The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures


1h 29m 1975
The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures

Brief Synopsis

A compilation of some of Walt Disney's live action shorts. Included are "Seal Island" (1949) which was filmed in Alaska by Alfred and Elma Milotte, "Beaver Valley" (1950), "Nature's Half Acre" (1951), and "Water Birds" (1952).

Film Details

Also Known As
Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures
MPAA Rating
G
Genre
Documentary
Release Date
1975
Production Company
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Distribution Company
Walt Disney Studios Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m

Synopsis

A compilation of some of Walt Disney's live action shorts. Included are "Seal Island" (1949) which was filmed in Alaska by Alfred and Elma Milotte, "Beaver Valley" (1950), "Nature's Half Acre" (1951), and "Water Birds" (1952).

Film Details

Also Known As
Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures
MPAA Rating
G
Genre
Documentary
Release Date
1975
Production Company
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Distribution Company
Walt Disney Studios Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m

Articles

The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures


The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures (1975) delivers what the title promises, serving up highlights from almost all of the 14 nature documentaries produced by Walt Disney Studios between 1948--when the two-reel short Seal Island initiated the series--and 1960, when the feature-length Jungle Cat closed it out. The compilation opened in theaters in 1975, and since then it's been something of a Disney outlier released only in digital form, never on videocassette or disc - unlike the original True-Life Adventure films, which have been available for years.

The reasons for keeping this "best of" collection out of the DVD market aren't clear, but Disney has always been sensitive to the risks of overexposure if too much product is available at any given time. In the days before home video, the company reissued its popular animations every seven years, leaving enough time between releases to build anticipation and reach a fresh crop of young viewers.

In the 1980s, the studio released its most sought-after features on VHS, then reverted to the policy of reissuing them intermittently, stocking them in stores and then pulling them until demand built up again. Unavailable movies are said to be in the Disney Vault and there actually is such a place, holding films and other materials for research, preservation and archival purposes. The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures is a sort of mini-Disney Vault unto itself, bringing together a collection of movie material not available in stores. But in this case, the vault is wide open, viewable by anyone who can stream or download digital fare.

The compilation begins with a major nod to the founder of it all, Walt Disney, noting that an early result of his lifelong interest in animals was his huge success in turning a mouse named Mickey and a duck called Donald into international movie stars. Later, he gave life to Dumbo and Bambi and filled the supporting casts of classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with animated creatures.

His dedication to the animal kingdom took live-action form in the True-Life Adventure films, more than half of which won Academy Awards, some for best two-reel shorts and others for best feature documentary. Starting in 1954, Disney used his hit television show Walt Disney's Disneyland as a showcase for his nature films, presenting them under the Adventureland rubric, which shared programming time with the very different sights shown in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Frontierland segments.

Once the opening tribute is over, The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures gets down to business showing brief clips from Seal Island and pointing out that Disney raised public awareness of the environment long before "ecology" became a household word. Next comes an excerpt from The Vanishing Prairie (1954), with a "thundering herd" of bison racing along the plain. Then the familiar Disney narrator Winston Hibler discusses Disney's penchant for finding musical rhythms in the sounds made by animals. The film proves the point by setting the noise of big-horn rams butting one another to Giuseppe Verdi's famous "Anvil Chorus," followed by sage grouses and other birds making their distinctive sonic contributions.

This musical episode illustrates two contrasting sides of Disney's approach to portraying nature. Considered from one angle, the added music and rapid-fire editing turn straightforward documentary shots into catchy entertainment designed to make a nature-friendly impression on viewers of all ages. Considered from a more skeptical angle, these sequences turn actual nature into manipulated nature, closer to the spectacle of a Disney cartoon than to what you'd see if you were in the wild when the footage was originally filmed.

Following the precedent set by Disney, countless subsequent shows - think of Meerkat Manor (2005-2008) and other Animal Planet offerings - similarly transformed untamed nature into amiable entertainment. By contrast, the wildlife films presented by David Attenborough try to appear more serious. They also use musical accompaniment to produce engaging moods and atmospheres, and pretty much all nature documentaries are selective in what they choose to include, taking care to stimulate viewers on a steady basis. "A film about a jungle where nothing happens," Attenborough once remarked, "is not really what you turned on the television set to see." Disney would wholeheartedly agree.

