Tex Avery Collection An Underrated Tribute To An Animation LEgend

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Animator Tex Avery is one of the greatest and most respected names in the history of television.  It was Avery that was responsible for some of the most famed characters ever to grace the big and small screen.  Those characters include the likes of: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Droopy Dog, Screwy Squirrel, and so many others.  Avery’s teaming with Mel Blanc and other voice talents have made these creations as popular as they still are today.  His characters were sarcastic in personality.  They could bounce back from anything from a bomb going off in their hands to being electrocuted to being hit with mallets and more.  Since his passing, so many artists and shows have tried to emulate Avery’s style.  One of those shows is the short lived show, The Wacky World of Tex Avery.  The show’s main character, Tex, is named after Avery.  Its classic style gags, and wacky stories and characters do their best to pay homage to Avery’s memory, too.  No cartoon since his classic will ever fully live up to the bar set by Avery.  But this one does at least make an admirable effort to do so.

It’s easy to see why people might think that in purchasing or ordering this set that they would expect it to be Tex Avery’s classics.  Even though it is in fact not those classic cartoons (many have already been released on DVD and Blu-ray) this collection does deserve some respect. They deserve respect because they do attempt to pay homage to Avery’s groundbreaking animation style.  While animation has been fine tuned since Avery’s day, viewers will see that the animators behind this modern series did make the attempt to make the show’s characters and backgrounds much in the same vein as Avery.  Viewers will see this especially in the characters and backgrounds.  They were all drawn with that classic feel in mind.  When one takes into account the current state of animation and its lack thereof, it really is nice to have this series and its animation resurrected.  So much programming for young people is either live action material aimed at tweens and teens or it’s crudely drawn animation that is half drawn at best.  There are still hand drawn cartoons out there.  But there seems to be more CG based programming than actual hand drawn cartoons.  When one takes this into account, it makes these classic         

The animation style used in each episode of The Wacky World of Tex Avery is something that viewers should really take into account in viewing the first forty-episodes released so far of this series.  The animation style makes a valid attempt to pay tribute to Tex Avery’s style.  That’s not all that this series does.  Avery’s classic style physical gags are there in each episode of this new collection.  This includes the standard bouncing back from falling objects, eyes shooting from characters’ heads in excitement and so much more.  It’s all here.  As with the show’s classic style animation, these gags are rarely seen on the few real cartoons that are left on television.  The few real cartoons left on television today don’t even make the attempt to make these laugh riot gags.  The brand of comedy used by today’s “cartoons” is less physical comedy and more crude jokes.  That in itself is a real sign of how animation has gone downhill.  So keeping this in mind, too, it makes this first set of episodes in this series even more worth at least one watch. 

The animation style used in The Wacky World of Tex Avery and its old school physical gags are both factors that add at least some value to this show.  There is at least one more factor in this series that makes it worthy of some interest.  That factor is its characters.  With names like Freddy the Fly, Einstone, Power Pooch, etc. the people behind the show obviously wanted to go to as much length as possible to pay tribute to Tex Avery’s memory.  The outlandish names of the show’s characters are something that none of today’s few real cartoons has.  These outlandish names are the icing on the cake of this undervalued cartoon series.  It’s that one extra touch that makes this recently released set more enjoyable than one might have believed without having seen it.  Viewers can check it all out now. The four-disc set is available now both in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/wacky-world-of-tex-avery-volume-1-40-eps.html.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Futurama Vol. 7 Shows the “Future” is Bright For This Show

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Futurama is one of the best shows on Comedy Central today.  Thank goodness the network went out on a limb and listened to the fans of this little show that could.  After having been picked up and resurrected by Comedy Central, this hit show has shown time and again why it is the great show that it is.  Now with the release of its seventh volume, Futurama continues to show why it is one of the elite prime time animated sitcoms out there today.  In the show’s seventh volume, the show’s writers poke fun at the seemingly unending to do surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in one episode.  In another episode, audiences see Fry and Leela rekindle their romance after Fry and Bender go in search of a frozen mammoth.  And in yet another, the show’s writers even poke fun at The Matrix when Fry goes to the Near Death Star to visit the professor’s parents.  These episodes make for just some of the laughs throughout this collection’s thirteen episodes largely for the jokes.  For those who really know their stuff, they’ll love just as much the inclusion of a pair of fellow veteran actors, as well as a reference to another late comic actor to this set.  Add in some hilarious commentary and some deleted scenes and audiences get another great set of episodes in the show’s seventh volume.  And all of that is just the beginning.  Viewers will find even more great references and jokes when they check out this new set for themselves.

One of the factors that have always made Futurama a great show is that while it does use topical humor in its episodes, it doesn’t bog itself down in that brand of comedy unlike certain other sitcoms.  However, when it does venture into the realm of topical humor, it still manages somehow to remain funny without trying to be too much above itself.  That’s proven in the episode, “Decision 3012.”  The show’s writers spoof the controversy raised by the “birthers” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate in this episode.  In the place of the president, the writers use a character named Chris Travers, who is a Senator running for Earth President.  Long-time Futurama fans will appreciate the reference to the Futurama movie, Bender’s Big Score in this episode.  Even Matt Groening and David X. Cohen make light of it in the episode’s bonus commentary.  It’s that reference that ends up playing to the episode’s outcome, which viewers will have to find out for themselves when they pick up Futurama Vol. 7.

