The following review is dedicated to my beloved Grandmother, Corinne Hurwitz, who sadly passed away recently. Her and I shared a particular adoration for the MGM musicals, the same company which produced the cartoons I am going to be talking about today.
Oh boy… Here it is! My review of what is perhaps one of the most divisive Blu-Ray releases I have ever seen. The Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 collection is one that has been anticipated by many in the animation and collecting communities. I will of course go over the so-called “controversy” this Blu-Ray has garnered, but I will also say that I adore this collection about as much as I adored the first one. The cartoons selected are all consistently gut-bustingly funny, and I’ve seen some that are now new favourites of mine. And yes, they also look great.
In this collection, you will find another 21 great and well known selections, including Little Rural Riding Hood, Magical Maestro, Dixieland Droopy, and the ever so hilarious Cartoons of Tomorrow, along with many other classics. Much like the first volume, the selection is consistent in its overall quality, they’re all hilarious and bring out that Avery charm. This collection contains a bunch of one-shots, along with a selection of Spike the Dog and Droopy cartoons and, finally, perhaps the pinnacle of this release, as mentioned before, the complete Cartoons of Tomorrow collection. I am now eagerly awaiting a volume 3 as I look forward to more George & Junior, Spike the Dog and Droopy cartoons. Not to mention the one-shots, each of which is a gem in its own right. However, I am disappointed to have heard that they won’t even be working on a 3rd volume until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This is actually specifically because of the “controversy” this release has sparked. These have been a great pass-time during this current lockdown, I was hoping for a Volume 3 sooner. But it’ll happen when the time is right I suppose.
Regarding the visual quality of the cartoons, I don’t see what all the whining is about. The gorgeous stylized realism in these Avery MGM cartoons is, for the most part, faithfully restored to its original glory. I’m not going to deny that there are some minor issues. Film grain is inconsistent between shorts, some of which have either very little or a near-complete absence of film grain. I don’t have a lot of time on my hands like those who looked at each and every cartoon frame-by-frame and found those rare frames that have certain parts scrubbed away because of the Digital Video Noise Reduction process, but DVNR is a little bit more obvious in extremely rare occasions. Is it a dealbreaker? absolutely not. It’s important to remember that the original nitrate negatives for these cartoons have all been destroyed, they were burned up in the MGM Vault Fire of 1965, they do not have ideal sources to be working with here. But what they’re doing with those sources, for the most part, looks great! 99% of the time they look just fine. The “issues” all those nitpickers are complaining about are things that the human eye watching the cartoons, even the most analytical, will not be able to notice. These people simply have nothing better to do than to look at the shorts frame by frame. I’m certain if you did that with most other collections like this you will find those inconsistencies.
The visual quality may not be as consistently great as the last collection, but the issues here are really minor and are not worth whining about. The textures in the backgrounds look as if you can touch them, the shorts are really clean as well. I recall in Magical Maestro there was a moment where there was a hair on the bottom left of the screen. Turns out, that was one of Avery’s brilliantly unexpected fourth wall gags and was actually drawn in there just for the character to pluck off the screen! The colours look great, they really pop, there’s seldom any softness to be seen. The shorts overall look very vibrant, and, most importantly, stay true to how they were originally meant to be seen, for the most part. These are great restorations, especially given the sources they’re working with, minus a few errors here and there.
The audio quality is pretty much exactly the same as in the first volume. Again, it’s cleaned up very well, with a DTS Master HD 2.0 audio output. It’s of course still obvious that these are old audio sources, but you won’t hear any hisses or pops or any other sort of distortion. There are signs of aging, but no decay or destruction. Again, volume is an issue, and is at times inconsistent between shorts. Keep this in mind, you may find yourself adjusting your volume during the shorts. But overall, they sound great, and very clean and crisp.
There is actually one bonus feature this time around, a documentary entitled Tex Avery: King of Cartoons. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because it has been released in the past, most recently in Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 2. It’s disappointing to see that the only bonus feature here is a carryover, but, as I mentioned in my review of Volume 1, the budget for this collection likely isn’t that high and obviously went to the restoration of these cartoons for the most part. It’s a shame they can’t give this the budget other Warner Archive collections get, but oh well. At least we’re getting these cartoons, uncut and restored in HD.
This is a great 2nd volume in this Tex Avery Screwball Classics collection. There were some minor issues with the restoration of some of these cartoons, but certainly nothing to lose your mind over like some people have, and it is absolutely not a dealbreaker. Now, bring on Volume 3! I need another dose of my Avery fix.
Final Grade: 4/5