As is Disney’s way, the recent Blu-ray release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (provided to me by the company) is lavish. Three discs: movie on the first with some extras, including a Walt Disney commentary pieced together from various relevant audio recordings, DVD version on the third, and special extras on the second.
The second disc is worth exploring primarily because of the classic cartoons. Have you ever seen the full eight minutes of ‘Steamboat Willie‘? This 1928 cartoon was the second Mickey Mouse one, and the first sound synched one. The minute or so on the bridge of the boat has been broadcast innumerable times, but all the rest?
As it happens, this cartoon remains copyright protected until 2018, thanks to a twenty year extension of copyright generally, sought by Disney back in 1998. Of course, it was itself, arguably, a breach of copyright. I imagine we’ll see Disney back before the US Congress in the next few years, arguing once again for an extension of copyright law so as to keep Mickey under control for a while longer.
Also present, Disney’s first ‘Silly Symphony’, The Skeleton Dance an excellent example of making the music match the on-screen action, released very early in the sound era (1929). Oddly, this cartoon was banned in both the UK and Sweden! The UK disliked it so much, that country also banned the 1937 colour remake, ‘Skeleton Frolics‘.
Also provided is ‘Flowers and Trees‘ (1932), Disney’s first colour cartoon, and the first animated film to win an Academy Award (‘Best Short Subject, Cartoons’, 1932).
Others included are: ‘Babes in the Woods‘ (1932), ‘Playful Pluto‘ (1934), ‘The Goddess of Spring‘ (1934), ‘Music Land‘ (1935) and ‘The Old Mill‘ (1938, also Academy Award Winner, first use of multi-plane camera, explained in the introduction to the cartoon).
All are presented in full 1080p24 MPEG4 AVC video.
UPDATE (Friday, 23 October 2009, 6:06 pm): It has been drawn to my attention that it is by no means obvious where these cartoons are. So let me explain how to get there.
From the main menu, which should eventually appear after inserting the disc, choose ‘Bonus Features’, then ‘Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition’, then ‘Hyperion Studios’. You will have to wait a while at this point because a stack of BD-Java code has to be loaded in.
This section of the disc is easily the most BD-Java controlled content I’ve seen. Rather than using a normal menu system, this section seizes control of your player, showing all video without apparently using the usual routines from the player. For example, not only will your player not tell you such things as the playing time for any video clips playing in this section, it won’t even show you a time display! All you’ll see on your player is ’00:00′ or ‘–.–‘.
I shall pause for a bit longer in my explication of how to access the cartoons to note that the Blu-ray player I am using has jammed. This is the second player to jam on this section. The other two I was using seemingly worked fine! The first one jammed up before loading the BD-Java, while the other — a different brand — managed that, then ran the introductory video of about 2 minutes and 26 seconds, and then jammed up. Ah, another complexity due to BD-Java! I shall see if there are upgrades available for their firmware later.
So I’ve just plugged in a PS3 to see how that goes.
It worked perfectly. After that introductory video clip you will see an apricot coloured box near the bottom of the screen that says ‘Go To STORY ROOM’. This is the basic navigation feature. You can left and right arrow this to select various clips, or press ‘Enter’ to go to the first room.
This is a very slow way of getting around. Better way: press down arrow and select ‘Index’. This gives you a list of entries for all the various rooms. Down arrow to the room, left arrow to its contents, down arrow to the cartoon, and press Enter.
Here are the locations of the cartoons:
- ‘Steamboat Willie’: Sound Stage
- ‘The Skeleton Dance’: Music Room
- ‘Flowers and Trees’: Ink and Paint
- ‘Babes in the Woods’: Story Room
- ‘Playful Pluto’: Animation Department
- ‘The Goddess of Spring’: Animation Department
- ‘Music Land’: Art Department
- ‘The Old Mill’: Camera Department