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Case Number 13055: Small Claims Court

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection

Warner Bros. // 1940 // 323 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // February 22nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas thinks the folks at Warner Brothers should have saved their ink and just called this set Oscar 'Toons.

The Charge

Restored, Remastered—And Each Honored by Oscar!

The Case

For the many animation buffs out there, Warner Brothers has put together a special compilation package. Cartoons from Warner Brothers, MGM, and the Fleischer studios are all represented by various efforts that either won or were nominated for an Academy Award. The 41 cartoons are spread across three discs, with 15 Oscar winners on Disc One, and 26 nominees on Discs Two and Three.

Disc One

• "The Milky Way"
Three little kittens (who lost their mittens) travel to the Milky Way in search of (what else?) milk.

• "The Yankee Doodle Mouse"
A Tom and Jerry short with a patriotic theme.

• "Mouse Trouble"
Tom reads a book on "How to Catch a Mouse," but Jerry seems to anticipate every move.

• "Quiet, Please!"
Tom keeps waking up Spike while chasing Jerry, which of course makes Spike quite angry.

• "The Cat Concerto"
Tom attempts to play some refined classical music in a concert hall, but he finds himself soon dealing with the antics of Jerry, who is prancing around inside Tom's piano.

• "Tweety Pie"
Dear, sweet, lovable Tweety must fend off the attacks of the notorious Sylvester.

• "The Little Orphan"
Jerry and a young mouse friend do battle with Tom during Thanksgiving dinner.

• "For Scent-imental Reasons"
The ever-romantic Pepe Le Pew falls in love with a cat ("la femme skunk fatale") who has dressed up as a skunk.

• "So Much for So Little"
A public service animated short promoting the virtues of local health departments.

• "The Two Mouseketeers"
Jerry attempts to train his inept little cousin on the art of being a muske…er, mouseketeer.

• "Johann Mouse"
A little mouse (Jerry) loves nothing better than to dance waltzes in the home of Johann Strauss (Tom).

• "Speedy Gonzales"
A band of Mexican mice recruit a speedy hero to steal cheese from across the border.

• "Birds Anonymous"
Sylvester, who has quite an addiction to the taste of Tweety Pies, determines to give up birds by entering a support program.

• "Knighty Knight Bugs"
The court jester (Bugs Bunny) has to take on a knight (Yosemite Sam) and a dragon.

• "The Dot and the Line"
A hapless straight line falls in love with a shiny red dot in this romance of lower mathematics.

Disc Two

• "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor"
Exactly what it sounds like.

• "Peace on Earth"
A group of post-apocalyptic squirrels tell the story of the fall of the human race.

• "A Wild Hare"
Bugs Bunny continues to elude the ever-exasperated Elmer Fudd.

• "Puss Gets the Boot"
Tom will get thrown out of the house if he breaks one more dish while attempting to catch Jerry.

• "Superman"
Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent transforms himself into Superman when reporter Lois Lane is kidnapped by a madman.

• "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt"
Bugs Bunny attempts to evade the arrows of a young American Indian.

• "Rhapsody in Rivets"
A musical performance from a group of grungy construction workers.

• "The Night Before Christmas"
…And all through the house, one creature was stirring…a wee little mouse. His name is Jerry, and he is chased by Tom.

• "Blitz Wolf"
A WWII propaganda film about the all-American three little pigs socking it to the evil Adolf Wolf.

• "Pigs in a Polka"
The three little pigs do battle with the Big Bad Wolf in a much less politically-charged setting.

• "Swooner Crooner"
The dreamy Frankie Rooster and the equally dreamy Bing Rooster cause Porky's chickens to lay a lot of eggs.

• "Walky Talky Hawky"
Foghorn Leghorn tries to convince a young chicken hawk that he is not a chicken.

• "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse"
Tom attempts to create a bowl of poisonous milk for Jerry, but the plan backfires.

• "Mouse Wreckers"
A couple of goofy mice attempt to drive a cat insane.

Disc Three

• "Hatch Up Your Troubles"
Jerry becomes an adoptive mother for a young woodpecker.

• "Jerry's Cousin"
Being chased endlessly by Tom, Jerry resorts to calling his ultra-tough cousin in to help.

• "Little Johnny Jet"
An ordinary old American bomber plane is jealous of all the fast new jets.

• "Touché, Pussy Cat!"
Jerry and a young assistant attempt to take on the villainous Tom.

• "From A to Z-Z-Z-Z"
A young boy keeps getting distracted in school by the adventures going on inside his own mind.

• "Sandy Claws"
At the beach, Sylvester tries in vain to "rescue" Tweety from the raging tide.

• "Good Will to Men"
A remake of "Peace on Earth."

• "Tabasco Road"
Speedy Gonzales keeps trying to save his drunken friends from a hungry cat.

• "One Droopy Knight"
A very ineffectual Droopy does battle with a bemused dragon.

• "High Note"
A performance of "The Blue Danube" falls apart when one of the musical notes steps off the page and gets drunk inside the the "Little Brown Jug" sheet music.

• "Nelly's Folly"
A singing giraffe goes from rags to riches to rags, Hollywood-style.

• "Now Hear This"
A man is astonished at the things he is hearing when he finds a new ear horn.

