The Woody Woodpecker And Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Vol. 1 and 2: The Walter Lantz Archive(s) Review
Woody Woodpecker is one of the most underappreciated cartoon characters ever made. For many years, he and the rest of the Walter Lantz studio cartoons have remained in obscurity, living in the shadows of more well known studios like Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, Fleischer Studios, etc., etc. But now, these two DVD collections finally give modern audiences a chance to see this once mighty character (and friends) during their prime. And it's about time, i say.
Vol. 1 covers the first 45 shorts of Woody's career, starting with his debut in the 1940 Andy Panda short Knock Knock, up to The Great Who-Dood-It in 1952. While the series gets off to a slow start, James Culhunes direction keeps the series afloat-and by the time of Bathing Buddies, former Disney veteran Dick Lundy comes to Universal and improves everything-the timing, the jokes, the pacing, story structure, and so forth. While the series always suffered from low budget animation (compared to the other studios) they compensated with lively art and creative animation direction. I especially love Woody's insane looking design from his earliest shorts. Extra wise, they included interesting behind the scenes footage of Walter Lantz from the old Woody Woodpecker Show. There are also 30 bonus cartoons starring Oswald The Lucky Rabbit, Chilly Willy, Andy Panda, as well as some oneshot/minor character short subjects. The entertainment value varies from short to short, but it's still nice to see them included here.
Vol. 2 covers 45 more of his cartoons, from 1952 to 1958. While the cartoons have taken a serious hit in quality at this point, there's still some nice cartoons worth checking out on this. Another 30 bonus cartoons are included, with a nice selection of stuff this time. The extras include some more behind the scenes Walter Lantz footage.
The collections aren't perfect, though-the "restorations" of them are particularly questionable, since the prints are still rather aged looking, and there's even DVNR damage present on many of the shorts! It's not that noticable, but it's there and its shameful.
All the same, these are two nice collections that are a great place for beginning animators to study from and see some classic cartoons without having to sell an arm and leg. And for under 30$ for 75 cartoons a set, what have you got to lose?