Complete is not a complicated word. Something is either all inclusive, or it's not. Unfortunately, in the realm of DVD, definitions grow a little muddy and/or complicated. Entire seasons of seminal TV shows will be released without requisite music cues, and films like Fantasia, supposedly provided in their full theatrical form, are tweaked to remove material that would offend our modern PC-oriented audiences. So when Sony announces, in no uncertain terms, a "complete" collection of HarveyToons, the mind races. What exactly, in this studio's mind, equals comprehensive? Each and every example of Harvey's output from 1940 to 1990, unedited and complete with their full title screens and songs? The answer, sadly, is no. Similar to the approach taken by Paramount when they recently released their "uncut" Ren and Stimpy sets, what we have here are truncated offerings, missing their intros, credits and other minor elements. Granted, all the comic material is present, reminiscent of the days when animation was reduced to amiable anarchy. But there are other issues involved with HarveyToons: The Complete Collection, that need to be addressed. Fans freaking out over owning such a set should practice some cartoon caveat emptor before taking a trip to their local brick and mortar.
Consisting of several classic characters – Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch, Baby Huey, the elephantine infant duck, Buzzy, the Southern gentleman crow, the earnest and endearing Little Audrey, the fumbling feline Catnip and his arch nemesis, the New Yawk mouse Herman and the fabled duo come to life, Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare – the Harvey output has thrilled comic readers and cartoon lovers for decades. Incredibly popular during the '60s and '70s, these morning/afternoon kid vid classics may have frequently seemed like also-ran entries in the Warners/Disney animated paradigm. But the efforts of Paramount's Freedom Studios still manage - even today - to make some important artistic contributions. Perhaps most importantly, Harvey's "Modern Madcaps" used a jazz-influenced, hyperstylized scheme that tried to make its otherwise mini-morality plays hip and cool. Sometimes it worked – at other moments, the mannerism was forced and phony.
If you're more interested in aesthetic analysis and could care less about statistics and a massive list of available episodes, then skip down to the section entitled The DVD and pick up the examination from there. But for those lifelong lovers of the Harvey oeuvre who have waited patiently for DVD to catch up with their favorite comics, the next few sections are for you. Presented on four double sided discs, each offering nearly two and a half hours of Harvey goodness, this is a massive, and frequently intimidating set. Part of the problem is the lack of an episode guide. You literally have to insert a random DVD into your machine and play episode lotto. In that regard, this review has culled information from messageboards web wide to come up with what appears to be a definite listing of what this title has to offer. Specifically, here is what you will find on this "complete" collection:
Disc 1, Side A:
Show #1: Boo Moon – Casper/ Dizzy Dishes - Little Audrey/ Out of This Whirl/ Clip: Invention Convention
Show #2: Mouse Trapeze - Herman & Katnip/ Casper Comes to Clown – Casper/ Jolly the Clown/ Clip: Clown on the Farm - Baby Huey
Show #3: Scout Fellow - Baby Huey/ Boo Scout – Casper/ Scouting for Trouble/ Clip: Northwest Mousie - Herman & Katnip
Show #4: Cat Tamale - Herman & Katnip/ Bull Fright – Casper/ Pedro and Lorenzo/ Clip: Fiesta Time
Show #5: Once Upon a Rhyme - Casper, Wolfie/ Little Audrey Riding Hood – Little Audrey/ Dante Dreamer/ Clip: Winner by a Hare - Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare
Show #6: Mousetro Herman - Herman & Katnip/ Boo Bop – Casper/ Animal Fair/ Clip: Vegetable Vaudeville
