Top Cat: The Complete Series
DVD Review by Jon Cooke
March 13, 2005
2004 was an excellent year for releases of classic cartoons on DVD. Fans were able to add many excellent DVD sets to their
collections. However, there is one DVD set I think may have been overlooked. It was truly one of the best sets released in 2004,
but tended to get passed over since it came out so close to the release dates of the highly anticipated Looney Tunes: Golden
Collection, Vol. 2 and the 4th wave of Walt Disney Treasures. Top Cat: The Complete Series, part of Warner Home
Video's Hanna-Barbera DVD collection, is an excellent package that really deserves a space on your DVD shelf.
Top Cat may not be one of the most popular Hanna-Barbera series, but it ranks as one of the best series they ever did.
It is one of those rare shows where everything works. It has excellent character designs, smart dialogue, funny sight gags,
extremely likable characters, a great voice cast, and one of the catchiest theme songs ever (after watching and rewatching the DVDs,
I think it's safe to say it's impossible to get tired of the Top Cat song). Warner Home Video should be commended for giving TC
the royal treatment on DVD with a set filled with an array of amazing extras. We cartoon fans probably owe a lot of thanks to
Hanna-Barbera expert, Earl Kress, for playing a big role in putting together such a top-notch package.
If you haven't seen Top Cat and his gang in awhile, you are in for a treat. It is hard to pop in a disc and only watch one
episode. I found myself settling in and watching two or three at a time. That's how enjoyable these cartoons are. I also found
myself laughing out loud a few times. The show, set in an alley dubbed "Hoagy's Alley" in New York, centers around Top Cat and
his crew's various moneymaking schemes that they attempt to pull off under the nose of watchful Officer Dibble. T.C.'s crew of
alleycats include his loyal sidekick Benny the Ball, Spook (the beatnik), Fancy Fancy (the ladies' man), The Brain (the dumb one),
and Choo Choo (the smartest one of the bunch). Even when the show relies on plots we've seen hundreds of times in various sitcoms
--- such as "The Late T.C.," where Dibble thinks T.C. only has 24 hours to live --- the funny jokes and great characters make them
Hanna-Barbera fans shouldn't be disappointed with the bonus materials. First, there are commentary tracks on three episodes
where Earl Kress is joined by cartoon historians, Mark Evanier and Jerry Beck, and voice actor, Leo de Lyon (voice of Spook and
The Brain). These guys have a good time watching the shows and point out lots of interesting trivia about the creation of the show
and the voice cast. One of my favorite parts of the commentary tracks was hearing Leo de Lyon laughing at gags that he hadn't
seen in years. It makes me wish more episodes came with Leo de Lyon laugh tracks.
Earl Kress really went the extra mile with this set. He managed to get Top Cat himself, the great Arnold Stang, to give an
interview exclusively for this DVD set. Stang looks good for his age and he is still a funny man (Famous Studios fans will be
thrilled to hear that he even still sounds a bit like "Cousin Herman"). Kress returns for "Cool Cats in Interview Alley",
where he sits down with Leo de Lyon, Marvin Kaplan (voice of Choo Choo), and Barry Blitzer (one of the show's head writers).
They discuss how much they enjoyed putting the show together and the appeal of the show and its characters.
That's not even all the extras. There's an all-new documentary hosted by de Lyon called "Back to Hoagy's Alley: The Making of
Top Cat". There's a comparison between a finished episode of Top Cat and a storyboard of the same episode
(the storyboard dates from the early production of the show, where the show was planned to be titled J.B. and Company).
Plus, there are some rarely seen Kellogg's commercials and the original ending titles which includes the Kellogg's billboard
(later removed in syndication prints), galleries of production drawings, and a Top Cat Sing-Along. On most cartoon DVD sets,
the "Sing-Along" is usually just a throwaway extra (just the regular theme with lyrics superimposed on the screen), but here the
show opening plays with an instrumental of the theme (minus the singers) while Hoyt Curtin's handwritten sheet music appears on
the screen for lyrics. I thought that was a nice touch.
I hope Warner Home Video continues releasing quality DVD sets like this for the rest of the great early Hanna-Barbera shows.
I am sure if Earl Kress and company are involved we will be in for a treat when WB Home Video finally releases Huckleberry Hound
and Yogi Bear collections. In the meantime, don't miss Top Cat: The Complete Series. Like Top Cat himself, it's the most
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