Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let The Halloween Cartoons Begin

Halloween is just a few weeks away and the kids and I have been in the mood to kick off the holiday special viewing season. So, this past weekend we decided to relax after a day of pumpkin picking and hay rides with the annual ritual of "Pulling Out The Halloween Videos."

We started things off with a screening of Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special, a good ol' fashioned CBS primetime offering from 1978. As with the majority of the Looney Tunes specials, this show mixes a handful of classic animated shorts with some newer low-grade animation to form one continuous half hour cartoon. Even as a young kid, the newer bits of the cartoon stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of the original masterpieces. Sometimes the new animation was just used to link together three or four complete cartoons, other times (such as the case with Howl-oween) the newer bits are sprinkled in and out the old cartoons to try and make it seem like one whole story. When the latter approach was used, the shows feel disconnected and choppy. Animation style, character design and voices change every couple of minutes and it makes viewing a bit difficult. It's a wonder why they didn't just collect a handful of Halloween themed shorts and air them in their entirty.

I was never really a huge fan of these chop shop Warner Bros. specials, but I watched them every time they were on because that's how we rolled back in the old days before VCRs and 24 hour cartoon channels. In more recent years, I kinda had a nostalgic yearning for some of these specials and have sought some out on video and DVD. Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special makes it's debut on DVD this year, having not been released since a 1994 VHS cassette. The special itself features clips and scenes from nine vintage shorts including Broom-Stick Bunny (1956), Hyde and Hare (1955) and Transylvania6-5000 (1954). One of my all-time favorite Looney Tunes shorts, Scaredy Cat from 1948, is also used luckily without too much interruption.

All in all, even though the show alters the original state of the cartoons the special is entertaining and promotes enough Halloween spirit to get everyone in the mood. The new DVD also features the complete short Hair-Raising Hare from 1946. This is the one where Bugs Bunny meets the giant orange-haired monster and does his nails. Good stuff and actually worth the price of admission alone!

In the mood for more classic animated shorts, we then popped in Tom & Jerry: Hijinks and Shrieks. I picked up this DVD at a yard sale a couple of years ago (they had it priced at $3 but I talked `em down to $2...suckers!) but we had never gotten around to watching it. This isn't an old TV special, but rather a collection of 7 top-shelf Tom & Jerry shorts from 1952 to 1965. The bad news is that only two of these shorts have anything at all to do with Halloween, the good news is that they are all pretty good cartoons. The amazing thing is that after 60+ years, these cartoons are still laugh out-loud funny to kids and grown ups alike! And quite frankly, there is no greater sound than hearing your kids crackup to pieces laughing at silly things like animals running into walls and cats getting their tail chopped off!

The two Halloween themed shorts, 1956's The Flying Sorceress & The Haunted Mouse from 1965 are both filled with sufficient levels of spooky fun to carry the other 5 titles into making this a fun collection for the Halloween season. A couple of the shorts were produced in CinemaScope and of course are presented here in pan and scan. I think a DVD of just a handful of cartoons presented in their widescreen glory for new television sets would not only be an awesome addition to the WWoB DVD library, I think it would be a big seller as well!

Both Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special and Tom & Jerry: Hiijinks & Shrieks are available at Wal-Mart, Amazon and for rental from Netflix. Good stuff for your pre-Trick or Treat viewing!

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