One of the presents I got this year was the DVD set of the theatrical Droopy shorts. It wasn't one of the first I decided to check out... in fact, unlike some of the other DVDs I got, I didn't stick it in my DVD player until a few days later! I guess this is because I had the feeling that these cartoons didn't represent the best of what Avery did at MGM, and that while I was watching them, something would remind me of a better Avery MGM cartoon, and I would wish I was watching that instead.
I think my negative feelings about the Droopy cartoons came from a specific group of them, from around 1950, which pitted Droopy against Spike the bulldog. They were built on a blackout gags formula, in which Droopy and Spike are competing for something, and so Spike tries various schemes against Droopy (either trying to kill him, or just make him fail at something) which all backfire in exactly the same way. The humour levels really seem to go down after the first four where he is pitted against the wolf.
As it turns out though, there were some other good ones made around the same time... "Out-Foxed", for example, and even "Droopy's Double Trouble", although it does feature Spike, is much more enjoyable to me than the five Spike and Droopy entries which came before it. This was the last Droopy cartoon Avery made before his sabbatical and brief replacement by Dick Lundy, and if the quality of the Droopy shorts are anything to go by, it was a much-needed break.
The following cartoons (on Disc 2 of the DVD set) are much more inventive, funny, and inventively funny. Even though "Three Little Pups" is a blackout-gag cartoon, it is still one of my favourites, and contains one of my favourite Avery gags (ironically featuring a bulldog)...
"Break it up, son. Joke's over."
Most of the post-sabbatical Droopy cartoons have a Western theme to them, and this may have been Avery's element.
Now, the last few shorts were directed by Michael Lah, and I was expecting the quality to plunge. But, interestingly enough, it doesn't! I'm not saying it was a similar situation to the Popeye cartoons, where the first Famous entries were better than the last few Fleischers - as I said above, the weak phase for Tex's Droopys came much earlier. I did enjoy them a lot more than those earlier "weak phase" Droopys though. "Grin and Share It" is based on the same formula, but, well, I prefer it. "One Droopy Knight" is largely a remake of the earlier "Senor Droopy" but I find the mythical knights-and-dragons setting more suited to the basic story than the bullfighting arena.
(the only thing that "Senor Droopy" has in its favour over "One Droopy Knight" is the live-action end gag)
Hmmm... it's only when getting that screengrab that I was reminded that Senor Droopy's opponent is the wolf, not Spike. Well, I'd still classfy it as one of the weaker formula shorts, not in the same league as "Dumb-Hounded" through "Northwest Hounded Police".