If you’ve watched Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies shorts (and, come on, you have), you’ve seen the work of Isadore “Friz” Freleng. He may not be the household name that Chuck Jones is, but Freleng not only created beloved characters like Speedy Gonzales, Yosemite Sam, and Sylvester & Tweety, he was the most prolific director during Warner Bros. Animation’s heyday (he directed 266 shorts for the studio). Freleng is also the most honored director, having won five Academy Awards. So, like I said, you know his work.
Once the Warner Bros. Animation wing quit making cartoons in 1963, Freleng and his business partner, David H. DePatie, branched off and created DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. The company created dozens and dozens of cartoons, theatrical shorts, movie title sequences, and other such gems. The Pink Panther cartoon series is probably their most famous achievement, but they made several other series of shorts that were just as popular, if much less seen.
In case you haven’t seen them, the good folks at Kino Lorber are releasing three Blu-ray collections of these Freleng-produced shorts, in HD for the very first time.
The first comprises all 17 shorts in The Ant and the Aardvark series from 1969-1971, a revival of the predator-prey cartoon trope. A highly intelligent ant outsmarts a hapless and dopey aardvark, with voices that sound like Dean Martin and Jackie Mason, respectively:
The second set features all 16 shorts from 1978 starring Crazylegs Crane, a supporting character in other cartoons before getting his own series of cockamamie adventures trying to catch a dragonfly that looks like a little teeny dragon:
And finally, the third set is a two-disc affair comprising all 34 episodes of The Inspector from 1965-1969, which stars the titular French detective constantly out of his league, much to the consternation of his patient sidekick Deux Deux:
(Check out the gallery below for box art.)
On top of the hours of entertainment, the sets will also feature documentaries by filmmaker Greg Ford, selected audio commentaries featuring Ford, author Mark Arnold, and cartoon historian Jerry Beck, and archival interviews with Friz Feleng, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 88.
The sets will be released on April 26, 2016, and Kino plans to continue releasing DePatie-Freleng cartoon collections including Roland and Rattfink, Tijuana Toads, Blue Racer, Sheriff Hoot Kloot, Dogfather and MisterJaw later in the year.
Do you remember seeing any of these shorts? Are you stoked to be able to see them again? Let us know the in the comments below!
Images: DePatie-Freleng/Kino Lorber
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!