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DVD Review: Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection

While many may not know his name, Tex Avery is a legend in the world of animation. He left an indelible stamp during his tenure at Warner Brothers. He introduced Daffy Duck in Porky's Duck Hunt (1937), created the character Egghead, who slowly morphed into Elmer Fudd, and not only directed the first official appearance of Bugs Bunny in A Wild Hare (1940), but also created what is arguably the most famous line ever to come out of a cartoon, Bugs’ “What's up, Doc?”

After having one of his cartoons edited by the studio, Avery quit and set up shop the following year at MGM working with producer Fred Quimby. His most famous creation there was Droopy Dog, although his name wouldn’t be established until his fifth cartoon, Senor Droopy (1949). Droopy first appeared in Dumb-Hounded (1943) and his initial run ended with Droopy Leprechaun (1958). His voice was based on the character Wallace Wimple from the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. The same actor, Bill Thompson, portrayed Droopy in every cartoon except Deputy Droopy (1955). His frequent antagonists were a brown wolf, an Irish bulldog, and a gray wolf with a Southern drawl, voiced by Daws Butler, who used the same voice later for Huckleberry Hound.

Dumb-Hounded sets the precedent that anything goes in an Avery cartoon because getting laughs is the primary concern. No characters are subject to laws of time and space. In fact, one even runs out of a scene past the film sprockets. The fourth wall is constantly broken as the characters are aware they are in a cartoon. The comedy can come from anywhere as jokes are written on screen.

The set contains 24 cartoons that run between six and eight minutes. Unfortunately, Avery didn’t direct them all and his brilliance is noticeably missing. He took a year off during his tenure and Dick Lundy directed Caballero Droopy (1952). When Avery left MGM to return to the Walter Lantz studio, where he had gotten his start in the business, animator Michael Lah directed and William Hanna and Joseph Barbera produced the remaining cartoons. They were presented in Cinemascope and are presented letterboxed in this set. The art for these latter cartoons is terrible. The backgrounds look like they were drawn as an afterthought. A comparison can be made between Wags to Riches (1949) and its remake Millionaire Droopy (1956). Avery’s name appears on the latter, but he had already left MGM. One Droopy Knight (1957) was nominated for an Academy Award, yet another example of what a joke that body is. Its premise and a number of the gags are from Senor Droopy, so Avery should have received the credit.

Avery’s Droopy cartoons remain funny 60 years later and after repeated viewings. He set a high standard that all animators are still measured against, so it’s no surprise that when others used his characters they fell short. This set belongs in the library of fans of both cartoons and comedy. Special features include the 18-minute documentary “Droopy and Friends: A Laugh Back” and “Doggone Gags” is a best-of culled from the set.

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

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