I was so psyched when I saw that Rikki-Tiki-Tavi, one of my favorite childhood cartoons, based on a Rudyard Kipling story and brought to animation life by Chuck Jones in 1975, was being released on DVD, this time along with bonus cartoon Yankee Doodle Cricket, once again featuring Chester C. Cricket. So, is serpent killing mongoose Rikki-Tiki-Tavi still as awesome as I remember him?
Who better than Orson Welles to narrate this chilling little tale? This is the story of Rikki-Tiki-Tavi, a mongoose found nearly drowned after a storm by a young boy named Teddy. Despite his mother's concerns, Teddy's dad says he can keep the frisky Rikki. Rikki is curious and rambunctious, but as a mongoose, he instinctively knows that it is his job to fight off the evil snakes that live in the garden outside Teddy's home. With the help of a muskrat and some birds, he plans to keep Teddy and his family safe from two devilishly evil Cobras who are stalking the family—in a battle to the death. As a child with a dark imagination, I loved the scary aspects of this cartoon. The cobras were freaky and evil, and talked with a hiss. And even Rikki, while cute, cuddly and adorable, would get these demonic red eyes whenever it was time to get into a fight. I have no doubt that today, many kids would also like these dark aspects of the cartoon, while others might be too scared. I do have a couple of issues watching it years later. First, there's the annoying singing done by the bird character in what is otherwise not a musical. It seems out of place. And secondly—the cartoon, particularly the snake/mongoose battles, are so much shorter and less epic than I remember them! It's incredible how much your perspective changes when you grow up, huh?
As for Yankee Doodle Cricket, while it's a weird entry in the cricket series, it's probably the one I enjoyed the most. It's much more like a Chuck Jones cartoon, where crazy, trippy situations are going on all over the place rather than following a real storyline. Basically, Tucker the Mouse and Harry the Cat rewrite history, including themselves and Chester C. Cricket as the key ingredients in major events, including the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere's ride, and the naming of the "United States of America." But the highlight is when the characters compose the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy," using the sounds of nature and animals to orchestrate it. This is a gem in the otherwise dull cricket series.
I've said it before in my other two reviews for this series, and I'll say it again. The Chuck Jones Kipling/Cricket combos, presented in their original 1:33:1 aspect ratio, are visually aged, with grainy images and a plethora of specs and dust. The color could also have had a bit more vibrancy. The commercial fades have been left intact also.
This mono is once again sharp and clear, but needs to be turned loud.
Each cartoon has 8 chapter breaks, and when you insert the disc, the same previews from the other discs in the series start automatically, and this is the only way they can be seen, because they are not selectable from the menu.
Rikki-Tiki-Tavi/Yankee Doodle Cricket is definitely the best combo of the bunch featuring Rudyard Kipling stories teamed with Chester C. Cricket episodes. While dark like the other Kipling adaptations by Chuck Jones, Rikki has a bit more character and charm. The inclusion of this particular episode of the cricket tales is an added bonus, because it's also the lightest and most entertaining of the cricket episodes.