DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Disney Treasures - Chronological Donald, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

DaViD Boulet

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Chronological DonaldStudio:Disney Year:1934-1941RunTime:@ 4.5 Hours of program-material (plus bonus material)Aspect Ratio:4x3 encoded 1.33:1 OAR Audio:DD English mono Subtitles:English (captions for the hearing impaired)SpecialFeatures:Image Galleries (with image-specific audio commentary for certain pictures), The Man Behind the Duck ReleaseDate:May 18, 2004

Please also visit my reviews of the other Treasures sets if you haven't already:

Tomorrrowland

On The Front Lines

Mickey Mouse in Living Color Vol. 2



The Feature...


Donald Duck is a character I greatly enjoy (much more so than “Mickey Mouse”). It is with pleasure that I review this DVD, and with sincerity that I recommend it. Whether this will be yet another Disney Treasures set to augment your growing collection or your first such purchase, make haste.

These shorts start out with Donald’s very first introduction in the Silly Symphony short “The Wise Little Hen”. Opting to view these shorts chronologically, you can easily follow the development of Donald’s character as he evolves over time through the hands of his animators and the personalities that the story writers envision for him. As with all the other treasures sets, these shorts are magnificently restored, preserving their natural and historic “film” character in glorious detail on this DVD set. Almost all the features I’ve viewed introduce the opening credits at an @ 1.37:1 aspect ratio slightly letterboxed in the 4x3 frame (the more precise OAR)…which then opens up to a traditional 4x3 full-frame once the feature starts.

My brevity in this review is a reflection of the fact that so much has already been said in my other three "Treasures" reviews that I don't want to repeat the same adulations word for word. Let me suffice to say that it is a profound privilege to have the opportunity to “own” this animation history on DVD-- ready to project onto my movie-screen on a moment’s whim. I plan to spend hours and hours enjoying this Chronological Donald set. I hope you do too.



The Presentation...

Hardware:
Like with all the previous Treasures sets you own, this one comes in an outer tin canister case that is just oh-so-cool. Unlike previous incarnations of the Treasures series, this one is not “stamped” with the serial number. Inside there is an “extra wide” double-shell DVD case containing two DVD discs along with some generous printed booklet material. Also inside you’ll find a certificate designating the individual production number of your set out of the total run lot.

This is presentation with class. If only Disney would produce more of them! Get them while you can. They are all limited issue.

Software:
There are no forced trailers. If you’re familiar with the previous Treasures sets You’ve got the same type of menu style and “flow” here. The Program material on disc one contains a plethora of cartoon shorts that can be sorted chronologically or alphabetically (same as the previous releases and same as with the Mickey Mouse set). There is also a “Play All” option making enjoying hour after hour of these shorts an easy remote-free endeavor. Disc one also contains two image galleries. Disc two contains another host of shorts along with the featurette “The Man Behind the Duck: Clarence Nash” (the voice actor for Donald for over 50 years).

Each disc has an “overall” introduction by Leonard Maltin as well as a brief introduction for many of the feature/short presentations. I cannot express the value of Maltin’s contributions highly enough. His comments are educational, and add depth and context to each feature they precede. In no way to I view his presence here as anything that lessens or weakens the integrity of this historic work; Maltin’s words serve to honor and enhance this important work.

Each disc offers only English audio and optional English subtitles “for the hearing impaired”. The menus are nicely rendered and really fit the look and feel of the historic material. Bravo Disney for another superb job.



Picture...


Much of this part of the review shares script with my other Treasures sets reviews. This isn’t a cop-out, it’s because the same comments apply.

