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Featured DVD Review: Ultimate Cartoon Collection: Toon Time

October 22nd, 2011

Ultimate Cartoon Collection: Toon Time - Buy from Amazon

On the 4th of October, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment released Ultimate Cartoon Collection: Toon Time, a three-disc, nearly 21-hour long collection of 176 classic cartoons from the 1930, 1940s, and even a few from the 1950s. So what are the highlights of this collection. And are there enough of them that it is worth picking up?

The Shorts

Disc one is divided into two sections, Betty Boop and Classic Cartoons. The Betty Boop cartoons cover a lot of ground from her lead cartoons to the ones where she was paired with Pudgy, her puppy, and Grampy, an inventor and possibly her grandfather. Many of the best Betty Boop cartoons are included in this set. Poor Cinderella is the only time Betty Boop appeared in color (and with red hair). Betty in Blunderland has Betty Boop transported through the looking glass after falling asleep while putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Betty Boop with Henry the Funniest Living American isn't among the best cartoons on this DVD, but it is historically significant, as it is the only time the comic strip character Henry appeared in animation. Betty Boop's Rise to Fame is one of the most famous. It includes a live action interview of Max Fleischer with an animated Betty Boop showing the interviewer what she can do. The quality level is very consistent and the cartoons have aged quite well, especially since they average about 75 years old. After four and half hours of Betty Boop, there's two and a half hours of other cartoon shorts. The quality level is a little spotty, both in terms of the shorts and the quality of the prints.

Disc two features Popeye the Sailor Man and more classic cartoons. These start with the Aladdin trilogy (Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves), which are widely considered classics and for good reason. They also run for nearly an hour, which is nearly a third of the collection. The rest of the shorts are mixed in terms of quality, with several that are clips shows with little in the way of new plot to move them along (Assault and Flattery and Customers Wanted, for instance). There are still some stronger shorts as well, like Greek Mirthology or Fright to the Finish, but there are many misses. Also, while many of the shorts were made a couple decades after Betty Boop's run had ended, the prints are looking a little rough at times. There's nearly four hours of mixed shorts as well. Their hit to miss ratio is a little weak, but there are still some shorts that are quite entertaining, like Fox Pop, Base Brawl and Bars and Stripes Forever. The Hunky & Spunky, Gabby, and Herman & Henry shorts also dominate the list of shorts.

The third disc starts with 48 minutes of Little Lulu shorts, but I've never been a fan of that character. The classic section here includes a few stop-motion shorts by Ray Harryhausen, which I wasn't expecting, but was happy to see them. Have You Got Any Castles? is another highlight. The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall is an early work by Chuck Jones. It's arguably the best short on the entire DVD. Pigs in a Polka is a fun take on The Three Little Pigs. The Sheepish Wolf features Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf in their first appearance. The Lion's Busy features Beaky Buzzard, who is one of my favorites of the minor characters from Looney Tunes. You'll notice a lot of the random shorts that are worth highlighting are by Warner Bros. However, not all of the shorts on this DVD are highlights. Jungle Jitters is one of the Censored Eleven and I'm amazed it's on this DVD. Likewise, The Early Worm Gets the Bird also contains some, let's just say unfortunate choices in character design. Susie the Little Blue Coupe is a rather famous short from Disney and one of the few shorts from that company here. There's some Woody Woodpecker on the set, but I was never a fan of that character, nor was I ever a fan of Baby Heuy, which is another character that is prominent here. On the other hand, Mighty Mouse cartoons tend to be a lot better, as are Casper shorts.

The Extras

There are no extras on the three-disc set. Nor are there menus where you can select individual shorts. I'm not surprised about the former, but I'm disappointed over the latter.

The Verdict

Ultimate Cartoon Collection: Toon Time has close to 21 hours of public domain shorts for just $13. Granted, the DVD has no bells and whistles, not even a good menu, while the prints used have seen better days, but there are still enough shorts that are worth checking out that the overall package is worth picking up.

On a side note, I can't believe there's never been a chronological collection of Betty Boop shorts put out on DVD. I really think there's a strong enough demand for them.


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