Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WOODY WOODPECKER & FRIENDS CLASSIC CARTOON COLLECTION

"Guess who?"

I was never a big fan of the red-plumed, cackling cartoon bird created by Walter Lantz, but I even I have to admit that the new WOODY WOODPECKER & FRIENDS CLASSIC CARTOON COLLECTION is an amazing anthology of theatrical animated films, many of which have never appeared on home video before in any format.

The collection includes digitally remastered toons from the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, as well as a handful of rare, vintage shorts and featurettes. The cartoons are uncut, complete with politically incorrect gags and artwork. Universal has even labeled the packaging (albeit in small print) as for adult collectors – nothing here has been sanitized for the protection of today’s small minds (and I don’t mean kids).

Aside from superstar Woody – who undergoes an amazing series of dramatic physical transformations over the years – Andy Panda and penguin Chilly Willy (a personal favorite) are well represented, along with some very early Oswald the Lucky Rabbit shorts. Among the earliest cartoons in the collection is a great parody of KING KONG, "King Klunk," as well as a bunch of musical "Swing Symphonies," like "Abou Ben Boogie," "The Pied Piper of Basin Street," and the politically incorrect "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B."

The cartoons are presented full-frame, with eye-popping colors and rock solid transfers. There’s a fair amount of wear and scattered dirt and debris, but it’s not overly distracting; generally speaking, the clean-up and restoration efforts are outstanding. A lot of work went into this set, and it ranks right up there with Warner Brothers’ exemplary LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTIONS.

Most of the bonus features are, unfortunately, previously-existing promotional material, and somewhat dated, although the single episode from the later Woody Woodpecker TV series, a Halloween special called "Spook-A-Nanny," is really bizarre. I might wish there had been at least one new historical featurette or maybe some commentary tracks by contemporary animation experts, but it’s a minor complaint.

For fans of classic, hand-drawn theatrical animation, the WOODY WOODPECKER AND FRIENDS CLASSIC CARTOON COLLECTION is highly recommended.

BUY: The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection