Droopy on DVD: Uncut and DVNR’d

Dixieland Droopy

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

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.”


  • http://happyaccidents-janne.blogspot.com/ Janne

    It might be that this isn’t the first Avery MGM shorts outing. I purchased this a few years back:

    It features a decent amount (63 shorts including Droopys, Symphony In Slang etc.) I was fairly pleased with it. It did receive some criticism for its edits of the “questionable” content. There is another boxset with a more moderate price tag excluding the 5th DVD (which featured some documentaries etc.)

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    Cool, thanks for picking up on this!

    I need to stress though that the good far outweighs the bad on this. It’s astonishing that the four DVNR’d ones made it through (they must have noticed, surely!) but this set is totally worth it for the uncut scenes and all of the other cartoons – not to mention the Cinemascope ones which are a lot better than I used to give them credit for.

    BTW, the French DVD has some DVNR messes of its own, and cuts – but the DVNR’d cartoons aren’t the same ones as the ones on here. You’ll need to mix-and-match to get the best versions of each. Oh also, I have it on good authority that the “Compleat Tex Avery” DVD will have these DVNR errors corrected, but its release depends on the sales of this first set. So my advice is to buy it, tolerate the 4 DVNR’d cartoons (and have fun watching all of the others), and upgrade later.

  • http://hammerson.blogspot.com/ Hammerson

    I thought we would never see the uncut “Droopy’s Good Deed” on the official DVD, so this is a huge and very pleasant surprise. This looks like a great DVD release, and it’s a real shame about DVNR showing its ugly face yet again.

    This is not the first time that Tex Avery’s cartoons have been ruined by DVNR. Until six years ago, Cartoon Network UK used to show the heavily DVNR’d prints of nearly all MGM cartoons (with exception of Tom & Jerry), and the effect was every bit as disastrous as what David described.

  • Ted

    This is not even the first time a set of Tex Avery MGM shorts has been released on DVD in the US; the boxset of MGM musicals has several Tex Avery shorts; Hick Chick, Henpecked Hoboes, Ventriloquist Cat, and Deputy Droopy…

  • John

    DVNR should have been discussed at the recent WB chat at the Home Theater Forum!

  • http://pediatristsplayground.blogspot.com Kevin W. Martinez a.k.a. Leviathan

    That recent WHV chat wouldn’t have solved anything. Those things are more geared to mateiral actually coming to DVD, not technical issues (I doubt the WHV Reps would’ve even known what DVNR is).

    Now as for the DVNR, Yes it’s bad that it was even used to begin with (but isn’t every discovered instance of DVNR considered the worst ever around these parts?), however i’m going to wait until I actually see the DVNR before I start bonning up on my Yellow Journalism writing skills.

    Plus the Droopy Set is Uncut in spite of our worst fears (unlike the first Tom and Jerry set that was cut AND DVNR’d). Plus if the DVNR’d Droopys stand a chance of being release elsewhere sans the malady, I’m not going to refuse buying this set out of moral indignation

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    Hey Amid, the language I used on my site was a little misleading: DAREDEVIL DROOPY was not edited on the Laserdisc. Only DROOPY’S GOOD DEED was missing one of the gags.

  • Nelson

    One would think that Warner Home Video would have been totally aware of this problem, since several of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons(on previous Golden Collections) have suffered the DVNR effect as well.Someone at WHV needs to pay attention to this mess and correct this from happening to future cartoon dvd releases.

    I pray to god that we don’t see any DVNR screwups on the upcoming “Popeye” collection from WHV.

  • http://pediatristsplayground.blogspot.com Kevin W. Martinez a.k.a. Leviathan

    To amend my earlier comments, I feel as though not enough is being done on the subject of DVNR awareness (sure, places like this occasionally bring it up, but it doesn’t spread like wildfire like the censored Tom and Jerry cartoons or the Unrestored Disney Treasures) because not enough attention is being called to it. The fact the most avaiable and definite resource on DVNR at present is a 9-year-old AWN article is troubling

    I think the best thing to do is create a specific DVNR awareness/watchdog website (like the Widescreen Adcovacy one) which will help bring this more to the forefront.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Every time, the studio swears that everything will be uncut and no DVNR, and every time there’s something wrong. I don’t see how supporting the sales of an incomplete, inferior product will encourage the creation of complete, quality product. It will just send the message that people don’t care.

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    Kevin: I think the most recent smear campaign against DVNR was the one on my site that got publicised in the Wall Street Journal almost exactly two years ago:
    http://www.lyris-lite.net/dvnr.html

    That certainly raised awareness of the problem but as we can see there’s work still to be done…

  • http://www.fleischerpopeye.com Gordan Calma

    Stephen Worth says:

    “I don’t see how supporting the sales of an incomplete, inferior product will encourage the creation of complete, quality product. It will just send the message that people don’t care.”

