Toons Go Blu -

Toons Go Blu


As the resident old-cartoon buff, I should probably comment on the announcement of Looney Tunes on Blu-Ray, and before that, Tom and Jerry on Blu-Ray.

The Tom & Jerry set is the more important one. The Tom and Jerry series, good as it often is, is not one of my very favourites, but they are probably the most popular classic cartoon characters and almost all their home video releases have been in so-so prints, often with censored prints mixed in. A collection of properly remastered versions from HD-quality prints was long overdue. A presentation at Comic-Con indicated that WB might be willing to consider a Tex Avery Blu-Ray set if this T&J set is a hit.

The Looney Tunes set is going to disappoint anyone who was hoping for a chronological or comprehensive set; it’s a grab-bag of some of the best cartoons that have already been released on DVD, plus a few cartoons that didn’t make it to DVD, mostly the ones involving the highly merchandisable Martian and Tasmanian Devil characters. I will buy it, of course, but people who bought all the Golden Collection volumes might be annoyed at being told they have to buy this new set (and a Blu-Ray player, if they don’t have one) to get a few extra films. Plus there has still been no apparent movement on bringing the “Censored 11” cartoons onto home video, even though this was promised a while back.

A lot of this is just working around an obvious and unavoidable fact: classic films and cartoons were very successful on DVD, but they have mostly not performed well on Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray is not as clear an upgrade over DVD as DVD was over VHS, so people who bought Gone With the Wind on DVD aren’t rushing out to buy the Blu-Ray. Plus, of course, all films on home video, new and old, have to deal with the fact that some people don’t want to own shelf-space-taking discs of everything. I wouldn’t say physical media is dead, because it isn’t. (Even in music, lots of people are buying CDs and LPs have made a comeback. I could actually see film projection making a comeback someday to match the LP craze.) But physical media is in decline, and the rush to go out and replace DVDs with Blu-Rays is not happening. Especially since the biggest selling point of Blu-Ray – super-great picture quality – is not a huge selling point when we’re going to be watching a lot of stuff on our phones anyway.

What I guess this comes down to is my usual argument, that to make the most of these cartoons as a valuable franchise, Warner Brothers will at some point need to look beyond home video and look into streaming and other online options – not because these are the best ways to watch them, but because that’s where new viewers are more likely to find them. But I’ve been saying this for a while, and it hasn’t happened yet. The remastered/restored prints of the pre-1948 Warner Brothers cartoons have still (as far as I know) not been made available for TV broadcast, let alone streaming.

Well, anyway, here’s one of the cartoons that will be appearing on Blu-Ray that wasn’t on any of the DVD collections: “The Hasty Hare,” the first cartoon where Marvin the Martian got his distinctive voice (Mel Blanc used a different voice for his first appearance). It’s never been as well-known as some of the other Martian cartoons, maybe because most of it takes place on Earth. But it’s pretty funny, as are all Chuck Jones/Mike Maltese cartoons from this period.

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