Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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Tom And Jerry Kids Show Season One Another Blast From The Past From Warner Home Video

Courtesy:  Warner Home Vide/Hanna-Barbera

Courtesy: Warner Home Vide/Hanna-Barbera

The 1990s was one of the greatest decades in the history of television broadcasting.  NCB and ABC were at the top of their game with their “Must See Thursday” and “TGIF” programming blocks.  And CBS and Fox each had afternoon cartoons for kids to watch after a long day at school.  Sadly, those days are gone.  Thankfully though, Warner Home Video has given audiences that grew up in those days of quality programming yet another piece of their childhood with the release of Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One.  This two disc set is one more part of what has been a small wave of welcome releases from WHV this year that includes:  Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3, Animaniacs Vol. 4, the brand new release of Taz-Mania: Season 1 Vol. 1, and the upcoming releases of Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4, and Taz-Mania: Season 1 Vol. 2 just to name a handful of releases.

Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One includes the first thirteen episodes from this show that some considered part of the “kiddie-fication” of cartoons.  The term in general was in reference to certain cartoons being reduced in quality in order to make them more kid friendly.  The cartoons in question included: Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo Where Are You?  The term “kiddie-fication” was generally used in a negative connotation in regards to their kid friendly spinoffs.  Those that used that term couldn’t have been more wrong in using such a label especially in the case of Tom and Jerry Kids Show.  That’s because a show such as Tom and Jerry Kids Show was (like Tiny Toon Adventures) less a “kiddie-fication” of its more adult base show than a way to indoctrinate young viewers into the world of said show slowly.  And there is nothing at all wrong with doing this.  If anything, it helps to keep alive the legacy of Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoons. 

The transfers from the original tapes look outstanding.  The quality of the footage could not have been better.  Little to nothing was lost in the transfer from the original tapes to DVD.  Even when viewed on an HDTV, it still looks quite impressive.  That’s a testament to the work done by the show’s artistic staff.  Even when viewed via a computer’s DVD drive or on a home DVD player, the video quality still shows that it has stood the test of time.  The same can be said of the show’s audio side.  Fans of HB’s classic cartoons will recognize the company’s recycling of its music.  Much of the music used in this more modern take on Tom and Jerry was also used in The Jetsons and to a lesser extent, more modern Flintstones direct-to-DVD features and certain episodes of A Pup Named Scooby Doo.  This trademark of Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons is another welcome addition to Tom and Jerry Kids Show.  Having that familiar older music back once again makes older audiences’ sense of nostalgia even stronger in watching this modern classic.

The high quality of the show’s transfers alone makes Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One worth the money for fans that grew up with this cartoon.  The double-disc set’s packaging is another positive to the overall presentation.  As with multi-disc sets from other companies, this set follows what is quickly becoming the standard by placing one disc on its own place on a plastic insert inside the case.  The second disc is placed comfortably on the back portion of the box also in its own spot.  This manner of packaging is both smart in terms of protecting the set’s discs and in terms of ergonomics.  It keeps the case for the DVD’s the same size as that of a regular single-disc DVD package.  So it saves space on audiences’ DVD/Blu-ray racks, and protects the product inside.

As one should be able to tell by now, Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One is an enjoyable nostalgic trip down memory lane for long-time fans of the Tom and Jerry franchise.  It’s just as much a welcome introduction to this generation’s younger viewers.  For all the positives to this set, it isn’t without one minor flaw.  That flaw is not in the art, the transfers, or even the packaging.  The flaw in question comes from the discs themselves.  Rather than actually coloring in the designs on the discs, they were painted over with a single, flat color, leaving just enough open space to make a wild guess as to the design on each disc.  Consumers would have to put each disc up to the light and tilted each one in order to get an idea of the designs.  The same thing was done with Animaniacs: Volume Four and with Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3.  It’s a minor flaw with this set (and the other sets mentioned).  So luckily, it doesn’t take away too much from the overall presentation, even though it would have been nice for WHV’s people to have taken care of this aspect.  Had that been done, this might have found itself at the top of this critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s DVD and Blu-ray releases.  Regardless, it still has found a place on the list in question.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the WB Shop at http://www.wbshop.com/product/tom+and+jerry+kids+show+the+complete+first+season+1000348871.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search.  Fans of all things WB can keep up with all the latest WB home releases on the WB Shop website at http://www.wbshop.com/home.do

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Animaniacs Volume Four A Fitting Sendoff For The Warners

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

All good things must come to an end…or must they?  Thanks to the good people at Warner Brothers Home Video, fans of the modern classic cartoon, Animaniacs, the laughs never have to come to an end now that the show’s fourth and final volume has finally seen the light of day.  This latest volume of episodes is just as entertaining as the show’s previous volumes.  The writers take no prisoners, going after everyone in pop culture from Disney and Hanna Barbera to Universal and even Fox.  They’re not the only victims of the show’s witty writing.  Even the best movies in Hollywood’s modern history  aren’t safe as the show goes after the likes of The Maltese Falcon, Mary Poppins, and even The Sound of music just to name a few.  And that’s just on the set’s first disc.  The second and third discs are just as top heavy with laughs.  Audiences will love that the show’s writers make a farce of all the serious TV specials out there with its very own “Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show.”  The set’s third disc even includes a little holiday flavor in “The Christmas Tree.”  Everyone’s favorite sour squirrel Slappy, takes center stage here.  Her constant delivery makes for so many laughs.    

