Starting off with “I Haven’t Got A Hat” this five disc collection features every Porky Pig cartoon from his debut in 1935 on through 1943’s “Porky Pig’s Feat” – which means there are a lot of not only black and white cartoons here, but several less politically correct ones. For example “Westward Woah” features Native Americans poorly and probably wouldn’t get made today. Porky kicks a dog at the end of “Porky’s Romance” and “Wholly Smoke” is a bizarre short which could be said to be anti-smoking but it’s just weird and racially insensitive.
Porky looked quite a bit different in the early cartoons than how we think of him. In a way you could think he was modeled after W.C. Fields initially – at least for the physical appearance. Much larger than we see him today, Porky was initially a sidekick, but it wasn’t too long before he was starring on his own. By the time of Porky’s Duck Hunt we have a much more familiar outline for the character.
So, yes, there are 101 shorts on here, almost all black and white, all starring or featuring Porky Pig, and spanning the years 1935 to 1943. This should tell you just how busy the Warner Brothers animation studio was at the time. There were several big names and this collection does a good job focusing on this one, but there are so many shorts that have yet to see a modern (last 40 years) broadcast let alone a home video release.
Lets take a look at some of the shorts that are new to home video – such as “Africa Squeaks” which features Porky on an expedition into Africa. yes, the natives are caricatures, which is probably why it hasn’t been shown much. “Porky’s movie Mystery” is a parody of the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan franchises, themselves culturally insensitive inherently and this doesn’t really rectify that. Will modern audiences get the gag of the F.H.A. sign in front of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in “The Coy Decoy”? That same cartoon features a series of literary gags, one of which is Daffy Duck pretending to ride the book Black Beauty only moments later to be riding an “Aunt Jemimah”caricature of a black woman.
Besides having 101 cartoon shorts gathered here, some for the first time on DVD, there are some special features that certainly make this a collection animation fans will want. There are some audio commentaries by a variety of people. There are 14 commentary tracks, each one worth listening to, though some are more informative than others. Two shorts are presented with some storyboards showcasing how they evolved from concept to finished product, which would have been nice for even more of them. Finally I don’t know where “Porky’s Breakdowns” was originally from, but it is just one gag that lasts just under 2 minutes and is not a regular short – perhaps shown internally? Whatever the case is, it’s certainly not for young kids.
I could list all of the shorts but that would be pointless. You are not going to pick this up based on the listing of 101 Porky Pig shorts. You want to know if this is worth it. Even if you are not a Porky Pig fan, and I generally count myself among that crowd, Porky Pig 101 is very much purchasing. Having this many quality shorts in one place, and to have them presented in a way that fans will appreciate is certainly worth applauding. I can only hope Warner Brothers eventually decides to release their whole catalog this way.