Show #7: Huey's Ducky Daddy - Baby Huey/ The Seapreme Court - Little Audrey/Feast and Furious - Finny & Katnip/ Clip: Casper's Spree Under the Sea
Disc 2, Side B:
Show #8: Herman the Catoonist - Herman & Katnip/ Ghost of Honor – Casper/ Rabbit Punch - Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare/ Clip: Tweet Music
Show #9: Which is Witch - Casper, Wendy/ Case of the Cockeyed Canary - Little Audrey/ Perry Popgun/ Clip: Sleuth But Sure - Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare
Show #10: Mice Meeting You - Herman & Katnip/ True Boo – Casper/ Jumping with Toy - Baby Huey/ Clip: Ice Scream - Casper
Show #11: Boos and Saddles – Casper/ Git Along Little Ducky - Baby Huey
Shootin' Stars/ Clip: Cat Carson Rides Again - Herman & Katnip
Show #12: Casper Takes a Bow Wow – Casper/ Dawg Gone - Little Audrey/ Fido Beta Kappa/ Clip: By Leaps and Hounds
Show #13: Cat in the Act - Herman & Katnip/ Ghost Writers – Casper/ Top Cat/ Clip: Starting from Hatch - Baby Huey
Show #14: Swab the Duck - Baby Huey/ Deep Boo Sea – Casper/ Ship-a-Hooey - Herman & Katnip/ Clip: Drippy Mississippi
Disc 2, Side A:
Show #15: Of Mice and Menace - Herman & Katnip/ Ghost of the Town – Casper/ TV Fuddlehead/ Clip: Law and Audrey - Little Audrey
Show #16: Do or Diet – Casper/ You Said a Mouseful - Herman & Katnip/ The Voice of the Turkey/ Clip: Hysterical History
Show #17: Mice-Capades - Herman & Katnip/ Fright from Wrong – Casper/ Crazytown/ Clip: Houndabout
Show #18: One Funny Knight - Herman & Katnip/ Red, White, and Boo – Casper/ Silly Science/ Clip: Dizzy Dinosaurs
Show #19: Boo Kind to Animals – Casper/ Surf Bored - Little Audrey/ Okey Dokey Donkey/ Clip: Fun at the Fair
Show #20: Robin Rodenthood - Herman & Katnip Cage Fright – Casper/ Bopin Hood/ Clip: Hold the Lion Please - Little Audrey
Show #21: Good Scream Fun – Casper/ Mouseum - Herman & Katnip/ Fine/ Feathered Fiend/ Clip: Forest Fantasy
Disc 2, Side B:
Show #22: Drinks on the Mouse - Herman & Katnip/ Pig-a-Boo - Casper, Wolfie/ News Hound/ Clip: Trick or Tree
Show #23: Owly to Bed - Herman & Katnip/ Boo-Hoo Baby – Casper/ Bouncing Benny/ Clip: Hound About That
Show #24: Ground Hog Play – Casper/ Sock-a-Bye Kitty - Buzzy & Katnip/ Talking Horse Sense/ Clip: Aero-Nutics
Show #25: Party Smarty - Baby Huey/ Casper's Birthday Party – Casper/ Miceniks/ Clip: Mighty Termite
Show #26: Zero the Hero – Casper/ Cat-Choo - Buzzy & Katnip/ Finnegan's Flea/ Clip: No Place Like Rome
Show #27: City Kitty – Katnip/ Spooking About Africa – Casper/ Travelaffs/ Clip: Without Time or Reason
Show #28: Of Mice and Magic - Herman & Katnip/ Puss N Boos – Casper/ Funderful Suburbia/ Clip: The Boss is Always Right
Disc 3, Side A:
Show #29: To Boo or Not to Boo – Casper/ Mousieur Herman - Herman & Katnip/ Good and Guilty/ Clip: Miners 49ers
Show #30: Boos and Arrows – Casper/ Fiddle Faddle/ Land of the Lost Watches/ Clip: Fishing Tackler - Little Audrey
Show #31: Pest Pupil - Baby Huey/ Hooky Spooky – Casper/ Kozmo Goes to School/ Clip: Busy Buddies
Show #32: One Quack Mind - Baby Huey/ Heir Restorer – Casper/ Cool Cat Blues/ Clip: Surf and Sound - Herman & Katnip
Show #33: Boo Ribbon Winner – Casper/ Goodie the Gremlin/ Cape Kidnaveral/ Clip: Candy Cabaret
Show #34: Monkey Doodles/ Hide and Shriek – Casper/ Popcorn and Politics/ Clip: Snooze Reel
Disc 3, Side B:
Show #35: Little Boo Peep – Casper/ Trouble Date/ The Shoe Must Go On/ Clip: Gag and Baggage
Show #36: A Bicep Built for Two - Herman & Katnip/ North Pal – Casper/ The Kid from Mars/ Clip: Counter Attack
Show #37: Huey's Father's Day - Baby Huey/ Peek-a-Boo – Casper/ Lion in the Roar/ Clip: Fresh Yeggs
Show #38: Sky Scrappers - Herman & Katnip/ By the Old Mill Scream – Casper/ Poop Goes the Weasel/ Clip: From Dime to Dime
Show #39: Audrey the Rainmaker - Little Audrey/ Casper Genie – Casper/ Right Off the Bat/ Clip: TV or Not TV
