Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WB announces Tom and Jerry Golden Collection Set 1

It's become fairly easy to get cynical and pessimistic with Warner Brothers about their treatment of classic cartoons over the past couple of years. The Golden Collections were dropped as they're expensive to restore and don't sell well enough; the Looney Tunes we do have coming out include some entries that look like the titles were chosen by dartboard; they used a 'widescreen' format that was used for Cinemascope theaters in the 1950s that cuts off part of the frame; and then there's the long, painful story of the Tom & Jerry DVD sets.

First there was the 'Spotlight Collection' in 2004. It had 40 cartoons, chosen from all over the cat and mouse's history, and was not restored except for the first six - we've known for years that the original prints were lost in a 1970s fire, but as the first 6 cartoons showed, a great restoration COULD be done. They also had some censored cartoons - which was apparently a mastering error. You could send WB your DVD and get a replacement with the original cartoon. Then we had the second collection in 2005 - which had the same issues, and ALSO needed replacement discs you had to send in for. It also omitted the shorts 'Mouse Cleaning' and 'Casanova Cat' because it felt they were too offensive - despite other cartoons in the earlier sets having blackface and Indian gags left in. Then they started to re-release everything for the kiddie market...

It has become apparent that even though these old cartoons are sometimes marketed as being 'for the adult cartoon collector', WB simply does not want to let that kiddie audience go. Over the last 2 years or so, WB has issued a bunch of little DVDs just for the Children's market called Tom and Jerry's Greatest Chases, and also several new cartoons featuring the cat and mouse. Kids are simply glutted with the duo right now.

So it is, perhaps, the perfect time to actually try that collector's release again, 7 years later. On October 25th, we will see 'Tom and Jerry Golden Collection' Volume 1, on DVD and Blu-Ray. This will feature the first 37 cartoons made by MGM for the carton stars - note that ends right BEFORE Mouse Cleaning, which should be on Volume 2 in its proper place. They will be in chronological order for the first time, and apparently restored using the best elements available - fine-grain or nitrate prints for most of the 40s and early 50s titles, negatives for the rest of the 50s titles. 9 of the shorts will have commentary, and there will be a new documentary. Fingers crossed, this looks like it may FINALLY be the release we have been waiting for.

Here's a list of the cartoons announced for the first set (I won't list all the times Mammy has been censored or redubbed, as there are far too many.):

1) Puss Gets the Boot (Feb. 20, 1940). Tom (called 'Jasper' here) is told by the black maid of the house, Mammy Two-Shoes, that he has to catch that mouse or he goes O-W-T. Naturally, Jerry (unnamed at this stage) makes sure to get the upper hand. Nominated for an Academy Award.

2) The Midnight Snack (July 19, 1941). Tom and Jerry are named as such for the first time. Jerry's raiding a fridge, Tom has to stop him without arousing Mammy's ire.

3) The Night Before Christmas (December 6, 1941). Tom and Jerry chase each other under the Christmas tree. The first cartoon showing the two agreeing to stop fighting at the end - in the spirit of the Christmas season. Nominated for an Academy Award.

4) Fraidy Cat (January 17, 1942). Tom listens to a ghost story on the radio and is terrified, so Jerry decides to give him a few scares. Great bit with Tom's 9 lives all visible - including one who's a complete goofball! The host of the radio drama 'The Witching Hour', Martha Wentworth, provided her own voice for this short.

5) Dog Trouble (April 18, 1942). Tom and Jerry have to team up for the first time, to take on a vicious new bulldog - the first appearance of Spike, though he's far nastier here.

6) Puss 'n Toots (May 30, 1942). Tom tries to flirt with a girl cat who Mammy is taking care of. He tries to use and abuse Jerry to impress her, but Jerry gets the upper hand. A short Chinese caricature of Tom has sometimes been cut from this cartoon.

7) The Bowling Alley-Cat (July 18, 1942). Tom and Jerry at a bowling alley. Violence ensues.

