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The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: The Complete First Season DVD from Amazon.com The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries: Season One (1995-96)
Show & DVD Details

Producers: Tom Minton, Michael R. Gerard, Fay Whitemountain, Jean MacCurdy

Writers: Tim Cahill, Julie McNally, Alicia Marie Schudt, Tom Minton, Robert Schechter, John P. McCann, Chris Otsuki, Carolyn Gair-Taylor / Story Editor: Tom Minton

Directors: James T. Walker, Lenord Robinson

Voice Cast: Joe Alaskey (Sylvester, Tweety), June Foray (Granny), Frank Welker (Hector, others), Jeff Glen Bennett (Pitu Le Pew, Detective Nohans, Duffy, Shecky, Dawes, Bertie, Angus, Wayne Figg, others), Jim Cummings (Rocky, Sheik Tusheik, Moogooguypan, Nasty Canasta, Hubie, Gossamer, Sam Ficus, others), Tress MacNeille (Myopia, others), Maurice LaMarche (Bingo Barker, Lojack, Sam Spade, Harry Follicle) / Notable Guest Voices: Peter Renaday (Louie Z. Anna), Haunani Minn (Alba Core), Brian Tochi (Sushi Master), Clyde Kusatsu (Soh Fishimene), Linda Gary (Beulah), Laraine Newman (Trudy), Lauri Johnson (Miss Marbles), Robert Ito (Charlie Smith)

Running Time: 274 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio),
Dolby Surround (English, French, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English (for Hearing Impaired), Portugese; Not Closed Captioned
Season 1 Airdates: September 9, 1995 - February 17, 1996
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 / DVD Release Date: September 9, 2008
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Black Keepcase

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When I think of the Disney stable of classic cartoon characters (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, et al.), I think of them as living entities. They're all over the theme parks as costumed performers, they star in the top-rated cable preschool show, and even in lulls they're heavily employed as company mascots.
When I think of Warner's comparable cast, the Looney Tunes, my mind grants them the same retired status as, say, Betty Boop. They had a long run that is easy to admire and celebrate through DVD and merchandise. But the chances of them being trotted out for active careers in mainstream animation seem to range from slim to none.

Maybe that's largely because I've never paid as much attention to Warner's lot as Disney's. Part of me obviously knows that the Looney Tunes characters aren't expired. I thought Space Jam was lots of fun (a sentiment that may inspire some Warner fans to question my credibility) and that wasn't too long ago. And the stinging criticism towards "Loonatics Unleashed" remains a fresh memory, both undermining my Looney Tunes' death knell and testifying to my point that this isn't living, at least not in the Disney sense.

The Looney Tunes have had other recent TV series to showcase the old troupe. For instance, there was "The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries", a Saturday morning cartoon I only learned of when I received this DVD from Warner. It doesn't seem like I'm alone in my ignorance. And yet, this is a show that ran for five years, from 1995 to 2000, accruing 53 episodes overall. It is apparently popular enough to finally warrant chronological collections from the studio, or at least that's the hope born out of today's 13-episode, 2-disc The Complete First Season release.

The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries title logo surrounds its silhouetted title couple with formidable co-stars Granny and Hector. Hector, Tweety, Granny, and Sylvester check out their cave surroundings while investigating a string of suspicious sheep-nappings.

Naturally, "Sylvester & Tweety" features the talking tuxedo cat and canary who have been at odds since the 1940s. Here, they're part of the same family, belonging to gentle yet spunky Granny along with bulldog Hector. The four of them travel the world and solve major mysteries, encountering colorful characters and suspicious behavior.

Though they claim the title, Sylvester and Tweety are often limited to peripheral antics, allowing Granny (who doesn't even make the DVD cover) to play lead sleuth.
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Each episode begins with her being summoned as a relevant authority's second choice (and first available) for the case.

Sporadic narrator Sylvester still hungers for Tweety, but Hector is around to dispense beatings in the name of ostensibly protecting the canary. The nonverbal hound is just one of a number of sources of pain to which the lispy cat is regularly subjected.

