I was able to attend ASIFA-Hollywood’s special screening last night of Disney’s wartime cartoon collection On The Front Lines (from Wave 3 of the Walt Disney Treasures series) at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA, hosted by Jerry Beck of Cartoon Research and Cartoon Brew. Follow the ‘Full Story’ link for my full review.
Due to the free and open nature of the question and answer session that followed the screening, the content of the review reaches beyond the ostensible topic of the evening and touches on many subjects of interest to all animation and Disney fans, including discussion on the contents of Wave 4 of the series, the Song of the South, the future of 2D animation, Roy Disney’s involvement with the Walt Disney Treasure series, and more.
The evening began with a screening of 35mm prints of several short features from the collection, including Out of the Frying Pan and into the Firing Line, Commando Duck, Donald Gets Drafted, Seven Wise Dwarfs, Food Will Win the War, and Der Fuehrer’s Face. I really got a sense of history watching these while sitting in a 79-year old theater, realizing that many of these shorts had probably played in the same theater six decades ago during World War II.
After the screening of the cartoons, there was a panel discussion/Q&A session with animation historian Jerry Beck and Dave Bossert, the producer of the On The Front Lines DVD set. Dave started off talking about how he had actually pitched the idea for such a collection to Disney about ten years ago but the idea just didn’t go anywhere. Then two months after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, he pitched the idea to Disney again and this time time it worked. The set then was planned for a December 2002 release, then was put off a year to a December 2003 release but was put off for another six months due to high production demand for the DVDs of Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King. Dave also mentioned that much of Victory Through Air Power (the one feature length feature on the DVD) was filmed at nighttime after the tremendous daytime noise from the nearby Lockheed aircraft factory died down.
When asked about the future of traditional hand-drawn “2D” animation, Dave Bossert said that there probably will be more 2D animated features from Disney. There’s always ideas being pitched and the technique used depends on the demands and particular requirements of the story in question.
Jerry Beck then put in a plug for Joe Grant’s short feature Lorenzo and Dave seconded the endorsement by referring to Lorenzo as the perfect blend of technology and art.
The next question from the audience was about the possibility of Song of the South ever seeing the light of day on DVD. Dave responded by saying that he had previously thought it would be impossible to get a collection like On The Front Lines released, but that it was released, so maybe something similar could happen for Song of the South.
When asked what would be included in Wave 4 of the Walt Disney Treasures series, the answer was: a True Life Adventures set, Mickey Mouse in Black and White: Volume II, a Pluto set, and a Mickey Mouse Club set (probably the first season), which is only a little different than the rumored list I posted two days ago. Mr. Bossert then mentioned that Wave 4 is scheduled for a December 2004 release (contrary to my speculation that it could get delayed because of Wave 3’s delay). Somebody in the audience then mentioned that the DVD sets from the first two waves all had Roy Disney’s signature on the blue wraparound strip encircling each DVD tin and wondered if the Wave 3 DVDs would be like that. We already know that they do have Roy’s signature on them (see original story), but then somebody asked a similar question about Wave 4 and Dave Bossert responded by saying that as far as he knew the Wave 4 DVDs would have Roy E. Disney’s signature on them as well.
Jerry Beck on the left, Dave Bossert on the right