February 16, 2020

TEX AVERY Unleashed

Directed by Tex Avery. (138 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Of all the directors who lurked the halls of Termite Terrace during the early years of Looney Tunes, Tex Avery was perhaps the most influential...and uninhibited. After leaving Warner Brothers, he set-up shop over at MGM and took most of the madness with him.

While his former studio subsequently refined its characters – some which he helped create – into those which remain beloved today, Avery continued his unrestrained brand of animated anarchy. His MGM shorts were seldom as witty, nor did he create any characters as endearing as Porky Pig or Daffy Duck (though I suppose Droopy Dog might come close). However, they are brilliantly animated and – retroactively speaking – unhampered by the boundaries of good taste.

One only needs to look at the opening short, “Red Hot Riding Hood,” to realize political correctness was hardly a priority. Violent and risque for its time, it’s an amusing spin on the classic fairy tale that showcases not-only Avery’s penchant for breaking the fourth wall, but a title character who was an obvious inspiration for Jessica Rabbit. Elsewhere, when viewed from a modern perspective, 'toons like “Big Heel-Watha” are almost shockingly offensive.

"You're no Sandy Cheeks, but I guess you'll do."
But historically speaking, this disc is indispensable, a compilation of 19 shorts made during Avery’s tenure at MGM, beautifully restored and completely uncut. From classic one-offs to recurring characters like Droopy Dog and Screwy Squirrel, this is a nice sampling of the director’s work. In addition to “Red Hot Riding Hood,” stand-out shorts include “Bad Luck Blackie,” “Who Killed Who?” and the brilliant “Symphony in Slang,” all one-shot cartoons which indicate Avery was ultimately more gifted at manic storytelling than conceiving memorable characters. In fact, Screwy Squirrel remains such a supremely obnoxious creation that the four shorts included here are simply irritating. Even at his naughtiest, at-least Bugs Bunny was likable.

Still, Screwy was a significant part of Avery’s oeuvre and Tex Avery Screwball Classics is a terrific overview of the director’s MGM-era shorts. Considering the copious amounts of violence, racial stereotyping and objectified female characters, these cartoons probably aren’t appropriate for kids or anyone looking for reasons to be offended. But modern animation wouldn’t be what it is today if not for pioneers like Tex Avery.


No comments: