DVD Review: Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (The Complete Collection)

Ever realize that the cartoon your mom swore was a waste of time was really educationally important? We’re not talking stupid knowledge about animated universe physics. How you won’t fall when running off a cliff if you don’t look down. We’re talking about sitting in a class and realizing the you already understand the concept being explained by the instructor. Who originally taught you this knowledge? How about a penguin, a walrus, an old guy and a 3-D Blackboard? Thanks to them, kids across the country were able to grasp how to mine coal, seed clouds and fight tigers. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete Collection brings together all 70 episodes of the best education entertainment ever produced for kids.

Tennessee Tuxedo (voiced by Get Smart‘s Don Adams) and Chumley (Bradley Bolke) are a penguin and walrus stuck inside a zoo. They have little interest in escaping their cages and racing for freedom. They are concerned about slipping over the wall for gainful employment. The premiere episode has them land a gig as car repairmen on “Mixed-Up Mechanics.” Eventually their complete lack of knowledge about their job catches up to them. The customers threaten violence if they can’t get things right. The two could easily hide at the zoo, but they aren’t going to disappoint people. “Tennessee Tuxedo Will Not Fail” is his battle cry. Where do they go to get the answers to succeed? Do they enroll in an auto mechanics school? They don’t have enough time for a complete education. They visit the office of noted smart guy Phineas J. Whoopee (voiced by F Troop‘s Larry Storch). He breaks down scientific and mechanical concepts using the 3-D Blackboard. Think of this as the original iPad except Mr. Whoopie could stretch it out to show more details to the penguin and walrus. The duo return to fix things right enough to realize they weren’t made to be full-time mechanics.

There are plenty of things explained that seem to have been replaced in modern living. “Telephone Terrors” has them wire up the zoo so the animals can call each other. The 21st century solution is to merely buy the critters cellphones. “Zoo News” explains how a newspaper is put together and printed. Who cares about newspapers when you can get all your information on the internet. “Madcap Movie Makers” has them shooting on film when movies are now being made with digital video. But as outdated as the technology seems, it’s always good to know how things worked over history. This information might come handy after Mayan Doomsday.

Unlike the recent Underdog collection, Shout! Factory didn’t attempt to create thirty-minute shows with the various elements. They combine both segments of the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoons into a nine and half minute segments with the opening theme. The supporting cartoons that rotated through the show are included individually. New episodes of The King and Odie were made for the show. This cartoon had been the headliner on King Leonardo and His Short Subjects. The Hunter also had new episodes produced after being part of King Leonardo. The Hunter is a dog detective always on the trail of a fox. While Tooter the Turtle was also part of the Tennessee Tuxedo, the episodes were repeats from King Leonardo. There are a few Klondike Kat episodes since at some point they were part of the mix. Total TV was known for having their characters shuffled around. Tennessee Tuxedo and Underdog shared the same syndicated show. They even threw in Rocky & Bullwinkle shorts since both were backed by General Mills. Tennessee Tuxedo was painted at the same Mexican animation studio that produced Bullwinkle. This is why they have the same visual feel. At least now you can control how the show elements gets shuffled on your DVD player.

Tennessee Tuxedo has returned to pop culture with the help of Chumlee on the History Channel’s Pawn Stars. He’s named after Chumley, but with a different spelling suggesting the History Channel’s legal department wanting to avoid complications when trademarking their superstar. Last thing the show needs is a Chumley vs. Chumlee legal battle. Mr. Whoopee would be the star witness.

The show still has an appeal in the 21st century. A cousin’s kids were captivated by the education of a penguin and his sidekick. The show is silly enough so that they don’t understand that they’re really learning about irrigation, X-Rays and helicopters. But someday the lessons of the 3-D Blackboard will come alive in their mind. Parents shouldn’t fear mixing this cartoon with today’s educational oriented TV shows. This wasn’t as dumb as your mother’s false claims. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete Collection should be next to your copy of David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. Tennessee Tuxedo never failed to enlighten me.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality of the shorts vary from good to fair. Things do look better than the version that was shown on an obscure cable channel a few years back. The audio is mono. The voices come through fine so you can follow along with Mr. Whoopee’s explanations.

Commentary tracks are provided on a few of the cartoons with Larry Storch, Bradle Bolke and Buck Biggers talking with Total TV historian Mark Arnold and modern voice actor Wally Wingert.

Tennessee Tuxedo Will Not Fail (23:40) explains how the cartoon was created to have an educational content. Co-creator Buck Biggers remembers going against the mindless action of other animated cartoons. Bradley Bolke harkens back to his time with Don Adams when they were Chumley and Tennessee. Larry Storch appears on camera to discuss his time as Phineas J. Whoopee. Since him and Don Adams were often on the road doing comedy gigs, they recorded their lines solo in strange cities.

Riddles (3:36) were 20 second segments worked into the shows during the ad break. They reused the same animated clips with new audio. Chumley and Tennessee would ask elementary school riddles. Mr. Whoopee would give a single graphic answer on the 3-D Blackboard.

Bumpers. Opens. Previews
(6:45) are lifted from 16mm and old videotapes. Who knows where the original 35mm prints have gone. Best is a football game with multiple Tennessees and Chumleys on the field. There’s also previews for The Hunter and King Leonardo.

Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete Collection is one of those rare creations of an entertaining cartoon that educates. The lessons of Tennessee and Chumley will stick to you memory. The series is not a mindless waste of time. Mom failed this time.

Shout! Factory presents Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete Collection. Starring: Don Adams, Larry Storch and Bradley Bolke. Boxset Contents: 70 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released on DVD: March 13, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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