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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Slapstick > Satire > Spoof > Live Action > TV > The New Three Stooges: The Complete Cartoon Series - 40th Anniversary Collection (1965/Animated/Image Madacy DVD Set)

The New Three Stooges: The Complete Cartoon Series - 40th Anniversary Collection (1965/Animated/Image Madacy DVD Set)

Picture: C Sound: C Extras: C+ Episodes: B

At the end of their run of classic theatrical film shorts, The Three Stooges were already embracing television as Columbia heavily syndicated their catalog, they were making feature films, TV appearances, personal appearances across the country and reinventing themselves for a new generation of children by curbing some of their semi-violent slapstick. With the Curly Joe configuration of the trio in full gear, they and their family decided that they should independently produce something they had never moved into before: animation!

Cambria Studios had previously made series like Clutch Cargo, Space Angel and Captain Fathom had drawings with human mouths superimposed to save money on the animation and known as Syncro-Vox. That was not going to work here and this became (with the Heritage and Normandy companies) their most successful series. Instead of going to one of the Big Three networks, the producers decided to syndicate the show, the result was a very popular hit that that rounded off the trio's success as a phenomenon and The New Three Stooges gave them a permanent image and hold in the world of animation.

The show ran on stations across the country everywhere until the early 1980s on its own or mixed with other packages some stations assembled for local children's television programming. A remarkable 156 animated shorts were produced, mixed with 40 live action slapstick shorts in color especially shot for this series. The Complete Cartoon Series - 40th Anniversary Collection (1965) has every single one of them collected in total for the first time ever, anywhere and in any format. We've been waiting for this one for years and finally, here it is.

The animated shorts are as fun as I remembered, simple, charming and an more fun spirited than you might expect, plus the animated world meant animated conventions and rules, so they would play on many of them and break many others. It is the most underrated chapter of the trio's history and they have been out of circulation for far too long with a few bad video copies here and there extremely poor and unacceptable.

As good as anything Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello did for TV (and they both had their moments in the medium), the shorts have still amusing and clever titles like Bee My Honey, Turnabout Is Bear Play, Knight Without End, The Three Astronutz, Tee For Three, Souperman, Gagster Dragster, From Bad To Verse, Toys Will Be Toys, The Men From UCLA (a Man From UNCLE nod), The Three Marketeers, Waiter Minute, Pow Row Wow, How The West Was Once, Let's Shoot The Player Piano Players, Dentist The Menace, Safari So Good, Their Auto Be A Law, To Kill A Clockingbird, Wash My Line, Suture Self, Phony Express, Peter Panic, Wizards Of Odd, Aloha Ha Ha, Land Ho Ho Ho, Call Of The While, Which Is Witch, Late For Launch, Tree Is A Crowd, Surfs You Right, Curly's Birthday A-Go-Go, Rug-A-Bye Baby, Ready.. Jetset.. Go and No Money, No Honey that should tell you what to expect. Nice they live up to what they set for themselves.

Though some of this is a little dated in its limited animation and some politically incorrect moments and a few characters, this otherwise remains very family friendly and come as a surprise to fans of the short films as well as those who might not usually be fans of the trio's more relative violent slapstick. Along with the syndicated Popeye animated TV shots of the early 1960s, this series helped to build syndication as we know it today showing that there was big money in original programming, and for children in addition to classic TV shows, live action shorts and animated cartoon shorts which did very well for the longest time.

I also like the live action shorts and wish there were more of them made. Totally compatible with the animated shorts, the trio still had their comic timing (they had just cameoed in the huge hit film comedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) in fine form) so they were still on top of things and this set is evidence of that.

If you have any memory of how colorful this show really was or have seen the better still images and hard-to-find animation cels on the series (which will undoubtedly increase in value as a result of the release of this set), you know it looks really good and for decades, awful, washed out, scratched and prints that should have been incinerated have been circulating on VHS, Beta, 12-inch LaserDisc and lesser DVDs to the detriment of this show. Though I have my issues with what we see here, the 1.33 X 1 image through the four DVDs are the best the show has looked outside of film prints that have not faded on home video to date. However, color is inconsistent, sometimes muted and all the transfers are on the soft side as if they came from late standard-definition masters. The live-action footage filmed of the actual Stooges of the time all originate on 16mm color film and they are also varied in appearance.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all episodes and segments show their age with harmonic distortion, background noise, compression and other flaws, but at least it is not always too low in volume. However, audio can vary in clarity from show to show and the opening of many of the shows sound better than the shows themselves. The Stooges' estate needs to go back at some point, get the film masters to all these shows, spend the money to restore them and preserve them for future HD and film posterity. This is the definitive set of the series, but some of that is by default and the show deserves the upgraded treatment like Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse, where you could see how good the color was on their DVD set, but the prints were more dirty and scratched than these, yet they too deserve restoration. Unfortunately, animated series from TV from the 1940s up to the 1970s do not get the respect they deserve, especially independent productions like these, so extra advocacy to save them in total is needed.

There is only one extra in this great heavy paperboard foldout packaging and that is a CD of two album collections of the trio singing. The first half is a dozen children's songs to Sing-A-Long with and the latter 11 are Christmas Songs. That is a very convenient double album to include and a pleasant surprise that goes perfect with these episodes. Which we had some more extras like commentaries or press materials to launch the show. Hope some of that survived.

The Three Stooges have remained popular all these decades later and an HD wave of their work seems the next logical step along possibly with a 3D animated feature. A recent revival with all new actors did not work, but Sony has issued all their live action shorts on DVD, including the two in 3D with the old red/blue glasses (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and as this show continued to play nationwide, The Stooges surfaced on two episodes of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, the hour-long first sequel to the original show and Hanna-Barbera optioned them again, turning them into silly bionic robots for a second TV series!

However, it was not as good or as successful as this first show and it disappeared faster even as they stayed big favorites. The New Three Stooges is a minor classic of TV animation and is long overdue for full rediscovery. Now you can see in this very complete set.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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