The most impressive achievement of the True-Life Adventures is their ability to capture captivating footage against what often seem enormous odds. How did the Disney cinematographers know that a flock of ducks would try to land on a frozen lake, and position their cameras in time to film an uproarious series of slips and slides across the icy surface? How long did they have to wait before a polar-bear cub would come sliding down the snowy hillside it was trying to climb? The sliding cub was apparently filmed in a Canadian movie studio, so the Disney crew may have cheated a bit on that one. In general though, the True-Life Adventures testifies to the tremendous skill, savvy and patience on the part of Disney's photographers.

Some of the strongest material in the compilation comes from The Living Desert, the 1953 feature that marked the studio's transition from two-reel nature documentaries to large-scale nonfiction filmmaking. Disney got the idea for that picture when he saw a graduate student's footage of a duel to the death between a beetle and a tarantula, and that same battle is a highlight of the "best of" collection. Other memorable episodes are drawn from Water Birds (1952), shot by more than a dozen photographers in the early 1950s; and White Wilderness (1958), which includes footage of lemmings leaping off a cliff - not an act of mass suicide, the narrator explains, but an unfortunate result of what can happen when migrating animals come to a precipice and try for a risky splashdown in water far below.

In Beaver Valley (1950) and Jungle Cat (1960) also provide memorable scenes. It's interesting to note that the squirrel-centered Perri (1957) is not represented, since Disney labeled it a True-Life Fantasy rather than a True-Life Adventure because of its numerous fictional elements. And although shots from The Vanishing Prairie are present, you won't see the sequence showing a buffalo being born, which got the film temporarily banned in New York State when first released.

In all, The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures is a winning blend of entertainment and information that also raises larger questions about the best ways to represent the natural world in motion-picture terms. It's one-stop shopping for Disney fans and nature buffs alike.

Director: James Algar
Producers: Ben Sharpsteen, James Algar
Narrators in Writing Credits: James Algar, Winston Hibler, Ted Sears
Cinematographers: Alfred Milotte and Elma Milotte, Paul Kenworthy, Jr. & Robert H. Crandall, Hugh A. Wilmar, James R. Simon, Herb and Lois Crisler, Tom McHugh, Jack C. Couffer
Film Editing: Norman R. Palmer, Lloyd L. Richardson, Anthony Gerard, G. Gregg McLaughlin, Gordon D. Brenner
Music: Paul Smith, Oliver Wallace, Buddy Baker
With: Winston Hibler (Narrator)
Technicolor-89m.

by David Sterritt
The Best Of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures

