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Bill Thompson … Droopy
In the pantheon of long running animated characters there are titans that seemingly will never die off and will continue to be discovered by children of all ages for generations to come. These hall-of-famers would include Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald and Daffy Duck, and perennial cat and mouse adversaries Tom and Jerry, and maybe a few others. Near the top of the second team would have to be Tex Avery’s creation Droopy; the slow talking, but fast thinking underdog. As distinct a cartoon character as any created, Avery’s character has had a unique and hilarious voice that has delighted audiences for over half a century, and I’m not talking about Droopy’s elongated accent.
With Warner Brothers’ new Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection we get a look at this character’s history as well as the comic genius of Avery, whose impeccable timing and creativity is just as fresh today as when he first created Droopy’s first adventure, Dumb-Hounded. Now when viewed today some material may seem inappropriate to modern audiences – the fun of these cartoons is head and shoulders above 90% of the animation done today. After watching these shorts, it’s easy to see why so many people consider these an art form; it’s just too bad that it’s largely a lost one.
One of the best aspects of this DVD set is experiencing the evolution of Droopy as a character. For instance, the look of the character is at its Droopiest in 1943’s Dumb-Hounded, his aforementioned debut. Droopy’s cheeks are large, and he’s also definitely still very much a dog in the short, even stopping to talk to another K-9 and not letting us in on their conversation as an extra gag. Even in this first outing, the jokes were almost non-stop, as Droopy is a police dog that has to track a wolf named Joe who has escaped from prison. Relentless as always, Joe has to run so fast and hard that he even runs past the film cell at one point, one of the best jokes in this entire series.
As the stories go on, Droopy eventually becomes less of a dog and instead becomes more of a little person in a dog’s body. Already by Wild and Woolfy in 1945 many of these changes have taken place, but this manages to only add to the mayhem. Also very prevalent were sexually charged themes that were very commonplace at this period, apparently included for the benefit of servicemen in WWII, but not hurting general audiences. While the more sexual elements of these stories would eventually tone down and dissipate, the gags would still come in droves as Avery stuck little Droopy in dozens of different situations. In shorts such as Senor Droopy (1949), The Chump Champ (1950), and Droopy’s “Double Trouble” (1951) our short, slow monotone hero was everything from a bull-fighter to a butler, with Avery packing each story with wall to wall jokes.
I believe my favorite short of this entire set has to be The Chump Champ in which Droopy faces off with Spike the bulldog, one of the regulars of Droopy’s rogues gallery, in a series of ridiculous sporting events in order to crown the King of Sports. The short is really just an excuse for Avery to throw in as many jokes and pratfalls as possible with Spike going through the virtual ringer as he’s being bested at every turn by Droopy. With the setups for the jokes not taking long at all, Avery can simply throw a barrage of gags, making this short the most joke-filled installment on this entire set.
In The Three Little Pups (1953), you can see how Droopy really starts to get more streamlined. Not only in the character design in the short much simpler than before, backgrounds and settings are more straightforward, but with brighter colors. Avery’s with is still sharp as ever though, as this Three Little Pigs adaptation is hilarious from beginning to end, with the new Rebel wolf taking his place as one of Droopy’s long running foils. It’s interesting that Avery would go with a wolf character that isn’t as lively as other Droopy villains, as he doesn’t come off as a complete opposite like Joe or Spike, but he’s just as enjoyable and charming.
Amazingly, even when Avery stopped doing the shorts the drop in quality wasn’t terribly significant. With Michael Lah taking over directing duties, Droopy installments such as Sheep Wrecked (1958) are still uproarious at times. Utilizing very Avery-like gags, these shorts seem a little more laid back, even reminiscent of some of Chuck Jones’ Wile E. Coyote shorts that pitted the notorious villain against the sheep dog.
Overall, this set is a wonderful testament to the legacy of Tex Avery, and one of his most important and beloved creations. Just on the surface, Droopy’s adventures are a ton of fun, and can be enjoyed by a variety of ages, but a closer look reveals an even deeper artistry to them. Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection is an amazing look at when cartoons weren’t just for kids, and didn’t have to go low brown to always keep us laughing.
While these shorts are decades old, Warner Brothers has done a bang up job on their restoration, making several look as if they were brand new. While some may have some debris, the color of each short sparkle and the picture is always bright. The shorts are presented in both Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and Fullscreen with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and also sounds fantastic. Just like the audio, the cleanup of the shorts’ soundtrack is glorious, making each one sound like new.
Droopy and Friends: A Laugh Back – This featurette on the history of Droopy and his creator is a fascinating trip down memory lane. This covers Droopy’s evolution as a character as well as what made the character and Tex Avery unique in the cartoon industry. While this extra is only about 16 minutes, it seems to cover a wealth of info and is a fun watch throughout.
Doggone Gags – This is a gag reel put together from some of the best jokes of this set.
Trailers – You get three trailers for various WB animated releases including this set, Space Ghost, and a Popeye box set.
|The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Tex Avery’s Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection
||RATING(OUT OF 10)
||8.5(NOT AN AVERAGE)|