Chris Willman
May 21, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Volume 2

Current Status
In Season
345 minutes
Animation, Kids and Family

We gave it an A


A touchstone amid all the uncensored vintage cartoons in the superb Walt Disney Treasures series is poor Leonard Maltin popping up to preface every short involving smoking, gunplay, blackface, Indian headdresses, Italian accents, or alcohol gags with a they-didn’t-know-better apologia. At one point in The Chronological Donald: Volume 1 (G, 275 mins., 1936 — 41), Maltin seems to snap from all these mea culpas, advising kids simply to watch everything Donald does and ”do just the opposite.” That’s a creditable life philosophy, even though viewers who discover anger mismanagement’s fowl prince at his ’30s rudest may find his garbled kvetching and furious shadowboxing a reasonable response to modern adversity.

By contrast, Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Volume 2 (G, 345 mins., 1939 — 95) shows that by the ’40s, Disney’s flagship character had become Milquetoast Mouse; he’s so benign that these later shorts focus mostly on Pluto pratfalls. But classics do turn up, and this set’s extras — including deleted ”Sorcerer’s Apprentice” footage — aren’t just rodent droppings.

The other two offerings will really have buffs salivating, with weirdnesses unseen for decades. Animation legend Ward Kimball’s bizarro portrayal of aliens and martian landscapes in Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond (G, 240 mins., 1955 — 59) is more Dali than Disney. But nothing’s more surreal than the German-bashing WWII ‘toons in Walt Disney on the Front Lines (G, 210 mins., 1941 — 45), among them ”Der Fuehrer’s Face,” in which Donald dreams he’s a swastika-wearing stooge, beaten down by the Nazi bureaucracy. Watching the irascible duck emasculated by Third Reichers who represent the ultimate rage of the 20th century is a scare even today’s edgy anime couldn’t hope to match.

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