Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tex Gets the Boot(leg)!

I don’t generally support the bootlegging of DVDs.  It’s an illegal enterprise that (frankly) steals from the rightful copyright holder and, more often than not, an authorized studio version will invariably be a better product anyway – if for no other reason than it’s struck from better prints.   

But, as with everything in life, there are exceptions.  For me with DVD, the main one being – will the studio EVER offer a legitimate release? 
Such has not been the case with Warner Home Video and the series of MGM cartoons directed by Tex Avery.  It is now the final quarter of 2012.  Some say DVD as a medium has peaked and if, after all this time, WHV has not officially given us a comprehensive taste of Tex beyond the DROOPY release of 2007, I suspect they never will. 
Did Tex Avery invent COLORFORMS with this gag?

And so it was that I finally gave in and purchased a bootleg copy of Tex Avery’s wonderful theatrical cartoon shorts made at MGM in the ‘40s and ‘50s. 
Did "Technicolor End Here"?
These cartoons are adult, fast-paced, and violent in ways beyond their contemporaries.  Tex Avery possessed a unique vision of what an animated cartoon could be at its fullest and most energetic potential… and found ways to push his films even further than that!  

Outrageous gags that could only be accomplished in animation, wild takes and reaction shots, visual puns galore, as much sexual imagery as one could get-away with at the time, painfully funny cartoon violence (punctuated with sound effects that you can almost FEEL!) thrown your way at a breakneck pace, and the ever-present feeling that (no matter the situation), it’s only an animated motion picture – such as the famous “Technicolor Ends Here!” gag, or characters running beyond the sprocket-holes of the film!  
Shsssh!  I'm sooo happy!

Tex Avery did lots of things with wolves and sexy redheads, and gave animation its “saddest-sack” hero in Droopy.  His Screwy Squirrel shorts were utterly amazing in the sheer amount of outrageous things he could pack into a mere seven minutes. 
Screwy, aren't I?
George and Junior (a short grouchy bear paired with a big dumb, goofy-looking one) SHOULD have been a long-running series, but it appears Tex’s heart was more into one-shots than series. 

Among the best of those one-shots were such classics as "King Size Canary" and "Bad Luck Blackie".
Duuh!  Where'd ya GO, George?

Two superb gag examples of Avery’s special brand of humor are found in “The Shooting of Dan McGoo”, the second Droopy cartoon. 

1:  A signpost informs us that our story takes place in “Coldernell”, Alaska… at a time you couldn’t even say “hell” in a live-action film, much less in a cartoon.

2:  The camera pans across the bar in a saloon – past a rather large bartender firmly planted directly across the middle of a painting of a reclining nude woman, leaving only her head and calves visible.  The camera pans back, hoping for a second look at what it missed the first time.  The bartender remains fixed in position and says: 

Ya might as well move on, Doc!  I don't move from here all through th' picture!” 
Another great Avery gag example from a later cartoon is discussed HERE!

I’ve yet to check how “complete” this unauthorized edition is but, as it contains the George and Junior short “Half-Pint Pygmy”, I’d tend to believe there are few, if any, omissions.
Half-Pint Pygmy” is a rarely seen cartoon because of its racially offensive images.  For the record, I fully agree with this. 

 ...But, sadly, it didn’t NEED to be.  George and Junior (oddly, looking more like “bears” than Avery-style goofy toons, in this one) travel to Africa to capture the World’s Smallest Pygmy for science. 

Unfortunately for us today, this wonderfully fast-paced hilarious Avery cartoon DIDN’T NEED to have a Pygmy as the object of the quest.  As you watch the cartoon, you come to realize that you could substitute the World’s Smallest [fill-in the name of ANY animal here]” and it would still play basically the same!  The many violent “jungle environment” and “wild animal” gags would work even if the quarry was some sort of lizard or sumpthin’! 

Even the ending-kicker gag is not necessarily tied to the offensive Pygmy imagery – and the SPIRIT of the gag could apply to our hypothetic and generic “any-animal”.  Though, the final fate of George and Junior themselves might STILL be enough to keep this one out of general circulation. 

Tex Avery (and let’s not forget his main writer Heck Allen, the “frantic-jazz” of composer Scott Bradley, and the many fine animators in his unit) was truly a one-of-a-kind force in animation… and aren’t we glad we had him!  …And, aren’t *I* glad I now have all of his MGM cartoons on DVD! 
Wolfie's glad too!

