Animated Shorts - Top 5 Missing DVDs

Animated Shorts - Top 5 Missing DVDs

There are some months when over 1,000 different DVDs are released to the market. With that sort of volume, you would think just about every favorite animated show would be readily, and legally, available.

Guess again.

Some titles finally seeing professional release over the last few months include the Fleischer Brothers’ Gulliver’s Travels feature film and Superman shorts; the original Gigantor, the highly anticipated Fox/Saban version of The X-Men. Classic TV shows like Reboot were released and used to be available, but now you have to scour the used bins to find it. The works of animation master Ralph Bakshi are seriously under-represented. The same for Ub Iwerks. And what about anime master Leiji Matsumoto?

Here is a short list of properties you’d think would be out on the market, but are not, at least in fully legal, non-bootleg form. No doubt readers can think of a few dozen more they’d like to get their hands on. Still, when you think about this group, it’s bona fide sad.

Here goes:

•    BETTY BOOP – Just walk down the street and you will sooner or later see someone sporting this unflappable flapper on their person. It could be a key chain, t-shirt, decal, print ad. The Fleisher Brothers’ greatest original creation is somewhere, winking at you, givin’ you the come-hither. The thing is, the only way you can find Betty Boop in action is in a series of 99 cent bootleg DVDs; horribly rendered and miserably packaged.

This wasn’t always the case. At one time Paramount/CBS put out a complete series of Betty’s legendary shorts as a VHS box set. It even contained an introduction from Max’s son, the legendary director Richard Fleischer. Personally, I spent $100 for the box, wore the damn tapes out and would love to find another set.

Better yet, considering the love and care Warner Bros. has recently put into their Fleischer Popeye and Superman shorts collections, maybe they should get on the stick and give La Bette Boop some similar respect. Still, according to informed sources, the first female animated hero is currently stuck in a licensing quagmire.

It’s a crying shame as this series showed the Fleischers and the amazing talent under them at their jazziest, free swinging best. Until then, we’ll just have to watch Betty walk down the street as a fashion accessory.

•    DEXTER’S LABORATORY – There were some people at Cartoon Network who were honestly shocked when they were informed there’s no Dexter collections out there. After all, this series was not only the first true prime time success CN created, it was also the one that put creator Genndy Tartakovsky on the map. If that isn’t enough, the show was incredibly original and outrageously funny. Tartakovsky took his love of Marvel comics and came up with a very fresh and highly innovative derivative of them.

This is even more surprising when one considers the love and attention CN/WB put into the 10th Anniversary Power Puff Girls collection. Not that Blossom, Bubbles, Buttercup, Craig McCracken and company didn’t deserve their retrospective or the four volume set of Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack isn’t a must-have in any animation library.

Still, with Dexter as a lead character in CN’s latest MMO Fusion Force and Tartakovsky starting up a new animated series on CN sometime this year, it’s about time to return to the lab. All in the name of science, of course.

•    8 MAN – The co-creation of manga legends Jiro Kuwata and Kazumasa Hirai, this very early anime was one of the darkest entries to hit American shores in the 1960s. It was also one of the finest.

8 Man is the tale of a detective murdered by some criminals who felt he was getting to close to busting them. His brain is then transplanted into an android body, giving him super speed and strength, as well as the ability to make himself look like regular human beings. He would then become a dark avenger of sorts, as well as the first cyborg cop in the history of animation. After the show originally aired in the U.S in syndication for about a year, it was suddenly yanked out of circulation. Purportedly the trolls at standards and practices said it was because 8 Man powered himself up by smoking “atomic powered cigarettes.” Just as likely is the show was extremely action packed and considered quite violent for the mid-60s.

Still, with just about everything Astro Boy out on the market through either Right Stuf and Sony, and the original Gigantor coming out this May through Koch, its really about time we see the return of this cyborg superhero. He was the inspiration for Robocop just to begin with. His fans include people as cool as the RZA. My bootleg video tapes of the series are starting to look pretty sad and worn out. I know I’d line up to get a set.

•    GARGOYLES – Believe it or not, Disney did start issuing this incredible series a while back, but never completed it. According to series co-creator Greg Weisman, they stopped making DVDs halfway through the second season, and apparently have no plans of continuing.

Say what you want. Personally, as far as many are concerned, this is a crying shame. This series put the names of Weisman, Frank Paur and voice artists such as Keith David on the map. It was probably the most adventurous and original piece of work Disney TV ever developed, as well as its most visually spectacular. Last checked, the series is still airing on Disney XD, 15 years after its original creation.

What more do you need? It’s time for the Mouse Works to get this series back in production.

•    MIGHTY HEROES/MIGHTY MOUSE – There is a ton of animation by the living master Ralph Bakshi that deserves to be in circulation but these two titles strike as particularly glaring.

Mighty Heroes was a series Bakshi created while still working at CBS/Terrytoons and still stands as one of the funniest parodies of the superhero genre ever created. The misadventures of Diaper Man, Strong Man, Cuckoo Man, Tornado Man, and Rope Man displayed that Bakshi had his subversive chops already finely tuned long before he would move on to films like Fritz The Cat and Heavy Traffic.

Then what can you say about his 80s reinterpretation of the mightiest rodent of them all? Yes, the series earned its share of infamy due to the way Mighty Mouse took care of a ton of white powder-like flower pollen, but that was something us adults would get a giggle out of. Informed sources say one particularly powerful animation historian is in the process of putting a collection out in the very near future, though. So that may change.

In the meantime, let’s not forget the likes of such Bakshi masterworks as his HBO series Spicy City, the films Heavy Traffic and the unfortunately titled Coonskin. Ah hell, get all his work out, warts and all. The world will be a better place for it.

So that’s this list of five (all right, I cheated, six). The list can easily be doubled, tripled or more. Just off the top of the head, Reboot and Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp’s Eek The Cat come to mind.

What comes to yours?

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