2010 marks the 70th anniversary of the release of the very first Tom & Jerry cartoon. To mark the occasion, Warner Bros. has released a new Deluxe Anniversary Collection DVD featuring 30 cartoons that span nearly every aspect of the Tom & Jerry legacy. Animation enthusiasts and collectors who have picked up the Spotlight Collection releases will probably be a bit disappointed. However, if you're a fan who just wants some cat-and-mouse antics at a reasonable price, this set is for you.
The cartoons on this set are spread across two discs. The first disc contains 20 cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera theatrical era. The shorts are featured in chronological order and include all seven Academy Award winners and two shorts which were nominated for Academy Awards.
It would be easy to assume that multiple cartoons that just feature a cat and mouse fighting each other would get boring. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were so inventive in their stories and execution that boredom never sets in. The first disc includes great cartoons like the Academy Award winner "Quiet Please!" where Tom tries to keep Jerry from waking up the slumbering dog Spike.
It also features memorable cartoons that stray from the norm. "Mouse in Manhattan" is a wonderful cartoon that has Jerry touring the sights of New York without Tom. "Johann Mouse," another Academy Award winner, has the duo begrudgingly teaming up to entertain audiences because Jerry dances whenever Tom plays classical music on the piano.
Disc two is a good example of how enduring the characters of Tom & Jerry really are. It's also a good example of how difficult it is to follow Hanna and Barbera's theatrical run. The disc begins with classic sequences from the MGM movies Anchors Aweigh and Dangerous When Wet. The excerpt from Anchors Aweigh is Gene Kelly's memorable dance with Jerry while the excerpt from Dangerous When Wet has Esther Williams swimming with both Tom and Jerry. Three cartoons from the Chuck Jones theatrical era also appear on this disc.
The rest of disc two is primarily made up of TV incarnations of Tom & Jerry. One short cartoon each is featured from The Tom & Jerry Show, The Tom & Jerry Comedy Show, Tom & Jerry Kids, and Tom & Jerry Tales. While there may be some nostalgia involved for those who watched these shows as kids, it may have been a mistake to put them in the same set as the theatrical shorts. These cartoons have their moments but they need to be judged on their own merits. They pale in comparison to any one theatrical short.
At the same time, it is kind of nice to see most of Tom & Jerry's legacy contained in one set. Disc two also includes the short "The Karate Guard," the final Tom & Jerry cartoon with the involvement of Joseph Barbera (who co-directed, co-wrote, and co-produced it). The only portions of the Tom & Jerry legacy not included in this set are any of the Gene Deitch cartoons, "The Mansion Cat" (the last cartoon with the involvement of William Hanna), and anything from the Tom & Jerry movies. For historical reasons, it is interesting to see how much the duo has evolved and changed over the years.
All of the extras on this set are on disc one. Most of them are trailers except for the documentary "Much Ado About Tom and Jerry" narrated by Peter Thomas. It is a short (~ 19 minutes long) retrospective of the legacy of Tom & Jerry. It's nice and well-made with archival interview footage of William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, and Chuck Jones.
There are two major negatives to be found in this set. The first is in regards to editing. Disc one of the set begins with a disclaimer warning of racially insensitive content and the packaging of the set notes that it is intended for the adult collector. Despite this, the legacy of Tom & Jerry cartoons being edited continues to rear its ugly head. While Lillian Randolph's original voice performance as Mammy Two-Shoes is left intact (including the infamous misspelling of "out" in "Puss Gets The Boot"), all blackface gags are edited out. On previous WB cartoon collections with disclaimers (including various Looney Tunes Golden Collections), the cartoons were presented uncut.
The other major negative of this set regards the treatment of widescreen cartoons. Seven cartoons on the set (four on disc one and three on disc two) are designated as being in widescreen. However, only two cartoons, "The Egg and Jerry" and "Tops With Pops," are actually presented that way. "Touche, Pussycat!" and "That's My Mommy" are presented in the pan-and-scanned versions usually seen on television. The three Chuck Jones cartoons on disc two are designated as widescreen but are not. Since I have not seen these cartoons on anything but TV, I can't confirm if they are really supposed to be widescreen or not.
Tom & Jerry is the only classic cartoon that still appears on Cartoon Network and that should give you an idea of how enduring these characters truly are. While its not without its flaws, the Tom & Jerry Deluxe Anniversary Collection is a good DVD set for casual fans who may not want to invest the money to pick up the Spotlight or Chuck Jones collections. Although the edits will annoy animation enthusiasts, they do make the set family-friendly unless parents object to the original voice of Mammy Two-Shoes. This Tom & Jerry DVD set may not be the ideal, definitive set many have hoped for but remember… another milestone anniversary is just five years away.