Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tom and Jerry: Chuck Jones Collection

The Chuck Jones version of Tom and Jerry typically gets a bad wrap because of the different approaches to the characters. In addition to the physical differences from classic cartoons and the Chuck Jones version of the characters we also have the characters making more verbal noises than before. Tom was famous for doing that loud howling scream on occasion and Jerry sometimes would let out with a giggle at Tom's expense or utter a nervous laugh, or gulp, if he felt he was about to be pounced on by Tom. In this version, though, we hear a lot more gasps and yelps and whimpering...mostly from Tom but some from Jerry. We don't have that howl that Tom was noted for.

There are a couple of extra's on the DVD. There is a documentary called "Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood" and a featurette called "Tom and Jerry...and Chuck." I had not watched the documentary yet but I did watch the featurette and it's narrated by June Foray. It's about Chuck Jones and the last years at Warner Brothers and the time he spent at MGM doing the Tom and Jerry cartoons. The profile doesn't shy away from Chuck's personal feelings about limited animation but that's come to be expected. I happen to appreciate both styles. In one style you get full animation where you can see facial expressions and body movements and there might not even be any dialogue but you can tell what's happening from looking at the sequence and in the other you get emphasis on the vocals where you didn't necessarily understand what the characters were feeling if you turned the sound off.

As I've touched upon in other blog entries, Chuck is credited with coining the phrase "illustrated radio" to describe the style of animation Hanna-Barbera pioneered on TV. The series of episodes that Chuck did at MGM often pop up on Boomerang or Cartoon Network...mainly Boomerang. Some critics have said that Chuck took away the violence...I can see where the critics come to that conclusion but it had it's share of the good ol' cat and mouse chase where Tom hits Jerry with a fly swatter and Jerry's flattened on the floor...there's all kinds of sight-gag's and eye wiggles and gestures but because they were designed different and really weren't given a chance, the series usually leaves a bad taste in some viewer's and critics mouths. There's also a myth/rumor that some fans out there deliberately dismiss the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons because of comments made by Chuck in later interviews that he didn't enjoy doing the series and found the 'cat and mouse' formula tiresome.

In the featurette it's pointed out that Chuck never liked to talk about the Tom and Jerry days in his later interviews and didn't like to bring the series up and as a result of this, I feel, younger animators who've looked up to Chuck automatically reject the series based solely on what Chuck's opinions were. I do come across web-sites out there that deal in cartoons and animation and most of the people/fans who cite Chuck Jones as their main director/animator from Warner Brothers tend to carry the same sentiments Chuck held. I don't know if they genuinely feel the way Chuck did about animation and all of that or if they're just going along with their hero. It's tough to tell...but I can tell you that this series is nowhere near as awful and terrible as critics and Chuck himself write it off to be.

There is no episode list on the DVD have to insert the DVD in your player and then look up the episodes from the main menu. It's a nuisance having to do that. They do list the extra features on the back of the DVD. There were only 34 theatrical shorts made of the characters under Chuck Jones...and all 34 of them are presented on two DVD's. All of the characteristics Chuck brought to the Looney Tunes characters are on full display in his version of Tom and Jerry. Chuck wanted to evoke life, which is at the heart of animation, into the characters he worked on and he succeeded.

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