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Case Number 11714: Small Claims Court

Buy Tex Avery's Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection at Amazon

Tex Avery's Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection

Warner Bros. // 1954 // 200 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Russell Engebretson (Retired) // July 18th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Russell Engebretson is ashamed to admit he spent far too much of his childhood not watching cartoons.

The Charge

"Hello, all you happy people."—Droopy

The Case

This double DVD set gathers all 24 of the Droopy Dog theatrical cartoons (1943-1958) into a single handsomely embossed slipcase.

Disc 1
• "Dumb-Hounded" (1943)
The Wolf is an escaped convict on the run with Droopy in slow but steady pursuit.

• "The Shooting of Dan McGoo" (1945)
Based on the Robert Service poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," it's a non-stop gagfest full of booze, bullets, and a sexy broad—written specifically for WWII servicemen.

• "Wild and Woolfy" (1945)
The Wolf rides into a western town and kidnaps the redheaded beauty. It's Droopy to the rescue.

• "Northwest Hounded Police" (1946)
Once again, the Wolf is a convict. This time Droopy is a Canadian Mountie who always gets his wolf.

• "Señor Droopy" (1949)
It's a bullfight between Droopy and the Wolf at the Chili Bowl. Droopy hopes to win the affections of Lina Romay (portrayed by the real life actress).

• "Wags to Riches" (1949)
Spike the bulldog is all set to inherit a fortune from his former master, but the will stipulates Droopy will receive the inheritance instead, unless Droopy becomes suddenly deceased. Spike hatches a series of deadly plans, all of which backfire.

• "Out-Foxed" (1949)
Droopy only needs to bag an English upper-class fox and return it to his master to be rewarded with a juicy steak. Dozens of dimwitted hunting dogs are also on the trail of the clever fox.

• "The Chump Champ" (1950)
Droopy and Spike compete in a series of athletic challenges.

• "Daredevil Droopy" (1951)
Another Spike versus Droopy challenge, but the prize is an acrobat job with the circus.

• "Droopy's Good Deed" (1951)
Droopy and Spike go head to head in a Boy Scout competition, with Spike cheating and receiving his just comeuppance as usual.

• "Droopy's Double Trouble" (1951)
Droopy is a butler who invites his incredibly strong twin brother Drippy to help around the mansion. Spike, this time a bum with an Irish accent, picks the wrong house to freeload.

• "Caballero Droopy" (1952)
Droopy and the Wolf are both trying to win the hand of a beautiful señorita. This one was directed by Dick Lundy.

Disc 2
• "The Three Little Pups" (1953)
This cartoon is a variation on the Three Little Pigs theme, with a lackadaisical Wolf as the dog catcher. The wolf is voiced by the same actor who later voiced Huckleberry Hound.

• "Drag-A-Long Droopy" (1954)
Droopy is a sheepherder who tangles with the Wolf when he sends his sheep to graze on the Wolf's cattle ranch.

• "Homesteader Droopy" (1954)
Once again, Droopy is grazing his sheep on the Wolf's land, but this time with his wife and baby in tow.

• "Dixieland Droopy" (1954)
Droopy plays John Pettibone, a dog who carries a Dixieland jazz band flea circus in his fur as he searches for an appreciative audience.

• "Deputy Droopy" (1955)
Two villains try to rob a safe without waking the sheriff from his nap. It's up to Deputy Droopy to foil the stealthy would-be robbers.

• "Millionaire Droopy" (1956)
Not actually directed by Tex Avery, it's a CinemaScope remake of "Wags to Riches."

• "Grin and Share It" (1957)
Butch tries to swindle Droopy out of his fair share of a gold strike. Michael Lah directed this one and the remaining five cartoons.

• "Blackboard Jumble" (1957)
Three junior Droopy Dogs try the patience of a teacher Wolf.

• "One Droopy Knight" (1958) (Nominated for an Academy Award)
Droopy (Sir Droopalot) and Butch (Sir Butchalot) are in competition again. The first to slay the dragon wins the daughter of the king's hand in marriage.

• "Sheep Wrecked" (1958)
Droopy guards his flock of sheep from the Wolf.

• "Mutts About Racing" (1958)
Droopy and Butch compete against one another in a car race.

• "Droopy Leprechaun" (1958)
Spike mistakes Droopy for a Leprechaun.

