They're the films that The Walt Disney Company was actually
founded on. Those animated shorts which wowed moviegoers back in the 1930s &
1940s that then paved the way for the Studio's success in feature-length
But with the rise of television in the 1950s, America's
movie-going habits changed drastically and the market for theatrical animated
shorts suddenly dried up. Walt himself actively tried to find new &
different ways to keep these films out there in front of the public. Sometimes
by airing them as stand-alone Mouse Cartoons on episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club. Other times by taking three or four of the old shorts and then - after
stitching them together with some new animation - repurposing these old cartoons
on the "Disneyland," "Walt Disney Presents" and "The Wonderful World of Color"
"Meeska, Mooska, Mouseketeer ! Mouse
Cartoon Time now is here !" Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
But as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, with fewer &
fewer venues available for this material, Disney's animated shorts got pushed
towards the back of the vault.
Oh, sure. These shorts were sometimes screened for small
children on Disney Channel shows like "Good Morning, Mickey!" They were also
made available to animation aficionados through the Walt Disney Treasures series. But as the 1980s gave way to the 1990s & 2000s, there were fewer &
fewer opportunities for members of the general public to actually see these
early Disney animated shorts.
And then - when you factor in the nitrate negatives that
Disney's classic animated shorts are stored on ... Well, The Walt Disney Company
suddenly found itself dealing with a two-pronged problem. It had to find a way
to preserve this historic material while - at the same time - make it
accessible, available & relevant for today's audiences.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
Which brings us to Disney's "Have a Laugh!" program. Which
takes the Studio's classic animated shorts and - after remastering & fully
restoring this material - edited shorter versions of these films so that
they can then be shown between programs on the Disney Channel & Disney
"We actually started this program back in late 2009,"
explained Dave Bossert, Creative Director and Head of Special Projects at Walt
Disney Animation Studios. "We went through our entire classic shorts library
and then identified those films that we thought could go through the 'Have a Laugh!'
production process. Be edited down to a two-or-three minute 'short versions' of
that film without sacrificing the story arc."
Now I know that the very idea of "Have a Laugh!" has to
stick in the craw of many hardcore Disneyana fans. But Bossert stressed that -
in its heart-of-hearts - this repurposing of the Studio's animated shorts is also
a major restoration and preservation effort.
"Go out and pick up a copy of any of those 'Have a Laugh!' DVDs
that are now on the market. On that disc, in addition to the edited short versions that we created for the Disney Channel
and Disney Junior, you'll also find the original full-length shorts," Dave
explained. "And thanks to the restoration work that our team has done to each
of these shorts, they look better than they have in decades."
More to the point, by putting the edited-short versions of
these classic Disney animated shorts out there in front of a mass audience ...
Well, Bossert is hoping that Disney Channel & Disney Junior viewers will be
intrigued enough by what they see to then go and seek out the original full-length
"In a way, we're just doing what Walt did back in the 1950s
& 1960s on the 'Disneyland' and "Wonderful World of Color' TV shows.
Finding new ways to put the Fab 5 out there. Making people aware of how
genuinely fun & entertaining these animated shorts can be," Dave continued.
Dave Bossert, Creative Director
and Head of Special Projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Mind you, not every animated short in the Disney library was
considered to be a good candidate for the "Have a Laugh!" edited short version process.
Some of the Studio's 6-minute-long films had story arcs that can't coherently
be cut back to just 2-and-3 minute-long versions. While still other Disney
shorts featured elements that wouldn't be considered socially acceptable for
"Over the two seasons of 'Have a Laugh!,' we've created
short versions of 40 classic shorts. And - wherever possible - we've reused the
original music and voice tracks," Bossert said. "But where that couldn't be done,
we've worked with Disney voice artists and musicians to replicate as closely as
possible the sound of those original shorts."