Show #40: From Mad to Worse - Herman & Katnip/ Doing What's Fright – Casper/ Stork Raving Mad/ Clip: Hi-Fi Jinx
Disc 4, Side A:
Show #41: Hide and Peak - Herman & Katnip/ La Petite Parade/ The Oily Bird/ Sir Irving and Jeames
Show #42: Down to Mirth – Casper/ Turtle Scoop - Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare
The Inquisit Visit/ Katnip's Big Day - Herman & Katnip, Buzzy
Show #43: Keep Your Grin Up - Casper/ L'Amour the Merrier/ Possum Pearl/ Clip: Disguise the Limit
Show #44: Not Ghoulty – Casper/ Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Buzzy & Katnip/ Galaxia/ Grateful Gus
Show #45: Penguin For Your Thoughts – Casper/ Mr. Money Gags - Tommy Tortoise & Moe Hare/ Electronica/ Quack A Doodle Doo - Baby Huey
Show #46: Spook and Span – Casper/ Mice Paradise - Herman & Katnip/ Cock-a-Doodle Dino/ Kitty Cornered
Disc 4, Side B:
Show #47: Felineous Assault - Herman & Katnip/Dutch Treat – Casper/Fit to be Toyed/Party Smarty - Baby Huey
Show #48: Rail Rodents - Herman & Katnip/ Spook No Evil – Casper/ Mike the Masquerader/ Better Bait Than Never - Buzzy & Katnip
Show #49:Spunky Skunky – Casper/ The Awful Tooth - Buzzy & Katnip/ The Planet Mouseola/ Clip: Off We Glow
Show #50:Line of Screamage – Casper/ As the Crow Lies - Buzzy & Katnip/ The Lion's Busy/ Sportickles
Show #51: Spooking with a Brogue – Casper/ Will Do Mousework - Herman & Katnip/ Be Mice to Cats/ The Phantom Moustacher
Show #52: Frightday the 13th – Casper/ Frighty Cat - Herman & Katnip/ Spooking of Ghosts/ Cane and Able
Once again, this seems like a staggering list. But others have pointed out that, even with the amount of content provided, there are still some substantial gaps in the presentation. This package lacks all the TV Caspers and Ritchie Richs that were added to the series later on in its run. In fact, there are a few gaps that may worry the Harvey hungry. Here's a breakdown of the different characters and their corresponding cartoon ratio:
Casper - 51 of his 53 theatrical shorts presented complete (96%)
Audrey - 7 of her 10 theatrical shorts presented complete (70%)
Huey - 10 of his 12 theatrical shorts presented complete (83%)
Buzzy - 6 of 7 theatrical shorts presented complete (85%)
Herman & Katnip - 27 of 31 theatrical shorts presented complete (83 %)
Tommy Tortoise and Moe Hare - 3 or 6 theatrical shorts presented complete (50%)
This critic would like to thank GoldenAgeCartoons.com for its contribution to the informational insight into the box set's content and the numerous issues and omissions. A link to a thread discussing the collection can be found here
The HarveyToons' catalog, a renaming of various animated shorts created by Paramount's Famous Studios in the '40s and '50s represents perhaps the most bizarre dichotomy in any cartoon canon. On the one hand, the narratives presented are rooted directly in the long standing concept of violence vs. vindication that has festooned pen and ink funny business since the artforms introduction. This is further instigated by the contrasts in protagonist and antagonist, from tortoise/hare, cat/mouse, or the slightly more unreal ghost/human dynamic. Equally sweet and sinister, hilarious and horrifying, the HarveyToons represent the last link between the Golden era realm of theatrical presentations and the brave new living room world of television. They seem to signify the moment when cartoons were leaving the confines of the movie house and making their appearance on the small screen. Within the Harvey framework the decidedly adult nature of the Warner Brothers efforts was meshed with emerging Disney's desire to make focused familiar family fare. The result is the odd combination of cruelty and cleverness that sees witty rejoinders and complex puns lead to open brutality and slightly madcap mayhem. One thing's for certain in the Harvey arena – hi-jinx always ensue, and subtlety is abandoned for massive pie in the face fracases.
