Sunday, June 15, 2014

RR Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries

Whenever there’s a crime or trouble, that no one can solve at all it seems..

That’s when they come and on the double: Sylvester & Tweety - Mysteries!!

Name: The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries: The Complete First Season 
Created by Tom Minton, James T. Walker & Michael R. Gerard
Original run 1995-1996
Genre Animated series/Slapstick/Mystery

Western animation went through a sort of second Golden Age, a revival in the late 80s and early 90s.

Warner Bros. Animation Studios were brought back to a level of relevance they hadn't known for decades since the old short animated features from which the original Looney Tunes emerged.

It all started when Warner Bros reopened their animation studio in 1989 after over a decade of silence. The studio went on to launch some new original material which would bring what some call "the animation renaissance", a boom in the animated genre that ran along the modern success of Disney movie pictures.

Before the DC Comics superhero invasion right after Freakazoid, Warner Bros launched some  distant Looney Tunes-esque series that albeit "toons" themselves were only inspired and vaguely related to the originals, such as Tiny Toons and Animanics, a collaboration with famed film director Steven Spielberg. Thanks to their success they were finally able to launch some spinoff series revolving around actual Tunes in the early 90s.

Those were followed by some direct proper forms of continuation of the old Looney Tunes classics with Taz-Mania in 1991 and later on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries in 1995.

Directed by Tom Minton, Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries ran for 5 years from 1995 to 2000 for a total of about 52 episodes through 5 Seasons.

Warner Bros. Animation brought their classic 1950s characters back to a modern audience. The show offered a brand new concept around Sylvester and Tweety, although the characters themselves were barely updated since they were still easily recognizable around the world and very much relevant to this very day.

Like the Steven Spielberg-produced Looney Tunes spinoffs, the show made a great use of slapstick and also contained its fair share of pop culture references and puns, albeit to a much lesser extend to those.

Compared to its contemporary Warner Bros cartoons, this show felt a bit more aimed at children at times, and was probably made a bit more dull due to that. It certainly was slower paced to those as well.

This first Season aired from 1995 to 1996, which were all released through this first Complete Season DVD-set (about 13 episodes).

At the time this was one of the first shows Warner used to promote and air on the then-new at the time Kids' WB! Saturday morning cartoon block originally. And just by the fact it ran for that long was probably the longest surviving cartoon from that block.

It helped launch that block along reruns of Fox's Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain, paired with old classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. They simply wanted to also produce some new original material of their own to air in-between that older material.

Speaking of which, Sylvester & Tweety are as classic as Looney Tunes go. They come from a long tradition of world-renowned classic toon characters. When one thinks about those two the name Friz Freleng usually comes to mind. The animator was the first to pair both these older toons back in 1947 (in "Tweetie Pie", originally the first Warner Bros short to win an Oscar for the studio). Freleng sadly died during the production of this new take on his classic characters and never got to see the show on the air.

This first Season was actually dedicated to his memory.

Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries takes our classic Looney Tunes duo into a whole new direction.

Granny here is a big name detective. When someone needs help to solve a crime or take on a special case (most of the times, asked by the local authorities), she comes to save the day where no one could deduce any clues. She also brings all of her pets along, namely Tweety, Slyvester and Hector the bulldog (the only character actually slightly redesigned on this show).

Warner Bros. was probably aiming for a Looney Tunes take on the whole Scooby Doo-concept.

Each new episode Granny & co would go to these different locations around the world each time, looking for clues, Sylvester trying to eat Tweety, Hector beating up Sylvester whenever he got too close, until the aforementioned mystery was finally solved! Rinse and repeat.

They would travel the entire world and solving all sorts of mysteries. Sylvester acting as narrator from time to time.

Finally, most episodes would always find a way to contain at least one cameo from other Looney Tunes characters. This first season saw cameo appearances by Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Rocky and Mugsy, Gossamer and even a sort of cousin of Pepé Le Pew, called Pitu Le Pew

The show featured some great animation and fantastic voice work.

It was such a stunning flawless superb voice acting! Joe Alaskey taking over Sylvester here at perfection, and also doing a decent Tweety voice as well. June Foray reprized her classic role of Granny as she did in many past Looney Tunes ventures. Finally Frank Welker voiced Hector, which was a role mostly confined to simple grunts and barks here and there, but still fun.

With the passing of Mel Blanc, many background and minor Looney Tunes he used to do such as Yosemite Sam had to be given new voices for the first time for some. Jeff Glen Bennett and Jim Cummings doing several of those background voices.

Finally the show also made use of stunning cartoony classic music by Richard Stone and J. Eric Schmidt, which was done in the tradition of those old classic shorts, fully orchestrated. 

There was a lot of visual humor, slapstick comedy and sight gags. Maybe like I said above far less broader appeal to older viewers like Steven Spielberg cartoons.

The show made use of decent fully painted backgrounds trying their best to recreate the same visual atmosphere of earlier Looney Tunes classics.

Granny was given some hints of a very colorful past. Most so-called "Mysteries" of the show were solved by accident, since despite the title they were only a minor aspect of the series.

The show's main protagonist really appeared to be Sylvester himself, coming off as the best most fleshed out character in the series. So that's why he's constant beatings and injuries almost were too much at times, you would get a bit tired of it after a while...

Seriously though, he really received a great deal of physical abuse in this show, I'd go as far as say probably more so than his entire career up to that point it really seems! In the original cartoon shorts, Sylvester used to bring the pain on himself or seemed to at least deserve it, but here he just couldn't get a break.. There was a lot of random painful violence - and I'm saying that as a long-time old school Looney Tunes fan!

The concept of the show did seem to get a bit repetitive after a while. Tweety himself wasn't one of the main protagonist but it was Granny herself that seemed to be the real brains behind the operation (despite her lack of appearances in the marketing of the show).

There were plenty of nice classic Looney Tunes references and tributes here and there.

Season 1 saw the gang solving mysteries in New Orleans, Monte Carlo, Denmark, Ireland, Toyko, San Francisco, Australia, Scotland, and many more places! Granny even got to spend a night in a creepy manor in England along several other world's greatest detectives such as Kojak and Sherlock Holmes!

Like previous Warner Bros. cartoon-set DVDs this 2-DVD pack barely contains any extras besides a couple of trailers. They always appear to milk out these releases and offer only the bare minimum... Still we do get a decent picture for such an oldie. 

Overall, Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries was a fun show I'd recommend to any Looney Tunes fan.

While it's nothing spectacular, it's still pretty much enjoyable and as funny as it goes.

The show did really seem to improve as it went along, the writers finally started playing around with the situations a bit more and even the art improved quite a lot over the run of the series. When Season 2 followed they split the episodes into short halves, finally cut down to two-part episodes (10-minute shorts instead of the early 20-minute long episodes).

The series would go on to feature many, many more cameos from classic Looney Tunes such as Daffy, Michigan J. Frog, Cecil Turtle, the Goofy Gophers, etc.

Actually they even manage to squeeze in Cool Cat, one of the much later Warner Bros. cartoon characters, appearing in most if not all episodes in one way or another.

The also was one slightly-related direct-to-video movie, mostly produced by the same creative team behind this show. Although it used a completely different art direction and concept besides simply featuring Tweety as its protagonists. But that will be for another time...

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!

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