Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sufferin’ (through some) Succotash!

I’m presently enjoying the current LOONEY TUNES SUPERSTARS PORKY PIG collection, which I’ve mentioned HERE – and have a review of the set HERE.

Overall, I’ve been generally positive (though not without reservations) to the LOONEY TUNES SUPERSTARS line in general but, today, I can’t help but wonder why – with the INCREDIBLY VAST NUMBER of Warner, MGM, and Hanna-Barbera toons that remain unreleased on DVD at this point in 2013 – we need a “Sylverster and Hippity Hopper” collection!

Someone at Warner Bros. apparently does, as noted HERE.

Okay, sure… As with all classic-era Warner animated shorts, they can be good… TAKEN ONE AT A TIME!

But, unlike Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, you probably cannot sit through more than TWO of these in a row! So, why COLLECT them in this way, rather than spread them (in a more palatable way) across various and different Looney Tunes packages?

Sure, I’ll buy it. Of the 18 shorts contained therein, 17 of them are reported as NEW to DVD! That alone makes it worthwhile. But, when it comes to watching them, I’ll probably space the experience out rather judiciously!

After all, how many times can one mistake a kangaroo for a giant mouse, without going “hoppy”?


scarecrow33 said...

I agree with your sentiments completely, Joe!

I've already listed some of the stuff I want to see, so you know I'm on board with the notion of getting more stuff released!

Good point about seeing the cartoons "one at a time", which is of course they way they were made to be seen. Probably the reason that there is so much repetition from cartoon to cartoon (i.e. the "giant mouse" bit which gets old fast) is that it is likely the animators figured that their audiences were different people each time, so that they assumed that any given audience hadn't regularly seen the previous entries in this or that cartoon series. (Certainly no one was expected to have seen all of the previous Sylvester cartoons, using just one example. They were expected to recognize the character, but not as likely to keep dibs on the character's "film career" or even to remember the cartoons from one theatre visit to another.) I'm sure the original creators would have been surprised to learn about collections like this one (let alone to know about home video, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.) From what I gather, the idea at the time was that these shorts were made to be run a couple of times, maybe rerun a few years later, and then forgotten.

Sometimes I feel that the true place for a lot of these cartoons is in one of those "Warner Night at the Movies" collections where you get them in their original context--as a warm-up to a feature film. Too bad that those are becoming a thing of the past.

Joe, it's great to have you posting again. I hope you can resolve the glitches about the graphics. Best of wishes to you for a great 2013!

Anonymous said...

It's a common problem with series episodes when they are collected on DVD (and with comic book series when they are collected in TPB). Individually, the cartoons are funny, or the Star Trek episodes are dramatic, or the Sgt. Rock stories are exciting. Collectively, the repitition becomes obvious. After all, TV shows were originally intended to be watched at the rate of one episode a week, comics at one issue a month, and movie series (including cartoons) fewer than half a dozen times a year.

Joe Torcivia said...

Scarecrow and Anon:

Your assessments of the situation are right on. Cartoons like that were never conceived to be viewed in this way. That’s why Robert McKimson could feel comfortable in trotting out the “giant mouse” bit every so often, without fear of being cited for undue repetition.

Glancing at the release schedule for the Hippity Hopper cartoons, it looks as if, on average, they were released at the rate of one per year. And, as Scarecrow points out, no one (not even the most dedicated cinema buffs, I’d imagine) was likely to see them all. …At least until television, and more so during the age of home video products.

With Hippity, however (and with Pepe Le Pew), I feel there was an added level of repetitiveness in that the “giant mouse” bit (as well as the “paint-striped cat pursuit” bit) was done to the exclusion of all else. Though, what else could you really do with Hippity.

Pepe, on the other hand, had great untapped comic potential as the “good and cheerful Samaritan, completely unaware of the overwhelming negative characteristic that drives away all potential friends”. Imagine Casper, or more likely Loopy De Loop, with extreme body odor. Don’t know why Jones and Maltese never tried that even once.

Getting back to the repetition factor, Warner’s has hardly the worst in this regard. Look at virtually ANY Famous / Paramount series; let’s say from the late ‘40s thru the ‘50s. Popeye, Casper, Baby Huey (“Hey, you’re da Fox, an’ I tink you’re tryin’ ta kill me!”) It’s like each series had only ONE PLOT that was made and remade endlessly. Herman and Katnip sometimes successfully struggled against that (as I noted in my H&K Blog posts), but even that series succumbed. Just not as often, and that may be why I liked it so much. Never mind that the comics showed how many different things you could do with Popeye, beyond the Popeye/Olive/Bluto triangle played out in every conceivable setting.

I think with Hippity and Pepe (as with the Famous series), it was the NUMBER OF TIMES the repetition occurred that makes the difference. Consider that THREE “Duck Season /Wabbit Season” cartoons makes for a classic series. TWENTY of them would not.

Ultimately, I feel there is no truly successful way to market the entirety of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. You can’t offer them chronologically, even though that mitigates the repetition factor of series such as Hippity and Pepe, because most folks (not me) would not purchase the “Bosko / Foxy/ Buddy-Centric Early Years”, or the “Daffy and Speedy / Larriva Road Runner / Cool Cat and Merlin Later Years”.

So, we end up with a hodgepodge of collections that are sometimes successful and sometimes less so.

Anon: I think some TV series hold up better to mass-sequential viewing than others. Actually, I think Star Trek does, until you reach the Third Season. In animation, I think Hanna and Barbera were aware of this in their earliest productions. You could watch a bunch of Huckleberry Hounds of Flintstones in succession – but not Atom Ant, Franky Jr., and even Wacky Races. Perry Mason is an example of a superb TV series that fails the “mass-sequential viewing test”.

And, yeah, Scarecrow, WHY NOT include a Warner Cartoon (at least) on the DVD of EVERY Warner theatrical film that was released during the era of theatrical shorts! I have a review written for the “Cool Hand Luke” DVD. As I was watching the film I thought, a Daffy /Speedy, Cool Cat, or Merlin the Magic Mouse probably played with this… what would be the harm in including it, as they were doing with the ‘30s and ‘40s films.

Since you ask, I’ve not had the time to seek alternative means to the Google Image Upload issues, and that accounts for my being less prolific than in December – being forced to create shorter, less illustration-intensive posts like this one. But, we’ll persevere.