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Wednesdays with Wade: The Disney Treasures that never were

Wednesdays with Wade: The Disney Treasures that never were

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I like Leonard Maltin. In fact, I also respect Leonard Maltin who has a genuine affection and expertise for classic movies and animation. I heartily recommend that you visit his website and that if you are interested in classic movies that you seriously consider subscribing to his newsletter, "Movie Crazy," that I am always delighted to find in my mailbox. I've known Leonard for many years and he is exactly as sincere and enthusiastic as he appears in all those commentaries that he does on documentaries. Basically, Leonard is a good guy.

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However, I hope Leonard will not take offense when I say that I was underwhelmed by his selection of "Disney Treasures" this year. I don't think we have seen the excitement this year that has accompanied the releases of previous years. Now I know it isn't solely Leonard's decision on what was to be selected and it is hard for me to imagine Leonard being involved in that hodge-podge of Elfego Baca and Swamp Fox episodes. For crying out loud, either release all the Swamp Fox episodes on one set or mix the Elfego Baca episodes with the Texas John Slaughter episodes and do a nice featurette on how ABC forced Walt into doing Westerns.

I am sure plans are already being made for next year's releases and -- in that spirit -- I thought I might suggest some possible titles that would make Disney fans excited.

SONG OF THE SOUTH: I think this is the disc set that most Disney fans would like to see released and by making it a "Disney Treasure" certainly positions it as an "adult" rather than "general audience" title. Think of the possible extras: a featurette on the technical aspect of combining live action and animation, an interview with Tony Baxter on the how "Song" inspired "Splash Mountain," a reprint of the original pressbook, maybe excerpts from the 1970s training tape on the personalities of the "Song" costume characters that features possible movements for the characters, "Song" merchandising, reprints of the classic Disney "Uncle Remus" comic strip, and maybe a roundtable discussion with African-American authorities and historians about the controversy surrounding "Song" or placing it in a historical context. Also, let's not forget including the Disneyland tv show, "A Tribute to Joel Chandler Harris."

TRUE LIFE ADVENTURES: I suspect this set was delayed by the difficulties between Roy E. Disney and the Disney Company but it is hard to deny the historical importance of this series (or the fact that many episodes are still entertaining). It would be nice to see a mixture of the short subjects and the features or perhaps just all the short subjects. Roy did a wonderful series of interviews about this series that were run during a special week on "Vault Disney" on the Disney Channel that should be included, perhaps even a featurette tying in with Disney's Animal Kingdom or short interviews with people who chose careers in wildlife as a result of this series, and of course, the Disneyland tv episodes that featured insights into the husband and wife teams that filmed some of these classics. I'd also like to see tributes to Jim Algar and Winston Hibler.

DISNEY FAMILY ALBUM: These excellent half hour documentaries brightened the Disney Channel for many years and I am thankful I think I have all of them on videotape. I would also include on this set those "Disney Legends" minutes that ran on "Vault Disney" as well as those special Disney Channel interviews (remember the one done with Herb Ryman in the Disney Gallery at Disneyland?) and maybe some new interviews (Art Linkletter would be fascinating) or dig through the Disney Archives for some of their audio interviews that Disney Archivist Dave Smith used to do when he first opened the Disney Archives. In fact, let's include an interview with Dave Smith himself!

DISNEY'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF 3-D: Wouldn't it be nice to have the color 3-D footage of the original Mouseketeers from "3-D Jamboree" that used to run at Disneyland when it opened? Besides the usual suspects like "Working for Peanuts" with Donald Duck and Chip'n'Dale, let's also include the 3-D films from the parks like "Magic Journeys,""Captain EO,""Muppet 3-D" and more. Of course, include a featurette on the 3-D fad in the 1950s and the differences between the red/blue glasses and the system used today, reprints of the Disney 3-D comics giveaways from the 1950s, and how modern films like "Chicken Little" are made 3-D after the fact. And pack four 3-D glasses in the set.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: I would love a disc with all the original trailers of the animated features in chronological order. And how about another disc with the trailers of all the live action films released while Walt was alive? For extras, I would include some of the Disney commercials (like Tinker Bell promoting peanut butter), a poster gallery, a featurette on how trailers are made at the Disney Studio, maybe even a featurette on how a trailer changed for a particular film over the years of re-releases.

ZORRO: I wonder if there are restrictions preventing this series from being released because of the recent theatrical movies. Certainly the fact that it is black and white can't be the factor since other black and white episodes have been released. The extras would include Zorro merchandise, a featurette on Guy Williams, and Zorro's appearances at Disneyland.

THE BEST OF THE DISNEY PARADES: Some of the old Disneyland tv shows showcased early Disney parades and I'd also include excerpts from the Walt Disney World Christmas and Easter parades from years past, a featurette on how parades are made and maybe even include those out of print Disneyland videos on "Lion King Parade" and "Electric Light Parade." And I know there is film footage of Disney parades like "Blast from the Past" and "Aladdin" that were run on KCAL specials in the Los Angeles area. Maybe even an extra of putting a camera on a float so that viewers could experience what it what like riding in a parade.

DISNEYLAND USA PART TWO: A disc set that would actually feature the documentary "Disneyland USA" that was oddly absent from the first set and also include excerpts from some of those early Disneyland tv shows that showed the park like "A Trip Through Adventureland." I'd also include that Harry Anderson special about Disneyland. Did you know that the husband of Margaret Kerry (the original live action reference model for Tinker Bell) filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary of the opening day of Disneyland? Margaret's husband is the one who came up with the idea of having those cameras on forklifts. For many years, that documentary was lost. But Dave Smith recently located a copy with all the credits removed. So *** Brown's director credit is missing as well as Hal Smith's narration credit and Margaret's writing credit. (I really wish they could find the footage for the "second opening" of Disneyland in 1959 where Art Linkletter hosted another ninety minute special for Kodak.)

THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH: I am really surprised this series hasn't already been released. And for crying out loud, Patrick McGoohan won't be around that much longer to do a commentary track.

THE MOUSE FACTORY: I think this oddball series put together by Ward Kimball would still amuse modern audiences.

In fact, now that I think about it, if I could dig through the Disney vaults, I'd put out a disc that had Scott MacQueen's "Hidden Disney" show, maybe do a compilation of Walt's introductions to the television shows (I always enjoyed those more than what was being shown), and instead of "Spin and Marty" I would have issued that first "Hardy Boys" serial or a disc devoted to Annette, or a disc devoted to theme park shows like "Golden Horseshoe Revue" or the "Hunchback Show" at Disney/MGM Studios. Now that I've started thinking about possibilities it is hard to stop.

The more I think about it, maybe Leonard should get together all those Disney historians who contribute to "Walt's People" and have them be an advisory board to suggest a special disc since they probably know what real treasures are out there. I am sure that the readers of this website probably have some great ideas as well. I wonder why the Disney Company had such a paucity of ideas this year?

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