Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Public Domain Toons on VHS

Hello there; I've decided that to gone up with an idea that instead of JUST having blog posts of me reviewing old cartoons; I've decided to talk about other WB merchandise from the later era and talk about what may be an interest to you - like me scheduling short posts on them during the week.

A while ago I've been thinking a lot about the Warner Bros. cartoons and learning about which Warner cartoons are in the public domain. As I've found the list that informs us which cartoons are available to the public. I then realized that all of the cartoons that I used to have on VHS have fallen into the public domain. I recalled an old Looney Tunes VHS set in which I looked at my old cupboard of old video tapes; and I found the cover. So; I hope this VHS set is rare enough for you and take a look at my copy of the cover. 

Yep - this is the first volume of Over One Hour of Cartoons. For those who were old enough to remember that; many people had these tapes back in the 1980s and this tape actually belonged to my Dad who bought this back in Hong Kong when he used to live there for work in the '80s. The copyright year is 1987 which is ironic for me because I know that the year '87 was the year of the Great Storm of 1987 in the South East of England - but THAT'S a different story.

On the cover you'll find Bugs and Daffy there; and you'd probably think "Oh; Bugs and Daffy - I imagine that they've got some 1950s classic cartoons" for us. Well; since the video company could only get access to those in the public domains. The cartoons on the VHS cover are no later than 1943. The most ironic part is that THIS box set is the WRONG one for the VHS tape I used to own. The tape had different WB public domain cartoons from what is mentioned at the back with the episode features. The back lists some classics like Falling Hare, The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, The Wacky Wabbit, etc. as well as one-shot cartoons made in the 1930s. My VHS tape had different cartoons.

Unfortunately I have no idea of the whereabouts of the VHS tape (or I just haven't dug deeper enough), but I do recall the cartoons that were there off by heart as I revisited them years later. The cartoons that I remember on that tape were:
  • Fresh Hare
  • To Duck or Not to Duck
  • Daffy the Commando
  • Case of the Missing Hare
  • All This and Rabbit Stew (Censored 11)
  • Foney Fables
  • Bars and Stripes Forever
  • Boy Meets Dog! (Lantz)
  • Rookie Revue
...and that's about it.  You may be stumped about why there was one Walter Lantz cartoon in there - but this set was called "One Hour of Cartoons" even though it has Looney Tunes all over - it does feature other studios if I recall. Watch the top of the episode features on my VHS back cover; "The Lone Star State" is listed there which is a Screen Songs cartoon made by Famous Studios. All This and Rabbit Stew is of course a Censored 11 - and it was vowed that they wouldn't be shown in public merchandise like DVD, VHS, etc. but here it is shown on my tape.

What I remember the most was that in the cartoons I saw - it didn't have the rings logo for the "Looney Tunes" or "Merrie Melodies" it just went straight on to the title card with the theme music played in the background - as though the title card was just frozen before going on film - it was featured on most cartoons. I recall that when a short finished; the "That's All, Folks" slogan wasn't included - just a blank card with "The End" titles showing. Was this to avoid copyright or something from Warner Bros. or something? I don't quite understand.

Notice the sticker on my back part of the box set that reads in small letters Recorded at Standard Speed - Quality Guaranteed. Well - this was in very low quality as the colors in those cartoons were mostly reddened and completely unrestored which would be disappointing today compared to quality standards these days - but remember this tape is dated back in 1987 where shorts hadn't been restored for DVD sales back then.

I stumbled upon a tape at my boarding school (but I remember this YEARS ago - probably back to late 2005) and there was an old video tape that showed Daffy Duck cartoons.

Courtesy of Amazon.co.uk
Here is a British VHS front cover (from the 1980s) that was titled "The Daffy Duck Show" - although the illustrations at the front look terrible - Daffy's beak looks like a Woodpecker. Now; the tape at my school is most likely to be lost now but I do recall watching it when no-one else was around when I was 9 years old. The cartoons showed Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur, Yankee Doodle Daffy, Daffy - the Commando and To Duck...Or Not to Duck - all in the public domain. It was funny since I recalled watching "Commando" and "To Duck..." on my tape and I still wondered why they showed it until I learnt about the public domain system a few years later. The VHS copy isn't mine - I got it off Amazon.

I'm not writing this post as though I have a grudge on public domain cartoons (even though they showed great cartoons but in poor quality). I'm writing this which brings back my memories when I first grew up with the Looney Tunes and watching them the first time in this condition. Of course; some might say your first WB cartoon you saw would be on Boomerang, or Cartoon Network watching classics like "Duck Amuck" or "One Froggy Evening", but I just happened to have seen the first of these cartoons before 1943 and in the public domain as I've grown up to like them. This was before I got to watch them on TV and discovered even more characters like Yosemite Sam, Sylvester & Tweety or even Road Runner - since I saw at the start were just Schlesinger cartoons - I'm not saying it's a bad thing at all but I just thought I'd tell you that I didn't grow up with the famous Looney Tunes we ALL know until a little later. I was pleased to see the same cartoons I grew to love in better conditions by the great Warner Bros. restoration team. At the time I didn't know what were the greatest Looney Tunes cartoons and I didn't care much; I watched what I liked and I grew to like them. The spark of watching those cartoons is still there as I still like them - even though some of those cartoons may only have a "few moments".

I could go on so long about this post discussing this - but I might talk a bit more about those cartoons in public domain conditions soon; and compare them to the restored version. Hope you've enjoyed.


  1. Talk about other WB merchandise from the later era? Personally, I don't think that it's a good idea, because your blog, above all things, devoted to reviews of WB cartoons, and maybe posts about later WB things wouldn't be all-that interesting to fans of cartoons(NOT merchandise and all things connected with it, SIMPLY cartoons and their creators). Now, imagine a lot of posts like that.

    P.S. sorry if I'm too negative...

  2. Nothin' personal, but I'm with "Sanek" above, though it's an excllent article and idea for another blog...Steve Carras

  3. On the contrary, I enjoyed this post very much!

    There isn’t anyone, over a certain age, who did not gobble-up these lousy PD specimens, with their horrible cover art and (almost always) equally bad picture quality, because it was the only game in town. Besides, this is the first place I saw “Daffy the Commando” and “All This and Rabbit Stew”!

    In fact, you bought multiple PD tapes, getting many duplicates, just to get another cartoon you didn’t have!

    There’s probably more of our common history here, than in any early cartoon review post.

  4. Maybe I haven't explained enough.

    What I meant was that so I don't post REVIEWS constantly (which is the whole point of the blog) but what I meant was that once a week - I'd say to write about other WB stuff that I would find; it may not be related to Looney Tunes; but Warner Bros. stuff. I'm also going to try and post some breakdowns here from pictures from my DVD; and post what I find interesting. I also have some animators personal info documents (provided by Joe Campana) of animators like Phil Monroe, Irv Spence and Rod Scribner (even his death certificate) that I'll get around to posting one day. If you disagree with the idea; then don't read them.

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