The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures

The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures (1975) delivers what the title promises, serving up highlights from almost all of the 14 nature documentaries produced by Walt Disney Studios between 1948--when the two-reel short Seal Island initiated the series--and 1960, when the feature-length Jungle Cat closed it out. The compilation opened in theaters in 1975, and since then it's been something of a Disney outlier released only in digital form, never on videocassette or disc - unlike the original True-Life Adventure films, which have been available for years. The reasons for keeping this "best of" collection out of the DVD market aren't clear, but Disney has always been sensitive to the risks of overexposure if too much product is available at any given time. In the days before home video, the company reissued its popular animations every seven years, leaving enough time between releases to build anticipation and reach a fresh crop of young viewers. In the 1980s, the studio released its most sought-after features on VHS, then reverted to the policy of reissuing them intermittently, stocking them in stores and then pulling them until demand built up again. Unavailable movies are said to be in the Disney Vault and there actually is such a place, holding films and other materials for research, preservation and archival purposes. The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures is a sort of mini-Disney Vault unto itself, bringing together a collection of movie material not available in stores. But in this case, the vault is wide open, viewable by anyone who can stream or download digital fare. The compilation begins with a major nod to the founder of it all, Walt Disney, noting that an early result of his lifelong interest in animals was his huge success in turning a mouse named Mickey and a duck called Donald into international movie stars. Later, he gave life to Dumbo and Bambi and filled the supporting casts of classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with animated creatures. His dedication to the animal kingdom took live-action form in the True-Life Adventure films, more than half of which won Academy Awards, some for best two-reel shorts and others for best feature documentary. Starting in 1954, Disney used his hit television show Walt Disney's Disneyland as a showcase for his nature films, presenting them under the Adventureland rubric, which shared programming time with the very different sights shown in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Frontierland segments. Once the opening tribute is over, The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures gets down to business showing brief clips from Seal Island and pointing out that Disney raised public awareness of the environment long before "ecology" became a household word. Next comes an excerpt from The Vanishing Prairie (1954), with a "thundering herd" of bison racing along the plain. Then the familiar Disney narrator Winston Hibler discusses Disney's penchant for finding musical rhythms in the sounds made by animals. The film proves the point by setting the noise of big-horn rams butting one another to Giuseppe Verdi's famous "Anvil Chorus," followed by sage grouses and other birds making their distinctive sonic contributions. This musical episode illustrates two contrasting sides of Disney's approach to portraying nature. Considered from one angle, the added music and rapid-fire editing turn straightforward documentary shots into catchy entertainment designed to make a nature-friendly impression on viewers of all ages. Considered from a more skeptical angle, these sequences turn actual nature into manipulated nature, closer to the spectacle of a Disney cartoon than to what you'd see if you were in the wild when the footage was originally filmed. Following the precedent set by Disney, countless subsequent shows - think of Meerkat Manor (2005-2008) and other Animal Planet offerings - similarly transformed untamed nature into amiable entertainment. By contrast, the wildlife films presented by David Attenborough try to appear more serious. They also use musical accompaniment to produce engaging moods and atmospheres, and pretty much all nature documentaries are selective in what they choose to include, taking care to stimulate viewers on a steady basis. "A film about a jungle where nothing happens," Attenborough once remarked, "is not really what you turned on the television set to see." Disney would wholeheartedly agree. The most impressive achievement of the True-Life Adventures is their ability to capture captivating footage against what often seem enormous odds. How did the Disney cinematographers know that a flock of ducks would try to land on a frozen lake, and position their cameras in time to film an uproarious series of slips and slides across the icy surface? How long did they have to wait before a polar-bear cub would come sliding down the snowy hillside it was trying to climb? The sliding cub was apparently filmed in a Canadian movie studio, so the Disney crew may have cheated a bit on that one. In general though, the True-Life Adventures testifies to the tremendous skill, savvy and patience on the part of Disney's photographers. Some of the strongest material in the compilation comes from The Living Desert, the 1953 feature that marked the studio's transition from two-reel nature documentaries to large-scale nonfiction filmmaking. Disney got the idea for that picture when he saw a graduate student's footage of a duel to the death between a beetle and a tarantula, and that same battle is a highlight of the "best of" collection. Other memorable episodes are drawn from Water Birds (1952), shot by more than a dozen photographers in the early 1950s; and White Wilderness (1958), which includes footage of lemmings leaping off a cliff - not an act of mass suicide, the narrator explains, but an unfortunate result of what can happen when migrating animals come to a precipice and try for a risky splashdown in water far below. In Beaver Valley (1950) and Jungle Cat (1960) also provide memorable scenes. It's interesting to note that the squirrel-centered Perri (1957) is not represented, since Disney labeled it a True-Life Fantasy rather than a True-Life Adventure because of its numerous fictional elements. And although shots from The Vanishing Prairie are present, you won't see the sequence showing a buffalo being born, which got the film temporarily banned in New York State when first released. In all, The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures is a winning blend of entertainment and information that also raises larger questions about the best ways to represent the natural world in motion-picture terms. It's one-stop shopping for Disney fans and nature buffs alike. Director: James Algar Producers: Ben Sharpsteen, James Algar Narrators in Writing Credits: James Algar, Winston Hibler, Ted Sears Cinematographers: Alfred Milotte and Elma Milotte, Paul Kenworthy, Jr. & Robert H. Crandall, Hugh A. Wilmar, James R. Simon, Herb and Lois Crisler, Tom McHugh, Jack C. Couffer Film Editing: Norman R. Palmer, Lloyd L. Richardson, Anthony Gerard, G. Gregg McLaughlin, Gordon D. Brenner Music: Paul Smith, Oliver Wallace, Buddy Baker With: Winston Hibler (Narrator) Technicolor-89m. by David Sterritt

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1975

Released in United States 1975