If there's one thing that I learned from watching the Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection, it's that an Academy Award nomination or win does not really indicate any particular level of quality in an animated short. No, this isn't a bad batch of cartoons, but if you've seen a reasonable amount of cartoon classics from Warner Brothers and MGM, you may be shocked at the choices the Academy made. "Duck Amuck" isn't among these titles, there's no "One Froggy Evening," no "What's Opera, Doc?" Instead, we have a lot of perfectly ordinary formulaic shorts mixed in with some offbeat experimental efforts. So, don't let the "Academy Award" label fool you into thinking that this is a highlight reel, because it most certainly isn't. However, it is quite an interesting collection for animation buffs out there, and the cartoons (aided by some informative supplements) help provide historical perspective on the Academy's feelings about animation during the 1940s and 1950s. In addition, it's a rare opportunity to see Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Superman, Popeye, and numerous other characters in the same collection.

Let's begin by taking a look at the 15 winners, presented on the first disc. No less than six of these shorts are centered on that much-loved cat and mouse team, Tom and Jerry. Despite the considerable technical qualities of the shorts, most of these tend to be quite typical. The one that does manage to really stand out is "The Cat Concerto," a tremendously funny and inventive musical short. However, the documentary hints that this one may have borrowed liberally from the Bugs Bunny short "Rhapsody Rabbit"…or perhaps it was the other way around. Regardless, it's quite good. The Sylvester-and-Tweety shorts here also feel quite ordinary; the same can be said of the shorts featuring Bugs Bunny, Pepe Le Pew, and Speedy Gonzales. As for the shorts not featuring famous characters, "The Milky Way" is a charming little effort with some inventive visuals, and Chuck Jones' "The Dot and the Line" is a minor masterpiece (easily the most worthy of the winners here).

Things tend to be a little less predictable and diverse among the nominees. Disc Two begins by offering one of the few color Popeye cartoons, "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor." It's a fun effort, and so is the wildly cheesy (but visually vivid) appearance of "Superman." Things turn very serious in the post-apocalyptic warning "Peace on Earth," which disconcertingly blends Capra-esque sentiment with horrifying cartoon images of nuclear destruction. The cartoon was remade as "Good Will to Men," which makes an appearance on Disc Three. Both are interesting, though they both push the point much too hard. Also strange is "Blitz Wolf," an admittedly very funny short that is at times unfortunately disturbingly aggressive in its hatred for the enemy (a sign reading "No Dogs Allowed" is replaced by a sign reading "No Japs Allowed"). Tom and Jerry continue to appear regularly on this disc and on the third one.

Aside from the thoroughly-represented cat and mouse, Disc Three is highlighted by some more remarkably inventive Chuck Jones efforts. The giraffe tabloid scandal spoof "Nelly's Folly" uses some surprising visual techniques (and controversial storytelling ideas). "High Note" is another visually splendid one, as musical notes bustle about attempting to stage a performance of "The Blue Danube." The best one is "Now Hear This," a terrifically original short that uses all kinds of sound effects and odd noises in telling the story of a man who hears strange noises when he uses the devil's horn as a hearing aid. There's also a very funny Droopy short called "One Droopy Knight" and a rather good tale about an airplane, "Little Johnny Jet."

Supplements are quite generous here, about on par with the material provided in the Golden Collection sets. There are a total of 14 commentary tracks from various animation experts, all of which are quite compelling and provide quick histories of some of the more interesting cartoons. There are also some music-only tracks on select shorts, if you're into such things. Then, there's a bonus short called "What's Cookin', Doc?" featuring Bugs Bunny at the Academy Awards. It's okay, but nowhere near the best Bugs cartoons. The real treat here is an hour-long documentary called "Drawn for Glory: Animation's Triumph at the Oscars." It features pretty much all the same experts who appear on the commentaries, and is narrated by Bonnie Hunt. The documentary appropriately pays tribute to the cartoons nominated by the Academy Awards, but also points out the political and artistic differences that prevented so many truly great shorts from being recognized. It's an excellent doc that is essential viewing for anyone who picks up this set. Also, the good folks a Warner Brothers have done a typically strong job with the restoration of these shorts…they all look and sound excellent, with a minimal amount of distortion and flecks. If you've seen their work on the Golden Collection releases, you know what to expect.

While it's certainly nice to have these cartoons in a collection devoted to Oscar-winners and nominees, I suspect that it will have limited appeal to anyone who isn't a diehard animation fan. Many of these shorts have been previously released on other collections (The Tom and Jerry Spotlight collections, The Looney Tunes Goldencollections, as well as extras on actor boxes, such as the ones devoted to James Cagney and Doris Day), so you're not really getting a very large amount of exclusive material by purchasing this set. Considering that these shorts aren't exactly the artistic pinnacle of their creators, it can't be treated as a "greatest hits compilation," either. If you're going to buy the set, you're pretty much going to have to be purchasing it for the few exclusive cartoons and for the engaging historical perspective provided by the three hours of bonus features. The collection is well-packaged and presented, and it delivers precisely what it promises, but beware of the aforementioned liabilities before spending your 40 bucks.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic (3 Shorts)
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 323 Minutes
Release Year: 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genre:
• Classic

Distinguishing Marks

• Expert Commentaries on 14 shorts
• Music-Only Audio Tracks on Select Cartoons
• "Drawn For Glory: Animation's Triumph at the Oscars"
• Bonus Short "What's Cookin' Doc?"








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