And given the success of Disney's "Have a Laugh!" program,
Dave and his team are now taking the same sort of approach to the Winnie the
Pooh featurettes from the 1960s. Taking the original films and then pulling out two-and-three minute-long
standalone vignettes. Which - thanks to new music & vocal tracks - are made
to be more in the style & tone of the Studio's recently released
full-length "Winnie the Pooh" animated feature.
"There's a lot of genuinely charming stuff that was done for
'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,' " Dave stated. "And just like we did
with the classic animated shorts with our 'Have a Laugh!' program, we're hoping
that these new 'Mini-adventures of Winnie the Pooh' will then make this
material available & accessible for a whole new generation of Disney fans."
So when you think of Disney's "Have a Laugh!" and "The
Mini-adventures of Winnie the Pooh" initiatives, please don't lump these
efforts in with stuff like DTV (i.e. where the Studio would first take a piece
of contemporary music and then just randomly drop in pieces of animation that had
been cut from Disney's shorts and animated features. With the idea that this
footage would then provide appropriate imagery to back up that song's lyrics).
No, in the case of "Have a Laugh!" and "Mini-adventures,"
the appropriate imagery is that Dave Bossert and his crew in Walt Disney
Animation Studio's Special Projects unit are like skilled diamond cutters.
Taking the Company's crown jewels and - by carefully cutting & then placing
them in brand-new settings - allowing these films & characters to get out
in front of audiences of today. Where they can shine once more.
Sooo ... Have any of you have seen some of the "Have a Laugh!"
shorts on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior? And - if so - what did you
think of these restored, remastered if somewhat-trimmed-down animated films?
Yep, I've seen 'em - I watched a couple on the Disney Cruise Line shuttle.
I guess I should be happy the cartoons were restored, and it's nice that Disney's at least trying to make the cartoons relevant to modern audiences instead of just sticking them back in the vault. But it feels a little like someone took the Mona Lisa and said, "I bet this picture would be much more appealing to the visitors if we erase the background with Photoshop!" But if the modern audience has the attention span of a gnat, what else can ya do?
This quote bugged me:
"Bossert is hoping that Disney Channel & Disney Junior viewers will be intrigued enough by what they see to then go and seek out the original full-length films."
WHERE? Where will they seek out those classic shorts? Out-of-print Treasures sets on eBay? Bootleg uploads on YouTube? Disney has no platform to share anything older than Hannah Montana.
If Disney's serious about intriguing younger or newer viewer interest in classic material, then they need to provide a venue, i.e., a Classic Disney Channel the way TVLand spun off Nickelodeon. Otherwise, I'm at a loss to think where someone might ever think, "Oh, I liked these - where can I see more?"
Nice story, and I agree with the comments from pschnebs ... ultimately, it's good that these great toons are out there. It's not easy for many Disney fans to admit, but we have to change with the times and be willing to adapt.
Meanwhile ... @ TJ:
Note from the article:
"Go out and pick up a copy of any of those 'Have a Laugh!' DVDs that are now on the market. On that disc, in addition to the edited short versions that we created for the Disney Channel and Disney Junior, you'll also find the original full-length shorts," Dave explained.
The first time my kids saw one of these they knew something wasn't right. They couldn't articulate the issues they had, but they knew something was wrong with the cartoons. The pacing, the sound...it was jarring even for them.
There is really no good reason for this. If they want to show these shorts between shows, fine, make the time to show the original. Drop one of the Disney Channel commercial breaks. Or, better yet, put a half hour on a half hour block of the original, un-edited shorts. That way you save some money _and_ make people happy.
Ken, my point as to where to find these shorts was beyond just the original films being added onto these DVDs. The bigger issue is that Disney provides virtually no access to any of its older material now, so I'm not sure where the demand or product awareness is being generated. What would make any kid today wonder what "Lambert the Sheepish Lion" is about if it's never highlighted elsewhere in Disney media?
I understand what there doing, but I don't like it. The reason some of those are not great for audiences of today is not the length, but the relevance of some of the humor. The would be better off making new shorts like the ones on House of Mouse.