‘Mouse Chronicles: A Chuck Jones Collection’ Announced

And here I was thinking that we wouldn’t get any Looney Tunes news until San Diego Comic Con. No doubt that will feature an announcement of the 2nd Platinum Collection (at least I hope…), but for now we have this: a new collection of 19 of Chuck Jones’ cartoons from 1938-1951 featuring his stars who were mice: Sniffles; and Hubie & Bertie. The collection is out August 28th on both DVD and Blu-Ray.

Jerry Beck notes that it was originally part of the ‘Super Stars’ sets we’ve seen the last few years, which is why you don’t see any other one-shot mice here, just the ‘stars’. Of course, I put stars in air quotes for a reason. Sniffles and Hubie & Bertie are not exactly Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The name that’s selling the discs here is Chuck Jones.

A list of the contents:

Naughty but Mice
Little Brother Rat
Sniffles and the Bookworm
Sniffles Takes a Trip
The Egg Collector
Bedtime for Sniffles
Sniffles Bells the Cat
Toy Trouble
The Brave Little Bat
The Unbearable Bear
Lost and Foundling
Hush my Mouse
The Aristo-Cat
Trap Happy Porky
Roughly Squeaking
House Hunting Mice
Mouse Wreckers
The Hypo-Chondri-Cat
Cheese Chasers

The first 12 cartoons on this set range from 1938 to 1946, and star Sniffles. Sniffles was named from his debut, Naughty but Mice, where he has a cold. Despite lacking the cold in his other cartoons, the name stuck. Most of the first 9 cartoons on here feature Chuck’s ponderous, slow, Disney-imitating style. Sniffles is cute rather than funny, and a lot of his more cloying cartoons can be very trying for the adult viewer – or indeed anyone over the age of two.

That said, there are some interesting cartoons here. Sniffles and the Bookworm is a ‘things come to life’ cartoon, albeit a more serious example of the form. The Brave Little Bat features Sniffles trying to deal with a loudmouth bat who absolutely won’t stop talking. And Sniffles’ final 3 cartoons, made in the mid-40s after a three year break, are much funnier and Chuck Jones-ish. Ironically, Sniffles undergoes a personality transplant in them, going from cute and adorable to being unable to shut up or go away – that’s right, exactly like the bat in his last cute cartoon.

The real treat here, even if it involves the most double dipping from prior Golden Collections, is the 2nd half of this set, featuring seven cartoons with Hubie & Bertie (from 1943-1951). These are Jones near the top of his game, and are some of my all-time favorites. They only have a cameo in Trap Happy Porky (one of Jones’ rare mid-40s Porky efforts), but the other 6 have them taking center stage. Hubie & Bertie get what they want, not by violence or cute mischief, but by psychological damage. Seeing them break the mind of Claude Cat is a thing of beauty.

As I noted above, there’s some double dipping here. Four of the seven Hubie & Bertie cartoons have been on prior Golden Collections – Trap Happy Porky, Roughly Squeaking, and House Hunting Mice are new to DVD. Sniffles fares better. Only Sniffles Takes A Trip has shown up (unrestored) on a prior collection. This means 14 cartoons here are new to DVD.

The reason I like this collection so much is because Jerry Beck had noted previously that Warner Brothers had asked them to focus their restoration only on cartoons made after 1953 (as they could be released widescreen). The cartoons on this collection feature precisely zero from that period, and 3 from the 1930s. Given my goal is every cartoon restored and on DVD, this is a big step in that direction. (I am presuming they will also be uncut – though there’s very little to object to here. Hubie & Bertie have some typical cartoon violence. I think Toy Trouble has a blackface gag.)

Buy Warner Brothers cartoon DVD/Blu-Ray sets and support restoration of even more classics! Sniffles will thank you. Probably in a cute, adorable way.

EDIT 7/27/12:

They’ve announced a list of bonus cartoons that will come with this set. it’s not clear if they will be restored or not, but most of them are quite rare these days, so it’ll be great to see them anyway.

The Country Mouse (1935, Friz Freleng) – A mouse dreams of being a boxer, but the big city proves his undoing.
The Lyin’ Mouse (1937, Friz Freleng) – A mouse, trying to save his skin, tells a cat the story of the Lion and the Mouse. Freleng is starting to find his feet here – great WB-style cynical ending.
The Mice Will Play (1938, Tex Avery) – One of Avery’s attempts at doing a ‘cutesy’ musical cartoon, this gets away with it mostly thanks to the end gag.
Little Blabbermouse (1940, Friz Freleng) – The first of two shorts featuring a W.C. Fields mouse and a kis mouse who never stops talking. Influenced the later Sniffles cartoons.
Shop Look & Listen (1940, Friz Freleng) – And this is the 2nd of those.
Mouse Mazurka (1949, Friz Freleng) – Sylvester chases after a mouse while the cartoon is set to various Eastern European musical themes. Friz timed to music is best Friz.
Mouse-Warming (1952, Chuck Jones) – Claude Cat without Hubie and Bertie, interfering with two teenage mice nd their romance. Some gunplay, edited from TV, should return here.
Mouse-Taken Identity (1957, Robert McKimson) – This is a Hippety Hopper cartoon, set in a museum. It features the gags you see in all the Hippety Hopper cartoons, as well as Sylvester, Jr. Also had edited gun scenes that should be restored.
Mice Follies (1960, Robert McKimson) – The last of McKimson’s Honeymooners parodies with mice, and the only one not yet on DVD.
It’s Nice to Have a Mouse Around the House (1965, Friz Freleng) – The first cartoon pairing Speedy Gonzalez with Daffy Duck, for better or worse. Also has Sylvester in a cameo. At least Freleng directs this.
Merlin the Magic Mouse (1967, Alex Lovy) – One of Warner’s late 60s attempts to create new marketable characters, and probably one of the better ones (though still not that good). Another WC Fields parody.

Now there’s even ore reason to buy it!

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