Broad, physical humor and sight gags are found in abundance here. That's true to the Looney Tunes tradition, but it's easier to take in 6-8 minute doses than repeatedly in these 21-minute episodes. The producers must have recognized this too, because when the second season debuted the following September, shows were split into two halves and that remained the format through the end. As it is, when asked to bounce between this brand of comedy and a semblance of a plot, the mind does wander. This show could be used to either diagnose or produce ADHD.

Just when Sylvester thinks he's finally got his canary, Hector is there to dole out the punches. Granny shows her aggressive side while speeding in Grand Prix gear.

"Sylvester and Tweety" doesn't have the older viewer appeal that marked the Steven Spielberg Warner cartoons of the '90s like "Animaniacs" and "Pinky and the Brain", although a few jokes (like caricatures of William Shatner and Kojak) do aim above children's heads. Adults who have been schooled on the classic Looney Tunes will enjoy spotting the appearances occasionally made by old characters. Season 1 includes guest spots by Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, a cousin of Pepe Le Pew, and even less familiar personalities such as Rocky and Mugsy, Hubie and Bertie, and Gossamer.

Though character recognition provides some entertainment value, it's not enough to keep the show afloat. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with the premise, although it's surely limiting. Instead, it is mainly the tone and execution which falter. There are a few amusing jokes and viewers would be hard-pressed not to crack at least a smile from time to time. But even when you're being amused, the mysteries never add up in an interesting way. By the time the answers are uncovered, you might very well forget what you were trying to find.

The thirteen Season 1 episodes are arranged by original airdate. I've designated my five favorites with a star ().

Tweety's kidnappers Rocky and Mugsy are seen through the legs of a disapproving larger woman in the series' first episode. Pitu Le Pew is just as amorous as cousin Pepe, and Sylvester is just as uninterested as Pepe's targets. Detective Nohans is bewildered by his Danish hotel experience in "Double Take."

Disc 1

1. The Cat Who Knew Too Much (21:10) (Originally aired September 9, 1995)
Granny et al. journey to New Orleans, where they're greeted by friendly Louie Z. Anna. Sylvester and Tweety get kidnapped by thugs (Rocky and Mugsy), threatening Granny and the bird's plans to defend their crooning contest title.

2. Platinum Wheel of Fortune (21:12) (Originally aired September 16, 1995)
Granny and her pets visit Monte Carlo and try to solve a case of a missing platinum roulette wheel. Along the way, they get caught up in the police investigation, a magician's act, and the Grand Prix.

3. Double Take (21:00) (Originally aired September 23, 1995)
To clear her good name, Granny journeys to Denmark, where she's accused of being on a crime spree. Her pets are quicker to spot something amiss than the Interpol detective on the case.

4. A Chip Off the Old Castle (21:06) (Originally aired September 30, 1995)
Granny and company journey to Ireland to solve the case of the missing blarney stone and save the tourist town ruined by its absence.

This large, in charge Japanese man doesn't frighten Granny. Sylvester gets to truly experience Pamplona's running of the bulls. How many caricatures of famous screen detectives (and rabbit hunters) can you find in this still from "A Ticket to Crime"?

5. Something Fishy Around Here (21:07) (Originally aired October 7, 1995)
When Charlene, the world's biggest tuna fish, disappears from Tokyo Waterland, Granny turns her suspicions to a leading sushi restaurant.

6. B2 or Not B2 (20:32) (Originally aired November 4, 1995)
Aboard a cruise ship, Granny investigates a series of accidents befalling the Bingo-playing passengers.

7. Bull Running on Empty (21:11) (Originally aired November 11, 1995)
While everyone else in town turns their attentions to the annual running of the bulls, Granny and company look into the recent theft of the Pamplona Periscope from its museum.

8. A Ticket to Crime (21:07) (Originally aired November 18, 1995)
Granny "wins" an Ed McMuffin contest entitling her to a vacation in an English manor. There, some of the world's greatest detectives (including takes on Miss Marple, Kojak, and Sherlock Holmes... plus "Sammy", better known as Elmer Fudd) all lay claim to the same prize. Their shared skills are tested by the murder mystery emerging when their host turns up dead.

