Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
“Hello, all you happy people.” – Droopy
Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m focusing on various cartoons from MGM that were directed by Tex Avery. The shorts I’m covering were all a part of the Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1943 and 1951.
Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):
Tex Avery Classics
- Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
- The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer.
- Who Killed Who? (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
- We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death.
- What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)
- Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect!
- Batty Baseball (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
- For this short, we have a very screwy baseball game.
- The Hick Chick (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)
- Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy.
- Bad Luck Blackie (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)
- A little kitten is being chased by a dog, when he runs into a black cat that volunteers to help.
- Garden Gopher (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)
- Spike the dog has to deal with a troublesome gopher when he tries to bury his bone.
- The Peachy Cobbler (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
- After an old cobbler gives some bread to some hungry birds, a group of elves help him catch up on work while he sleeps.
- Symphony In Slang (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 45 seconds)
- At the gates of heaven, a young man arrives speaking only in slang, and, unable to understand him, the main official turns to Noah Webster for help.
- Screwball Squirrel (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)
- Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead.
- The Screwy Truant (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
- Screwy Squirrel avoids going to school while being chased by the truant officer dog.
- Big Heel-Watha (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
- Big Heel-Watha has to hunt don Screwy Squirrel to find some meat for his tribe.
- Lonesome Lenny (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
- A big, lonely dog (who is too strong for his own good) chases his new little friend, Screwy.
George & Junior
- Hound Hunters (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)
- George and Junior try to work as dog catchers, but a small dog keeps eluding them.
- Red Hot Rangers (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 59 seconds)
- Forest rangers George and Junior try to put out a fire started by a lit cigarette.
- Dumb-Hounded (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 1 second)
- The Wolf escapes from prison, and Droopy must hunt him down.
- Wags To Riches (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)
- Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything.
- The Chump Champ (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
- Droopy and Spike compete in a variety of sports.
- Daredevil Droopy (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
- Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus.
As usual, I remind you that, when it comes to theatrical shorts, my own knowledge is generally Wikipedia level at best (not to mention whatever I find sometimes through Turner Classic Movie’s website), so I may not necessarily get everything right. Anyway, here goes. Tex Avery was a well-known animator and director from the golden age of American animation. He started out working as an inker and animator at Universal’s animation studios on some of the “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit” cartoons. During this time, he lost the use of his left eye when, in a bit of horseplay apparently common there, he was hit in the eye by either a thumbtack or wire paper clip thrown at him. Less than thrilled with his salary there, he ended up being fired. He next worked for Leon Schlesinger at Warner Brothers, where he became a director with his own unit, where they would help establish Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, along with introducing Daffy Duck. However, he had issues with Leon Schlesinger, and he quit, briefly working for Paramount before he signed with MGM in 1941. There, he would make use of his own style, whether it be the fast pacing of the shorts, or the characters sometimes breaking the fourth wall, or making fun of the fairy tale tropes that Walt Disney made use of. He would do his shorts at MGM up through 1950, when he had to take time off from being overworked. He returned to do two more cartoons before leaving MGM entirely for the Walter Lantz studio at Universal (which would be short-lived because of salary issues yet again).
The set of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is comprised of shorts made by Tex Avery during his tenure at MGM. The shorts included are, as I said before, not necessarily included in chronological order. The main reason for that is what shape some of the elements are in, as many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons had been destroyed in a 1965 vault fire. But, for the nineteen shorts included in this set, Warner Archive Collection used 4K scans of the best available archival elements, and the results are fantastic! Every short looks so colorful, and it makes for easy viewing! This set contains many classics, including Red Hot Riding Hood, which turned the Little Red Riding Hood story on its ear, and gave us “Red,” as well as the Wolf, who was a frequent character in some of the shorts. We also got the likes of Screwy Squirrel, with four out of five of his shorts being included. And, my personal favorites of the set, the four Droopy cartoons. I remember those the most vividly from my own childhood (although I have some recollection of some of the stand-alone cartoons as well), and it’s great seeing them looking better than I’ve ever seen them look! I very much enjoyed this set, and I can certainly say that I look forward to seeing and enjoying Volume 2 (which has sadly been delayed by the pandemic, but, at least at the time of this writing, it’s being worked on and coming)! To borrow another quote from Droopy to describe my feelings about this set:
“You know what? I’m happy. Hooray.”
Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, eighteen minutes.
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