DVD Review: Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2

Hi all…

Tom and Jerry have had long and fruitful lives as cartoon characters. The titular cat and mouse began in a series of animated cartoons created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera for MGM in 1940 and have evolved several times over the last 70+ years. It’s a familiar recipe for cartoons – take one lovable scoundrel, introduce a second scoundrel to the same environment, and see which scoundrel wins. Last I checked, it’s a dead heat and neither cat nor mouse has gained the upper hand.

I believe I’ve seen most, if not all of the Tom and Jerry cartoons at one time or another. Even in my 40s, I still watch cartoons with my kids and the classics like Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and Scooby-Doo seem to beat most current cartoons hands down. But I’m starting to grow tired of Warner Brother’s current attempts to milk the franchise on DVD for more money with single-DVD collections of the Tom and Jerry shorts. Every few months, there’s a new release.

Now I have to say I’m eagerly anticipating the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection: Volume One when it arrives on Blu-ray in October 2011. Apparently the new collection features the first 37 shorts, restored from the best 35mm originals they could find, in beautiful 1080p HD with Dolby 5.1 sound. And the rumor is that the new collection will show the original cartoons un-edited and un-censored. That collection is currently available for pre-order at Amazon today and I’ve already got my order in.

However, Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2 seems to be a hodgepodge collection of 14 shorts from three very different eras of Tom and Jerry production and the quality of the transfers leaves quite a lot to be desired. My personal favorites are the original Hanna-Barbera shorts from the 1940s & 50s and those from when Chuck Jones was working on them in the mid-1960s, not the shorts from the later series Tom and Jerry Tales.

The DVD includes the following shorts:

  • Tops with Pops (1957 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • Monster Con (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl (1950 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • Of Feline Bondage (1965 – Chuck Jones)
  • Saturday Evening Puss (1950 – Hanna-Barbera)
  • The A-Tom-Inable Snowman (1966 – Chuck Jones)
  • Surf-bored Cat (1967 – Chuck Jones)
  • Snowbody Loves Me (1964 – Chuck Jones)
  • Duel Personality (1966 – Chuck Jones)
  • Is There a Doctor in the Mouse? (1964 – Chuck Jones)
  • The Haunted Mouse (1965 – Chuck Jones)
  • Declaration of Independunce (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Kitty Hawked (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)
  • Which Witch (Tom and Jerry Tales 2007)

Several of the transfers of the shorts really didn’t come across well at all, with obvious scratches and a jittery picture. It was especially noticeable in some of the shorts from the ’50s and ’60s. The newer Tom and Jerry Tales shorts had a nice, clean transfer with little extra movement beyond what the creators wanted. You do get to see favorites from the original shorts, including Spike and Tyke, Butch, Lightning, and Topsy. Of the classics included, I think “Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl,” “Saturday Evening Puss,” and “The Haunted Mouse” are my favorites.

Unfortunately you also get to see ill-conceived shorts from Tom and Jerry Tales like “Monster Con” which pairs Tom up with Van Helsing as they go monster hunting at a monster convention. Like most of the newer Tom and Jerry cartoons, these seem to be poor, shallow imitations of the earlier era of shorts.

Beyond the Tom and Jerry cartoons themselves, there are no extras except for a few trailers for other Warner Brothers-produced shows such as The Looney Tunes Show (which fails except for the brilliant 3D Road Runner/Coyote cartoons) and a collection of Snoopy’s adventures in Happiness Is… Peanuts: Snoopy’s Adventures.

If you’re a fan of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons, I’d seriously skip Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures, Volume 2 and save your money for the upcoming Tom & Jerry Golden Collection: Volume One to be released in October 2011.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Tom and Jerry Volume 1: Fur Flying Adventures

Hi again!

When I was a kid, Tom and Jerry cartoons were already in syndication and played regularly on Saturday mornings. That was back when there were only a handful of channels, not hundreds of channels like we have now. And back then I wasn’t much of a discriminating cartoon watcher. Whether it was Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, Captain Caveman, Scooby-Doo, The Super Friends, or many others, I was typically glued to our old black and white TV with my bowl of Fruit Loops every Saturday morning.

Now as a parent, there are many more choices in the digital wasteland of television. A few new cartoons still get my attention now and then, such as 2011’s Young Justice and the continued Clone Wars adventures, but I can’t say that I really like shows like Spongebob Squarepants or Phineas and Ferb as an adult. As a result, I’ve found myself looking at older cartoons on DVD as a solution when we’re looking to watch something as a family.

Tom and Jerry Volume 1: Fur Flying Adventures collects fourteen different Tom and Jerry classics on one DVD for about an hour of cartoons. Most of these episodes were from the original Hanna-Barbera era from 1940-1958, but a few are from the Chuck Jones era (1963-1967) after he left Warner Bros. Cartoons in 1963.

Episodes on the DVD include:

  • Barbecue Brawl (1956)
  • Happy Go Ducky (1958)
  • Hic-cup Pup (1954)
  • Little Quacker (1950)
  • Rock ‘n Rodent (1967) (Chuck Jones)
  • Neapolitan Mouse (1954)
  • Pet Peeve (1954)
  • Pup on a Picnic (1955)
  • O-Solar Meow (1967) (Chuck Jones)
  • Robin Hoodwinked (1958)
  • Guided Mouse-ille (1967)
  • Timid Tabby (1957)
  • The Vanishing Duck (1958)
  • That’s my Mommy (1955)

It was fun watching these with my daughters. We especially enjoyed the shorts with “Ducky” – the baby duck that somehow gets into all kinds of trouble with Tom, who of course wants to eat him. I still remembered “Little Quacker,” “The Vanishing Duck,” and “That’s My Mommy” from my own childhood. And it’s definitely fun to revisit those days every now and again.

