Animation History
December 18, 2023 posted by Jerry Beck

The Top Ten ‘Classic Cartoon’ Blu-Rays of 2023


Here is something we should have started doing years ago.

Today, with more and more studios doing less and less physical media, doing less and less of digging into their vaults, we still had a pretty remarkable year of classic cartoon blu ray releases. My good friend Nelson Hughes suggested we compile a list of the goodies that came our way this past year. As I worked on a few of these releases myself, I thought would be a little self-serving to promote them (again). So what follows below is “Top Ten” list compiled by Nelson and myself, which also serves as a last-minute Christmas gift guide for that cartoon researcher who hasn’t yet ‘cut the cord’ of his physical disc player. This is a completely subjective list of ‘must-haves’ that came out during the 2023 calendar year. Nelson and I wrote the below – and if we overlooked one of your favorites, let us know in the Comments below.

Here’s our picks in reverse numeric ranking:


Some (or most) of these have been released before – but never collected together like this. First off, all of these have finally been remastered for 4K and put on blu-ray, eighteen Rankin Bass TV Specials and movies, some of which even I haven’t seen before. Additionally, The Complete Rankin-Bass Christmas Collection is notable as a “first” that could portend some interesting boxed sets in the future – it’s a first time joint venture between Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Only by combining their Rankin-Bass holdings could such a collection even exist. What next? The Complete Abbott and Costello Feature Archive? My mind races!


The first Hanna Barbera full length feature, Hey There It’s Yogi Bear (1964), is a lot better than you might think – especially in this new restoration. Bill and Joe knew they couldn’t make a ‘Disney movie’, but they let all the strengths of their hit TV cartoon play out in “full” animation, and the characterizations by Daws Butler, Don Messick – and Mel Blanc, Hal Smith and Julie Bennett (as Cindy Bear) – carry the story. Backed by animation from some Hollywood heavy hitters (including Irv Spence, Don Lusk, Ken Harris, Ray Patterson and Fred Wolf, to name but a few), the picture quality is outstanding – and they even restored the original Columbia logo at the header. (Special Features include the original theatrical trailer – and the “Yogi’s Birthday Party” episode from The Yogi Bear Show).


Mark Dindal’s Cat’s Don’t Dance, the only feature from the short-lived Turner Feature Animation unit, made no waves when it was released theatrically in 1997. But the animation industry itself recognized its achievement with a Best Animated Feature Annie Award that year (beating Disney’s Hercules and Warners’ Space Jam) – and its gone on to become a cult classic ever since. It’s restoration and release on blu ray was in demand of numerous fan campaigns for the film’s rescue. Warner Archive did a beautiful job here – championing a film that should not be forgotten. (Special Features include the classic Looney Tunes What’s Up, Doc?, Show Biz Bugs, Curtain Razor and Daffy Ducky in Hollywood – and the original theatrical trailer.)


At last – Disney has started releasing some of its classic cartoons shorts on blu-ray. These two volumes are a beginning (I hope) and you can’t complain about the titles chosen – The Little Whirlwind, Mr. Duck Steps Out, The Band Concert, Lonesome Ghosts, Thru The Mirror, The Brave Little Tailor among them. The picture quality is spectacular, the sound crystal clear. My complaints are only quibbles: The menu/bridging material between each short is pretty annoying – Each short features a video photo album of the cartoons (which we could easily do without), clearly aimed towards children lest they get board between cartoons; only ten cartoons per disc? For $14.99 on Amazon (cheaper on eBay and other sellers) makes up for that only slightly. Unfortunately there are no special features on either disc. One would think that Disney would have put out more volumes for their golden anniversary, but didn’t. Regardless, these two volumes (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) are highly recommended for both fans of Disney and classic cartoons alike. Okay Disney – now give with Silly Symphonies! -Nelson Hughes and Jerry Beck


I’ll be honest – this one blew me away. I had only seen bits and pieces of Gay Purr-ee throughout the years. I could never make it past a half hour without distraction. This time, I put on the blu-ray, darkened the lights and watched it on my largest home screen – and came away with a whole new opinion. This is an underrated little gem. The art direction and color stand out – the voice work is a revelation; Garland and Goulet give it their all – and if your are familiar with Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso (among others) you’ll be in for a treat – and if you unfamiliar with those painters, you’ll be introduced to them in the same wonderful way Chuck Jones (who co-wrote the script with his wife) brought us opera and classical music in his classic Looney Tunes shorts. The last great UPA production (produced concurrently with the equally masterful Magoo’s Christmas Carol) – highly recommended! (Special Features include Song Demos and the original theatrical trailer – and three classic Looney Tunes with a French theme: For Scent-Imental Reasons, French Rarebit and Louvre Come Back To Me.)


