As a kid, I was never a huge Dr. Seuss fan and my opinion hasn't changed much, mostly due to a dislike for his particular visual style and the "art" of creating nonsense words for the sake of easy rhyming. There are exceptions, at least partially: I quite enjoy How the Grinch Stole Christmas, at least until our hero returns the presents to those noisy little brats. Such a cold, detached opinion of harmless source material may seem a little excessive...but hey, at least I'm honest. I can admit that Seuss' contributions to children's literature changed the pop culture landscape, while his co-creation of the "Beginner Books" imprint led to the publication of countless kids' classics by the likes of P.D. Eastman, Al Perkins and Stan & Jan Berenstain.
Aside from The Grinch, I'm also a little soft for The Cat in the Hat (1957), perhaps Seuss' most popular and enduring creation. The original book used a simplified style of mostly monosyllabic words; in short, it was an exercise in simplicity that paid off well. 1971's animated adaptation is the subject of today's review, which beefed up the basic vocabulary and story elements to please a broader age group. Armed with plenty of terrific voice actors---including Allan Sherman (The Cat), Daws Butler (Karlos) and Thurl Ravenscroft (Thing #1), among others---and terrific songs by Dean Elliott and Dr. Seuss himself, this imaginative 24-minute tale really aims to please. I'll admit it's not quite as effective or memorable as the source material, but any excuse to watch animation produced by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng is good enough in my book.
The Cat in the Hat remains an entertaining slice of 1970s animation, whether you're enjoying it on a rainy day or not. Warner Bros.' Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack, unfortunately, is a little thin on value: sure, the visual presentation is great and having it on both formats is a nice touch, but the lack of compelling bonus features (and less than 90 minutes of total content) makes this a tough sell. It didn't work for Peanuts, and history has a particular way of repeating itself.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Without question, this 1080p transfer of The Cat in the Hat looks excellent, and it's easily on par with The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Peanuts Deluxe Editions. Colors are incredibly crisp and vibrant with no excessive bleeding to speak of, while contrast, image detail and black levels are all consistently strong. No major digital imperfections could be spotted along the way, rounding out the visual presentation quite nicely. The DVD isn't as impressive in comparison, though: there's notable interlacing and mild artifacts on occasion, but it's still pretty watchable.
NOTE: This review's screen captures were taken from the DVD copy and do not represent Blu-Ray's video quality.
The audio presentation is only slightly disappointing, due to Warner Bros.' continued practice of sticking with lossy Dolby Digital audio when it comes to vintage mono mixes. I doubt a DTS-HD Master Audio track would've made a world of difference, but it's not like this Blu-Ray didn't have room to spare. Dialogue and music are nonetheless crisp and clear, so fans shouldn't find much to complain about. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, these plain-wrap menus combine smooth design and simple navigation. The 24-minute main feature has been divided into 4 chapters, but a selection screen is only present on the Blu-Ray. This two-disc release is housed in a dual-hubbed keepcase and includes an embossed matching slipcover and no insert. Both discs are locked for Region A/1 playback.
Not much, and most of it is unfortunately of lesser quality. The only Cat
-specific extra is a Sing-Along Option
, if you'd like to follow the excellent music cues. Otherwise, we also get two other Seuss animated shorts: The Hoober-Bloob Highway
(1975) and Daisy-Head Mayzie
(1995), which are definitely less than classics but still worth a watch for Seuss fans. Unfortunately, these don't look anywhere near as good as the main feature, whether you're watching the Blu-Ray or the DVD: Hoober-Bloob
is heavy pixellated with jagged edges, while Daisy-Head
is downright bootleg quality with faded colors and noticeable ghosting. No optional subtitles, either.
Featuring colorful animation, wonderful voice acting and memorable music cues, The Cat in the Hat still holds up well. This 1971 short is solid entertainment that kids of all ages will enjoy...and whether you prefer the original book or this animated adaptation, we can all agree the Mike Myers movie pales in comparison. Warner Bros.' Blu-Ray Combo Pack isn't their strongest effort, however, aside from the crisp video transfer: featuring lossy sound, only two minor (and unrestored) bonus shorts and an inflated price tag, it's only worth a purchase for serious Seuss fanatics that plan to watch it regularly. For everyone else, a weekend spin will do. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.