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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cheepnis: Treasure Box/Family Value Collection

...and something about cartoons.

Note, this is almost a year old and could probably use an update when I get the time.

The first company I want to take a look at is probably the wrong way to start as the discs I have from them make a pretty good case against the cheap DVDs. They were, however, the first cheap discs I owned and some of the first I ever remember seeing. So, I guess that's why Treasure Box Collection (also know as Family Value Collection) have the honor of being the first company I'm going to talk about in my Cheepnis series.

I first started seeing TBC (as I'm going to abbreviate it) discs in Walgreen's drug stores a few years ago. Apparently the company is still in business, but they've changed their name to Family Value Collection. If you're so inclined, Dollar Tree seems to be the best place to look for them around these parts.

I received 5 discs as a stocking stuffer (which is a great use for these things, BTW), all of which were cartoon discs. The titles include "Superman and Friends," "Popeye and Friends," "Casper and Friends" and so on. More on that in a moment.

The discs come in a stiff laminated cardboard folder about the same size but about a third as thick as a regular DVD case. On the front is the "main" cartoon character and a few titles allegedly contained within are listed on the back. Not the worst packaging I've seen at this price point, but not the best.

The discs themselves are a little interesting. You put them in the player and get no FBI warning or company logo, just a very simple title screen and one option: play all. Each cartoon has it's own chapter (well, with the occasional exception where two 'toons are stuck together) so you can skip past the dreck, but you can't jump directly to a favorite or even see what all is on the disc.

Now, here's where I first learned a few rules of thumb when dealing with public domain cartoon DVDs. First rule: Beware the "...and Friends." This is a way for the DVD company to give the recognizable character top billing and pad the rest of the disc with obscure Noveltunes or Harvey junk. (I know, both have their fans, but the Harvey stuff really does nothing for me.)

In the case of the TBC "...and Friends" discs, this goes above and beyond making no sence. For example, the "Popeye and Friends" discs has only one Popeye cartoon and six Superman cartoons. The "Woody Woodpecker and Friends" disc has more Popeye cartoons than the Popeye disc and the Popeye disc has more Superman cartoons than the Superman disc! Not to mention the fact that the Superman disc totally blindsides you with nine episodes of a horrible Filmation series called "Fraidy Cat", a trick the Casper disc repeats with nine equally wreched "Packy and Wacky" 'toons.

Let's go back to the Superman and Popeye discs for the PD 'toon DVD rule of thumb number two: Expect duplicates. The three Superman 'toons on the Superman disc also show up on the Popeye disc. In fact one episode, "Billion Dollar Limited", makes a third appearance on the Casper disc as well. The sole Woody Woodpecker cartoon TBC has also serves three shifts and several others do double duity. This is just five discs from the same company. You can imagine how frustrating it gets when you start pulling other companies discs in the mix.

Getting back to packaging, rule number three is: Be skeptical of any titles listed on the back. It seems to me like most other companies are pretty close to accurate, but our friends at Treasure Box seemingly pull titles out of thin air to put on the back of these collections, when they list any at all. I don't think it's intentional deception as much as just lax quality control.

Finally, the fourth rule for cartoons: Expect the worst when it comes to quality. To be fair, a lot of this has to do with the prints these companies have to work with. They are almost always scratchy, jumpy, washed-out TV prints that were 16mm Eastmancolor reductions of the 35mm Technicolor originals. You can tell these cartoons were seen as little more than disposable filler by the way these prints have been mangled.

Now, Treasure Box Collection has gone the extra step and clearly taken their cartoons from consumer SLP VHS tapes. How do I know? Well, I remember what those things looked like and there's a sepcific image quality that thin tape moving at the slowest speed has. I can't describe it, but if you bought PD VHS tapes, you know what I'm talking about. Plus, there's one clumsy edit to a Popeye cartoon's title card that pausing on reveals another company's 1999 copyright. Heh.

I've read somewhere that there may be different versions of these discs floating around in the same packaging. Really, I wouldn't mess with them. You can find too many other cartoon collections that are better than this for the same price (Digiview's "Cartoon Craze" series, for instance.) I don't know if the quality of these discs is reflective of their entire catalog, but their "...and Friends" cartoon discs have made me a bit reluctant to check out anything else Treasure Box or Family Value has put out.

In case you're interested, here's another take on the discs from this company, including a couple of the cartoon disc I mentioned above. He seems to justify my fear of the rest of TBC's DVDs.

Also kids, really, stay away from those Fraidy Cat and Packy and Wacky cartoons. I'd rather seen an hour of "Gabby" or "Baby Huey" than one episode of those ever again. Nyah

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