Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites Vols. 1–4
Emru Townsend · January 16, 2005 | As someone who takes pleasure in both animation and animation history, the last few years have been a delirious wallow in cartoon excess. After years of their cartoon shorts slowly fading into obscurity, the Warner Bros. and Disney studios have been cleaning up and digitally remastering their libraries, packaging them under the Golden Collection and Walt Disney Treasures banners. Each set of DVDs comes with extras like audio commentaries, decades-old TV and movie footage, and long-forgotten interviews and source material.

It's the aficionado's seventh heaven, but if you think about it it's not very cost-effective for the companies that go through all this effort. This is why Warner Bros. simultaneously released the Premium Collection and Spotlight Collection sets, for people who just want to watch the newly spiffy cartoons but aren't willing to plunk down the cash for the Golden Collection sets.

Now it's Disney's turn. After four years of releasing the Walt Disney Treasures sets, they've finally gotten around to putting some of the restored shorts out in a budget-conscious, more mainstream format, under the Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites brand.

You can tell that these discs are meant for the local video, grocery and department stores, and are aimed at harried parents who want to pick up something for the kids to watch while they make dinner or catch their breath. Unlike the Treasures, the DVDs' box copy says nothing about the cartoons' historical importance; the menu layout isn't particularly noteworthy, but easy to follow and uses a kid-friendly typeface; and the discs use FastPlay, Disney's version of the automatic play feature seen on kids' DVDs.

Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites Vol. 1: Starring Mickey
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2005
60 minutes

Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites Vol. 2: Starring Donald
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2005
61 minutes

Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites Vol. 3: Starring Goofy
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2005
64 minutes

Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites Vol. 4: Starring Chip 'n' Dale
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2005
63 minutes

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In and of itself, this is fine. If marketing the shorts to kids helps finance the Treasures sets, then I say more power to Disney for doing it. But at the same time, I see a tremendous opportunity being lost.

The Disney company needs to realize that they are no longer the premium entertainment brand among kids. The under-16 set have been raised on a steady diet of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and anime almost since birth. This is especially true when it comes to Disney's classic cartoon characters. The last new, regularly appearing project featuring Mickey, Goofy or Donald in a starring role was the 1999 TV series Mickey Mouse Works; prior to that it was 1992's Goof Troop TV series. With little more than that, kids grow up experiencing Mickey more as icon and pitchman than character. In contrast, the Looney Tunes stable of characters have consistently been on TV in one form or another for the last forty years.

With this in mind, putting these remastered shorts on four discs, with no extras except trailers for upcoming DVDs (two classic features, one modern feature, and three Ghibli features), is a mistake. Rather than make extras on their DVD releases an all-or-nothing proposition, what they should do is include a few of the extras created for the Treasures sets on their mass-market releases. Better still, they should include them as part of the FastPlay sequence.
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