8) Fine Feathered Friend (October 10, 1942). Tom and Jerry on the farm, with Jerry taking advantage of a hen and her chicks. This is the last time Tom yowls like a real cat - he'd soon get Joe Barbera's loud human scream when seriously injured.

9) Sufferin' Cats! (January 16, 1943). Tom and a rival cat (Meathead) are both trying to catch Jerry, who proceeds to work both sides against each other - in the end, both cats lose.

10) The Lonesome Mouse (May 22, 1943). Jerry gets Tom thrown out, and has the house to himself!... Sadly, he's completely bored, and makes a deal with Tom to get Mammy to invite him back. It works... but Jerry does not get the reward he expects.

11) The Yankee Doodle Mouse (June 26, 1943). Their first Academy Award winner. Tom and Jerry chase gags, but set up like a battlefield, with lots of wartime references. A short shot of Tom in blackface is cut from TV prints.

12) Baby Puss (December 25, 1943). Tom is the victim of a little girl who has dressed him up like a baby. Humiliated, he's then further enraged when Jerry starts laughing hysterically. Then Jerry invites some of Tom's alley cat friends to see him. Meathead makes his last appearance, and Butch is introduced (he'd been in an earlier MGM cartoon, this is his first with Tom & Jerry.)

13) The Zoot Cat (February 25, 1944). Tom is trying to impress the girl cat Toots again, but is apparently a complete square. Then he gets the great idea of making a Zoot Suit from a hammock. Of course, this does not actually stop Jerry from messing everything up. Tom has spoken before, but this is the first cartoon we really see Tom speak a lot.

14) The Million Dollar Cat (May 6, 1944). Tom inherits a million dollars from his owner's aunt... provided he doesn't harm any animals. You can all see where this is going. Jerry is particularly obnoxious in this cartoon, one of the few where it ends with Tom definitively having the upper hand.

15) The Bodyguard (July 22, 1944). The first time we see Spike with his more friendly persona... though he still hates Tom, of course. Jerry rescues Spike from a dog catcher, and Spike says anytime Jerry needs his help, just whistle. Once again, Jerry takes things just a bit too far, and the cartoon ends with Spike recaptured and Jerry once again running from Tom.

16) Puttin' on the Dog (October 28, 1944). Jerry hides in the middle of a dog pound, so Tom decides to infiltrate by disguising himself as a dog.

17) Mouse Trouble (November 23, 1944). The second Tom and Jerry Academy Award Winner. Tom tries to use a book on catching mice to nab Jerry. The first of two T&J cartoons to feature the terrifying drone 'Doooon't yoooou belieeeve it' from a particularly battered Tom, something that always scared me as a kid, when I was unaware of Ripley's.

18) The Mouse Comes to Dinner (May 5, 1945). Tom tries to impress Toots with a dinner Mammy Two-Shoes has prepared for his owners. He also gets Jerry to be their servant for the meal. Tom at his most jerk-like here, and eventually gets so bad that Jerry and Toots team up to send him into a punchbowl to drown.

19) Mouse in Manhattan (July 7, 1945). Jerry is tired of country life, so leaves Tom's house and heads for the big city. He discovers that New York is a nightmarish hell for a mouse such as himself, though, and after a series of disasters (at one point police are shooting at him!), he runs back home and kisses Tom, happy to be back.

20) Tee for Two (July 21, 1945). This is the one with the golfing. One of the most frequently run on TV. Also one of the most violent. The scene with the bees is agonizing to watch.

21) Flirty Birdy (September 22, 1945). Jerry is snatched up by a hawk, and Tom tries to recapture him. He makes the mistake of doing this by dressing as a female bird - and then finds it's a lot harder to break up than he thought.

22) Quiet Please! (December 22, 1945). The third Tom and Jerry Academy Award Winner. Spike is trying to nap, so Tom has to try to catch Jerry without waking him. This goes spectacularly well. Wait, no, it doesn't. Another one famous for Tom speaking, if only for one line ("One custard pie!? Well, let me have it!")