Although not associated with an iconic cartoon character such as Mickey Mouse or Wiley Coyote, Frederick Bean Avery (born in Taylor, Texas in 1908) is still one of the animation deities whose name can be uttered in the same breath as Bob Clampett or Chuck Jones. His lunatic gags and perfect comic timing have seldom been surpassed. Tex Avery invented only a handful of named cartoon characters (with the famous exceptions of Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny that were at least partially his creations). One of those characters, Screwball "Screwy" Squirrel, had a short five-cartoon run. He was a character whose manic antics all other animated rodents could only strive in vain to match, but Screwy never gained a large audience. Screwy's persona was too berserk to be cute. However, the mention of Droopy, the deadpan Bassett hound with a weepy monotone drawl, can still bring a fond smile of remembrance to even the casual cartoon watcher.

Overall, the Droopy cartoons in this collection look very good (with a major caveat that I will come to in a moment). The seven widescreen CinemaScope cartoons, six of them directed by Michael Lah, boast the finest transfers. Unfortunately, they are also the dullest and least funny offerings in the Droopy oeuvre. Most of the gags are recycled from earlier cartoons, and they lack the magical Avery touch. Just compare the hilarious Avery-directed "Wags to Riches" with its CinemaScope remake, "Millionaire Droopy." The remake's backgrounds are simple and monotonous, with the sketchy, angular style typical of animation from the early fifties and some time afterwards. At least "Millionaire Droopy" was based on an earlier work by Avery and retains a good bit of the original's charm. The remainder of the CinemaScope cartoons range from mediocre to outright bad.

Now for the caveat I mentioned earlier. Some cartoon aficionados have complained that maxed-out DVNR (digital video noise reduction) was applied to four of the early cartoons: "Wags to Riches," "Daredevil Droopy," "Droopy's Good Deed," and "Three Little Pups." DVNR, applied judiciously, is a handy digital tool to quickly remove scratches and dirt specks from old film elements. Unfortunately, when it comes to animation, DVNR confuses many lines and squiggles with print imperfections and removes or blurs them. Casual viewers aren't going to notice, but comparisons to the un-retouched cartoons shows a startling loss of line detail. It's a major gaffe that prevents this DVD from receiving my whole-hearted recommendation. There is some loose talk that Warner's Home Video may reissue the entire set of Avery's cartoons and correct the noise reduction (in America, the only near-complete Avery sets to date are on out-of-print VHS tapes and laserdiscs). We can only hope.

The meager set of extras on the second disc includes a brief featurette, a redundant set of gags collected from the cartoons we've already seen, and three trailers. The featurette is a decent introduction and tribute to Tex Avery that briefly sketches out his career with Warner Brothers and MGM, but there is a crying need for a more in-depth set of extras. Avery was a cartoon genius and possibly the most influential animator who ever lived. He deserves more than a 19 minute extra.

On the plus side—and it's a very big plus—the cartoons are presented in all their unedited glory; which is why there is a disclaimer on the back of the slipcase that the collection "…is intended for the adult collector and may not be suitable for children." Potential viewers who are uninitiated into the wild and wooly world of Tex Avery should be forewarned. Many of his cartoons are not for the faint of heart. Avery once drew a simple sketch with the sub-heading of "cute props." It included sticks of dynamite, an anvil, an axe, a large wooden mallet, and the ever-popular bowling ball bomb with a sparkling fuse. Not included in the sketch was a hangman's noose, which also makes occasional appearances. His cartoons are rife with cigarettes, beer, pistols, salacious red-headed femme fatales, and lustful howling wolves. Avery's racier cartoons were not aimed at the yard-ape demographic. They were aired in theaters for adults—WWII G.I.s in particular. It's wonderful to see the cartoons properly restored as they were intended to be seen by their original audience.

Ominous warnings of animated mayhem aside, I saw most of these cartoons on television as a mere sprat and have come away from the experience only moderately warped. An Avery cartoon goes down like an icy glass of Texas Tea, and it freshly cleanses the palate of the latest sugary overdose of Disney product. I happily declare these animated shorts generally safe for all viewers, and further suggest that you dare not call yourself a cartoon fan until you have seen each and every Tex Avery masterpiece uncountable times. That means a purchase, not a rental, is a necessity.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Animation
• Classic
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Droopy and Friends: A Laugh Back
• Doggone Gags
• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb








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