Obviously we’re dealing with source material that is quite dated, and there are intermittent artifacts that are film-source/production related that probably would have looked no different to audiences viewing these animated works projected theatrically. To my eyes, very little of what artifacting there is seems to be due to damage due to age, but rather the normal grain and cell dust encountered in this type of medium. In any case, “natural” film/production related artifacts don’t bother me. That’s the medium and that’s the content’s history. What does bother me are “electronic” artifacts that are introduced during film-tape transferring and/or subsequent mastering for DVD. Blessedly, this latter type of “artificial” artifacting is nary to be seen except for just a FEW instances where I saw the slightest bit of ringing around hard-lines in some of the animation sequences, but the effect was minimal, benign, and non-distracting (though causing me to shave off just a fraction of a point for final PQ score).

You’ll discover lots of film grain in many shorts. And that’s good. It means the Disney compression/DVD mastering center hasn’t opted to digitally air-brush all that natural film-grain away…which would have left a “clean” picture but one devoid of authenticity and fine detail. Color balance is striking. I presume that a Technicolor process was used for most of the color sequences we see. Colors are sumptuous, rich, vivid, and bold. Animation sequences naturally impress the most with a lush and vibrant pallet, but even live-shot sequences are worth noting. Depending on the animation of the particular program, colors are in a word: Stunning.

Black level also without fault. The space scenes displayed black level as black as my projector can produce—in other words, black level is “absolute” on this disc giving the picture a wide and saturated dynamic range. Whites are bold without ever appearing “crushed” and grayscale is as good as the source material will allow. I noticed no compression artifacts from my 1.75 screen width distance.

Picture: 4.5/ 5





Sound...

For once he’ll be brief. Try to stay calm. The audio is perfectly acceptable DD mono. Sound is quite listenable on a high-resolution audio system without sounding thin and irritating. Neither is there a thick fog of hiss or noise overlaying the sound. Sound is clear, dialog easily intelligible, and music and score have a reasonable sense of dynamic range and frequency response, and clarity.


Sound: 4/ 5





Special Features...

The special feature content on the Donald DVD is notably less abundant than on the other sets. However, I will hardly fault Disney as this set contains over four-hours of actual program material and the galleries and documentary contained are of genuine value.

[*]The Man Behind the Duck: Clarence Nash”: This Gentleman was the voice of Donald from the character’s inception through a period spanning several decades. Lot of historic footage, information, and interesting content. This is exactly the type of special feature that ads value to a DVD set of this caliber.
[*]Galleries: There are two image galleries “Publicity and Memorabilia” and “Storyboard and Backgrond Art”. Both are marvelous. Images are scanned with astonishing detail and appear to look “hi-definition” on my projected display. There is also audio commentary that accompanies specific images which I find adds immeasurable value to image galleries of this type. The audio commentary adds a richness of context that makes stepping through the images much more of an educational adventure than the usual “ho-hum” gallery experience I usually encounter.
[/list]


In Closing...

Don’t let the seemingly short list of bonus materials fool you. Chronological Donald is a DVD set rife with value, loaded with hours of beautifully restored animated shorts that are as entertaining as they are historically significant. Any fan of Donald Duck, Disney, or animation history should make this DVD set a part of their permanent collection.



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
 

Dome Vongvises

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In before the lock!!!

Woah, sorry. Got possessed there for a second.


I was already going to get this, but damn I'm sold.
 

Ernest Rister

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Don't forget the Easter Eggs -- clicking around will open scenes from The Reluctant Dragon. On one you'll find a well-dressed Clarence Nash performing Donald's voice to an opera score, the other is Donald explaining animation photography.

David's new nickname is "fingers of flame".
 

Ryan Wishton

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Once again,

No need to sell me on this set.

I planned on getting it all along anyways.
 

Adam_S

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looking forward to this set, and I only hope that the reason there is no chrono donald vol II is because the cartoons are getting kick ass restorations like WB did with the Looney Tunes Golden collection. I've been trying to finish off my other treasures sets (just finished Complete Goofy last month) and actually just watched The Wise Little Hen for the first time the other day while I was working through the few Silly Symphonies I'd not seen. Going through that set made me appreciate the big step up in quality the Goofy set had and how outstanding the WB cartoons looked, (though to be fair most were from more than a decade later than the SS).

