David Mackenzie has gotten his hands on the hotly anticipated dvd set Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection, slated for release on May 15. This is big news as it’s the first time a set of Tex Avery’s MGM shorts have been released onto dvd. I was particularly anxious to hear how the set had turned out because…well…come on, it’s Droopy. David reports that there’s both good and bad news. He has a complete report on his blog but here’s the summary:
THE GOOD: Droopy’s Good Deed and Daredevil Droopy are both UNEDITED. Both shorts had politically-incorrect gags edited on an earlier laserdisc release. Also, some of the transfers, like the Ed Benedict-designed Dixieland Droopy, apparently look really nice color-wise. (More screenshots from the set are at the Classic Cartoons blog.)
THE BAD: Four out of the 24 cartoons on the set, or 16% of the shorts, are “DVNR disasters” according to David. He writes, “The affected shorts (termed “episodes” on the DVD, for some reason) are so badly eroded that the mangled lines are almost constant, not just in selected areas like on the Looney Tunes discs. Basically, if a character starts running, or the camera pans, you’ll see the artefacts. It’s pretty severe, severe enough to be spotted while fast forwarding.” Just look at the atrocious example below from Daredevil Droopy where both strings holding up Droopy’s swinging bar are completely gone.
DVNR, or digital noise reduction, has ruined countless classic animated shorts over the past couple decades. I wrote extensively about the technology in this article from 1998 which explains how the “restoration” process works and the effects its careless use can have on animation. During the course of research on that article, the common line I heard from telecine specialists was that it’s not the technology’s fault but rather the fault of the operators who set the machine’s levels too high. If that’s the case, then there’s got to be a hell of a lot of incompetent telecine operators in Hollywood because a huge (and growing) amount of classic animation has been rendered unwatchable by DVNR processing. The bottom line is most eloquently stated by David Mackenzie who writes on his blog, “Restoration, after all, is pointless if it ends up making the shorts look worse instead.”