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DVD Review: Harveytoons – The Complete Collection

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Classic animation buffs may snipe about the overall production quality of Harveytoons, but there’s no denying the overwhelming quantity of cartoons contained on this new DVD collection. Sprawling over four densely-packed double-sided DVDs, the collection boasts over 19 hours of the animated adventures of classic Harveytoons characters including Casper the Friendly Ghost, Herman and Katnip, Baby Huey, and Little Audrey. At an affordable suggested retail price of $39.98, that works out to about $2 per hour of animation, a fantastic value by any measure.

Harveytoons is a generic title that was applied to the stable of 1950s Paramount/Famous Studios theatrical cartoons when they were sold to Harvey Comics and broadcast on TV back in the 1960s. The toons appeared in syndication throughout the years and eventually ended up repackaged in a series called The Harveytoons Show that was broadcast on Fox Family Channel beginning in 1998 and Boomerang beginning in 2001. That show format is the basis for this new collection, as the shorts are organized in the same sequence. So, each side of a DVD contains 6-7 of these shows that each contains 4 shorts. There’s where the math and “complete” claim get a little fuzzy.

The Harveytoons Show ran for 78 episodes and included Richie Rich and Casper shorts made exclusively for TV. The DVD collection contains only 52 episodes and no Richie Rich. However, in spite of its misleading advertising, viewers are still getting a tremendous treasure trove of animation in one concise package.

Casper the Friendly Ghost is the star of the set, the breakout hit from the group who went on to his own feature film success. The other characters are readily identifiable as knockoffs of other established cartoon stars, most obviously apparent in the Tom and Jerry antics of Herman and Katnip. The Harveytoons characters don’t bring anything new to the table, but they’re occasionally amusing and sure to delight children and the adults who grew up watching them.

Famous Studios famously valued commerce over craft, issuing lowest-common-denominator animated fare that generated profit but did little to advance the medium of animation. The artwork got progressively shoddy over the years, the plots were highly formulaic, and the finished products were geared toward children. Still, there’s a comforting simplicity about the toons that makes them cherished treasures for many viewers. They have none of the sass and ingenuity of the Warner Brothers classics or the artistic beauty of the Disney shorts, but they nearly measure up to their Universal and MGM theatrical compatriots such as Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry.

Although the DVD set is a bare-bones collection, there’s really no need for extras with so much principal content. The only feature sorely lacking is a comprehensive list of the shorts as a reference point for finding a favorite toon, but the info is readily available floating around on multiple websites if viewers really need the resource. There are no commentaries or bonus features, just a simple title screen on each disc that allows viewers to pick the episode they wish to view. The collection boasts that the shorts have been digitally remastered, but while the picture and sound are crisp and clear throughout, there’s no evidence that any attempt was made to clean up the dirt and specks still evident throughout the shorts. Hey, that just gives the toons a more classic feel, right?

Written by Caballero Oscuro

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS