Wednesday, March 05, 2008

DVD Review: Academy Award Animation Collection (Winners And Nominees)

At one point, the only way you'd have seen Tom & Jerry, Droopy, Bugs Bunny, Superman, and Popeye in one sitting was to watch cartoons on local TV. Now, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings them together on their new Academy Awards Animation Collection featuring 15 Academy Award-winning and 26 Academy Award-nominated animated shorts. Although classic animation fans will notice some overlapping with previous DVD sets, there is more than enough here to warrant checking this collection out.

The first thing to note about this set is that all the cartoons are uncut. Two of the three discs in the set begin with a text disclaimer similar to that on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections. The 41 cartoons on the set are spread across three discs. Disc one features the Academy Award-winning shorts while discs two and three feature the Academy Award-nominated shorts.

There is great variety to be found on this set. Many of the nominated and winning shorts feature the first appearances of popular characters including Tom & Jerry (“Puss Gets The Boot,”), Speedy Gonzales (cartoon of the same name), Bugs Bunny (“A Wild Hare”), and Foghorn Leghorn (“Walky Talky Hawky”). This set also includes the first Sylvester & Tweety cartoon (“Tweety Pie”) and the first Superman cartoon.

Although this collection is somewhat dominated by Tom & Jerry cartoons (there are 13 here in all), there are many other excellent cartoons. Friz Freleng's brilliant “Birds Anonymous” has Sylvester attempting to give up birds. “Peace On Earth” is a haunting anti-war cartoon that has animals living in a world without humans. It's on the same disc as Tex Avery's hilarious “Blitz Wolf,” a twist on “The Three Little Pigs” with the Big Bad Wolf being a thinly veiled parody of Hitler. Little Ralph Phillips daydreams in school in Chuck Jones' excellent “From A to Z-Z-Z-Z” and Popeye sparkles in full-color in “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor.” The inclusion of “So Much For So Little” is notable because it's the only cartoon on this collection that wasn't nominated for a Best Animated Short Subject Oscar. This informational film won in a tie for Best Documentary Short Subject.

The extra on this set may pale in comparison to those on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections but they are great nonetheless. Roughly half of the cartoons on this set have either a commentary track or a music-only track available. The set's two other special features are contained on disc three. The first is a bonus short, Bob Clampett's “What's Cookin' Doc?”. This short features Bugs at the Academy Awards trying to convince the crowd that he's deserving of one. It even features a clip from “Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt,” an Academy Award-nominated Bugs Bunny cartoon also included on this set.

The other special feature is the documentary “Drawn for Glory: Animation's Triumph At The Oscars.” Running for about an hour, this documentary is essentially a history of the Best Animated Short Subject category at the Oscars. Featuring narration by Bonnie Hunt and commentary by animators, historians, and creators, this documentary is informative and well-made. Despite being made for a Warner Bros. DVD set, the piece is fairly impartial and doesn't gloss over the importance of Walt Disney.

Overall, the Academy Award Animation Collection is a very good set for animation fans. If you don't own any of WB's previous classic animation collections, this is a good way to start. If you already own some WB classic animation collections (such as the Looney Tunes Golden Collections), this set is still worth a purchase for the new-to-DVD cartoons (such as the restored “A Wild Hare”) as well as the commentary tracks and excellent documentary. Let's hope that this set also gets WB to release more of the non-Looney Tunes cartoons in their library.

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