MGM Studios (1950-1967), Warner Brothers Home Video (February 8, 2011), single disc, 93 mins, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital mono, Not Rated, Retail $14.98
A variety of our favorite comedic cat and mouse’s adventures are collected into a single disc DVD, set to be the first in a larger collection.
The Sweatbox Review:
Back in the early 1990s, before the days of the Cartoon Network and Boomerang, chunks of classic cartoons were played in large blocks. Nickelodeon ran Looney Tunes and Bosko cartoons, while TBS played Tom And Jerry. The mini-marathons usually aired in the evenings and on weekends/holidays—times when kids were home but the networks hadn’t amassed the backlog of child friendly entertainment that they have today or realized the potential ratings. I remember these times fondly, trying to guess which short would appear next and pointing out the inconsistencies between different cartoons.
When I popped Tom And Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures Vol. 1 into the DVD player, I was rewarded with a nostalgic trip while at the same time the geek within me was dissatisfied. Warner Brothers Home Video selected a random assortment of Hanna-Barbera and Chuck Jones Tom And Jerry cartoons to fill the DVD. While there doesn’t appear to be any sort of organization, most of the segments share a common theme of having one of the minor characters star along side our heroes. It acts as more of an introduction to the supporting cast, than to the humorous, violent capers of Tom and Jerry.
In Barbecue Brawl (1956), Pup On A Picnic (1955) and Hic-cup Pup (1954), Spike the bulldog and his son Tyke are the main focus. Spike is a dedicated father and guard-dog, often remembered for his catchphrase, “That’s my boy!” and beating Tom to a pulp. Jerry usually instigates between Tom and Spike to get rid of his rival. Barbecue Brawl sees Spike teaching his son how to cook the perfect steak, only to be interrupted by Tom chasing Jerry. Violence ensues. Spike and Tyke head out on a nice family picnic in Pup On A Picnic, but Jerry stows away in the basket and Tom must follow as does more punishment for the poor cat. The last shortHic-cup Pup has Spike trying to keep things quiet so Tyke can sleep, but Tom and Jerry keep disturbing the peace. The Spike and Tyke shorts are a rehash of the same plot but with different situations. They’re quite repetitive, but are interspersed throughout the DVD so you can have a rest between viewings. Out of all the recurring side characters, they are my favorite because Spike adds another level of conflict for Tom. Jerry relies on the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and uses Spike to do his dirty work.
Quacker the Duck comes into play with four pieces all to himself. Quacker is a naïve duckling with a voice akin to Donald Duck. He would eventually evolve into the Hanna-Barbera character Yakky Doodle. In most cartoons, Tom wants to devour him, while Jerry befriends the duck by saving his life. The duckling makes his first appearance in the cartoon Little Quacker (1950), where he almost becomes a roast duck. One of the funnier clips is in this cartoon: Quacker’s parents learn about Tom’s hunger pains and they teach him not to mess with their baby. Quacker is then an Easter present for Tom and Jerry in Happy Go Ducky (1958). He turns the entire house into a swimming pool, despite the duo’s best efforts to introduce him to the wild. In The Vanishing Duck (1958), Tom wants to eat the duckling yet again, but Quacker and Jerry make themselves invisible with vanishing cream and get their revenge. I wonder how many kids tried to become invisible after this short (the cream only gave me a rash). Lastly, in That’s My Mommy (1955), Quacker believes that Tom is his mother and the usual scenario plays out, but in the end Tom decides to raise the duckling as his own.
In Timid Tabby (1957), Tom’s cousin George comes for a visit. They are, of course, identical and George is afraid of mice. Tom devises a plan to help his cousin and get revenge on Jerry at the same time. This is one of the few shorts where Tom triumphs over his foe. There’s a bit of irony with Robin Hoodwinked (1958) and the “side character introduction theme.” Tuffy, the little, diapered gray mouse who pals around with Jerry, is first seen on the DVD in this short, but when the cartoon was first released this was his last appearance in the series. It was also the penultimate Hanna-Barbera Tom And Jerry cartoon. As the title invokes, Robin Hood is captured. Jerry and Tuffy are the only merry mice capable of freeing the honorable thief, but the evil Tom guards the key. Using their cunning mice skills and Tuffy’s outrageous accent, they free Robin Hood.
