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Fox Lorber presents

Cartoon Crazy's: Spooky Toons (2000)

"It's midnight on Zero Zero Island!!"- Narrator, The Lunar Luger

Stars: Popeye, Casper The Friendly Ghost
Other Stars: Betty Boop, Col. Bleep
Director: Various

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoon violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: 2000-10-03
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BC-B- C-


DVD Review

Certainly one of the most neglected areas of film restoration and preservation is animation. When cartoons were fairly new, the fascination with them led to an extremely interesting industry that constantly poured out material to be played in theaters everywhere. I think we've taken this heritage for granted, and who knows how many classic toons have been lost to time. For this reason, Winstar's Cartoon Crazys series is quite fascinating, bringing extremely obscure and ignored cartoons of yesteryear onto an archival material like DVD. This volume, Spooky Toons, focuses on Halloween-style toons, though some here are a little out of place.

The disc contains 12 cartoons, some that feature recognizable heroes like Popeye, Casper, and Betty Boop. The toons are, without question, some of the most unusual and oddly disturbing features I've seen in some time. I guess this is a by-product of how outlandish and bizarre these cartoons were in the 30's through 60's. Although there is meant to be an overall horror theme, some of the cartoons are awkwardly placed, like The Huffless, Puffless Dragon, a surreal, jive-speak-oriented, anti-smoking cartoon created by the American Cancer Society. Some of the cartoons are lost classics, like the famous BalloonLand (shown in edited form during the original PeeWee Herman stageshows) and the experimental silent feature Ouija Board. The Lunar Luger is a perfect little slice of late 50's/early 60's bizarro animation in the style of things like Clutch Cargo. One piece is even a classic George Pal Puppettoon, undoubtedly lost in time due to political correctness.

Speaking of political correctness, these cartoons AREN'T. If anything, some of them could be considered mildly racist towards African Americans. Minstrel Show references were fairly common in some old toons, and these are no exception, especially those with very racist caricature-style drawings. There may be some people disturbed by this, but considering the era, it's not surprising. I've never agreed to allowing a piece of film history to be left to the ravages of time, just because it's politically outdated. They're still part of the evolution of animation, regardless of the content.

What really makes this collection special, in my opinion, is that it contains some early work by noteworthy members of the old-school animation craze. Many of these toons are directed by the legendary Max Fleischer, whose animation career spanned decades and involved characters like Koko, Betty Boop, Popeye, and Superman. Some of the music is also composed by Carl Stalling, who went on to compose work for Looney Toons.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality varies, but overall, it's not very good. I'm going to assume the original source material was in awful condition because the video is, in all honesty, horrible. It's watchable, but the prints obviously have aged to the point of serious degradation. I'm not sure this can be heavily criticized considering the age factor. The transfer does bear some of the blame, though, since it seems to obviously have been a video tape to DVD transfer. Many tape-oriented flaws appear, like tracking errors, tape creases etc. I'm going to give the engineering crew some credit and assume that this was the best they could do given the fragility of what they were working with, and maybe video copies were all they could find. (Do the originals still exist?) So, working from that mindset, I'll upgrade the image from D quality to C-.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Here comes the controversial, and extremely weird part. The audio restoration on these cartoons has been formatted into a full Dolby Digital 51. mix, a Dolby 2.0 Surround Pro-Logic mix, and a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix. Many of the sound and general foley effects have been entirely redubbed and enhanced. The 5.1 and Pro-Logic mixes have expanded the sound field to encompass directionality, split surround effects, and bass extension. The stereo mix simply lacks surround information. Now, if this sounds odd, believe me, it is. There's nothing more unusual than watching a 30's era Betty Boop cartoon with ambient surround effects and directional action. The original soundtracks have been impressively cleaned up and seem firmly rooted in the center channel (which pretty much covers dialogue). Unfortunately, I'm not too sure this was a good idea. It's neat at first, but eventually becomes overused. Much of the flaws in the original soundtracks are enhanced by the new mixes, and surround channels often carry excessive noise and hiss. Heavy bass has been added in to add punch to any kind of impact in the cartoon. Again, this is interesting, but also a little weird after awhile. Purists might find this new soundtrack rather offensive, and I have to admit it's plainly obvious when new sound restoration has been done, but it really doesn't harm the artistic content at all and NO voices have been redubbed. As far as reconstructing audio goes, this is probably one of the most interesting DVDs on the market.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: I was frustrated that the disc does not contain credits for these cartoons. In any case, there's not much more to the disc other than the cartoons, but this comes as no surprise. The menus are fairly nice and are themed using characters from the material on the disc.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

The Cartoon Crazys series is, at the very least, archiving some very obscure animation. Even though the visual quality is extremely rough, the disc is still a lot of strange fun. Just in time for Halloween, this disc would make an unusual viewing experience for just about any party. Recommended.

Dan Lopez 2000-09-26