Walt Disney shorts were historically not shown as full features in themselves. Instead, they provided the lead-in to feature-length motion pictures. Back then, instead of having commercials for five minutes, there would be a short film. These films were not necessarily children’s films, as one might have guessed. However, they included the Disney standard cast of characters, especially Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto.
As 8mm and especially Super 8mm projectors entered the home, the Walt Disney Company realized what a goldmine they were sitting on. 8mm projectors famously simply can’t handle feature-length films, unless one uses dozens of reels. As a result, 8mm and Super 8mm projectors required films that were short and complete in their own right. The Disney vault, full of these shorts from the 1930s to the 1950s, had the perfect product to meet this demand.
Two sorts of 8mm movies were released by the Walt Disney Company. The first were the autonomous Disney shorts themselves that had been shown before feature films for decades. The second were small sections of feature-length movies that were complete in their own right. For example, the “Whistle While You Work” sequence from Snow White was released as an 8mm film reel.
The Walt Disney Company also released a number of short segments of movies for home viewing, ranging fro its earliest feature, Snow White, to some of its more forgettable post-Disney films like The Aristocats.
Note that these films were released over a wide period of time, and therefore have a number of different levels of quality. Early on, color film was very expensive to produce, so a number of these shorts are in black and white, even if the original film was in color. Similarly, the first generations of 8mm and Super 8mm Projectors were silent, and, as a result, many of these segments are silent, even if the original film was in sound.
Some of the most famous scenes released are the following:
- The “Whistle Whilte You Work” Song from Snow White.
- Cinderella gets her dress from Cinderella.
- “Jolly Holliday” from Mary Poppins.
- Various stories from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh including “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too”.
- The scene where Pinocchio comes to life from Pinnochio.
As you can see, these feature-film segments center around discrete sequences from movies that families can enjoy each in their own right. Of course, most of those involving songs were sound films.
The Walt Disney Company released a number of independent shorts that preceded motion pictures. Some of these films are extremely rare, as they have never been released in any format other than 8mm or Super 8mm. Even those that have been released in other formats are still considered collector’s items, enjoyed by vintage film collectors in their own right.
The quality of these films is extremely varied, even more so than the film segments. This is in a large part because these were generally released on 8mm and Super 8mm earlier than the film segments, and also because, in many cases, such as the classic early Mickey films, the original films were also in black and white with no sound.
Some of the most famous shorts are the following:
- Steamboat Willie: This seven-minute, 1928 short was the first Mickey Mouse short to be released. Finding this film in an original 8mm version is a collector’s dream.
- Mickey’s Parrot: This is an eight-minute, 1938 short about Mickey Mouse finding a parrot in his basement, but thinking the parrot might be a murderer that was mentioned on the news
- The Legend of Coyote Rock: This is a seven-minute, 1945 short about Pluto and how he protects his sheep from a coyote, and ends up creating Coyote Rock
- Lend a Paw: Also called “Pluto’s Conscience”, this eight-minute, 1941 short is about Pluto saving a kitten, then realizing that he doesn’t really want the kitten competing for Mickey’s attention.
- Pluto’s Christmas Tree: This seven-minute, 1952 short is about Chip and Dale, two chipmunks who get into Mickey’s tree. When Pluto finds them, chaos ensues.
Purchasing Walt Disney Shorts
Because these shorts are no longer in production, they will need to be purchased second hand. As with any second-hand purchase, one of the best ways to do this is to use auction sites such as Ebay. Just be sure to check on the condition of any products that you purchase before buying it. One of the most common problems with old film reels is that they have at some point burned and been spliced back together. If this is the case, you might find that there are some gaps in the films that you buy.
However, if you cannot find them there, there are some specialty stores available, such as Foster Films and Collectables, which operates out of the United Kingdom.