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 Meet Sherlock Holmes

Hi!

As a fan of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons from MGM in the 1940s and ’50s, I’ve often been disappointed in recent attempts to revitalize the series. Somehow shows like Tom and Jerry Kids in the early 1990s and Tom and Jerry Tales just a few years ago fail to capture the innocence and fun of the initial shorts from William Hanna & Joseph Barbera.

However, I am surprised and pleased to say that the recent release of the new Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes feature on DVD manages to capture more of the classic feel of the early antics of this cat and mouse pair while putting them in an entirely new storyline that also brings in many of their familiar friends along the way…

If you’ve been living in a cave for the last 70 years, Tom and Jerry first appeared in the short “The Midnight Snack” by Hanna and Barbera in 1941 after another of their shorts – “Puss Gets the Boot,” released in 1940 – became a big hit with theater owners. From 1941 until until the end of their careers in 1958, Hanna and Barbera created more than 100 more Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM. Since then, Tom and Jerry have been a mainstay on television enjoyed by several generations of viewers.

The basic premise behind most of the Tom and Jerry cartoons is that Tom, a lazy housecat with a taste for mice and a knack for getting into trouble, is constantly trying to catch Jerry, a little brown mouse with a mischievous streak and a taste for people food. Scattered throughout the many shorts, Hanna and Barbera created other unforgettable characters as well… Spike, a big not-so-bright bulldog, and his son Tyke… Butch, a rival tomcat who also wants to eat Jerry… Toodles, the beautiful and unattainable girl cat Tom falls in love with again and again… Tuffy, the always hungry little mouse that sometimes appears as Jerry’s nephew who charges in where little mice should fear to tread… Droopy, the small but wily Basset Hound who speaks slowly and can, when angry, defeat the largest foes with ease… The list goes on and on.

In Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes, Jerry lives in Sherlock Holmes’ flat at 221B Baker Street in London during the late 1880s. Dr. Watson comes to visit to tell Holmes about another in a series of jewel robberies when Tom appears with a note asking for help from Red, a beautiful cabaret singer. Though Tom and Jerry try to do harm to each other throughout the feature, in the end they, Holmes, and Watson manage to help solve the mystery of the missing jewels and whomever is stalking Miss Red.

Throughout the 50 minute feature, we catch glimpses of some of Tom and Jerry’s classic friends. Droopy makes an appearance as a bumbling bobby with Scotland Yard. He and Spike try to catch Miss Red, as they believe her to be behind the jewel thieves. Tuffy works as a priest at the church and provides sanctuary when the group needs a place to hide. You even see Barney Bear as he installs mirrors all around London and the Big Bad Wolf howling at Red during her cabaret show.

Though this feature is short, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the cartoon with my daughters. We laughed out loud numerous times at the slapstick antics of the cat and mouse. Unlike the recent Tom and Jerry Tales series, there’s a purpose to the characters in the story that provides a structure for the craziness that goes on along the way.

In addition to the feature itself, there’s a “How to Draw Tom and Jerry” feature that is done by Spike Brandt from Warner Brothers Animation. Using a few simple steps, Brandt walks viewers through drawing Tom and Jerry’s distinct portraits on paper. My two girls with art skills are really looking forward to trying out the techniques described. We’ll have to see how it turns out.

If you’re looking for a new way to share the fun of Tom & Jerry with your kids, I’d definitely recommend giving Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes a look. We had a lot of fun with the cartoon and look forward to see what’s next for the cat and mouse!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great DVDs from Barnes & Noble below…

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DVD Review: Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases, Volume 4

Hi all!

Since the 1940s, Tom and Jerry have provided cat and mouse antics for all ages. As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 80′s, I found these characters crated by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to be just as entertaining as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd. And now with kids of my own, I truly enjoy having the ability to share these shorts with my two daughters and seeing them laugh just as much as I still do as an adult.

Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases, Volume 4 continues the trend by Warner Home Video of release batches of classic cartoons for new generations to enjoy on DVD. Volume 4 includes 14 more classic shorts from the 1940s and 1950s.

Among some of my favorite shorts in this collection are:

  • Little Quacker (1950) and Just Ducky (1953), featuring Jerry’s little friend duck
  • Tom and Chérie (1955) features Tom, Jerry, and Jerry’s assistant Tuffy in the third “Mouseketeer” short (after “The Two Mouseketeers” (1952) and “Touche’, Pussy Cat!” (1954))
  • Jerry & Jumbo (1953) featuring Jerry and his baby elephant friend Jumbo, who fell off a circus train
  • Little School Mouse (1954) entertains the notion of Jerry teaching Tuffy how to outwit cats and ends up with him needing to learn a thing or two himself

There’s an innocence to these cartoons that I still find endearing after all these years. Sure there’s cartoon violence, but the only blood you’ll see is the ketchup used to fool Tom into thinking he’s bleeding every now and then (and not at all in this collection).

What am always consistently amazed by is the music. Scott Bradley scored all but one of the original Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM and Hanna-Barbera and I have to say that they are not only full of fun music, but a wide variety of styles – from jazz and blues to ballroom and country.

Tom and Jerry will forever be among my favorite cartoons and I’ve enjoyed revisiting my youth while watching them again on DVD. Be sure to look for Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Chases, Volume 4 at your local retailer or rental store.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Tom and Jerry collections at Amazon below!

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