Friday, December 14, 2007

Disneyland on DVD

A few years ago I wandered into the Virgin Megastore in Orlando (OK, OK, actually Downtown Disney) and saw something I thought I'd never see: a used, almost mint copy of the Walt Disney Treasures tin Disneyland, USA. I totally missed the boat on this in 2001 and hadn't thought much of it, but here it was for $17 and oh yes it was mine! I was so excited I immediately bought David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, then plunked down $8 and saw The Haunted Mansion on the big screen. This succession of events was sufficiently ridiculous to be lumped together that I'll probably never forget them.

A Day in My Life: November 2003

Then, in mid 2004 and late 2004, the utterly essential Wave Three and Four of the Treasures was released, and I fell in love. Over the next few months I began collecting all the Treasures I was interested in (I'm still missing Behind The Scenes at the Walt Disney Studios, but it's one of the cheapest ones available on the second market despite the fact that The Reluctant Dragon is capital A Awesome), and I find them to be quite an invaluable line of releases.

In 2005, one of my most anticipated DVDs was to be Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, and Magic. It was to be released in July 2005, and I drove to Downtown Disney at 9 in the morning to be the first in Once Upon A Toy to buy it. They didn't get it. After spending a few hours wandering around in frustration, I returned home and finally discovered that it had been delayed - until the end of the 50th celebration. OK, I can wait. Then it was never announced. And then, in 2006, the silly looking Walt Disney Legacy Series was announced, and everyone knew the writing on the wall: Disney Treasures was effectively dead. This was confirmed when Destino, Oswald the Rabbit, and the much neglected Disneyland: Secrets and Stories was announced to be in Wave 2 of the WD Legacy Series.

Then, suddenly, the effing LEGACY SERIES was cancelled, probably due to poor sales of the True Life Adventure films (the DVD cases looked silly and confusing, is my big theory), and nobody knew what to do. Wave Seven of Walt Disney Treasures was actually announced, and they weren't fooling me when Disneyland: Secrets and Stories was included. I knew they couldn't possibly actually be releasing this. I even thought for a moment about not buying it out of spite until they announced that People and Places: Disneyland USA would be included, and I went apoplectic.

If you've never seen People and Places: Disneyland USA... well, by now everyone can, but I've been watching a bad bootleg of it for years, split into two AVI files, and furthermore significantly different than the theatrical version included here. The version I've been watching was shorn of at least ten minutes of material but they did, strangely enough, revise the Jungle Cruise segment so it included a strange man with a megaphone and a more complete trip on the 1956 ride. I think this was done for a television airing. Regardless I thought it was an amazing little film until I found out it was originally filmed in Cinemascope and, well, I went bonkers.

Now in it's proper aspect ratio and nicely restored and on those little shiny discs which have been my financial ruination since 1998, watching it is like eating a million Vanilla-Pineapple Dole Whips all at once. It's that good. I still haven't watched the feature documentary, but I paid my $25 for this and this only. Imagine my shock when other really great stuff was also included!

Thanks to most of the stuff on the second disc not being mentioned in the press release, this two disc set has been bumped from pretty awesome to absolutely essential. If you HAVE to get only three Walt Disney Treasures discs, it's this one, Walt Disney on the Front Lines, and The Complete Goofy. Now I can ditch my bootleg copies of Disney Goes to the World's Fair, The Golden Horseshoe Revue, and Disneyland Around the Seasons which I never really liked but which I'm not about to turn my nose up at having.. !

But the thing that really knocked me for a loop is an (again unannounced) 30 minute feed of time-lapse photography of the construction of Disneyland, hidden away in the Bonus Features menu, with pleasant commentary by Tony Baxter (master of rocks) and friends. This footage is amazing, and even more astonishingly, was discovered in a Pennsylvania salt mine! I don't know if that beats The Passion of Joan of Arc being discovered under a rag in a Norwegian insane asylum, but it's close.

Please regularly check between the walls of your house for undetected prints of
Greed or The Magnificent Ambersons.

Back in 2003 when I finally pried open Disneyland USA I was disappointed at how lax the DVD set really was. Disneyland After Dark was edited, the pictorial quality of the discs was so-so, and there was nothing except those Disneyland episodes. Well Disneyland: Secrets and Stories is exactly what I wanted Disneyland, USA to be. Please immediately improve your weekend and go buy it now. If these sell out it means the good cause of the Treasures Tins could continue yet another year.


Jeffrey Pepper said...

Three days after watching Disneyland USA, I am still glowing with an aura of brightness that is often blinding my family, friends and co-workers.

