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.
Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m again 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 2. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1948 and 1955.
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 Screwball Classics
- Little Rural Riding Hood (1949) (Length: 6 minutes, 19 seconds)
- The city wolf invites his country cousin to the city, but cannot stop him from chasing after girls.
- The Cuckoo Clock (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)
- A cat is being driven crazy by a cuckoo bird and tries to get rid of it.
- Magical Maestro (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)
- After a magician is thrown out by opera singer Spike (also known as “The Great Poochini”), he gets his revenge by taking the place of the conductor and using his magic wand to wreak havoc on Spike’s performance.
- One Cab’s Family (1952) (Length: 7 minutes, 56 seconds)
- A pair of taxicabs raise their new son (with the hope that he will also be a taxicab), but he wants to be a hot rod.
- The Cat That Hated People (1948) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
- A black cat expresses his dislike for humans for the way he has been treated, and takes a rocket to the moon.
- Doggone Tired (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 34 seconds)
- A rabbit tries to keep a hunting dog from getting enough sleep.
- The Flea Circus (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
- When a stray dog walks in on a circus of fleas, they all leave (except for Francois, the clown), and it’s up to him to bring more fleas back!
- Field And Scream (1955) (Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)
- We follow American sportsman Ed Jones as he goes fishing and hunting.
- The First Bad Man (1955) (Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)
- This short tells the story of Texas, circa one million B.C., where Dinosaur Dan laid claim to being the first bad man in Texas.
- Out-Foxed (1949) (Length: 8 minutes, 18 seconds)
- A group of hunting dogs (including Droopy) are promised a steak if they can bring in a fox.
- Droopy’s Double Trouble (1951) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
- Droopy and his twin brother Drippy are tasked with taking care of a house (and keeping out strangers). Of course, Spike the dog (with an Irish accent, no less!) has to join in on the fun (as the “stranger” that they have to keep out).
- The Three Little Pups (1953) (Length: 6 minutes, 44 seconds)
- Three little pups (including Droopy) take on a dogcatcher.
- Drag-A-Long Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 34 seconds)
- Sheepherder Droopy drives his sheep into cattle territory, and the Wolf (who owns a cattle ranch) tries to stop him.
- Homesteader Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 31 seconds)
- Droopy and his homesteading family find resistance from Dishonest Dan when they make a home in cattle country.
- Dixieland Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 44 seconds)
- Droopy plays Dixieland musician John Pettibone, as he tries to become famous.
- The Counterfeit Cat (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
- A cat tries to pretend to be a dog to get the bird that Spike the dog is guarding.
- Ventriloquist Cat (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 41 seconds)
- A cat uses ventriloquism to play some pranks on Spike the bulldog.
Cartoons Of Tomorrow
- The House Of Tomorrow (1949) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
- We are given a tour of the house of tomorrow by the narrator.
- Car Of Tomorrow (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 19 seconds)
- We are shown the “cars of tomorrow.”
- T.V. Of Tomorrow (1953) (Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)
- We are shown the many innovations of the television of tomorrow.
- The Farm Of Tomorrow (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 32 seconds)
- We are shown the “farm of tomorrow.”
Well, since the various Tex Avery shorts aren’t being put out on disc in chronological order, there isn’t much more that I can say about Tex himself than what I said when I reviewed Volume 1 of this series. So, I will confine my comments overall to the shorts included in this set. As indicated in the list above, this set contains more one-off shorts, some Droopy, some Spike (the bulldog), and the four Cartoons Of Tomorrow. As before, I consider the Droopy cartoons to be the most fun, since I have fond memories of growing up with them. They’re always guaranteed to give me a good laugh! I think I also remember the Little Rural Riding Hood and Doggone Tired shorts, but most of the rest were new to me through this set. Overall, it’s a fun continuation, with some cartoons just as good (if not better) than those in the first set!
All the shorts included in this set come from 4K scans of the best surviving preservation elements (since, as I mentioned before in my review of the first volume, many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons were destroyed in a 1965 vault fire). Compared to the first set, this one didn’t fare as well in overall quality in the transfers. Admittedly, most of the trouble seems to have been caused by the pandemic, which delayed the set (which I have heard was originally planned for a June 2020 release, or thereabouts, instead of the December 2020 release it got) with all the film labs and storage facilities being shut down (and thereby removing access to the film elements), and also resulted in the team that had done the earlier release and the Popeye sets being laid off. Further compounding the issue, they were still stuck with a release deadline which forced them to use some less-than-stellar transfers prepared for HBO Max. A lot more DNR (digital noise reduction) was used than would have normally been the case, resulting in too much grain being removed (and therefore, some of the detail). Now, for the most part, the average Joe (or Jane) probably won’t notice, as everything looks pretty good in motion (it’s just when you stop to pause the picture that things will look worse). Now, this isn’t a problem for ALL the shorts on the set, just a few. The majority are, for the most part, treated much better. There are a few that also had photoshopped titles, and there is a slight audio issue on the start of the short T.V. Of Tomorrow. Still, the set overall is quite nice, and even throws in an hour-long documentary on Tex Avery from 1988 as an extra. It’s only good, compared to the usual GREATNESS that we would expect from Warner Archive transfers, but it’s still better than you might see for other animated libraries.
Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, twenty-nine minutes.