Classic MGM Cartoons From Tex Avery

After Walt Disney, no man is more responsible for how animation is perceived by the masses than legendary animator Tex Avery. Having helped developed characters such as Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and other familiar Looney Tunes icons for Warner Bros., Avery moved over to MGM. Screwball Classics Volume 2 collects 21 more beloved cartoon shorts from Avery’s tenure at MGM during the 1940s and 1950s.

A master of the animated medium, Avery pioneered fantastic slapstick animation with his wild animated creations. Genius is a word thrown around too lightly these days but the label certainly fits Tex Avery. His hilarious cartoon shorts inspired generations of animators, shaping the industry for years.

After Walt Disney, no man is more responsible for how animation is perceived by the masses than legendary animator Tex Avery

The second volume is a showcase for some of his wild one-off concepts like the cat who hates people, an opera singer at odds with a magician, the struggle between father-and-son automobiles, and more madcap mayhem. Usually taking no more than six or seven minutes, each short practically creates the mold for visual storytelling with every packed frame. Avery’s direction at MGM was all about breaking the fourth wall, shattering visual expectations and making audiences laugh.

This second volume heavily features Droopy, Avery’s slyly gifted dog with a deadpan drawl. Spike the guard dog stars in two of his own cartoons. This is funny, funny stuff for all ages though the adult humor will fly straight over the heads of young children. The last four shorts take a look at the possible future of humanity with zany inventions and wacky innovations supposedly coming to change our lives. Many of these classic shorts rank up there with the funniest cartoons ever made.

Tex Avery directed 67 cartoon shorts for MGM. Warner Archive has now put out two volumes of his shorts on Blu-ray for a total of 40 that have been released from restored masters. Let’s hope that a third volume collects the remaining shorts in due time.

The following MGM shorts from Tex Avery are included in Volume 2:

1 LITTLE RURAL RIDING HOOD
2 THE CUCKOO CLOCK
3 MAGICAL MAESTRO
4 ONE CAB’S FAMILY
5 CAT THAT HATED PEOPLE
6 DOGGONE TIRED
7 THE FLEA CIRCUS
8 FIELD AND SCREAM
9 THE FIRST BAD MAN

Droopy:

10 OUT-FOXED
11 DROOPY’S DOUBLE TROUBLE
12 THREE LITTLE PUPS
13 DRAGALONG DROOPY
14 HOMESTEADER DROOPY
15 DIXIELAND DROOPY

Spike:
16 COUNTERFEIT CAT
17 VENTRILOQUIST CAT

The Future:
18 HOUSE OF TOMORROW
19 CAR OF TOMORROW
20 TV OF TOMORROW
21 FARM OF TOMORROW

Video

There is no doubt that Volume 2’s typical video quality is inconsistent for animation purists and somewhat disappointing considering the universal praise rightly lavished on Volume 1. It should be noted that all of MGM’s original pre-1952 negatives for Tex Avery’s cartoons were lost in a fire back in the 1970s. All we have left are surviving nitrate prints. Keep that caveat in mind as we discuss these Technicolor cartoons from Hollywood’s Golden Age of animation.

The new transfers for Volume 2 are hit or miss, marred by occasionally destructive noise reduction. What should be Technicolor cartoons in all their celluloid glory at 1080P resolution have spotty filtering. The cartoons remain fairly brilliant on Blu-ray with clean definition but animation lovers know these cartoons could look better given more care in the transfer process. Three shorts have newly-created titles replacing the original MGM titles: Magical Maestro, One Cab’s Family, and Doggone Tired.

It’s far easier catching signs of rampant low-pass filtering in classic cel animation, which was still shot on film. Fainter line art and even dropped lines aren’t uncommon when the filtering becomes too aggressive. Cel dust rapidly blinks in and out of existence in one egregious example. Casual fans may not notice these small changes but it becomes difficult ignoring the problem once you are aware of it.

2020 has been a terrible year for Hollywood’s finances with the closure of most theaters destroying the industry’s primary business model, resulting in a corporate implosion that has up-ended many divisions. That even includes the mighty Warner Bros, one of Hollywood’s most venerable studios. Corporate shuffling has forced changes at Warner Archive’s restoration unit, the outfit responsible for these classic cartoons on Blu-ray. The team largely responsible for the excellent PQ results on Volume 1 have been replaced, resulting in decidedly poorer results on Volume 2.

Thankfully, all the shorts are presented intact and uncut in their original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Warner throws in a brief warning the shorts are intended for adult collectors and may not be suitable for children. On a technical level, Warner Archive authors the disc with a thoroughly excellent AVC encode. All 21 shorts, most running no longer than seven minutes, are include on a BD-50. The 1080P video is entirely free of compression artifacts due to the high-bitrate encoding.

Tex Avery’s Screwball Classics Volume 2 has decent picture quality given some of the working limitations discussed previously. The contrast, color saturation and black levels have all been dialed in perfectly. There is some natural variation in picture quality between the shorts depending on available elements. Some shorts like “The Cuckoo Clock” and “Little Rural Riding Hood’ look fantastic, clearly a drastic improvement on any version seen in decades. Methinks they may have been finished by the same team that did Volume 1 and held back for this volume.

Audio

Recorded in mono, the original audio for each cartoon short is presented in 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The vintage soundtracks hold up rather well with decent musical reproduction and perfectly intelligible voice work. The monaural audio have been taken from a variety of sources since most of the original negatives have been lost. There are no obvious audio mistakes. The dynamics aren’t great and a few shorts sound a little thin and reedy.

Musical supervisor Scott Bradley’s boisterous musical touches come through clean and clear without significant distortion, never more apparent than in the delightful “Magical Maestro” short.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Warner Archive includes an excellent documentary on Tex Avery’s life and work in animation as a bonus. Which makes up for the lack of any special features on volume one. The trade dress matches up nicely with the first volume.

Tex Avery: King of Cartoons (51:52 in SD; 2.0 DTS-HD MA) – Beginning with his work at Leon Schlesinger Productions helping to create characters like Porky, Daffy and Elmer Fudd, the well-made television documentary moves over to Avery’s time working at MGM making classic cartoons like Droopy. It’s a far-ranging look at the animation legend’s career across a slew of different companies. Released in 1988, it features a number of animators and industry people that worked with Tex Avery. Most notably, another animation legend in Chuck Jones appears in the documentary. Other figures like voice actress June Foray give their thoughts.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Tex Avery
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

The second volume from Warner Archive collects 21 more hilarious cartoon shorts from animation genius Tex Avery’s MGM catalog with so-so transfers.

Sending
User Review
5 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 47 Tex Avery screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.