The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection (July 24/07)
Even if you’ve never actually seen a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, odds are that you’re familiar with his distinctive, mocking laughter. That’s a testament to Woody’s lasting appeal, and to the impact that he’s had on the pop-culture landscape. Though he’s never been as famous as, say, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, there will always be a place in the pantheon of great cartoon characters for Woody Woodpecker. That’s why it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for a decent collection of his cartoons to be released on DVD. But it’s finally here, and while it isn’t without its flaws, it’s still a pretty solid collection of cartoons.
This set comes with seventy-five cartoons, though they don’t all feature Woody Woodpecker (more on that in a bit). All in all, there are forty-five cartoons here featuring the Woodpecker himself. They are presented in chronological order, starting with his first appearance (in an Andy Panda cartoon). The cartoons – generally featuring Woody Woodpecker antagonizing some hapless victim – range in quality from very good to mediocre (fortunately there are more of the former than the latter). These cartoons are classics, no doubt, but they generally lack the polish and comic zing of the best of the Looney Tunes.
But what of the other thirty cartoons on this set, the “and Friends” portion of Woody Woodpecker and Friends? These include five Andy Panda shorts, five Chilly Willy shorts, five black and white Oswald shorts, and fifteen other miscellaneous cartoons. The highlight here, I think, is the five Oswald cartoons on the first disc. These feature the type of “rubber hose” or “squash and stretch” animation that made cartoons from the silent era and the 1930s so distinctive and charming. There are also some gems among the other cartoons, such as the rarity Abou Ben Boogie, which wasn’t shown on TV and has never seen any kind of release on home video, and Sh-h-h-h-h-h , Tex Avery’s final theatrical cartoon.
Though it has taken a surprisingly long time, Woody Woodpecker has finally received a decent DVD release, and for the most part it was worth the wait. The addition of a significant number of non-Woody Woodpecker Walter Lantz cartoons just sweetens the deal, as it’s unlikely that these cartoons have the type of mainstream appeal to justify their own release. Any serious fan of classic animation is certainly going to want to buy this set, but I think there are enough good cartoons here to recommend this collection to anyone with even a passing interest in animation.