For, April 18, 2014

Animation fans have long considered the Mr. Magoo cartoons — that is, the shorts made for movie theaters from 1949-59 (two of which won Oscars and 12 in widescreen CinemaScope) — to be the Holy Grail of theatrical animation.

The Magoo TV cartoons (by any measure an inferior lot) have been on DVD for a while, but the 53 theatrical cartoons have never been released on home video. Until now.

"The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection (1949-1959)" that hits DVD outlets on Tuesday (April 22) collects all 53, including the CinemaScope cartoons in anamorphic widescreen transfers.

For the uninitiated, Quincy Magoo is a wealthy, short, elderly gentleman who is so nearsighted as to be nearly blind, yet he moves about without a care in the world, misidentifying all around him and often becoming involved in hair-raising scrapes that he adeptly averts, dropping wisecracks (voiced by Jim Backus) as he goes.


Some of these shorts have some hilarious gags and the best are up there with the greatest classic animation of the 1940s and '50s, which was an amazing golden age for nearly every movie studio, though Warner Bros. and Disney justly receive the most attention.

They had Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, respectively, and it's hard to compete with the legends they became.

But MGM had Tom and Jerry, Paramount had Popeye, Universal had Woody Woodpecker, Fox had Casper the Friendly Ghost and Columbia had UPA, which gave them Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing, among others.

It was an amazing time. As a child in the 1950s I was excited to see what cartoon might be shown before the movie, having no idea that they usually were products of the same studio that released the film you'd gone to see.

So, if you were there for, say, "The Ten Commandments" or "Sabrina" or a Jerry Lewis comedy, all released by Paramount Pictures, it was quite possible a Popeye cartoon would also be on tap.

But as a child I didn't know that. And it was a sort of game I played with my parents, trying to guess which cartoon might be shown.

And we were never disappointed if it was "Mr. Magoo."