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Warner Home Video presents
Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection: Volume 2 (1951)

"En garde!"
- Tom (Mel Blanc)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: November 09, 2005

Stars: Mel Blanc, June Foray
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 05h:20m:00s
Release Date: October 25, 2005
UPC: 012569673243
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AB+B- B

DVD Review

It was a pretty sure bet when I was growing up that there would be one of two different animated shows on the TV at a given time. One of these was the timeless Looney Tunes, the other Tom and Jerry. Since their first cartoon premiered in 1940, this cat and mouse have had their antics realized on screen in consistently hilarious fashion. Tom and Jerry have greatly evolved since 1940, however, and Warner Home Video's release of the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection: Vol. 2 gives fans a great look at this evolution. It's also a great way to get reacquainted with a series of childhood memories that have stood up quite well over the years.

After the small outrage that resulted from some disappointing video transfers on the first collection, this new set does show a concerted effort to remedy that problem and make fans much happier. However, many of the shorts still suffer from terrible source material, but this set should stem the tide for a little while at least.

There's always been an underlying and unfortunate stigma surrounding Tom and Jerry regarding its somewhat racist depiction of African Americans and other subjects. While it's entirely possible that there might be some substance to these claims, it's best to take the show for what it is: a funny series of madcap adventures between a cat and mouse that have the ultimate in love/hate relationships. This second collection even includes a couple of these controversial shorts, namely those involving Tom's African-American owner. Often referred to as "Mammy Two Shoes," this character appears in the very first of these shorts, Puss Gets the Boot, and Tom went by the name of Jasper here as well. Watching this so many years later only furthers the suggestion that kids and adults alike will easily look past the potential racial undertones, as the character in question is depicted in no way different from any of the others.

These issues aside, this collection is all about the cartoons, and it delivers some of the best that the series has to offer. There are 38 in all, spread out over two discs, and they range in years from the aforementioned first short from 1940, to Tot Watchers from 1958, which was actually the last of these to be released in theaters, and four of the ones in this set were nominated for Academy Awards. Kudos to Warner Home Video for also presenting five of these shorts (Tom and Cherie, Muscle Beach Tom, Down Beat Bear, Mucho Mouse, and Tot Watchers) in their original "CinemaScope" aspect ratio.

Of the 38 shorts, there are a number of stand-outs, including Saturday Night Puss, which also stars Mammy Two Shoes. The reason this is so special is that this original version has rarely been seen in the US. The version that has previously existed had been doctored to where Mammy was replaced by a blonde, but now we get to see this short in the way that its creators intended.

The insanely sharp comedic timing that was a staple of this series is in full effect throughout this collection. A few more "can't miss" episodes that showcase this timing are The Night Before Christmas, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse, and Professor Tom. We also get some great moments from everyone's favorite bulldog in Spike in Dog Trouble and Puttin' on the Dog. The fun just never stops in this set.

Here's the list of all 38 short films included in this volume:

Disc 1

Puss Gets the BootThe Midnight SnackThe Night Before ChristmasFraidy CatDog TroublePuss and TootsThe Bowling Alley CatFine Feathered FriendThe Lonesome MousePuttin' on the DogThe Mouse Comes to DinnerMouse in ManhattanSpringtime for ThomasTrap HappyPart Time PalDr. Jeckyll and Mr. MouseOld Rockin' TomProfessor TomThe Cat and the MermousePolka-Dot Puss

Disc 2

Saturday Evening PussLittle QuackerTexas TomSafety SecondSleepy-time TomNit-Witty KittyCruise CatTriplet TroublePush Button KittyThe Missing MouseJerry and JumboJust DuckyLittle School MouseTom and CherieMuscle Beach TomDown Beat BearMucho MouseTot Watchers

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Overall, there has been a nice restoration effort put into this Tom and Jerry set, but there is still room for much improvement. However, the five short films that are presented in their original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio (and are anamorphicly enhanced) look simply amazing. Each and every color sparkles with vibrancy, from the hues of the individual characters, to those of even the background images as well. While there isn't a speck of grain or dirt to be found in these five films, the other 33 have their share of problems. It's too bad that the same amount of work wasn't put into all of the films in the set, but at least we have a glimpse of just how great they can potentially look.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio isn't going to rock your home theater, but it is perfect for this very old material. The fast-paced music sounds just great, adding to the brisk pacing that the video portion of the show already brings to the table. The dialogue is near perfect as well, and it's especially nice to see any and all problems averted in this department, given the aforementioned old age of these shows.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 38 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Yogi Bear Show, The Huckleberry Hound Show, Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3, Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry, Looney Tunes Movie Collection, The Flintstones Season 4
2 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Nicole Parker and Earl Kress
Packaging: Cardboard Tri-Fold
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Silent Pencil Sketch: "The Midnight Snack"
  2. Introduction by Whoopi Goldberg
Extras Review: The extras begin before the menu even appears, as Whoopi Goldberg appears to introduce this collection. She does a nice job talking about this excellent series, and also speaks about how these cartoons incorporate various racial caricatures that are still as compelling and important today as they were back when these were created. She also talks about how vital it is that "Mammy Two Shoes" and other elements that reveal the prejudices of the time haveremained intact for this DVD release.

There are commentary tracks by Mad TV's Nicole Parker and animation historian Earl Kress for four of the episodes. These can be heard during Puss Gets the Boot, The Night Before Christmas, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Mouse, and Saturday Evening Puss. Kress offers occasional insight as to what went into the drawing of these films, while Parker just kind of reiterates what we're already seeing on the screen.

Disc 1 also has Silent Pencil Sketch: "The Midnight Snack," a nine-minute cartoon showcasing the earliest stages of animation.

Animators As Actors runs for seven minutes and is basically a compilation of Tom and Jerry clips and interviews with animation historians, as well as former MGM animators who talk about the mindset of animators during the creation of these short films.

Disc 2 features some previews for other Warner Home Video animated titles, as well as The Comedy Stylings of Tom and Jerry. This five-minute featurette focuses on the huge part that physical comedy played in the success of the franchise.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

This second volume in the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection keeps the fun going strong with 38 more episodes of everyone's favorite game of cat and mouse. The video has been cleaned up a bit more compared to the first volume, but the audio and nice collection of extra features remains the same.

 


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