The jokes are nonstop throughout all three discs of this outrageously hilarious cartoon.  They’re just part of the show’s continued enjoyment.  Along with nonstop laughs provided by the razor sharp comedy, the show also continues to show heart throughout various episodes as well as some educational content believe it or not.  “Multiplication Song” teaches math and pokes fun at how drawn out it can be in the same breath.  It’s that same brand of comedy established with shorts such as “Chalkboard Bungle”, “Planets Song” and “The Senses” (all from Season One).  Audiences will love this continued tradition just as much as the show’s other laughs provided throughout all three discs in this set.    

Animaniacs Volume Four offers audiences laughs from beginning to end in every short.  Those laughs wouldn’t have been possible without solid writing and equally solid performance by the show’s cast who return once again in this final set of twenty-four episodes.  Mauriche LaMarche (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back yet again as the voice of The Brain.  And fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (Scooby Doo, The Real Ghostbusters, Tiny Toon Adventures, etc.) returns yet again as the voice of the dopey security guard Ralph, the equally dopey dog Runt (whose spoof of Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character Raymond Babbitt is as hilarious as ever), and many others.  And even Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) is back once more.  Having the whole team back again is a huge win as the chemistry built between cast members is a big part of its ability to effectively interpret the scripts and make them entertaining both for kids and parents even years after the show’s end.

The voice acting, the jokes, and heart from the first three volumes of Animaniacs episodes all remain in Animaniacs Volume Four.  There is one other factor that makes this show timeless.  That last factor is its animation.  Yet again reference must be made to the difference in today’s computer generated “animation” and that done by hand from actual human animators.  The animation that was a trademark of Animaniacs in previous seasons is just as solid in this new release.  Save perhaps for Steven Spielberg’s other hit cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures no other shows looked like this one.  It really served as one more factor in developing the show’s identity, unlike so much “animated” content out there today.  Combined with the show’s comedy and its heart, its animation goes into making this a wonderful way for this wacky show to go out.  It’s available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from Warner Home Video’s online store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+animaniacs+vol+4+1000023671.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

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Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3 Another Wonderful Piece Of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy:  Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Amblin Entertainment/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

The long wait is finally over, Toonsters.  Nearly four years have passed since audiences were offered their last dose of Tiny Toon Adventures episodes.  This past Tuesday, Warner Home Video released the long awaited third volume of shorts in its own two-disc set loaded with enough laughs, puns, sight gags, and pop culture references to make any classic cartoon fan happy.  Would it have been nice to have a full thirty to thirty-five episode collection as with the previous pair of collections?  Yes.  But something’s better than nothing, considering how long audiences have waited.  And this new set is something.  It boasts some of the show’s best episodes.  The episodes are just one part of what makes this collection so enjoyable.  The original hand-drawn animation will bring back that sense of nostalgia for lovers of classic cartoons, too.  And the use of some of the top voice talent in the industry then and now make for even more enjoyment.  Altogether, it makes for one more must have for any original Tiny Toon fan and even for any of today’s younger viewers.

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues boasts some of the best episodes from this modern classic cartoon.  The show’s original audiences will love seeing classic episodes such as “Kon-Ducki” (which pays a little tribute to The Wizard of Oz and even The Bee Gees), “The Potty Years”, and its own take on the film noir classic, Sunset Boulevard in the episode, “Sepulveda Boulevard.”  There is also a fun episode titled, “Toon Physics” which explains the differences between real physical science and that of cartoons.  It isn’t the first cartoon to ever poke fun at the incredibility of cartoon physics.  But it’s still just as funny as others of its sort.  This episode features revered voice talent Maurice LaMarche (Futurama, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain) as a spoof of legendary actor Orson Welles.  Instead of Welles, his character here is a whale named—you guessed it—Orson Whales (ba-dump-bump-bump).  This set also includes the “controversial” episode, “One Beer” in which Buster, Plucky, and Hampton show young audiences the dangers of drinking and driving.  Along those same lines, there is even an episode that teaches the importance of childhood literacy in “Why Dizzy Can’t Read.”  These are all just a handful of examples of what Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues has to offer both its original fans and their own kids.  Everybody will undoubtedly have their own favorites from this set.  And even with just two discs, this set boasts more than its share of great shorts.