Futurama’s writers prove in Vol. 7 that they can tackle topical humor and still make funny episodes.  They have also proven again that they’re able to balance keeping the show successful with standalone episodes while also maintaining at least one ongoing storyline in the romance between Leela and Fry.  It would have been so easy for the show’s writers to let the show descend into a serial like so many others.  But thankfully it didn’t.  That’s evident in the episode, “Fun on a Bun.”  Having already broken up again before this episode, an accident with a sausage maker leads Leela to reveal her true feelings for Fry.  She shows her true feelings to Fry when the sausage maker accident leads to a revelation as to what really happened to Fry.  Again, the show’s writers are to be commended for this episode as it proves yet again their ability to maintain a specific storyline without letting the show become a serial.  Movie buffs and sci-fi buffs will especially appreciate the spoof of The Los World tossed into this episode.

As noted already, one of the biggest factors that has made Futurama so successful for so long is not just its ability to balance storylines and avoid becoming a serial, but also its ability to make completely outrageous random adventures for the Planet Express Crew.  In one of its funniest episodes yet, audiences learn a long held secret surrounding Professor Farnsworth after he visits his parents at the Near Death Star.  The writers take a playful stab at The Matrix trilogy both in dialogue and in visual form.  Any true sci-fi geek will love this little jab.    When the professor doesn’t show up at an awards ceremony that Fry is attending, Fry decides to go meet Hubert’s parents.  The result will leave audiences laughing as it kind of turns the whole concept of the “boomerang child” on its ear by reversing it.  This of course leads to a whole other revelation that will leave audiences laughing.  The secret is something that’s been used many times before in many other shows.  But the minimalist way in which it has been used here keeps it funny.

The episodes noted here are just samplings of the laughs audiences can expect to get from Futurama Volume Seven.  Every viewer will find their own laughs throughout the course of the double disc set.  It’s thanks to good writing and an equally able cast that every episode in this set is so enjoyable.  The main cast is profiled throughout each episode’s commentary.  Audiences will appreciate even more some of the bonus tidbits such as learning that fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, What’s New Scooby Doo, etc.) joins the cast in a handful of episodes this time out.  Welker’s talent makes for even more enjoyment in the episodes in which his talents are profiled. 

The talent of the voice cast gives so much life to each episode.  What viewers get in the final product is proof that that.  That’s also just as evident in the deleted scenes included as bonuses to the set.  Regardless of whether or not the scenes would have fit into the final product, they are more examples of the talent and chemistry of the voice cast.  They serve to show how hard the cast and the writers alike work to offer viewers the best possible product, too so as to live up to the expectations of those audiences who helped so many years ago to show why this show deserved to be brought back.  And they more than do that, making for yet another great set of episodes for any long-time fan of Futurama or even for those who are new to this incredible animated sitcom.  One can only hope that considering this and everything else that makes this new set such a success, fans will see much more of this hit show in the very near “future.” 

Futurama Volume Seven is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com.  After fans order the new set, they can also check out all the latest Futurama news online at http://www.facebook.com/Futurama and http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Warner Home Video Finally Re-Issues Another 90’s Classic For Families

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

It’s here.  At long last, another piece of animation and television history has been re-issued thanks to Warner Home Video.  Tiny Toon Adventures How I Spent My Vacation is a wonderful addition to the library of anyone that grew up with the classic cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures.  A lot of people thought that the show was little more than a “kid-ification” of the Looney Tunes franchise.  But in reality, it was a way to indoctrinate young audiences into the world of Looney Tunes.  And this hilarious almost hour and a half long movie was a wonderful extension of the show.

How I Spent My Vacation sees the Tiny Toons gang head out on Summer vacation at long last, each with different results.  Buster and Babs get swept away don a river thanks to Buster starting a squirt gun war with Babs.  Plucky goes on a road trip with his best pal Hampton that he ends up regretting ever taking.  And even Fifi and Shirley have their own problems to deal with. 

Kids might not get it.  And those audiences who were kids when this movie was originally released probably didn’t get it back then.  But the writers behind the story threw in some great pop culture references for parents throughout this feature.  Among the most noticeable was the reference to the 1972 classic Deliverance, when Buster and Babs are floating down the river with Byron.  And while it wasn’t a direct reference to the original National Lampoons movies, Plucky’s trip with Hampton and his parents could be equated to said movies.  At the same time, what viewer wouldn’t watch the group’s trip and say to themselves they’ve heard very realistic horror stories of family vacations that were either as bad as or worse than that one.  The trip even includes (perhaps) an indirect tongue-in-cheek reference to all the slasher flicks that Hollywood has ever churned out with the family trip storyline.

The hilarious and family friendly storyline is a major part of what made Tiny Too Adventures and this spinoff movie so great.  But it was also the hand drawn animation that played a role in how great this movie was.  So many movies and television shows today are made with the ease of CG.  And as so many critics and people inside the entertainment business have noted time and again, the use of CG has really caused so much work to lose its heart and soul.  The hand drawn animation of the Tiny Toons franchise gave it its very own heart, soul, and identity.  It stood out even from the classic Looney Tunes from which it was spawned.  And it stood out among the other great animated classics of the 90’s.  All said, now that it’s been re-issued on DVD, fans that saw it as kids can enjoy this classic from long ago once again with their own kids.  So kudos to Warner Home Video for that.  And here’s to hoping someone up there will see the success of this release and start releasing the original show’s remaining seasons soon.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can alwys keep up witht he latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.