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"Tom & Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection": Familiar Faces, New Team

Cat. Mouse. Fight!!!

There are some genuine successes in the set, though. “Pent-house Mouse” is an impressive debut, despite a couple bits of repeated animation. “Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?” is a funny entry where Jerry is able to speed himself up to a blur, and uses that ability to mess with the clueless Tom. Watching the cat try to catch lightning fast Jerry is quite amusing, such as when he records him taking some cheese and slows down the tape. “The Cat Above and the Mouse Below” is like an MGM successor to shorts like “Rabbit of Seville” and “What’s Opera, Doc?”, which time famous music (in this case, opera) to gags, which also helps the comic timing. “Much Ado About Mousing” succeeds largely due to its inclusion of a dog, whose dry facial expressions when Tom accidentally interrupts his naps while chasing Jerry on a dock may be old hat, but are executed well. Speaking of dogs, “The Cat’s Me-Ouch” has a nice twist in the form of a Jerry-sized bulldog that still packs a whallop. And “The Mouse From H.U.N.G.E.R.” contains a lot of creativity in its spy show spoof.

All cartoons are presented in a widescreen aspect ratio. The video is free of DVNR (the accidental erasing of picture in the process of cleaning the image), though it does look less crisp than, say, the Looney Tunes Golden Collections.

Special features on this 2-disc DVD set include “Tom and Jerry… and Chuck”, a 20 minute behind-the-scenes look at Chuck Jones’s transition from WB to his own independent studio (Sib Tower 12), and how his distinctive style meshed with already-established characters. Narrated by June Foray, it’s a good history lesson, and covers a lot of ground, so it pleased me to see various events of that era highlighted. The second feature is a special called “Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood” and involves Chuck narrating over still pictures and animation. Most of the subjects involve his childhood. It’s a bit more free-wheeling and relaxed than the first feature; it wasn’t my cup of tea, but it does give an insight into Chuck’s life outside the cartoons he made (and, in some cases, how his childhood influenced his work).

While I don’t hold the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons in as high of regard as the earlier Hanna Barbera versions, some of the 1963 and 1964 shorts do have the same kind of charm and comic expertise that Chuck Jones was known for. But there are also plenty of shorts where I found myself just staring at the screen, maybe smirking a couple times but not laughing out loud. That’s never a good thing for Tom and Jerry, which frequently got belly laughs for its well-executed comic violence. It’s just a shame that the batting average for the Chuck Jones Tom & Jerrys isn’t higher, or I’d give it a firm recommendation. As it stands, I’d say rent it first, unless you’re a die hard Chuck Jones fan who has to have everything he’s ever made.

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