Yeah, it is that amazing.

The opening aerial flyover was the closest thing I've had to a religious experience since seeing Sleeping Beauty in Cinemascope for the first time.

Disneyana World said...

I'm the only person who buys 'Disney Treasures' from the local Best Buy.

Tannerman said...

FoxxFur... you've got to cut Wave 1 some slack. Sure, it was a trainwreck, with edited copies, hidden Easter Eggs all over the place, and nothing really listed in chronological order. But it also featured higher quality tins, stamped print runs, and the infamous blue bands around the packaging. :)

Back in the day, I got probably as frustrated as you with how messy that wave was, especially when compared to the latter ones. I even went so far as to create my own customized DVD inserts to solve the problems of that wave (a pause for self promotion: )

Those mid-range Treasures still seem like the best, though I would agree that the People and Places installment on the latest Disneyland set is pretty grand. I appreciate it tons more than the 50th documentary commercial :)

A. Dimond said...

Blew Diet Coke out my nose when I scrolled down to Falconetti and Uncle Walt, don't know why that's such a funny juxtaposition.

I've always wondered which of the Treasures sets to prioritize (having a limited budget). Now I know what to ask for for Xmas. Thanks!

As for those 42 reels of Greed, they were taking up a lot of space in my basement, I was low on firewood... don't I feel like a heel. Sorry, world!

By the way, this blog is the best I've ever read. If it did not exist, we would have to invent it.

Cory Gross said...

I've done my part, and found what must have been one of the only two copies of Disneyland: Secrets, Stories and Magic in my city (#49,3something as well!)...

I agree with the person who didn't care too much about the new documentary. I suppose my view is coloured by too many Extinct Attractions Club DVDs, meaning I've already heard all those same anecdotes. The trivia game was pretty well put together though, and I enjoyed the variety of "prizes".

It is the "bonus features" that are the real stars of the program... Finally I've been able to see a Golden Horseshoe Review, and with Primeval World being one of my favorite Disneyland attractions, the behind-the-scenes footage is fantastic.

After this, Disneyland USA and Your Host, Walt Disney, they've at least got one more Disneyland-related DVD in them. One I've been dying to see in a proper, non-bootleg format is the An Adventure in the Magic Kingdom 1958 episode, which is the TV show that used a lot of the footage from People and Places: Disneyland USA. I actually would much rather have seen that than the documentary.

Of course, they could do to rerelease Disneyland USA without edits and things. I was disappointed when I finally found it second-hand and learned that my bootlegs of Disneyland After Dark and the Osmonds/Haunted Mansion episode were more complete. It was especially bad since the Jazz number on the Mark Twain is my favorite sequence!

I feel your pain about the first wave though... There were a number of DVDs I missed out on because I was just getting back into Disney at the time and wasn't a dedicated enough of a fan. If I could go back, I would have bought Davy Crockett, both Silly Symphonies, both Mickeys in Black and White, and the Disney Studios disks. I also would have bought Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, rather than have to wait until the dollar parity to wing 'em on Amazon. (got Snow White this week though!) Hindsight is 20/20!

My dream disks for any future Walt Disney Treasures waves, now that I know to buy them when I see them, are:
- Before Mickey: more Alice, more Oswald, and the Laugh-o-Grams.
- Tomorrowland 2: Magic Highway USA and whatever else was missed the first time around.
- Ranger Woodlore and Humphrey the Bear: all the 'toons starring these characters, together and respectively. Probably filled out with other 'toons and live action films with a National Parks theme.
- People and Places: a selection of these shorts... I know the True Life Adventures didn't sell well, but at least compliment the series!
- More Disneyland: I'm sure we can come up with some kind of snappy name - Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth, or something - but basically just fill out the remaining worthwhile episodes about the park.

I'm sure there's more, but that's what's popping to mind at the immediate moment.

FoxxFur said...

Andy: That's an Eisenstein style joke... notice the matched cropped shoulder and similar empty space. I was proud of that one. ;)

I'm pretty certain that all the Humphrey the Bears are on Disney Rarities.. the remaining Donald / Ranger Woodlores ought to be on Donald, Vol. 4.

I want to see another disc of random stuff with post-Walt stuff on it too, like Magic Highway, the Kimball stuff, and so on. This could also be the time to get out "From Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow", the still MIA "Disneyland Showtime", and so on. I'd even like to see them put together the stuff that's out there on WDW. Getting a nice quality copy of the Opening Day stuff from Florida would be lovely. Should also throw on there a good widescreen print of the Walt Disney Story.

