As Walt Disney's fame grew during the 1930s, people wanted to know more about his studio and how the "Silly Symphonies" and Mickey Mouse shorts were created. Although Disney seldom allowed visitors, he periodically offered viewers peeks inside into the studio through the films in this collection. In 1937, Disney made A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios for his distributor, RKO, to help the marketing campaign for Snow White. This in-house documentary was later reworked and released as a trailer for the studio's first feature as How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made. In 1941, humorist Robert Benchley toured the studio and chatted with the artists in The Reluctant Dragon. But the film was released during a bitterly fought strike that belied its cheerful depiction of the studio.
During the '50s, Walt used his studio as a backdrop for several episodes of the Disneyland TV series. "The Story of the Animated Drawing" traces the history of the medium, including re-creations of Emil Reynaud's Théâtre Optique (1892-1900) and Winsor McCay's vaudeville routine with his landmark film Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). "Tricks of Our Trade," which focuses on the creation of Sleeping Beauty, shows staged footage of four of the celebrated "Nine Old Men"--Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston--sketching. In the DVD bonus material, host Leonard Maltin traces the development of the studio facilities from a Los Angeles garage to its present location in Burbank. Maltin also chats with Disney legend Joe Grant, who cowrote the "Baby Weems" sequence in Reluctant Dragon. Recorded at the time of Grant's 94th birthday, the artist displays the sly wit that continues to inspire animators. (Unrated: Suitable for all ages: cartoon violence) --Charles Solomon