UPA, UPA, and Away!

They’re out… and as Tony the Tiger would say: “They’re Grrrr-reat!

I will go out on limb right now and declare TCM’s UPA: The Jolly Frolics Collection the DVD of the year. This thing is loaded (full disclosure: I was involved in the process). It is beautifully and cleverly packaged and contains a 16-page booklet with brief essay by UPA historian Adam Abraham, capsule biographies of key UPA personnel, a UPA chronology chart with key events and a release chart timelime, plot synopsis and more…

The three discs themselves are packed with incredible restorations of 38 UPA cartoons. These restorations are so good, they will force many to reevaluate their opinions of these films. Cartoons I’d long dismissed as inferior – The Oompahs, The Miner’s Daughter, Baby Boogie and others – are suddenly vibrant, colorful and clear; what the filmmakers intended, and a lot better than I’d thought. Compare the frame grab of from my personal bootleg video copy of The Man On The Flying Trapeze (thumbnail below left to enlarge) with the restoration (below, center) to give you a small idea of the difference. Even if you have no interest in UPA, I think you’ll come to understand their importance through this set.

Sony went to great lengths to restore the cartoons on this collection – restoring original front and end titles (like the Fox & Crow title (below) from their first theatrical, Robin Hoodlum). Alas not every title could be restored (though most are), but what is here is from the original negs – and they are a pleasure to see anew.

I’m not even mentioning the bonus materials (Concept art, model sheets, storyboards, color styling sketches, background, publicity stills, movie poster galleries – and more, including audio commentaries and a Leonard Maltin introduction). If you’ve ordered it, it’s on the way. If you haven’t – what are you waiting for?

Adam Abraham’s important new history of UPA – When Magoo Flew – has also just been published by Wesleyan University Press. I’m not going to review it right now – but I will be giving a copy or two away in a pop-quiz contest sometime on Thursday. Adam will be in L.A. a week from Friday to sign copies of the book at LACMA, at the UPA tribute I’m hosting on March 30th. (Tickets available nowhint, hint!).

Adam has just launched a companion website for his book, When Magoo, intended to utilize the archive of material he assembled while writing the book. More material will be added soon… but bookmark his new website now!