Tom and Jerry: Spotlight Collection, The Premiere Volume (DVD)
Tom and Jerry
, the animation franchise, lasted six decades and saw several geniuses of the form--Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and Friz Freleng--have a hand in updating and refreshing the series in later years. But Tom and Jerry: The Spotlight Collection, Premiere Volume
celebrates the original mastery of producer-directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who took the familiar cat-chases-mouse concept and slowly turned it into witty, unpredictable, and sometimes ironic entertainment. The Spotlight Collection
offers 40 restored, remastered shorts beginning with 1943's handsome, Oscar-nominated "Yankee Doodle Mouse" and ending with the fantastic, widescreen 1956 "Blue Cat Blues," very similar to the exaggerated look and feel of former cartoonist-gagman Frank Tashlin's live-action comedies (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
) from the same period.
What strikes one about every episode on these discs is the lavish care Hanna-Barbera paid to Tom and Jerry, not only drumming up new, sometimes exotic settings (such as the swashbuckling "The Two Mousketeers," or for the Old West adventure "Texas Tom") but also consistently turning out gorgeous and wildly creative backgrounds, where straight lines rarely exist and the palette of a night sky includes multiple, dreamy shades of blue and green. Technicolor and novel visual ideas (e.g., shooting a scene through the tunnel-like view of a hollowed-out bread loaf) are sometimes more pleasing than the combative relationship between the two leads. But their rivalry is often renewed in very interesting ways, such as the wonderful "Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl," in which the pair play competing conductors against a lovely backdrop of L.A. landmarks. Special features include the Anchors Aweigh dance sequence featuring Jerry and Gene Kelly, and a featurette, "How Bill and Joe Met Tom and Jerry." --Tom Keogh