Sufferin' succotash! Judge Christopher Kulik hasn't a clue as to why Sylvester and Tweety remain so immensely popular.
I tawt I taw a clue!
For over 60 years, Sylvester the cat still hasn't learned his lesson. Why does he insist on chasing after Tweety Bird for lunch when he knows full well it's never going to happen? Why does he allow himself to be bullied by Hector the Bulldog for his actions? Why can't he find something else to do? In one episode of the The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Sylvester asks himself why he does go after Tweety (who is guarded by Hector), even when he is in a restaurant kitchen full of delicious fish. His answer: it's tradition!
In 1990, Tiny Toon Adventures was, in many ways, a throwback to the classic Warner Bros. cartoons of the 1940s featuring "modernized ancestors" of sorts to Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, et al. Five years later, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries debuted on the WB, and enjoyed a successful run of six years. Unlike Tiny Toons, however, the studio opted to actually bring back four beloved characters: Sylvester, Tweety, Hector, and Granny. See, the latter is now considered on the world's greatest detectives, and she travels around to different parts of the globe to solve a variety of mysteries with her three pets.
Although Tweety was created by Bob Clampett, it was Friz Freleng who created the starving feline (amusingly named after the scientific name of the domestic cat species). The Oscar-winning 1947 cartoon Tweety Pie (directed by Freleng) introduced the cat's endless, hilarious pursuit of having the canary for lunch. Six months before The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries premiere on September 9, 1995, Freleng passed away; the first season of the show was dedicated to his memory. Now, thirteen years later (to the day), the show makes its DVD debut care of Warner Home Entertainment, with thirteen episodes spread over two discs:
"The Cat Who Knew Too Much"—-- Detective Granny and her pets plan on spending a weekend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. However, gangsters Rocky and Muggsy plan on birdnapping Tweety. While Granny sets out to find Tweety, Sylvester plans on beating her to his lunch.
"Platinum Wheel of Fortune"—-- Sylvester narrates the foursome's journey to Monte Carlo. Granny plans on entering the Grand Prix, but Sylvester's plans to catch Tweety stop short when he finds himself at the mercy of a romantic skunk (take a wild guess who!).
"Double Take"—-- Granny has been framed in a recent series of robberies all over Copenhagen, Denmark. Determined to clear her name, she goes there, while her pets go nuts over what appears to be two Grannies staying at their hotel!
"A Chip Off the Old Castle"—-- Now in Ireland, Granny is called upon to locate the stolen Blarney stone. This leads them to stay in the "obligatory haunted house," in the words of Sylvester.
"Something Fishy Around Here"—-- Now in Tokyo, the foursome are recruited to locate Charlene, the world's largest tuna. Naturally, Sylvester would rather fish for a canary.
"B2 or Not B2"—-- Granny is named Person of the Year by Senior Time magazine, an honor which inspires a cruise director to hire her as a guest speaker. What follows is a series of accidents, Granny playing in a Bingo tournament, and the lady acting like Speedy Gonzalez at one point.
"Bull Running on Empty"—-- Now in Spain, Granny is recruited to locate the stolen, priceless Pamplonan periscope. Sylvester is still trying to get Tweety, even with the presence of bulls running everywhere.
"A Ticket to Crime"—-- While relaxing in Central Park, Granny gets an invitation by Ed McMuffin to come to Clydesdale manor in England. When he shows up missing, Granny must locate him, but now she has serious competition from other invited detectives…including an old flame named Sam Fudd (yep, that's him!).
"The Maltese Canary"—-- A hilarious spoof of a certain Dashiell Hammett story. Sam Spade, famous film noir detective needs Granny's help to solve a twisted case, though she insists on doing it in color, not black and white. Then Peter Lorre turns up…
"It Happened One Night Before Christmas"—-- Another gem of an episode, this time set during the holidays in Totterville. Granny's brother has lost $8000, but never mind; what we have here are endless rips on Capra movies ("Is that Donna Reed?") to slaps at the Three Stooges. For once, Sylvester and Hampton agree to work together to help Tweety.
"Outback Down Under"—-- An entire flock of Australian sheep is stolen, so Alligator Dundee calls upon his old friend Granny to help her find them. As it turns out, Sylvester discovers he's allergic to wool, forcing Tweety and Hector to take advantage.
"It's A Plaid, Plaid, Plaid, Plaid World"—-- A massive plaid theft has taken place in Scotland, with kilts now nowhere in sight to be worn. In the words of Sylvester, "Yes, it was a tad sad to see all the lads clad without plaid." One of the leaders, Angus calls upon Granny—his 4th cousin, twice removed—to help.
"Go Fig"—-- One of Figdale's residents, Yosemite Sam, is shocked to discover all of his figs are stolen. Guess whom he gives a call to.
At first glance, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries sounds more complex than it needs to be. What we have here is a unique combination of Looney Tunes mayhem, mystery/crime solving, as well as dozens of classic film parodies…all of which are swiped with 1990s sensibilities to appeal to modern-day kids. It's certainly not a bad hook, as the mysteries are largely inconsequential and the focus is more on the antics of Sylvester, Tweety, and Hector. Again, like Tiny Toons, Warner Bros. has done a fabulous job of making a show designed for kids, with humor and references only adults will comprehend.
My only question is why the mystery and travelogue angles? Surely, the producers could have made this the The New Adventures of Sylvester and Tweety and not bothered with the mystery elements. Obviously, Warner Bros. didn't want to simply repeat the classic cartoons and stay far away from the domestic dwelling. The mysteries merely act as excuses to transport Granny and her pets to all points of the world, while the show escapes from the mystery much of the time to see what Acme tools Sylvester is using to get his lunch. Still, the bottom line is that kids won't really care, and they will get a kick out this show, with its fast pace as well as physical/painful gags.
Fans of the original cartoons will find other character returns refreshing. Aside from Pepe le Pew, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam, we also have mice Hubie & Bertie, as well as gangsters Rocky and Muggsy. Even more hilarious are the injection of old Warner Bros. stars (such as Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre) in cameos, another facet of the Freleng/Clampett cartoons. In fact, I would say about 90% of the Mysteries are devoted to retaining that old-school WB charm and humor, with the modern references limited to Cool Cat cameos and Pearl Jam, among other things. Regardless, parents and kids should find this show very entertaining.
The Mysteries are presented in their original full-frame TV format. Grain is visible at times, but the colors are richly retained; visually, these shows are definitely a step or two above the standard Saturday morning slop. Warner has also supplied three surround tracks in English, French, and Portuguese, respectively. If you don't count some trailers, there are no bonus features provided. Sufferin' succotash! I can't speak for the studio, but it seems to me that something could have been included. A doc about the history of the characters perhaps? Oh well, there are at least three more sets on their way.
As for the Verdict, the show is free to go, but Warner Bros. is hereby let off with a warning, to give these cartoons a little more attention. Court is adjourned.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review content copyright © 2008 Christopher Kulik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.