    I don’t think that’s how corporate minds work, Steve. Quite the contrary. If people do not support this product, WHV will get the message that people don’t care (just like they did with Huckleberry Hound). This set is far from “perfect”, but if we support it now, then more Avery cartoons will be restored, released on DVD, and down the road on Blue Ray and/or HD (hopefully without DVNR).

  • http://demianjohnston.blogspot.com Demian

    Hmmm… I guess instead of the bookshelf, this will end up on my netflix queue.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    It’s been nearly ten years since I posted the first images of DVNR artifacting on the Spumco Cartoon Magazine website. Ten years and they STILL haven’t gotten it right! Since then, Warner Home video has found new and inventive ways to destroy classic cartoons… digital grain smoothing that takes all the texture out of backgrounds… sharpening to the point of artifacting… complete bungling of color balances… cramming so many cartoons on a disk that the compression makes it impossible to still frame… what’s next?

    Quite frankly, I don’t think *anything* we do as consumers will make any difference at all. The people who are in charge of producing these collections are flat out incompetent. The studios will still spend piles of money on restoring cartoons to the way they never were in the first place and proudly announce the release of each and every abomination with the bogus claim “Hey gang! We got it right this time!”

    I’ve seen dollar DVDs at the 99 Cents Store that have more integrity than many studio produced collections. Thankfully, I still have my laserdisc player and the original Turner and Disney disks that were released before they really started going to town ruining cartoons.

    It’s ironic that the Huck Hound and Yogi Bear collections were the best transfers Warner Home Video has ever managed. Maybe they do a better job when they don’t care.

  • http://apelad.blogspot.com Adam

    I count myself amongst “you happy people” at this announcement. I can’t wait to show these to my kids. With this and Popeye, I might take a pass on the summer blockbusters.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    I just pre-ordered this. Gordon Calma is absolutely right. Not buying it will send the message that we didn’t want it in the first place, and poof goes our hopes for a Compleat Tex Avery DVD set.

    I know some of you have issues about “rewarding bad behavior,” but, in all seriousness, what’s the point of cutting off the nose to spite the face? I know I’ll be crucified for this, but I’d rather have DVNR’ed versions than no versions at all.

    At least I can rest easy knowing that these cartoons are being properly preserved, so that we can get releases like this. DVNR is temporary. Film is forever.

    And here’s food for thought: If not for video buffs who complain about every speck of dirt, would there *be* a problem with improper/overzealous use of DVNR? Any time you complain about dirt or specks on a cartoon DVD, consider that you could have gotten a clean, but DVNR-mangled version.

    I’m fully convinced that the people who do the digital cleanup have no idea about the effects DVNR can have on animation. They’re probably the same people who do digital cleanup for live-action, where DVNR causes far fewer problems (not to say it doesn’t cause any). The people producing the releases, or the studios that release them, can get all the complaints in the world about DVNR, but it won’t do a damn thing if the technicians continue to think they have a magic bullet that will remove all dirt and specks…

  • Jeffrey Gray

    I would like to add, it’s not just the technicians. I think that the entire group of people who do the cleanup, from the grunts to the supervisors, don’t realize that they’re playing with fire when they use DVNR.

    I think that the best way to combat this would be for people who are informed in animation, and have the time and ability, to offer their services as quality control supervisors on the transfers. People who can look it over at every step, and be able to show these people that DVNR’s adjacent-frame replacement system wrecks animation.

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    >> And here’s food for thought: If not for video buffs who complain about every speck of dirt, would there *be* a problem with improper/overzealous use of DVNR? Any time you complain about dirt or specks on a cartoon DVD, consider that you could have gotten a clean, but DVNR-mangled version.

    It depends what kind of video buff you mean. Smarter video buffs will know that, as you say, a computer can’t magically fix errors, and will know that dirt and scratches are just a part of watching old films.

    It’s the idiot reviewers that expect modern releases of old material to look pristine that are to blame. Real video buffs accept the age and medium of the material and leave it at that.

  • http://fmhansen.blogspot.com FRANK HANSEN

    Take from some one who has supervised many telecine and a few DVNR sessions. This tool put in the hands of a operator (not a colorist) can have amazing results. Ascent-Media-Burbank is one of the few places that has someone who only does DVNR (or ASCIII as it is called today by the manufacture Digital Vision and the insdustry). ASCIII is a far cry over what could be done 10 years ago or even 3 years ago, but the fact remains; if you turn it up too much it will induce artifacts and frame by frame line art of 2D is just the type of thing DVNR will chew apart if you let it, but a really good operator knows when to say “no” and just shut off the DVNR process all together. Unfortunately some people who approve these clean ups are either too green or believe that some artifacting is worth the amount of dirt that is cleaned up.