They're running out of stuff after this... another Donald, another Rarities, more Mickey Mouse Club (blah..). After that they need to start getting creative. I know that somebody was lobbying for all of the Latin American stuff together and fully annotated (I'm really hurting for this), they could also do So Dear To My Heart, since a Treasures Song of the South is unlikely.

I'd like to see more Oswald but over half of what they bought back is lost, and companies are usually *very bad* about getting out silent films due to a number of issues with decomposition, speed correction, and having to commission scores for the whole thing. I guess a few more could be eventually in the works but I'm not holding my breath for that or more Alice comedies.

I drove around Metro Orlando (not the tourist zone) for the better part of three hours on Thursday and finally found the very last copy of Disneyland: Secrets and Stories in Waterford. I guess I'll have to buy Donald from The Vault, ie Virgin Megastore. I really hope the Treasures continues, their production standards really increased this wave but the limited size of the releases is discouraging. Oswald is the biggest one this time around and that's a TINY standard size wave from past years!

Unknown said...

I can't wait for my copy to arrive! After reading you and Jeff wax poetically, I knew I needed to count my pennies to get a copy.

Cory--are the extinct attractions DVDs worth it?

Cory Gross said...

Humphrey first appeared in the Goofy cartoon Hold That Pose, and then the Donald cartoons Rugged Bear, Grin and Bear It, Bearly Asleep, and Beezy Bear. J. Audobon Woodlore first appeared in Grin and Bear It, and was also in Beezy Bear and Grand Canyonscope. The two appeared together on their own in Hooked Bear and In the Bag (I hadn't heard that song in decades, but I knew every word!) which is what appeared on the Rarities disk. Woodlore later appeared in 3 Wonderful World of Disney nature documentaries - Ranger’s Guide to Nature, Nature’s Better Built Homes, Nature’s Charter Tours -and and anthology animation, The Ranger of Brownstone.

I figure that's enough to fill out a Treasures disk, even if it had a smaller run like 50,000. Since getting my degree, I've found Woodlore and Humphrey's National Parks tourist humour to be absolutely hysterical ^_^

I see your point about the silent stuff, but I am such a silent movie buff that I want more! I don't even care how bad the quality is! I've seen a lot worse than anything Disney could clean up and put out. The smattering of Alices on Rarities and Oswald are a nice sample, but I'd like to see more. And with all the Oswald hoopla, I'm surprised that Leonard and co. aren't even acknowledging the Laugh-O-Grams, which were Walt's very first effort at animation.

But now that you mention it, the Latin American features and ancillary cartoons and things would be a fantastic disk! Watching clips here and there, and having purchased Melody Time, I'm getting awfully curious about them in full form!

George: The Extinct Attractions Club DVDs are really worth it. They've put quite a lot of work into them and got all the right people on screen... Instead of a snippet of an anecdote, you sit down with the Imagineer for 5 full minutes at a time, often. The footage they've dug up is fantastic as well. And you simply can't beat the time and attention paid to documenting what no one else would bother to.

If my finances weren't more constrained, I would have gotten right on ordering the 20,000 Leagues disks. Alas for school!

Michael said...

No Ambersons, but I did find a complete workprint of Thief and the Cobbler stuck in my carburetor when I had it changed. Between that and all the stuff from Welles' Don Quixote I found in the lint trap of my dryer I think ebay is going to be good to me...

Anyway, the Treasures...

I still mourn the editing of Wave I. That is an atrocity that still needs to be amended, although it never will be.

I think all extant Oswalt shorts are included on this disc, although I could be wrong. Lots are still lost. There are many unreleased but existing Alice shorts, though, and that would make a nice combo with the Laugh-O-Grams and maybe some other early rarities.

The Latin America material would be a fantastic combo; they could include "Blame it on the Samba" and any information about the 3rd unproduced feature.

I'd also like a "So Dear To My Heart" and "Song of the South" combo.

Of course, I'd also like to see the musical package features re-released in an unedited format.

There's enough left for another Disneyland set, and there's always been a rumor of a compilation of educational films (Mathmagicland, etc).

The Legacy series could be revived for post-Walt rarities (all the Kimball stuff that doesn't get seen) and WDW specials for us east-coasters.

Anyway, once more Disney marketing refuses to take my money by not producing things that I would instantly buy. They make interesting things in tiny runs, don't advertise, and are surprised when they don't sell. I will never buy anything related to High School Musical. I would blow my entire next paycheck on these DVDs if they existed.