Unquestionably driven by personality and character idiosyncrasy, and relying a great deal on slapstick and other silent movie set-pieces, enjoyment of these efforts beyond the broad and dedicated fan base – this critic included – will definitely rest on your ability to cotton to the comedy styles of several decades past. For most animation aficionados, the genre works best when reality is stretched, physical laws are defied, and outrageous creatures wreck their special brand of unholy – and unrealistic - havoc. That's why the Baby Huey cartoons (featuring a freakish infant duck in a oversized diaper and bonnet) play so much better than the cutesy saccharine pap of Little Audrey and her hackneyed wholesomeness. Even when a toon pushes the limits of PC acceptability (as with their wisecracking crow character Buzzy), crazy wins out over cloying most of the time. It's the inherent problem with almost all the Casper shorts. On the one hand, the entire premise is based in a clever amalgamation of so-called sophistication (by the mostly metropolitan citizenry) and superstition. But the friendly ghost is so syrupy, whining like a little wuss over being lonely and friendless, that you'll wonder why anyone – spectral or human – would want to be his pal. Similarly, Herman and Catnip can't compare with Tom and Jerry, or Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks, for that matter. Their characters are too crude, without any of the refined elements that make other feline and rodent duos so memorable. Still the outlandish physical comedy, almost Stooge level in its brutality, manages to carry most of these installments and keeps them from completely collapsing into irrelevancy.
Interestingly enough, the best material here is contained in the surreal, ridiculously retro "Madcap Capers". Featuring people with faces made up of geometrically opposed angles and backdrops that exemplify masterful minimalism (while hinting at the Harvey's substantially lower production budgets), these exercises in expressionism and brain-draining bohemia really spice up the presentation. Almost satiric in their view of suburbia, the typical American household and the breakneck pace of a Camelot-era rat race, the "Capers" definitely focus their efforts at older members in the audience, relying on a familiar comic style that sees men as masters of their domain and women as the weaker – if still wiser – sex. It makes for a very odd juxtaposition. On the one hand, you will have Casper crying because a group of baby geese won't cotton to his company, only to be followed by an artistically avant-garde look at politics. One of the best elements of HarveyToons: The Complete Collection, is the chance to see all facets of the program's output. All missing aspects aside, this is a great set, especially for those of us more interested in entertainment and nostalgia that absolute perfect preservation.
It has to be said – these cartoons look amazing. The 1.33:1 full screen image presented by Sony uses the masters ported over from the '90s version of the series (which appeared on the Fox Family Channel before heading over the Cartoon Network's sister station Boomerang) and the transfers are truly terrific. The toons themselves are bright, colorful, clear as a bell and loaded with intricate details. You can see the amount of fine finish work – and in some cases, the lack thereof – thanks to these impressive presentations. While other animated efforts occasionally get the short shrift, visually speaking, the HarveyToons here look great.
One of the main features fans were worried about when considering this "complete" collection is what soundtrack Sony would end up using. Again, back at the beginning of the '90s, the HarveyToons were "revamped" with new music, horrid replacement voice work, and updated dialogue to make them appear hip and contemporary. Naturally, purists had a series of mini-strokes. Thankfully, this DVD release has gone back to the original audio – even giving Buzzy the Crow (and his incredibly non-PC particulars) his frequently problematic pronouncements. The Dolby Digital Stereo is a tad tinny, especially when dealing with the inherent Mono of the cartoons themselves, and many of us do miss the theme songs (this critic in particular has a weakness for the Little Audrey and Baby Huey themes). Still, from a purely technical perspective, this four disc set is sensational.
None to speak of, and that's sort of sad. Since they've been out of the limelight for quite a while, Sony should expect to add a little merchandising incentive – read: added content – to increase interest among non-members of the HarveyToon faithful.
It really is hard to hate the Harveytoons. While they don't represent the cream of the critical crop when it comes to classic cartoons from the artform's populist era, they are endearing and delightful in their own peculiar ways. Easily earning a Highly Recommended for both quantity AND quality, anyone who remembers the exaggerated gestures of a Casper frightened human, Baby Huey's Joe Besser in a diaper routine, Herman's Brooklyn bray, or Audrey's pixie-ish personality will simply adore these DVDs. Granted, the "complete" title is an unfortunate flim flam, troubling in an information age setting where people can prove said proclamations erroneous with just a quick glance at Google, this is still an impressive attempt to give these long forgotten favorites a new place in the post-modern animation arena. You may not find each and every episode sidesplitting, but it's impossible not to appreciate the gentle humor and schizophrenic style of these cartoons. While far from all inclusive, there is still a lot to love about this selection of HarveyToons.
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