Tom and Jerry, the iconic cat and mouse, are not only the funniest duo in cartoon history, but under the direction of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, they were arguably one of the greatest comedy teams ever, deserving to be mentioned alongside other all-time greats like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and The Three Stooges, whose comedy was the closest human equivalent to their animated high jinks.
Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection, Vol. 3 concludes the series by presenting 35 cartoons ranging from 1947’s “A Mouse in the House” to four of the last in-house MGM shorts from 1958, as the studio shut down their animation department the previous year. While it’s very good to have these cartoons available on DVD, Vol. 3 unfortunately continues Warner Home Video’s trend of upsetting the adult collector, who they claim on the box this set is “intended for.”
The entire second disc contains 15 newly remastered cartoons in their original CinemaScope Widescreen format, 2.4:1. Unfortunately, the 20 other cartoons aren’t given the same treatment, resulting in a less than pristine appearance as dirt and scratches can be seen. Not enough to bother the casual fan, but obvious to the serious animaniac.
Throughout their madcap adventures, recurring characters periodically join Tom and Jerry. Butch is a black cat who alternates between being Tom’s friend and nemesis. Spike the bulldog, not the one from the Droopy cartoons, was also known as “Killer” and “Butch.” When he spoke, Daws Butler gave him a voice like Jimmy Durante. Quacker was a little duck with a distinctive voice, a precursor to the Hanna-Barbera character Yakky Doodle. In “The Duck Doctor” he looked like a mallard, then in “Downhearted Duckling” he was all yellow.
For the cartoons that find Tom and Jerry in a house, they usually have to deal with Mammy Two Shoes, a caricature of African-American maid, an unfortunate yet typical mindset found in many cartoons of the ‘40s and ‘50s. In fact, this former attitude has caused WHV to not include two cartoons from the series, which has upset a number of adult collectors. The official statement reads,
Two shorts, "Mouse Cleaning" and "Casanova Cat," will not be included in the third and final Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection of theatrical animated shorts from the Hanna-Barbera era at MGM. Although this collection is intended for mature audiences and collectors (not for children), Warner Home Video made the decision to omit these two shorts because, regardless of their historical context and artistic value, the offensiveness of certain scenes containing inappropriate racial stereotypes would diminish the enjoyment of the Collection's 35 other classic cartoons for a large segment of the audience.
While it’s an understandable position not wanting to offend people, it is at odds with WHV’s own warning at the beginning of the discs which states that while WB finds these depictions wrong and don’t represent their views they “are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.” Some of the censored material was included in the Special Feature “Cat and Mouse: The Tale of Tom and Jerry,” a great documentary that covers many of the people responsible for the cartoon series. But apparently that’s okay because someone tells the viewer what they are seeing is wrong, since the adult collector is unable to figure that out on their own. WHV comes off as inconsistent in the matter, and if there is enough demand, might change their decision.
If you haven’t started buying the series yet, Vol. 3 should be left to complete the set because there is quite a bit of repetition. Disc one has three best-of cartoons: “Jerry’s Diary” (1949) includes clips from 1945's “Tee for Two,” “1944's Mouse Trouble,” 1946's “Solid Serenade,” and 1943's Academy Award-winner “The Yankee Doodle Mouse;” “Life with Tom” (1953) samples 1946's “Cat Fishin’” and 1948's “The Little Orphan” and “Kitty Foiled;” and “Smarty Cat” (1954) also takes gags 1946’s Solid Serenade” and “Cat Fishin’,” as well as 1952’s “Fit to be Tied.” Three of the CinemaScope cartoons are remakes from 1949. “Hatch Up Your Troubles,” nominated for an Academy Award Short Subject/Cartoons, became “The Egg and Jerry” (1956), “Love That Pup” became “Tops with Pops” (1957), and “The Little Orphan” became “Feeding the Kiddie” (1957). While the picture got bigger, that didn’t mean they got better, particularly the animation. All the backgrounds look terrible and hastily drawn. However, there are plenty of laughs, which is the most important factor.