Caricatures of Katherine Hepburn and Peter Lorre vie for ownership of what they believe is The Maltese Canary (it's just Tweety). You may seem some similarities between "It Happened One Night Before Christmas" and a certain 1946 holiday film. Granny tries her hand at golfing to be partner to her fourth cousin twice removed, Angus MacRorrrrrrrry.

Disc 2

9. The Maltese Canary (21:03) (Originally aired November 25, 1995)
Granny heads to San Francisco, where she takes over for detective Sam Spade while he's away. Mistaken for the priceless Maltese Canary, Tweety attracts interest from three individuals.

10. It Happened One Night Before Christmas (20:55) (Originally aired December 16, 1995)
On Christmas Eve, Granny visits the small town of Bedspread Falls and helps her forgetful brother Willie retrace his steps to figure out how he misplaced an $8,000 bank deposit. In addition to the It's a Wonderful Life-inspired plot, this episode harks back to the 1940s with Warner mice Hubie and Bertie appearing at length.

11. Outback Down Under (21:05) (Originally aired January 27, 1996)
In Australia, Granny seeks to uncover a wool black market to help a sheep farm whose animals keep disappearing. Sylvester's wool allergies are repeatedly punished.

12. It's a Plaid, Plaid, Plaid, Plaid World (21:13) (Originally aired February 3, 1996)
Granny goes to Scotland to see her distant cousin Angus, whose town's plaid plant shortage has rendered them kiltless. The two relatives also play as partners in a mini golf tournament.

13. Go Fig (21:09) (Originally aired February 17, 1996)
Yosemite Sam enlists Granny to solve the case of the missing figs, a mystery most troubling to residents of world fig capital Figdale.

Sylvester, Granny, Tweety, and Hector go searching around Ireland for the missing blarney stone. This picture illustrates what the show's all about and also the DVD's occasionally soft, out-of-focus picture. Disc 2's ordinary main menu supplies a fourth listing, but it's one that probably won't excite many.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On an average television, picture and sound are both of satisfactory quality. As it should be for 13-year-old episodes, the fullscreen video is fairly clean and the colors are great. If you're viewing on a larger screen or up close on a DVD-ROM, you'll notice some shortcomings. Different episodes exhibit different issues; for instance, Episodes 4 and 9 look soft and out of focus, while Episode 3 seems riddled by overcompression.
In addition to the episode-persistent problems, you'll spot a few mild intrusions, like lines running down the screen, in certain scenes. Generally, neither the anomalies nor the marks are enough to distract. The Dolby Stereo soundtrack is appropriately lively and competently provides a score that's big on paying short homage to well-known melodies.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, DESIGN and PACKAGING

There's nary a bonus feature found here, unless you count trailers for other Warner-distributed animation. If so, Disc 2 gives you four little treats (5:07) advertising It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown; Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King; Popeye & Friends: Volume One; and "The Smurfs": Season One, Volume Two. Disc One opens with Warner's Wizard of Oz anti-piracy spot.

The static menus place character artwork in front of colorful, question mark-filled backdrops. The menus are silent save for the main menu, which loops the theme tune.

As is often the case, Sylvester's attempt to capture Tweety results in tears and pain. Although, here it might be the wool allergy. Believe it or not, this bathroom stall etching does get Granny hired for another mystery.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries" didn't do a whole lot for me and never qualified as more than mildly diverting. If you're a bigger Looney Tunes fan, you'll probably have a stronger reaction, but I'm not sure whether it would be approving or not.

In any event, Warner probably could have done more for this DVD. Like include more episodes. The first season is a logical cut-off because henceforth the show changes format. But three-quarters of the series remains unreleased and probably dependent on this set's sales. They should be helped by the very low list price, but some basic bonus features and stronger picture quality would have helped even more.

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Reviewed September 9, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1995-96 Warner Bros. Television Animation, and 2008 Warner Home Video.
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