  • Brandon Pierce

    Steve worth said: “Since then, Warner Home video has found new and inventive ways to destroy classic cartoons… digital grain smoothing that takes all the texture out of backgrounds… sharpening to the point of artifacting… complete bungling of color balances… cramming so many cartoons on a disk that the compression makes it impossible to still frame… what’s next?”

    Steve… WB does nothing to the color on the remastered shorts! They uses cels and model sheets as guides. They also look back at older, cleaner prints for guidance. If you think Goofy Groceries looked “TOO RESTORED”, then watch the documentary, “Bugs Bunny Superstar”. A cel from that cartoon can be seen, and the quality looks just like the remastered print on vol. 3.

    And what in the heck does “cramming so many cartoons on a disk that the compression makes it impossible to still frame” have to do with anything. If it bothers you so much, write to WB and tell them, you’d only like three cartoons on each disk, therefore 12 cartoons on each volume from now on. World peace.

  • http://gamingotherstuff.wordpress.com BJ Wanlund

    Jeffrey Gray said:

    “I just pre-ordered this. Gordon Calma is absolutely right. Not buying it will send the message that we didn’t want it in the first place, and poof goes our hopes for a Compleat Tex Avery DVD set.

    I know some of you have issues about “rewarding bad behavior,� but, in all seriousness, what’s the point of cutting off the nose to spite the face? I know I’ll be crucified for this, but I’d rather have DVNR’ed versions than no versions at all.

    At least I can rest easy knowing that these cartoons are being properly preserved, so that we can get releases like this. DVNR is temporary. Film is forever.

    And here’s food for thought: If not for video buffs who complain about every speck of dirt, would there *be* a problem with improper/overzealous use of DVNR? Any time you complain about dirt or specks on a cartoon DVD, consider that you could have gotten a clean, but DVNR-mangled version.

    I’m fully convinced that the people who do the digital cleanup have no idea about the effects DVNR can have on animation. They’re probably the same people who do digital cleanup for live-action, where DVNR causes far fewer problems (not to say it doesn’t cause any). The people producing the releases, or the studios that release them, can get all the complaints in the world about DVNR, but it won’t do a damn thing if the technicians continue to think they have a magic bullet that will remove all dirt and specks…”

    Dude, you are absolutely right! I’m going to buy this thing tomorrow, despite the DVNR. Know why? Maybe the “reviewers” don’t have computers that are fast enough to watch this sh*t. I have a MacBook with 1GB of RAM as well as a Core Duo processor (and before that I had a Gateway Pentium 4 laptop), and neither computer had (or has) a single problem with this stuff! Also, considering the age of the material, it’s better that we have this stuff in a highly mangled form rather than not at all.

    Just look at Saludos Amigos, Three Caballeros, Melody Time, and Make Mine Music’s DVD releases. Each one had something wrong with it, in my humble opinion. Saludos didn’t have Goofy smoking a cigarette (and possibly a whole other segment missing, where Goofy’s glove mistakenly becomes a cigarette!), Caballeros didn’t have a funny cigar gag in “The Flying Gauchito” sequence, Melody Time didn’t have Pecos Bill smoking a cigarette, and Make Mine Music had a whole segment missing “because Disney didn’t want to offend the hillbillies and rednecks”. I think that if studios like WB decide to give us uncut cartoons, then we should respect that. Besides, I think some of these “manglings” could be looked at in a more positive light: Using the Droopy’s trapeze wires example, maybe it could be explained that Droopy (and most other cartoons for that matter) didn’t study law! It might actually add to the value of the cartoons for me.

    I think I’ve gone on long enough. Somebody shoot me, PLEASE!

  • http://www.lyris-lite.net David Mackenzie

    BJ Wanlund – I’m a little confused about what you’re saying:

    “Maybe the “reviewersâ€? don’t have computers that are fast enough to watch this sh*t. I have a MacBook with 1GB of RAM as well as a Core Duo processor (and before that I had a Gateway Pentium 4 laptop), and neither computer had (or has) a single problem with this stuff!”

    There is absolutely no correlation between the speed of a computer and artefacts present on the disc.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    I got the set and watched “Three Little Pups.”

    The DVNR is certainly noticeable; Tex Avery’s animation style, and the fact that they apparently used a rather dirty print (a print; the cue mark is visible at the end) and cranked the DVNR to max (I can still see vestiges of white vertical lines running the entire height of the frame).

    Of course, the materials available for the MGM cartoons leave a lot to be desired; unlike the Looney Tunes, the original negatives went up in flames, literally, when a fire broke out in one of MGM’s film vaults in the 60s or 70s.

    I will say it once and for all: Nothing can be accomplished by either boycotting DVNR’ed sets, which will just send the message that we don’t want these classic cartoons; or crowing to the upper management at the studios, many of which have probably never heard of DVNR.

    The best solution would be to figure out how to get in contact with the departments that do the DVNR, and try to circulate something describing and explaining what DVNR can do to animation. Sometimes, nobody in the higher levels knows about these problems until the results come back…