Judge Victor Valdivia is disappointed that real cats and mice don't sing, dance, and fire guns this often.
A cream-of-the-crop collection for fans of cat-and-mouse games!
Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Tom and Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Collection does indeed have some of the classic duo's best cartoons, but it also includes some weaker material that isn't choice by any standards. In its attempt to be comprehensive, this collection ends up wildly inconsistent.
Facts of the Case
Here are the thirty cartoons compiled on two discs:
Of all the Tom and Jerry compilations that Warner Bros. has issued over the years, this is the only one that includes cartoons from every single era of the characters' history. That is not necessarily a selling point. The characters first appeared in 1940, in the short "Puss Gets the Boot," and their creators and directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera would guide the duo through most of the '40s and '50s in a series of shorts that earned Academy Awards and became pop-culture icons. This is the incarnation of Tom and Jerry that most people remember and this collection does have a healthy smattering of cartoons from this period. Unfortunately, the second disc is made up of cartoons made after Hanna and Barbera had moved on to their own studio and Tom and Jerry were directed by a string of other directors well into the 2000s. Some of these cartoons were produced by Hanna and Barbera and some others were directed by Warner Bros. animation titan Chuck Jones, but none of them match up to the classic era shorts and the worst are thoroughly unwatchable. They end up bringing down the value of this set.
The shorts on Disc One, all of them taken from the Hanna-Barbera years, are the meat of the set and will please most fans. All of these have been released on previous Tom and Jerry DVD anthologies, especially the three previous Spotlight Collection volumes, so if you've been faithfully collecting Tom and Jerry DVDs, you'll have these already. If anything, this collection is a step backward since in some previous issues, the character of Mammy Two-Shoes, the stereotyped black maid who torments Tom and recoils from Jerry, who has been censored or edited out, was clearly visible. On this set, all the cartoons except for "Saturday Evening Puss" are the censored versions. Also, for a set that's meant to serve as an introduction to Tom and Jerry's oeuvre, some of the choices here are peculiar. It's understandable that the Oscar-winning shorts like "The Cat Concerto" and "Johann Mouse" are included, but some of the others, especially "That's My Mommy" and "Tops With Pops," are mediocre and forgettable. The compilers could have made much better choices, such as "Tom and Cherie" or "Solid Serenade," two cartoons that are far more hilarious and exciting than some of the choices here.
If Disc One is flawed, Disc Two is problematic. It starts off with excerpts from two feature films that included segments in which actors interacted with the characters. Both Anchors Aweigh, in which Gene Kelly dances with Jerry, and Dangerous When Wet, in which Tom and Jerry go swimming with Esther Williams, are mildly diverting but they don't really compare to the best of the shorts. Completists will like having these segments together on one disc, but neither uses the characters to full advantage; the Williams one in particular is interminable. Next are three shorts from the '60s directed by legendary Warner Bros. director Chuck Jones that are amusing but rather slight. Jones himself admitted in interviews that his Tom and Jerry cartoons were neither his nor the characters' best work, so while you won't mind watching them, they pale when compared to the best of the Hanna-Barbera era. Also, these have already been released on the Tom And Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection set, so if you have that one, you'll have these already. The remaining cartoons, dating from the '70s onward, are abysmal. Even the ones that were supervised by Hanna and Barbera themselves are full of shoddy animation, tired and unfunny gags, and insufferably cutesy music and voices. These epitomize the worst of post-'60s animation and it's unlikely you'll even want to finish watching them once, let alone repeatedly. Disc Two, in other words, is pretty much a waste, apart from the Jones cartoons, and those are available elsewhere in a better compilation. It ends up rendering this collection much less essential than it should have been, considering some of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons available elsewhere.
Technically, the set is decent. The cartoons look about the same as they do on their previous issues, with some decent remastering but not enough to hide their age. There are still some scratches and flaws here and there, although the compilers did the best they could. Most of them are in full-screen but some, from the '50s, were shot in 2.35:1 and are presented in anamorphic widescreen. The mono mix is also solid, with no hiss and good balance. The only extra is a featurette, "Much Ado About Tom and Jerry" (18:51), which gives a history of the duo from the '40s to the 2000s. It's too short to really be comprehensive but it does have some interesting stories about the characters' creation and career.
If Tom and Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Collection was meant to be the ultimate Tom and Jerry anthology, it fails completely. It should have focused exclusively on the duo's prime Hanna-Barbera years (with perhaps a few Jones cartoons added for variety) and should have completely ignored anything after the '60s. Even the Hanna-Barbera cartoons included here have some clinkers and are not as well-chosen as they could have been. Ironically enough, even though this is ostensibly a package for newcomers, it's really only diehard fans who will want it to complete their collections. Anyone else should start with the Spotlight Collection sets or even the bargain-priced Greatest Chases DVDs, which are far more enjoyable than this release.
Guilty of being too inconsistent to be definitive.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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