Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Walt Disney Treasures - On the Front Lines

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
10 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: G

Special Features:
Introduction by Film Historian Leonard Maltin

"Victory Through Air Power" Trailer

On the Set of "Victory through Air Power"

Production Art Galleries

"Victory Through Air Power" Art Galleries

"A Conversation with Roy Disney"

"A Conversation with Joe Grant"

"A Conversation with John Hench"

Other Info:
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes

Synopsis:
This continues the outstanding "Walt Disney Treasures" series featuring classics raided from the Disney vaults. Leonard Maltin hosts these looks back in time.

This DVD features cartoons produced during WWII when the U.S. Government took over the Disney Studios to have them produces films for the war effort. The following cartoons are included in this set and are aimed at patriotic entertainment or promoting the war effort:

Donald Gets Drafted, The Army Mascot, Private Pluto, Fall Out; Fall In, The Old Army Game, Home Defense, How to be a Sailor, Commando Duck, The Vanishing Private, Sky Trooper, Victory Vehicles, Der Fuehrer's Face, Education for Death, Reason and Emotion, Thrifty Pig, Seven Wise Dwarfs, Donald's Decision, All Together, The New Spirit, The Spirit of '43, Food Will Win the War, Out of the Frying Pan and into the Firing Line, The Grain that Built a Hemisphere, Defense Against Invasion, Cleanliness Brings Health, What is Disease?, Planning for Good Eating, Chicken Little and the Winged Scourge.

The second series of cartoons are instructional videos for the troops that tell them how to do technical tasks. They include "Four Methods of Flush Riveting", "Stop that Tank", "Training Film Montage".

The final film on the DVD is a Full-Length Feature that was a pet project of Walt Disney himself. It was entitled "Victory Through Air Power" and it promoted the ideas of long range bombing as endorsed by Major Alexander de Seversky. Seversky hosts the film which also features the more recently viewed "History Of Aviation" segment.

This DVD is a limited edition that consists of 250,000 sets.

The Movie:
This DVD is amazing for so many reasons. First of all, it's a treasure trove for animation fans. It has tons of cartoons produced by Walt Disney that have rarely been seen. Because of the dated material and occasionally un-PC content, these have been stored deep in the Disney archives. Only now can these cartoons featuring Donald Duck, Goofy, Mickey, and Pluto be viewed widely by audiences. Some of the animation in these films is also stunning and hauntingly beautiful. The Disney animators bring a unique look to the weapons of war, menacing evil looks to the Germans, and more. Their storytelling abilities really shine through in these cartoons.

This set also gives you a rare look at vintage WWII training films. After having viewed "Stop That Tank", I now know how to use an anti-tank rifle. It's amusing to see a training guide for heavy weaponry with Walt Disney animation. I'm sure it kept soldiers required to view it from going to sleep. It's amazing how the U.S. Government put these animators to work on so many different projects, but as Leonard Maltin points out, they helped Disney learn to do educational films, a staple for them in later years.

This DVD also gives us a unique look into American culture during that era of war. You see Donald and the gang battle Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese. The films talk of saving gas, planting victory gardens, and more. These movies also make fun of and demonize the Nazis. "Education for Death" details the Nazi culture and talks about how German children are brainwashed from birth into being soldiers. Many of the cartoons also amusingly mock the Germans for claiming to be "super men".

One notable movie is "Der Fuehrer's Face" featuring Donald Duck. It shows Donald Duck living and working in Nazi society as he is harried by "heils" and forced into labor in the arms factories. He only wakes up later to find it was a dream, and the duck expresses his love for America. It's quite something to see Donald in a swastika filled room in this day and age, but it is an amazing look back to another time. This patriotic cartoon generated a big musical hit for Disney as well as an Academy Award.

The other notable feature of the DVD is the full length film "Victory Through Air Power". Disney financed the film himself to promote the theories of long range bombing to win the war. (The film is credited with convincing President Roosevelt to finance the development of long range bombers.) It starts out with an amusing history of flight, then moves on to a brief history of aviation warfare and an analysis of the Nazi blitzkrieg strategy and how best to defeat it. This should really thrill war historians who view it.

On a side note, Leonard Maltin continues to do an excellent job hosting the films. Overall, this is a fantastic time capsule and a much appreciate rare glimpse into the Disney vaults.

The Extras:
Here are the highlights among the extras included on the DVD:

On the Set of "Victory through Air Power" This is some rare behind-the-scenes footage of Major Alexander de Seversky on the set of the film. There is no sound to it, but it is a unique glimpse of how the film was made. A harried Walt Disney also pops into the frame from time to time.

"A Conversation with Roy Disney" Leonard Maltin talks about what it was like at the Walt Disney Studios when the U.S. Government came in and literally invaded. Roy Disney talks about his memories of being there when he was a young boy. His stories are very interesting and he gives a first hand account of what it was like for the creative teams. Maltin also has separate conversations with Joe Grant and John Hench.

The Bottom Line:
While this DVD will bore young children, it will thrill animation buffs, film enthusiasts, and war historians. It's a rare glimpse of America from WWII and a unique piece of Walt Disney Studio history.

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