At the time of this writing, The Walt Disney Animation Collection stands at six volumes, each comprised of a single DVD containing more than an hour of cartoon shorts from the vast Disney archive, titled after the first cartoon on the disc. Many, if not all, of these selections have appeared in various home-video releases over the years.
Volume 1 begins with “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” a variation on the Brothers Grimm “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It first appeared in Fun and Fancy Free (1947) with live-action footage of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen acting as a narrator. When the cartoon aired on television in 1963, the narration was taken over by the animated characters Professor Ludwig von Drake and Herman the Cricket, which is the version presented here. “Mickey and the Beanstalk” features the trinity of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, who must rescue a singing harp from a giant. This cartoon has the distinction of being the last time Walt played Mickey.
The remaining cartoons in the volume all star Mickey. Also based on a Grimm fairy tale, “The Brave Little Tailor” (1938) finds him taking on a different giant after villagers mistake his claim about killing seven flies with one blow. In “Thru The Mirror” (1936) Mickey dreams he goes through the looking glass like Alice, and in the black-and-white “Gulliver Mickey” (1934) tells his nieces and nephews about the time he was shipwrecked on an island. “Mr. Mouse Takes A Trip” (1940) leaves the storybooks behind as Mickey trying to sneak Pluto on the train passed frequent Disney villain Pete.
The Three Little Pigs lead the way on Volume 2 with a trio of Silly Symphonies shorts. They were introduced in the Academy Award-winning “Three Little Pigs” (1933), in “The Big Bad Wolf” (1934) they help Little Red Riding Hood, and “Three Little Wolves” (1936) retells “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with the wolf joined by three young sons.
Narrated by Disney regular Sterling Holloway, “Lambert The Sheepish Lion” (1951) presents a familiar twist as the stork drops off a baby lion to a herd of sheep. He’s a bit of an oddball and an outcast because he is so different, but of course his uniqueness is what saves the day, much like “Elmer Elephant” (1936) who is teased because of his trunk. That is, until a fire needs to be put out in the jungle.