that sails on the prairie wind. When he’s not making time with the mayor’s daughter Molly, Smith draws up plans for a vast windwagon with which to deliver goods to Santa Fe.
The video included is available in fullscreen color presented at the 1:33.1 aspect ratio. The quality is okay. Each animated short has their own issues. They are not always clear, but none of them are so awful that they are unwatchable. But this is the best these shorts are going to look, because of their age.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The package says Surround sound, but it’s more like Mono sound. Again, because of their age, not the best quality. But there is nothing to bad going on here that would make these shorts unwatchable.
Collectible Lithograph Print –
Like previous volumes of this new collection,the only “extra” is a wide collectible lithograph print (7 1/8″ x 4 3/8″). This one depicts the two title characters of The Tortoise and the Hare by the start line in stances reflecting their personalities. It appears, though, that this is just a standard printed four-color, box-sized cardboard cutout from the DVD cover.
The six animated shorts on this volume are all good. They all don’t seem to go together, but still worth checking out. But if you are a longtime Disney Collector, you will already own these shorts, because they have been released before. However, if you are new to the Disney collecting game, this set is a good way to start things off.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents Walt Disney Animation Collection: Volume 4 – The Tortoise and the Hare. Directed by Wilfred Jackson, Les Clark, and Charles A. Nichols. Written by Charles A. Nichols, Ward Kimball, Lance Nolley, and Ted Berman. Starring Rex Allen. Running time: 64 minutes. Rated G. Released on DVD: May 12, 2009. Available at Amazon.com