The DVD format has spurred companies to release titles they never would have on VHS. We’ve seen Warner Home Video take this gauntlet and run with it, releasing tons of Looney Tunes on DVD, alongside over a dozen Hanna-Barbera TV shows as well. Of late, the entire series of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain are flying onto shelves (and quickly off, due to demand) and now Tex Avery’s Droopy theatrical shorts are joining the fray as well.
One worry many might have about the releasing of old material on DVD is the historical context. With these releases from Warner, we get disclaimers; mention that the releases are intended for adults and not for children. In addition to the package disclaimers, a small message pops up before the DVD menu loads, stating that there may be some racist, prejudice or sexist images in these cartoons, but they are left intact for historical purposes. While some of these things are evident while watching old cartoons, Droopy is more evident in how adult the material was compared to what Looney Tunes might have did. It’s not just the way Droopy tries to outwit his enemies, it’s the ladies that are sometimes frequently involved. Even the DVD packaging takes notice of the ladies, with the two-disc fold out digi-pak tray sporting an image of the well-known red head from the Droopy cartoons laid out like a Playboy centerfold.
The cartoons themselves I’m oddly already familiar with. I had fully expected to not have seen any of them, but instead found that I remembered a lot of these from the late-night cartoon blocks on Cartoon Network when the network was still new. While I can’t say for sure if what I saw originally were uncut versions, that are what we get on this release. On top of the uncut presentations, we’re given seven CinemaScope shorts in their original 16×9 aspect ratio. All of the cartoons on this release look gorgeous, sans the first few episodes which sport an enormous amount of grain and dirt. The episodes really start to clean up as time goes on and by the time we get to the second disc of the set, you could swear the cartoons were newly animated—the clarity is that strong. The audio is a bit muddy sounding, however, but that’s to be expected from the Dolby Digital Mono track. Despite the sound only pumping out of one speaker, it does the job, giving the dialogue and sound effects in the well-timed order that Tex Avery always had so immaculately planned out.
Overall you’re going to be buying this set because you’re a collector and not for your kid. While your kid may enjoy the collection, it’s really easier to enjoy the release as an adult. While you may even be too young to remember seeing these in theaters, if you’re like me, just seeing them again after all these years from seeing them on Cartoon Network is a treat. No one does character reactions like Tex Avery does and the color changing, eye popping, tongue hanging, jaw dropping motions still entertain to this day. Droopy remains as one of Avery’s top creations and this DVD set is a remarkable representation of his work.
I already talked a bit about the fold out digi-pak packaging above, but what I didn’t mention as that it’s resemblance to the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain sets. Simple colors are retained in the background with grayed out characters, while the show’s title and the focal point characters on the package are fully colored and embossed. Menus match the package art in color and intensity and are easy to navigate. Video and audio on this release were mentioned above as well, but it has to be said again: the video on these episodes is remarkable. Seeing these cartoons again after all these years with such clarity is a true treat.
On the special features front we get one featurettes, detailing Avery’s life in short detail and how he came about the idea for Droopy. We hear from animation historians and overall it’s a very informative track. It’s not too long or too short and leaves you with just the right amount of information for this release. The interviewees in this set are all praising of Avery’s intent to make more adult cartoons and detail why he did so, as well as the risks he took as opposed to what Disney would do when it came to “pushing the envelope.”
“Doggone Gags” is a clipshow of all the hilarious character reactions on this set, ranging from The Wolf, bulldog and Droopy himself, I can’t say for sure if they’re all collected here, but it sure seems like it. Even without the context of the episodes surrounding them, the “Gags” clip show is still hilarious to watch. Also amazing is just how much Avery got away with in a few short seconds of animation, with the color changing suits and facial expressions on The Wolf in the western Droopy toon.
Overall the set is a must own for animation historians and animation fans alike. Casual viewers may not find the content so amazing as I do, but those that can appreciate the age of these cartoons and how much time and love was poured into them will smile at the great treatment this set gives them.
Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection arrives on DVD May 15th.