The Chuck Jones Collection (US - DVD R1)
Troy takes a look at a collection of Chuck Jones animated shorts from the 1970s
Chuck Jones was left in a weird predicament in the 1970s. The Looney Tunes at Warner Brothers died out during the late 60s and early 70s. His major works lived on in reruns or the random theatre that would actually show The Phantom Tollbooth. But, something wonderful happened. Chuck Jones formed his studio and struck a deal to create six wonderful half hour specials for the major networks.
Between 1973 and 1977, Chuck Jones created animated adaptations of some of the best tales from Rudyard Kipling and George Selden. Taking the top talents at the faltering Warner Brothers Animation Department with him, Jones finally became a true auteur. Jones wrote, directed and produced each of the six specials on his terms and to his liking. A lot of animation fans tend to take notice of Jones’ approach to Mowgli’s Brothers. Chuck Jones had gone on the record before stating that he was never truly satisfied with Disney’s The Jungle Book and wanted to create something closer to Kipling’s tale of a foundling in India.
This dedication to accuracy shows up in the other shorts, as Jones never forgets where the stories originate. From the tempo established for various characters, to the multiple changes in postures and attitude…Jones poured himself into every frame. Out of the non Warner Brothers animated shorts, people tend to remember Rikki Tikki Tavi while forgetting the others. Hell, I’m guilty of it. That’s what this set is such a special surprise from the folks at Lions Gate.
I’ve spent the last several days rediscovering The White Seal and A Cricket in Times Square. The colour play of these later works has floored me, as I’ve come back to these tales with adult eyes. Those readers with children would do well to purchase this set and show their kids that animation is more than motion lines and fart jokes.
The Chuck Jones Collection looks as sharp as its probably ever going to look in standard definition. During heavy action scenes, there is some noise that appears during speedy animation, but this is normal for the older animated shorts that appear on DVD. Outside of the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes Golden Collection restorations, I’d be hard pressed to find any cartoon that doesn’t have such problems with their transfer. Still, it’s nothing to worry about as it doesn’t draw attention away from the feature.
The Chuck Jones Collection sports a Mono track that was the standard for broadcast in the 1970s. Younger viewers now won’t probably understand why everything was directed to one channel or why there wasn’t a more robust surround experience. The viewer doesn’t really need it. The track is spotless, as no sound of pop or crackle can be heard anywhere in the track. Sure, it’s not going to work out your home theatre, but it’s going to keep you in the story.
The only substantial extra on the set is a comprehensive documentary that looks at the work of Chuck Jones. Heart & Soul: The Animation of Chuck Jones takes a quick look at the life of the Father of Modern Animation. His widow, voice actress June Foray and others comment on their time spent with Chuck Jones and his work ethic. The audience is given quick clips of the six animated specials on the set, while we get a little bit of background on such productions as Rikki Tikki Tavi.
There’s nothing new to be found in this documentary, but it’s nice to hear some kind words about one of the most influential animators in history. Also included are a couple of trailers for some LionsGate kids’ titles.
The Chuck Jones Collection is a wonderful trip back into the primetime specials of our collective childhood. For some, Rikki Tikki Tavi will be the selling point. Others will make the purchase to have all three Cricket in Times Square animated shorts. Then, there are the people who still can’t get over how cute The White Seal remains. This is a nostalgia purchase, tried and true.
Take the time to reconnect with these animated shorts. Notice the careful line work and the scripting choices that Jones made to adapt these works. There’s amazing animation being shown onscreen, the kind of which that American audiences don’t get to see on a wide enough scale.
Review by Troy Anderson
Release Date: 6th November 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Heart & Soul: The Animation of Chuck Jones and Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chuck Jones
Cast: Orson Welles, June Foray, Les Tremayne, Roddy McDowall, Mel Blanc
Length: 150 minutes
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