I love the duck, can't wait to watch his beginnings and growth on this set!

Adam
 

oscar_merkx

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only thing I would say why are they coming all at once !!!

just joking and thanks for the great review.
 

PaulP

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There is also an easter egg which contains a bonus commercial short.
 

Ernest Rister

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"I only hope that the reason there is no chrono donald vol II [on wave 4] is because the cartoons are getting kick ass restorations like WB did with the Looney Tunes Golden collection."

If you thought the Golden Collection looked good -- get ready to be amazed. The prints for the majority of the short cartoons are pristine (aside from the Canadian Govt. and U.S. training films). As good as LT Golden Collection was, as you know, there were some prints on that set that were heavily beat-up. That's what I was expecting for Wave 3, and I was overjoyed with how good they look. They look like they came out of a sealed, refrigerated time capsule from 1942.
 

Drew Salzan

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I just received my Donald Duck set. For the most part I am pleased. The transfers are excellent. Two criticisms however; I wish they could have restored the original title cards (with RKO logo) rather than using the reissued Buena Vista ones (analogous to the Blue Ribbon reissues utilized on the WB Looney Tunes set). I guess the original negatives no longer exist. Also, has anyone noticed a faint ticking sound on many of the soundtracks? They're very noticeable when played over my Home Theater System. No biggie though.
 

Dewitte

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I received my set today from Amazon and am quite amazed. It's been almost 20 years since seeing these on the Disney Channel's Donald Duck Presents. I had forgotten just how friggin' hilarious these are.

My favorite moment so far has to be Donald's first appearance in "The Wise Little Hen" when he's kicking the pig in the ass at the end.

Bring on Wave 4!

De
 

Patrick McCart

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Here's how you find the three Easter Eggs:

Disc 1:

Clip from The Reluctant Dragon (Clarence Nash scene)
Highlight "Register Your DVD" on the Bonus Features menu. Go up. This should highlight's Donald's head in the background

Disc 2:

The Volunteer Worker short
On Bonus Feature menu, highlight "Main Menu" and go right. This should highlight Devil Donald

Clip from The Reluctant Dragon (animation stand)
On the same menu, highlight the "only" bonus feature and go left. This should highlight Angel Donald."
 

DavidKNML

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This set is alot of fun. Many of these I have never seen before. In some of the shorts I can't understand what Donald says. I put on the subtitles and watched them again to see how close I was to guessing what he said.
 

Jay Pennington

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Actually some of the subtitles are wrong, so don't take them as gospel. The subs are probably from close-captioning scripts, which are often created by folks just listening to audio recordings and not studio shooting scripts...especially for old stuff like this. So mistakes are inevitable.
 

Jeff Jacobson

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And also they sometimes just write "[Quacking]" when he is actually saying something.
 

ScottR

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The clicking noise is especially annoying during "The Autograph Hound". Perhaps Disney needs to know about this.
 

ScottR

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As Donald would say, "This is absolutely exasperating!"

I can't believe no one has commented on the loud, distracting clicking and popping noise on almost half of the cartoons in this collection. "The Autograph Hound" "The Riveter" and the last three shorts on disc two are the worst offenders. Does anyone else have this problem? I am calling Disney on Monday.
 

Drew Salzan

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I indeed have noticed this problem. Quote: "Also, has anyone noticed a faint ticking sound on many of the soundtracks? They're very noticeable when played over my Home Theater System" (see above). I was upset about this. I am confident that this is not due to the age of the soundtracks because the other Disney Treasures are fine. Does anybody know how we can contact Disney?
 

Jeff Jacobson

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Well, I wasn't able to watch half of the cartoons because my Disc 1 was defective. (It looked as if a drunk Zorro had tried to carve his initial into the back of the disc.) I contacted Disney via the web address on the front of the disc and they said they are sending me a pre-paid mailer to send the disc back in.
 

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