Pet Peeve (1954) is one of the few cartoons on the DVD that doesn’t extensively involve side characters as a main plot device, though Spike shows his mug. Tom and Spike’s owners are tired of dealing with the expensive pet food bills. They decide that whoever can catch Jerry, as a way of earning their keep, can stay. In Neapolitan Mouse (1954), Tom and Jerry voyage to Naples and meet Topo, a mouse who is a big fan of their cartoons. Topo takes his new friends on a tour of his home, while an Italian dog gang tries to beat up the pair. Topo also breaks the fourth wall when he recognizes Tom and Jerry from their famous cartoon show. It begs the question, does Topo know he is being animated and now a part of his favorite show?
Among the shoal of Hanna-Barbera cartoons are three produced by Chuck Jones in 1967: Rock n’Rodent, O-Solar-Meow, and Guided Mouse-ille. All of the Chuck Jones shorts are loaded with his influence. The animation style has his heavy black outlines, simple, straight lines, and minimalist backgrounds. The plots are more diverse and creative than the usual cat and mouse gimmicks. Tom and Jerry still face off against each other, but it has a more indirect quality. In Rock n’ Rodent, Jerry is a beatnik drummer in a club while Tom only wants to get some sleep. Jerry’s music keeps the cat awake and Tom tries to stop the mice’s jam session. O-Solar-Meow and Guided Mouse-ille take the pair to outer space a lá the Duck Dogers science-fiction parody. Both draw on the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner relationship with Tom as an inventor (included is a Rube Goldberg machine to wake him up) and Jerry can never be caught. One of Tom’s inventions is a robot cat that quickly steals the show with Tom’s robot mouse. Be prepared for some explosions! None of these Tom And Jerry shorts are an ideal example of the action-packed cat and mouse chase scenes, but they’re more entertaining than some of the other shorts in the collection.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Trailers from new Warner Brothers Home Video projects: Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated and Tom And Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes play automatically at the beginning of the DVD and they have their own option on the menu.
The DVD case is eco-friendly with a portion of the plastic removed and replaced with a recycling symbol. There aren’t any special inserts. On the cover art, Jerry has made a hammock between Tom’s ears and Spike is in the background cooking on a grill. Their characters designs aren’t right: Tom’s neck and face are too thin, Spike is too cute and cuddly, and Jerry looks like he is wincing. It’s not noticeable on first glance, but it is off-putting for the seasoned fan.
Ink And Paint:
The cartoons are clean and clear, though they retain an edge of graininess from their theater days. An HD TV may compensate for the lack of remastering. The aspect ratios are all over the place, adding to the randomness of the DVD’s content. The Chuck Jones short are in 1.85:1. Three of the Hanna-Barbera shorts are in standard 4:3 ratio, while the remaining eight are preserved in their original Cinemascope aspect 2.35:1.
There are Spanish and English mono tracks with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The sound quality fits the standard of the DVD and is clear.
We’ve all been waiting for a concise box set edition of the Tom And Jerry cartoons, complete with behind the scenes featurettes, history tidbits, storyboards, commentaries, and other goodies from the archives. Sadly, Tom And Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures Vol. 1 is not our Holy Grail. The cover advertises the DVD as “14 Fur Flying Cartoons—Over 1 Hour of Fun,” which speaks to me in the regard that this can be found in the five-dollar bin at a drug store. It was not meant for cartoon connoisseurs, but for that small wave of nostalgia that reminds you of those mini-marathons. While it advertises that it’s over an hour of fun, I doubt today’s children would sit still for some of the cartoons. The average mixture of Tom And Jerry cartoons made my attention wander, so it’s bound to happen with a five-year-old too. If you are desperate to own the cat and mouse duo on DVD, then purchase it. If you are not, write a letter to Warner Brothers Home Video asking for a box set that fits the above specifications.