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With: Bill Thompson (voice), Lina Romay
Written by: Heck Allen, Jack Cosgriff, Rich Hogan, etc.
Directed by: Tex Avery, Michael Lah, Dick Lundy
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 200
Date: 05/15/2007

Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Edition (2007)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Hello All You Happy People

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the days of laserdiscs, Tex Avery box sets were plentiful, but nowadays fans have to scramble for even a few crumbs of Avery. Some of his early works turned up on Warner Home Video's Looney Tunes box sets, and some of his later, MGM works have turned up as bonus features in movie box sets. Now Warner (which owns all of Avery's MGM catalog) has struck the first blow by releasing a complete Droopy Dog set. There's a lot more Avery to go, but this is a very welcome start.

The two-disc set comes with 24 theatrical cartoons, roughly 8 minutes each. The box claims that the first 18 were directed by Avery, although one, Caballero Droopy (1952), is credited to Dick Lundy. The last seven cartoons are presented in (2.35:1) widescreen. Avery is credited with the first of these, Millionaire Droopy (1956), although it's a safe bet that someone else took Avery's cels from Wags to Riches (1946) and re-formatted them for a widescreen cartoon.

Avery's first few Droopy cartoons are nothing short of masterful, especially Dumb-Hounded (1943), The Shooting of Dan McGoo (1945) and Northwest Hounded Police (1946). Avery is probably best known for his wild, exaggerated movements, with eyeballs popping out of heads and characters coming apart at the seams. But the genius behind the Droopy cartoons is their inaction. Droopy barely moves at all. When he first appears, he casually lopes behind a pack of barking, scampering dogs, moving at his own speed. He stops, turns to the "camera," and drawls: "Hello, folks. You know what? I'm the hero." In a hyperactive frame, our eye turns to Droopy's calm center. He's a Zen hero who always wins merely because he's good and trusting. His rivals (first a wolf, and then a bulldog called Spike) constantly try to murder him, frame him or worse. He simply ignores them. In Northwest Hounded Police, he catches the bad guy merely by showing up every place he tries to hide. He never makes a move.

As the cartoons go on, Avery tends to repeat the same gags, sometimes using the exact same cels, and then his imitators further dilute the formula. But the first handful of cartoons in this set makes it very much worth the price. The DVD also comes with a short featurette, a "gag reel," and trailers for other cartoon releases (the very exciting upcoming Popeye set included). The box asserts that these cartoons are for adult collectors and not children, but adventurous parents will find that they can be fun for everyone.

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