Tom and Jerry Classic Collection Vol. 1
Tom and Jerry were the cartoon characters I grew up on. I vividly remember excitedly tuning in to enjoy their latest antics every Saturday afternoon on Rolf Harris' cartoon anthologies. Fifteen years later, I still get the same level of enjoyment out of the animated antics of this cat and mouse duo that I did back in the late 1980s. In fact, it was mainly thanks to Tom and Jerry that I for a long time harboured a desire to become an animator, an aspiration that still grips me from time to time. Tom and Jerry provides a timeless combination of infectious humour, lightning-fast pacing and superb animation that has the ability to amuse people of all ages - something that it rarely true of cartoons in this day and age.
Now, Warner would appear to be attempting to release all of the duo's many shorts on DVD for the first time in the UK. In theory, Volume 1 should include 24 cartoons (the press release materials certainly claim this), but only half of these are present on the review copy I received. Whether or not the rest will be included in the retail version is anyone's guess, but I would urge potential buyers to exercise extreme caution. Not that I would recommend buying this set anyway, because the majority of the episodes on this disc have been butchered in such a ham-fisted manner that it would actually be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.
First, a little history. In many of the cartoons, Tom and Jerry lived in the house of a cheerful black lady, unofficially known by cartoon fans as Mammy Two-Shoes. She had a habit of setting Tom some sort of task at the beginning of each cartoon, and then giving him a leathering at the end when he failed to accomplish his goals (usually because of the devious Jerry). At some point, however, some oh-so-clever individual came to the conclusion that Mammy's voice was racially offensive... which strikes me as quite an offensive thing to say, considering that it was voice actor Lillian Randolph's real voice. This charming so-and-so went back through every single cartoon and had Randolph's voice replaced with a supposedly less offensive, less "black" variant. The redubbing is so bad that it literally makes me cringe whenever I hear it, transforming Mammy from a cheerful and funny character into an automaton with a voice like a badly-tuned piano. Much to my dismay, these bastardized versions are the ones included on this set, and therefore, I have come to the conclusion that this set should not be touched with a barge-pole. Shame on Warner for releasing it: all they have succeeded in doing is to cooperate with censors who quite clearly had a problem with southern accents.
It seems a little pointless to attempt to review the contents of this DVD, partly because these characters and their adventures are so well-known to just about everyone, and partly because watching it was a painful experience indeed, given my happy memories of their uncensored antics back in the 1980s. If I wanted to see Tom and Jerry with bits missing I would tune into Cartoon Network and catch them in between endless reruns of Dragonball Z and Beyblade, but I would suspect that people actually setting down money for a DVD would have slightly higher expectations. Overall, a terrible disappointment and a waste of plastic.
Most Tom and Jerry cartoons were shot in the Academy aspect ratio of 1.37:1 (a few of the later Hanna-Barbera efforts were in Cinemascope), and the DVD displays them in a non-anamorphic 1.33:1 presentation. Quality is not very good, consistently too soft and with quite a bit of damage to the prints. Print damage is not something I normally mind, but in this case it, along with substantial grain and an insufficient bit rate lead to some fairly noticeable compression artifacts. Colours are inconsistent but just about acceptable. In all, these transfers look about as good as they do on Cartoon Network.
The audio is presented in its original mono format, and is reasonably serviceable. It has faded and warped somewhat with age (and the fact that the recording equipment used wasn't particularly great anyway), but it does its job perfectly well. The redubbed voice of Mammy Two-Shoes, with its spotless, crisp-clear quality (recorded with modern equipment), sounds hideously out of place.
Wow! Talk about a great set! There are so many superb bonus features here! Interactive menus, language selection, subtitles, a "Play All" function - it's all so exciting! No, I'm kidding. There's nothing here at all.
Ultimately, this set might be fine for the three-year-olds it was clearly aimed at, but anyone with a more objective eye is going to be sorely disappointed. These classics have been mangled by censors with dubious morals, and therefore I would urge anyone who gives two hoots about these cartoons to not buy this set, which is nothing short of a disgrace and should have been canned before it even got off the drawing board. Compared to their recent Looney Tunes Gold Collection box set, it is blatantly obvious that Warner put absolutely no care or respect into bringing Tom and Jerry to DVD.