23) Springtime for Thomas (March 30, 1946). Tom is in love again, and Jerry is jealous. He decides to use Butch to break up Tom's romance. It's works quite well... till Jerry sees a cute female mouse. For those of you who like to see ho yay between Tom and Jerry, this is a great example. Also, please don't tell me if you do, as they're a freaking cat and mouse.

24) The Milky Waif (May 18, 1946). Nibbles is introduced here, for better or worse. I've always found him irritating, but in many ways he's designed to be. Jerry has a foundling mouse left on his doorstep, and tries his best to deal with being a surprised father. Tom really isn't helping. A blackface scene has been censored from many prints, including the first run of the Spotlight Collection.

25) Trap Happy (June 29, 1946). Tom decides to call an exterminator to get rid of Jerry. This turns out to be Butch, who proceeds to set various traps. Unfortunately, Jerry's cleverness and Tom's overeagerness mean that we end up with the same result. Butch turns on Tom in the end in rage.

26) Solid Serenade (August 31, 1946). Tom tries to serenade Toots with his singing (yes, he sings several choruses of "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby") and his double bass, but has to deal with both Jerry and Spike.

27) Cat Fishin' (February 22, 1947). Tom tries to fish at a private lake. Spike is the guard dog. Jerry is Tom's bait. Hijinks ensue.

28) Part Time Pal (March 15, 1947). Tom gets accidentally drunk on cider, destroying the house - then gets accidentally drunk on rum! Mammy Two-Shoes is not amused.

29) The Cat Concerto (April 26, 1947). Tom is a concert pianist, and plays Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Jerry is asleep inside the piano. Jerry decides to strike back. One of their most famous cartoons, this won their fourth Academy Award. Try not to say that around fans of Friz Freleng's Rhapsody Rabbit, though. Long story.

30) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (June 14, 1947). Notable for being nominated for an Academy Award and NOT winning (it lost to WB's Tweetie Pie), this has Jerry drink a mixture that turns him into a much larger, stronger mouse. Much Tom abuse follows, especially when Tom tries the same thing, with different results.

31) Salt Water Tabby (July 12, 1947). Tom and Jerry at the beach, where he's trying to impress his girl once again but with miserable results. Some great gags here.

32) A Mouse in the House (August 30, 1947). This time Tom *and* Butch are both in the house. But only one of them can stay: whoever catches Jerry. Jerry runs rings around the cats, getting them both thrown out... sadly, Mammy notices him as well, and he winds up outside himself!

33) The Invisible Mouse (September 27, 1947). Invisible ink always works differently in cartoons. Jerry takes advantage of this, torturing Tom and setting him up against Spike.

34) Kitty Foiled (June 1, 1948). Jerry teams up with a canary (perhaps being angry that he lost to Tweetie Pie last year) to take on Tom. Watch for Tom trying to run over Jerry with a model train, as his insane facial expression must be seen to be believed.

35) The Truce Hurts (July 17, 1948). Tom, Jerry and Spike are all fighting each other, but Spike wonders why they can't just be friends. After singing a peace treaty, we spend the whole cartoon finding out why. Another censored blackface gag here that the DVD should have uncut.

36) Old Rockin' Chair Tom (September 18, 1948). Mammy Two-Shoes gets her largest role in a T&J cartoon, as she replaces Tom with a younger, faster cat. Tom and Jerry must team up to get rid of this newcomer. One of the rare cartoons where their truce lasts through the end of the cartoon - Tom even shares his food at the end!

37) Professor Tom (October 30, 1948). Tom is trying to teach a young, bored kitten how to catch mice, and gets very frustrated when the kitten and Jerry end up becoming friends rather than enemies.

The TV Shows on DVD presser notes 4 additional cartoons, but Jerry Beck has stated that Professor Tom is the last on this first collection. Presumably Collection 2 will contain Mouse Cleaning (uncut on DVD for the first time!) through Just Ducky, and Set 3 would finish off the series. (I'm going to guess they don't plan to restore the Gene Deitch shorts, and Chuck Jones got a separate DVD already for his T&J shorts). Assuming these are finally restored, and WB can avoid having the issues they had with the prior sets, this looks to be the one to finally satisfy classic cartoon fans.

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