The episodes alone make for loads of enjoyment for both the show’s now grown-up audience and for their own children.  Adding to the enjoyment of this set is the continued original hand drawn animation.  So much children’s programming today is not true animation.  It is in large part CG-based programming.  So unearthing this collection provides yet another reminder for older audiences of what real animation looks like. And it serves as an example for today’s younger audiences the importance of maintaining the classic art of actually drawing animation, rather than relying on technology for everything.  The only downside to the animation here is that it isn’t as clear as with the show’s previous releases.  It looks like the quality of the transfers with this set weren’t as solid as with the previous releases.  But it’s not that bad.  So while it does leave at least a little bit to be desired, it’s still nice to have this relic of a bygone era given new life.

The show’s original animation and its equally entertaining episodes make for so much enjoyment for audiences of all ages.  The cherry on top for not just this set but also the show as a whole is the inclusion of some of the top voice actors in the industry.  As already noted, veteran voice actor Maurice LaMarche is among the show’s ranks of well known actors.  Also in the cast are the likes of: Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, etc.), Charlie Adler (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, The Superhero Squad Show, etc.), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama), Cree Summer (The Cosby Show, A Different World, Codename: Kids Next Door) and Don Messick (Garfield & Friends, A Pup Named Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, etc.).  The chemistry between the cast was obvious throughout this new set of episodes, just as with the previous releases.  Whether for the general comedic timing or the interactions with each other, the voice cast of Tiny Toon Adventures was the perfect choice.  It was their interpretations of their characters that put the final touch on what was and still is today one of the best cartoons of the twentieth century.  Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online via the Warner Brothers store at http://www.wbshop.com/product/steven+spielberg+presents+tiny+toon+adventures+volume+3+1000311856.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search.

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The New Pound Puppies Is Fun For The Whole Family

Shout! Factory/Hasbro Studios/Hub

Dog is man’s best friend, it’s often said.  Well dogs are also every child’s friends.  And after seeing the new compilation DVD from Hasbro Studios and Shout Factory, the dogs of the new Pound Puppies will be a favorite of every child, and maybe even some adults out there, too.  In this new single disc compilation, audiences get five episodes from the new series that will leave both parents and kids alike smiling and watching over and over again.  In the first of the set’s five episodes, pound manager Leonard and his flunky Olaf have to track down his mother’s dog.  Megastar Betty White guests in this episode.  The compilation’s second episode is a heartwarming episode both for adults and kids alike as Cookie learns a valuable lesson about being a parent.  Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, and Cree Summer all add their guest vocal talents to this episode.  And in one more episode, a new pup named Patches joins the gang.  He looks up to the Pound Puppies so much that he, Cupcake, and Rebound form their own group called The Super Secret Pup Club.  Of course, lots of laughs and mayhem ensue.This five-episode collection opens with the episode, “Bone Voyage.”  Betty White (Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland) guest stars as the voice of Agatha, the mother of the pound’s manager, Leonard.  Agatha has brought her puppy, Rebound, to the pound so that Leonard will look after Rebound while she goes on vacation.  While Lucky and the others try to get Rebound to understand that Agatha will be back, Rebound sees Agatha leave and freaks out.  She takes off after Agatha, causing not only the Pound Puppies to take chase, but so do Leonard and Olaf.  They all end up on board the cruise liner on which Agatha has taken her vacation.  Of course, lots of mayhem and laughs ensure.  Viewers will have to see for themselves how things unravel.  It does, of course, have a happy ending.

In one of the set’s deeper, more emotional episodes, Cookie learns a valuable lesson about being a parent when a young new pup named Cupcake is brought to the pound.  This is one that parents will appreciate in their own way.  Cookie becomes emotionally attached to Cupcake.  So much so that she doesn’t want Cupcake getting adopted.  In its own way, this is somewhat representative of parents letting their own children go as they get older.  That likely wasn’t the primary intent.  But parents will be able to relate to Cookie’s emotional ordeal.  They may even be left a little bit teary eyed by the episode’s end.  Lauren Tom (Futurama), Maurice Lamarche (Futurama, The Simpsons, Animaniacs, etc.) and Cree Summer (Rugrats, Codename:  Kids Next Door, etc.) all add their guest vocals to this episode.

Once parents get over the emotional moments of “Mutternal Instincts”, they’ll find themselves laughing in “The Super Secret Pup Club.”  Cree Summer returns again as Cupcake.  Rebound is back again.  The two team up with another new puppy named Patches.  Patches is a young Dalmatian.  He really looks up to the Pound Puppies.  He tells them of the stories he’s heard of the Pound Puppies, and how he wants to be as great as them.  So the trio forms its club and tries to emulate the Pound Puppies.  But as is the course with any new puppy, the run off, forcing the others to hunt them down.  This causes all sorts of trouble for the Pound Puppies.  It also causes lots of laughs for audiences.  Audiences will have to see for themselves what happens.  Pound Puppies:  Super Secret Pup Club will be available in stores and online Tuesday.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoutfactorystore.com.

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