Oddly, after I finally made this purchase, Warner Home Video may have finally offered a ray of Tex Avery hope on its LOONEY TUNES PLATINUM COLLECTION (Blu-ray) VOLUME TWO, released October 16, 2012. 

11 Avery MGM cartoons and two documentary features (plus an on-camera interview) are included as part of this wonderful set, giving hope that an official Warner Authorized Version may yet materialize! 

Hey, WHV… Release a Complete Tex Avery MGM Collection on Blu-ray, with commentaries and extra features, and I’ll happily forsake my bootleg for it!  …Deal?  

Now, speaking of things Warner has yet to release, if someone could give me a hot tip on HUCKLEBERRY HOUND Seasons 2-4.  "Studio-Authorized" preferred, but not required! 
Got a hot DVD back there, Huck?

...Next and finally... Beep-Beep!


top_cat_james said...

Joe, I've alerted the NYPD, and they'll be at your residence within minutes. Just enough time to smuggle a pencil to draw a door in your cell a la "Northwest Hounded Police".

TCM's old "Cartoon Alley" program actually aired "Half-Pint Pygmy" a few years ago. Funny stuff, but I'm not too wild about that redesign on George and Junior.

Joe Torcivia said...


Picture me doing an Avery Wolf-like take at the sight of Droopy (Sgt. McPoodle) at my door in an NYPD uniform, TCJ! Feel free to add the accompanying sound effect of your choice!

…And, in this case, Droopy could ACTUALLY say “Hello, Joe!”, and he’d be accurate!

Did TCM run “Half Pint Pygmy” uncut? Hard to imagine! I figured it would take nothing short of a (ahem) “unauthorized” DVD or a pirate YouTube posting to see that again!

Does anyone know the reason why George and Junior were redesigned? Probably one of those “Who’d notice! Who’d care!” kinda things, I’d wager.

Though I prefer the original “goofy Avery toon” designs for G&J (especially as in “Red Hot Rangers”), oddly, the more “fuzzy bear look” makes them sorta more sympathetic, as they suffer their expected agonies!

top_cat_james said...

"Half-Pint Pygmy" did indeed air uncensored, although it was festooned with the de rigueur Disclaimer-O-Rama caveat that you have to endure to watch any pre-1950 cartoon these days.

Sorry about your arrest and booking by McPoodle.(heard that you requested the Beagle Boys' old inmate numbers. Cute!) But you'll be happy to know, Joe,(or should I say 176-671),that in an act of retaliation, Screwy Squirrel barged through my front door, informed me that "snitches get stitches", and proceeded to run me through a sewing machine. Ouch!

Joe Torcivia said...

That’s my boy, Screwy! He’s always got me covered… usually covered in some “foul goo or slime”, but that’s beside the point!

No doubt, he called you a “little sew-and-sew”, as he had his audience in… er, “stiches”!

Turns out that Beagle Boy didn’t wanna give up his number, since Carl Barks made such a “prestige thing” out of it over the years, so we reached a compromise.

We’re now 176-67… “1” and “1A”!

By now, Screwy would be holding up a sign with an “Ear of Corn” on it, as his comment on the whole exchange! :-)

scarecrow33 said...

I totally agree with you regarding bootlegs...but copyright holders force the issue when they refuse to provide a legitimate DVD release.

I, too, am eagerly hoping for more Huckleberry Hound releases.

The Tex Avery collection sounds like a rare treat. Wish the powers-that-be would wise up where collectors are concerned.

Joe Torcivia said...

…And I couldn’t agree with you more, Scarecrow!

The copyright holder, whom I think we all essentially agree, should be the one to reap the benefits of such product… BUT there should also be an obligation on the copyright holder’s part to provide the material to those who want it.

If a particular release may not be deemed profitable enough to merit effort on the part of a giant media corporation, said media corporation should consider licensing the property to a smaller provider – and there are still several such providers who may find the enterprise profitable enough to do.

Universal has done this with Shout! Factory on such series as McHale’s Navy, Dragnet, and Ironside (to name a few in my collection) – and I wish they would follow a similar path with Alfred Hitchcock Presents (not to mention its successor The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) which is simply not being released fast enough by Universal.

It’s all the more inexplicable in the case of Warner Bros.. who instituted the Warner Archives Program for the express purpose of handling Warner properties that they might regard as lower-volume releases on a “Manufactured-On-Demand” basis.

Could not a Tex Avery release (or Huckleberry Hound, for that matter) be released through Warner Archives? I’ve spent the last few years wondering why not – and finally gave in on the bootleg. Though, my official stance remains that I’d prefer an “Authorized Edition” – if only it was made available to me.