I recently watched Pluto’s Judgement Day, a 1930s Disney cartoon starring Mickey Mouse, in which the lovable character became rather scary. After the animation had finished, I began thinking about the number of edits to old cartoons because of political correctness and their subsequent release on home media.
Back in the early days of DVD, companies would include old TV prints of classic cartoons; many of which cut out anything deemed offensive. I assume this was because they labelled them as being for children, even though some cartoon shorts really aimed at adults. When I collected DVDs, I felt irritated at finding vintage Tom and Jerry cut to shreds, as I thought it interrupted the authentic experience. Scenes of smoking, stereotypes and outdated views may not fly today, but they are a historical document of an era. Considering most of the modern audience was likely consenting adults, the cutting of these vintage shorts on home media always felt like an unrequired babysitter who was deciding what I should see.
Not all vintage material suffered the same fate though, as they released less repeated shorts from Woody Woodpecker and Disney uncut. The depicted scenes in some of these cartoons would cause a Twitter meltdown if repeated on TV but serve as entertainment for enthusiasts and academics on home media. I am particularly excited by the recent influx of Blu-Ray releases of vintage theatrical shorts, a real step up from previous efforts. Warner Archive recently released a superb Blu-Ray release of Tex Avery shorts, understanding the needs of the cult fanbase with uncut versions for the first time. Following their volumes of Popeye and Looney Tunes, long may it continue!