Leonard Maltin’s Studio Tour
Behind the Boards on Baby Weems
The Reluctant Dragon Gallery
Walt Disney Studios Gallery
Tour Of The Disney Studio Radio Program (audio only)
Kem Weber Gallery
Running Time: 4 Hours
Leonard Maltin hosts this special DVD collection featuring early behind the scenes looks at the Walt Disney Studios. The centerpiece of the DVD is “The Reluctant Dragon” a movie Disney cobbled together from a variety of ideas to keep animators employed during World War II. The movie answered the most frequently asked question of how they make cartoons. The basic premise of the movie is that Robert Benchley arrives at the Walt Disney Studios to pitch a cartoon idea to Walt himself. As he is given a tour by a straight-laced security guard, he breaks away to visit various portions of the studio. Along the way he learns how they draw the characters, how the make the sounds, how they animate the cartoons, and how they are painted. It also acted as host to short features entitled “How To Ride A Horse” (starring Goofy), “Baby Weems”, and “The Reluctant Dragon”.
The DVD also features other looks behind the scenes from the old Disneyland TV series from the 50’s. Three episodes discuss the history of animation, the philosophy and physics behind cartoons, and tricks of the animation industry. Another video gives you the history of the studio itself and the story behind its construction. This was placed within a promotional preview of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for RKO Pictures. That in-house promotional film proved so popular that it was re-worked and released to the public. Both of those films appear on this DVD and offer rare glimpses behind the scenes of Snow White as well as the animation processes at the studio.
The movie “The Reluctant Dragon” is a bit of a mixed bag. Portions of it are really entertaining while other portions are rather boring. The parts of the film showing the animation processes are interesting. One fun segment shows how the sound effects were made. You are also shown a demonstration of a bizarre device to make a human voice sound like a train whistle. Another fun segment shows the voice of Donald Duck singing opera with the voice of a chicken. It’s a rather surreal moment and it’s unusual to see the man behind the famous duck voice. The film switches from black and white to Technicolor halfway through. Appropriately enough, this comes during the segment on the coloring process. As for the short films, “How To Ride A Horse” is your typical funny Goofy short film. I’ve always enjoyed them in the past, so this is a nice treat. “Baby Weems” is a bizarre story about the rise and fall of a talking baby. Told in a series of still paintings, it depicts the baby being taken away from his parents since he’s a super genius. I found it stylish yet depressing. The final short cartoon is “The Reluctant Dragon”. It’s an amusing tale about a snooty knight and an effeminate dragon that team up to stage a fake battle to dazzle the local villagers. It’s a fun piece that you might have seen before.
The rest of the DVD consists of the Disneyland TV shows. While they reiterate a lot of what you see elsewhere in the DVD, they are interesting because Walt Disney himself hosts them. He’s personable, enthusiastic, and interesting to listen to no matter what he talks about. Disney gives you looks at the making of Fantasia, deleted scenes from Snow White, as well as early non-Disney animation and more. It’s quite a treasure trove for animation enthusiasts. One of the highlights is Disney presenting the history of animation. It’s like hearing George Lucas do a presentation on the history of sci-fi films. Having one of the forefathers of animation tell you about the history of animation is a special deal.
The other promotional videos for RKO are not only informative, but they are also a rare item. It’s not often that you get to see in-house films. It also gives a sneak peek at the making of Snow White. As with the other Disney Treasures DVDs, you really feel you’ve raided the archives with this one. Leonard Maltin leads you on the tour and presents tons of interesting trivia about what you’re seeing. He’s a personable host and a good choice to lead this series.
There are a number of special features included on this DVD:
Leonard Maltin’s Studio Tour – Maltin’s tour goes into detail on the studio property itself. He talks about the layout of the studio, the architecture designs of Kem Weber, and Disney’s plans behind them. At the end of the video, a segment from the old Disneyland TV series is presented where you are driven through the backlot on the “scenic route”. Along the way, various crew tell you stories about the studio. You go through a Western set, a suburb set, and more eventually meeting Walt Disney himself.
Behind the Boards on Baby Weems – Maltin interviews the creator of Baby Weems, Joe Grant. The interview-shy Grant talks about creating the character, the art, and the subsequent children’s book that followed.
Galleries – These are pictures from The Reluctant Dragon, Walt Disney Studios, and Kem Weber’s studio designs. Some of the pictures feature audio where Leonard Maltin explains what you’re seeing. It’s interesting and informative and enhances the picture gallery.
Tour Of The Disney Studio Radio Program (audio only) – This audio presentation was an interview taken from Australian radio back in the 40’s (I think). What’s odd about this is that the Disney Archivists know little about it. It does feature interviews with Disney and his animators, though.
The Bottom Line:
This DVD is a real treat for animation fans and Disney fans. If you’re either, you’ll want this for your DVD collection. If you’re not, you’ll still find this an interesting presentation.