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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mr Magoo Complete Collection: Entitled to Blind Loyalty

To paraphrase cartoon legend Mr. Magoo's catchphrase "Oh, Shout Factory, You've Done It Again." That haven for classic television fans did an almost perfect job with "Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection 1960 - 1977." The absence of the typical valued "making of" or "history of" special feature was slightly disappointing but likely due to an effort to keep the price of the set low.

Another very excusable minor flaw is that Shout did not include the classic television special "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol," which was the first animated television Christmas special, separately. The reason for this is that another DVD company owns the rights to this classic.

Shout did show exceptional Christmas spirit by both promoting "Carol" in the wonderful booklet that accompanies Shout's collection and by including a flyer for that DVD in its set.

I do not blame Shout Factory at all for not including the theatrical shorts that launched Magoo's career in this set. Those cartoons are in another Shout Factory set that I look forward to obtaining.

The early television-era cartoons are the adventures of the near-sighted Magoo that baby boomers watched on Saturday mornings and Gen Xers like yours truly watched after school in the early '70s. I watched them as part of "The Uncle Gus Show," which aired on WMUR in Manchester, NH.

Like the creators of "Tom and Jerry," which has gotten more than 50 years of entertainment out of the simple concept of a cat chasing a mouse, Magoo's creators have kept the concept of a nearly blind middle-aged man literally stumbling through obstacles ala silent film star Harold Lloyd fresh.

The DVD collection includes the 1960 - 1961 "The Mr. Magoo Show," the 1964 - 1965 "The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo," the 1970 television special "Uncle Sam Magoo," and the 1977 reboot "What's New Mr. Magoo."

The original Magoo show is chock full of clever near-sight gags in which Magoo confounds those around him and/or narrowly avoids serious harm. Examples include stumbling into an armed forces recruiting center thinking that it is a men's clothing store and mistaking a working gravel pit full of dangerous construction equipment for a beach.

Shout Factory deserves special credit for not making any apologies for preserving an aspect of this series. 

I was pleasantly surprised that Shout did not either dub the voice of or otherwise alter the appearance of Magoo's horribly stereotypical Chinese houseboy Charlie, who hit every highly offensive point down to the buck teeth, racist accent, and straw hat. Shout deserves special credit as well for not including any form of warning or disclaimer regarding the depiction of Charlie.

I do not condone the racism that was rampant in cartoons through the '60s, and am glad that we live in more enlightened times,  but that was part of that era's culture. I believe that not altering those images on the DVDs that help preserve that culture is important and that people should be mature enough to understand the context.

Magoo's follow-up series "Famous Adventures" placed Magoo in the role of classic literary figures, such as William Tell and Robin Hood's Friar Tuck, in 30-minute episodes that often ran several parts. I only watched the Tell episode and enjoyed seeing Magoo in a more heroic role than typical. I additionally found Buttley the goat very cute and highly entertaining.

This series is particularly noteworthy for encouraging children to read; I confess that I would like to read "William Tell" after Magoo showing me that there is much more to the story that I had remembered.

"Uncle Sam Magoo" is a very condensed version of 200 years of American history with a Magoo slant. I am saving this one for a Saturday morning when I can enjoy it over a bowl of Apple Jacks. Alas, Quisp cereal has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

I also have not watched any DVDs of  "What's New Mr. Magoo" but remember the show fondly and recall that it captured the spirit of the original very well.

Anyone with comments or questions  regarding "Magoo" is encouraged to email me.