Saturday, February 23, 2013

Don't Censor Me!

Back in 2011, Warner Bros. released what I would call a definitive set for the legendary Tom and Jerry series. Called the "Golden Collection", the first volume presented the first 37 theatrical shorts, beautifully restored and all uncensored in their original format. All the questionable humor and gags were present. To top it off, there was a warning that you couldn't skip that wonderfully explained why the cartoons have that potentially offensive material and why it's absolutely wrong to censor them.

This was a great set for us animation aficionados. It wasn't aimed at young audiences or the whole family, it was aimed at us. The adult collector, as the back of the case says. You can only imagine how pumped I was for the next couple of volumes, because they were going to include everything uncensored. Then they were going to include all of the post-1958 shorts as well! The complete Tom and Jerry series on Blu-ray!

Volume Two has been on and off for years. A few times, Warner Bros. announced release dates for it, but it never happened. Now it's on track for a June 11th release, but the shorts line-up that was released a while back was curiously missing two short subjects: Mouse Cleaning and Casanova Cat. Both films contain blackface gags, Mouse Cleaning's gag is especially notorious. However, the blackface gags on these two short subjects are no more offensive than similar gags that we saw in the shorts that are on the first volume. For a while, it seemed like this list was not official and was just a mistake... After all, the original nitrate elements of Mouse Cleaning had been found and lots of work had been done to restore it, but... Warner Bros. recently put this on their Classic WB Animation Facebook page as a reply to fans who were questioning whether the next volume would in fact be sanitized or not.

Condescending and just plain wrong...

This contradicts the whole idea of the Golden Collection. Why go through all the trouble of restoring all the offensive content and making an impassable warning for the beginning of the disc for the first volume, only to omit two entire shorts from the second volume because of the content? It's not just edited versions of those cartoons we are getting, we're not getting them at all. If that's so, will the other shorts on the set be the television edits where Mammy Two-Shoes' voice is re-dubbed? This is a total atrocity and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment ought to be ashamed.

Inappropriate for the intended audience? Warner Bros., who are you to deem this content inappropriate for us? The very audience that understands that these cartoons were made during a different time... Again, you went through all the trouble of restoring these "offensive" shorts and putting a big warning at the beginning of disc... Now you sanitize Volume Two, remove two shorts entirely and say that they might be "inappropriate" for us?! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, you have made a massive mistake and you have also insulted us animation aficionados who admire this series and are mature enough to understand what was going on during the 1940s and why this racial humor was in some the cartoons.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but after all the effort that was put into the first volume, you wouldn't think that Warner Bros. would just all of sudden go against their plans and also talk down the collectors who buy these sets...

I just hope Warner Bros. didn't get cold feet over the first volume and are now making Volume Two suitable for the PC crowd. Again, the first volume was strictly intended for adult collectors. The packaging itself says so, there's a warning at the beginning of the disc... Why follow that up with a sanitized set? It makes no sense on any level.

Now if this was a kid-oriented set with the edited versions, that would be one thing, but again; this is a follow-up to an adult-oriented set. It's not only a slap in the face to the audience it's intended for, but it's just censorship ruling the day once again.

Warner Bros., if you were smart, you wouldn't go through with a censored set that's a follow-up to an uncensored adult's set. It's a rip-off and an insult to us, the buyers. It only pushes the belief that these cartoons are nothing more than children's films, when that's definitely not true. It feeds into a greater evil. Censorship is so selective. Certain things can't be shown, but it's totally alright if something else that's equally offensive is shown. Need I bring up Disney's reluctance to release Song of the South, yet they happily release Peter Pan complete with the controversial depictions of Native Americans?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where cartoons and animated works are immediately labelled "kid's stuff". Disney and Pixar are already victims of this, and everyone else. Classic Warner Bros., Fleischer and MGM shorts? All perceived as kid's stuff. It's easier to release older live action films with potentially offensive material, or films that are unabashedly offensive (Birth of a Nation, anyone?), but since animation is viewed as a babysitter, it's not okay. Far too often, home media releases of animation caters to parents who are looking for something to keep their children busy for an hour or two. The belief is what's at the core of this problem. Warner Bros. probably wants to sell units, rather than putting a lot of money into a set that only collectors are going to buy. But hey, Disney did it with the Walt Disney Treasures sets and they continued to make many.

There's still the fact that the first collection and the recent Looney Tunes sets have the offensive material on them. It just further proves that it makes no logical sense to omit two full shorts from a set all because of a single gag in each. It's like releasing a controversial film on home media uncut, and releasing its equally controversial sequel in censored form. Makes... No... Sense...

Now there's also a possibility that the two shorts will show up on a third volume, but if they show up uncensored, then it wouldn't make sense to leave them off of this upcoming set. It leads me to believe that whenever they will show up, they'll be sanitized. It also leads me to believe that all the shorts on this collection will be sanitized as well.

Luckily, animation fanatics are raising hell about this. Go to the set's Amazon page and see all the one-star reviews convincing consumers not to buy it. Fans have also raised hell on other forums and they have responded to the terribly condescending reply from WB Classic Animation on their Facebook page. Let your voice be heard!

Once again, censorship and ignorance towards the animated medium is going to rule the day here. The existence of an adults-only "Golden Collection" of one of the greatest cartoon series in cinema history was fun while it lasted...

Note: This article originally went up on February 13, 2013. It was taken down since the press release with the list of shorts seemed like a mistake... Now it's official, those two shorts will be omitted from the set...

1 comment:

  1. WB are cowards. Yes those gags were offensive and wrong, but as the warnings say it is worse to remove them because it is acting like they never existed.