By Phil Hall | March 31, 2009

Animation fans have reason to pounce with this collection of 15 rarely-seen cartoons from a number of active animation studios in the 1930s. These films offer a genuinely delightful overview of a distinctive period in animation history, and the result is pure pleasure.

The queen of the 1930s cartoons is here with “Betty Boop’s Ker-Choo!” This 1932 Fleishcer entry finds the boop-boop-a-doo gal driving a sneeze-fueled car in a raucous auto race. A feline Betty knock-off, voiced by one-time Betty voice performer Bonnie Poe, shakes her stuff in the 1933 Van Beuren short “The Farmette,” about an agricultural establishment that needs a bit of sex appeal to bring productivity to the pasture.

Warner Bros. is represented by the Harman/Ising creation Bosko in the 1932 “Bosko at the Beach,” which includes an ingenious gag of a dog that runs off to fetch a stick, only to bring by a larger stick with each return. By the time the game is over, he has returned with an oversized log. An early Tex Avery effort, “I Wanna Be a Sailor” (1936), has a young belligerent parakeet whose dreams of being a buccaneer are literally sunk when his barrel boat capsizes in a pond storm. Another Warners effort, “Boom Boom” (1936), features the collection’s most tasteless gag: a feline soldier rises from a trench to blow a trumpet charge, but a well-targeted bomb flattens the landscape and the barely-alive soldier is seen lying on the grown, blowing “Taps” instead.

Compared to animated shorts that would follow in the 1940s and 1950s, the cartoons of the 1930s placed their emphasis on music and merriment. Broad slapstick and snarky humor are absent, and even when the shorts devolve into violence – such as the 1931 Mintz Studio short “Bars and Stripes,” with an army of belligerent musical instruments in attack – there is no sadism or outlandish extremes in the mayhem.

This collection also helps to bring back characters that many young viewers probably never saw before: Betty Boop, Flip the Frog, Krazy Kat, Oswald Rabbit, Gran’ Pop Monkey, and the original Tom and Jerry. The cartoons in the collection are all public domain, and the prints are quite good – particularly those that made an early use of the Technicolor and Cinecolor processes.

“Cartoon Rarities of the 1930s” is a must-have for those who love animation. It is one of the most enchanting and entertaining DVD titles in release.

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