Classic cartoons for no special occasion at all.
From the golden age came many cartoons with characters that were based on comic strips. Winstar gathered a collection of them onto this DVD which is surprisingly good for what it is. Cartoons are combined with short story synopses and historical facts for a DVD that is almost a mini-classroom course.
Facts of the Case
Our first cartoon is "Superman: Underground World" where Superman has to save Lois and a scientist from bird people who live deep inside a local cave. Popeye is up next in "I Don't Scare" where Bluto uses Olive Oyl's superstitions to convince her not to date Popeye. Those two sure had it bad for the anorexic queen of cartoons. Felix the Cat in "Bold King Cole" follows, where he meets the jolly king who isn't afraid of anything…except ghosts. Do Do, The Kid from Outer Space, some kid with antennae for ears, speaks in rhyme with his mechanical bird about aliens at Mt. Fujiyama. "Superman-Electronic Earthquake" comes next as Indians wish to reverse being shortchanged from the sale of Manhattan with…you guessed it. I found it ironic that the Daily Planet is apparently in Manhattan; I always thought Metropolis was a separate city from New York. Fontaine Fox stars in "Toonerville Trolley" next, with a 1935 entry, followed by Little Audrey in "Seapreme Court" where the little tyke gets caught by the fish instead of the other way around. Raggedy Ann stars in "Suddenly It's Spring" where she and the other toys try to get the sun to help their child (sort of a precursor to Toy Story). Next up is Betty Boop (boop boop be doop) in "The Funniest Living American," a black and white feature. Our little vixen and her pal Henry have hijinks in a pet store. Another black and white cartoon comes next with "Tobor The 8th Man in "The Case of the Numbers Gang," a sic fi super hero tale from Japan. Little Nemo comes next and has no story, but is the first instance of a comic strip being turned into a cartoon. It is simply a little bit of fun showing animated characters dance and show off what the animation can do. One of the earliest examples of cartoons. Popeye has the last feature with "Out to Punch," a 1950s effort where Bluto and Popeye have a boxing match.
Winstar does its best job when it fills a niche that nobody else is working in. This area of classic cartoons from the '30s to the '60s is one of them. Some of them I've never even heard of, while I've seen virtually none of them before. So it is something of a treat to get to see these, and I'm happy to see them get a digital transfer for preservation. The cartoons themselves are generally cute, and mostly interesting.
The quality of the video of course varies from short feature to feature, but overall I'm very impressed. Some very old cartoons look like they are much newer, with few nicks or scratches or other problems. A couple of them are very worn, especially "Little Nemo" which is probably the oldest one of the bunch. Winstar has provided remixes of the audio to either stereo of full blown Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for each entry, with varying results again. Some of them sound quite nice and even have some directional placement, while others sound harsh and strident. This I believe is totally due to the condition and quality of the source elements available.
But the extras department is where I really enjoyed this disc. Each cartoon has it's own story synopsis and historical notes that you get to by individually selecting each feature. If you hit "Play All" you won't get these and they run consecutively. These notes are especially nice when you have no prior experience with the cartoon about to show, but even on the ones you know something about like "Superman" you get some interesting bits of trivia. There is also a bit of text notes describing the early history of cartoons on the main menu as well.
Perhaps the best thing about watching some of these features was to see how things have changed. Stories were so innocent then. And I was surprised to see that Superman's costume changed from the '40s to later incarnations. The "S" insignia is especially different.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is little to complain about here; but certainly these cartoons are not as well integrated into our culture as the Looney Toons or Disney efforts. These are sort of a niche product, and represent what smaller studios were doing in the early days. Still, I think from a historical standpoint they are very good and worthy to be kept for future generations to see. From the disc standpoint only the lack of subtitles remains as a complaint, since the hard of hearing and deaf community won't be able to understand what is going on. Even here though the story synopses would help.
If you are a fan of old cartoons, this would be a worthy purchase. If you're interested in the history of early cartoons, this would be worth a rental at least. Here Winstar does what it does best, filling a niche that the bigger studios aren't.
Winstar and the makers of these little snippets of cartoon history are all acquitted. I'm surprisingly happy with the results.
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Scales of Justice
• Story Synopses
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