A few years ago, Ray Pointer (aka Inkwell Images) put together a superb DVD collection of seven Alice Comedies, Disney’s 1920s silent-era series combining live action and animation. About a year ago, Disney Home Entertainment put out vital set of Disney Rarities as part of their Disney Treasures DVD series, which contained six restored Alice Comedies from their archives. What we really need is a “complete collection” of these Alice films, but alas, several of the titles are lost, and many surviving prints are in poor shape.
What we don’t need is another incomplete DVD set of Alice comedies, especially one that repeats three cartoons available on the aforementioned two collections out there (and repeats two others that Ray also released). However, I’m here to tell you that VCI’s new collection, Alice In Cartoonland: 35mm Collector’s Set is worth buying. There are at least five Alice films here that don’t appear elsewhere – and all ten are spectacular 35mm restorations from nitrate negatives, and I have to say they look really great. These are 35mm negs of Alfred Weiss TV versions (with their wacky added sound tracks), and there are a few edits from the era (in particular, the drinking scenes in Alice Solves The Puzzle are out). But I’m delighted to have such great looking versions of these films, I’ll take them any way I can.
There is some additional bonus material here, including essays by JB Kaufman and Russell Merritt culled from their outstanding Walt In Wonderland book. There are three bonus “Life” cartoons by John McCrorry (silent shorts from 1927), also transfered from nitrate negs (retitled Krazy Kids Cartoons from their 1931 reissue in sound). These little rareties feel like Terrytoons of the era – bizzarre, cartoony and a lot of fun. All in all, I recommend the DVD. It’s great to see silent era animation that doesn’t look like “old movies.” And any effort to restore these cartoons deserves our support.