One that I didn’t remember seeing was “Robin Hoodwinked,” which included Tuffy, Jerry’s younger sidekick destined to get into trouble and somehow survive it all. It was fun seeing Jerry and Tuffy (in his cute diaper) rush into Nottingham Castle to save the captured Robin Hood and help him escape.

Also included on the DVD are a couple of trailers for more recent Warner Brothers productions, including Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (the latest Scooby-Doo animated series to hit the air) and Tom & Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes, which was released just a few months ago. We enjoyed the new series and the new film, which brought some of our favorite characters back into the limelight.

If you’re looking for a great way to keep your kids occupied for an hour, I’d definitely recommend picking up Tom and Jerry Volume 1: Fur Flying Adventures on DVD. If you’re looking for a larger, more organized collection of Tom and Jerry shorts, there are other options available to you including the Tom and Jerry: Spotlight Collections and Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this DVD and other Tom and Jerry classics at Barnes & Noble:

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DVD Review: Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection

Hey all…

Tom and Jerry, the cartoon duo of cat and mouse, first appeared in 1940 in cartoons made at the MGM cartoon studio. That would make them both 69 years old in human years. In cat years, Tom would be about 276 years old and I’d hate to know how old Jerry would be in mouse years!

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created more than 100 Tom and Jerry cartoons between 1940 and 1957. Tom, a house cat, and Jerry, a mouse, managed to destroy millions of animated vases, dishes, and homes over the course of more than 100 cartoons. The series even won seven Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) during those 17 years, competing with the powerful animation house of Walt Disney.

In 1957, MGM closed their animation unit. And in 1960, 12 new Tom and Jerry shorts were created by Rembrandt Films and directed by Gene Deitch. Unfortunately Deitch didn’t have the resources to keep the same smooth animation style and they lost the franchise.

Then in 1962, Chuck Jones entered the picture. Jones was one of the many behind the classic Warner Brothers cartoons in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, until WB closed their animation studio in ’62. During his tenure at WB, he helped create many of the endearing characters of the age that have survived and even thrived in the years since – Michigan J. Frog, Pepe LePew, Road Runner, and Wile E Coyote, among many others. He was also instrumental in changing Daffy Duck to the egomaniacal scene stealer he remains today.

When WB closed their animation department, Jones created his Sib-Tower 12 Productions company to continue creating cartoons for MGM, and that’s how he came to be involved with the Tom and Jerry franchise. And though they were only involved for four years, they made more than 150 more shorts of this wacky duo of cat and mouse.

In June 2009, Warner Brothers has released Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection to feature 34 shorts from the Jones era. These cartoons have been restored to their full widescreen format, as they were originally seen on the big screen decades ago.

One thing I noticed in the early Tom and Jerry cartoons from Hanna-Barbera was that the violence had more consequences. At no time were blood or gore in any of the cartoons, but when Tom was beaten up, he’d get bruises, broken bones, and more. In the Chuck Jones era of Tom and Jerry, the characters were much more damage-proof, similar to the cartoon characters for WB. Tom and Jerry could be crushed by construction equipment, blown up, and smashed regularly and bounce back to continue the chase. As such, I think it lost a bit of the flair of the original shorts.

That said, the Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection is very entertaining and worth seeing for anyone who enjoys the chaos and humor of the eternal Tom and Jerry chase. And it’s wonderful to see them in glorious widescreen format, as there are details on the outskirts of every frame that were lost when the shorts were converted for regular television.

In addition, this two-DVD collection includes two features – “Tom and Jerry… and Chuck” and “Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood”.

“Tom and Jerry… and Chuck” is an older documentary of the history of Tom and Jerry and Chuck Jones, narrated by June Foray, a star from the world of animation voice overs (as Granny from Tweety and Sylvester, Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, and many many others). The documentary covered the very beginnings of Tom and Jerry from creators Hanna & Barbera at MGM up through the Jones era. It was interesting to hear the great Jones talk about taking over the great duo. His perspective is unique, coming from the same golden age of animation as Hanna & Barbera, but as a “risk taker” able to do more with the characters.

“Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood” is a more recent documentary from Turner Classic Movies and Warner Brothers, directed by Peggy Stern. Merging hand-drawn animation and interviews with the legendary Jones works beautifully. Jones had a very visual imagination, which translated into his art style. The documentary begins with Jones’ birth in 1912 and works through his childhood watching classic movies starring Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and others as he grew up on Sunset Boulevard. Once he learned to read and draw, all the pieces were in place… His amazing skills of observation, his imagination, and a love for comedy naturally bloomed into many of the cartoons that I know I will love to the end of my days. I truly appreciate gaining a bit more insight into Jones’ life.

Though these Tom and Jerry cartoons may lack a bit of the spirit of the first wave of the duo from Hanna and Barbera, Jones’ work will leave a lasting impression on the world of animation. It’s hard to imagine a world without Chuck Jones and still a ton of fun to watch his take on Tom and Jerry in this collection of cartoons. Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection would be a great addition to the library of any lover of classic animation. Be sure to pick it up at your favorite retailer.

–Fitz

p.s. Beef up your Tom and Jerry collection at Amazon:

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