I have always been a fan of the New York City based Van Bueren Studios. One of my favorite series the studio released was the theatrical screen adaptation of E.G. Soglow’s most popular comic strip character, The Little King. Thunderbean Animation previously released a dvd featuring all the Little King cartoons uncut and uncensored, plus two Sentinel Louie cartoons as bonus material, so it was time for an upgrade. For me, one of the highlights on the set includes MARCHING ALONG (’33) taken from the original camera negative, courtesy of Sony Archives and the Library Of Congress. There’s plenty of special features to go around on this release. The Little King never has looked this good. Both 35 and 16mm prints were used and fully restored. I wouldn’t pass on this blu ray if I were you. Grab a copy of The Complete Animated Adventures Of The Little King if you haven’t. Makes for a perfect holiday gift. – Nelson Hughes


There must be a dozen previous versions of both Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella on home video released over the years. From VHS and laser disc to multiple reissues on DVD and blu ray. Now comes new 4K Ultra High Definition scans of both, but this time off the original nitrate negatives and with the creative input and QC of Disney Animation artists Eric Goldberg and Michael Giaimo. This is pretty much IT. The ultimate version that (to my eyes) is equivalent to 35mm film prints I saw back when they reissued these films to movie theaters – back it my youth. If you haven’t bought these in the past, now is the time. I believe all the previous bonus features have been ported over to these new releases. I hope they are doing this for the rest of the pre-1970 features – they can’t come out fast enough.


Thad K. reviewed Vol. 1 HERE and Vol. 2 HERE – and he said it all when he discussed Looney Tunes Collectors Choice Vol. 1: “It’s quite flabbergasting to see things like the ‘30s Merrie Melodies with such clarity and color.”

Looney Tunes Collectors Choice Vol. 2 offers a total of 25 classic Warner cartoons. Five more than the first volume, and a wider array, this time spanning from the late ‘30s to early ‘60s. Films by Tex Avery and a single black-and-white cartoon by Norm McCabe are added to the mix of cartoons from Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin, Bob McKimson, and Art Davis…the picture quality is mostly jaw-dropping across the board, showing a level of detail never thought possible with careful restoration that retains the original animation and artwork.”

Need we say more?


Producer Arnold Leibovit continues the widely acclaimed blu ray series featuring the animated film works of legendary producer, George Pal. Volume 3 picks off right were volume two left off. So what’s included on this set? Well, I’ll tell ya. 28 classic Puppetoons shorts presented in HD in the most stunning restorations you will ever see on film. Courtesy and officially licensed by Paramount Pictures and with the assistance of some of the world’s leading archives, there’s no shortage of rare goodies on this set. Included is the very first Paramount Puppetoons release with Jim Dandy and more animated antics with the beloved character Jasper. Cartoon selections that were presented in SD on the first volume are back, this time in HD including both Dr. Seuss shorts. The set also gives fans a look at some of Pal’s earliest work. Including some of Pal’s 2-D animated cartoon shorts made in the mid 1930s. Extras include an unreleased interview with Pal himself. A release that should be on every cartoon fans home video library. Order it directly from the producer himself at his website. – Nelson Hughes


With all the great home video releases that came out this year, Jerry and I felt this one was a no brainer. FLiP was eight years in production and it was well worth the wait. It is certainly a crowning achievement for Thunderbean Animation and what will eventually become their most biggest and important release. The two disc set features all 38 theatrical cartoons uncut and uncensored from the Ub Iwerks studios which was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer. The Flip cartoons were MGM’s first animated theatrical releases from 1930 through 1933. If you love pre-code cartoons, then this set is for you. Officially licensed from Blackhawk Films, almost all the prints taken from 35mm prints from the UCLA FILM AND TELEVISION ARCHIVE and several of the other major film archives. Steve Stanchfield and his staff should be applauded for the tireless long efforts for painstakingly restoring these cartoons in all their natural glory. The special features include unseen artwork from the Iwerks studio, rare early 1910s musical recordings and so much more. There’s plenty of audio commentaries (a first for Thunderbean) from some of the top animation historians and a special video introduction by Ub’s granddaughter, Leslie Iwerks rounds out this excellent release. Flip finally gets his due with the help of Thunderbean and you won’t be disappointed. Get your copy of Flip The Frog: The Complete Series now! – Nelson Hughes


  • I cannot add anything to this, except that these are wonderful choices all.

    I don’t have all of them as yet, but I intended over the next few weeks to fill in the blanks! “Flip the Frog“ is the way all restored cartoon collections should be! Such attention to detail is on display here. The sound quality is awesome! I also agree with having the “Looney Tunes, Collectors Choice“ volumes one and two on this list. It might seem like you’re blowing your own horn, but what a horn! The tone and everything else about these two blue rays are fabulous! I am, hoping this proposed third volume will go even further!

    I’m always hoping one day that the amount of discs involved will expand to at least two per volume, but maybe I’m asking too much right now? I don’t know, but I can hope at least. I thoroughly intend to buy “Cats Don’t Dance“ because I really want to enjoy this film. I think Randy Newman is involved in this, isn’t he? One thing about the cartoons added to it, I think I would’ve snuck in “sitting on the backyard fence“, a 1930s classic that is a kind of musical of sorts and has an entire alleycat cast!

    I don’t own either of the Mickey Mouse collections for the reasons pointed out in this article; I think Walt Disney deserves far better, appreciation, and at wonderful prices! The only thing that mildly amazed me was this immensely expensive, Disney Legacy, animated films collection! It certainly was a dream set of mine, but way out of my price range. I don’t think I need the Mickey Mouse Crystal glass ears! I need the films! Wouldn’t it be nice to have given us a set of these films that we could afford, maybe in three separate boxes?! It’s the 100th anniversary of the studio and it deserves far better!

    That’s all I will say for now, and here’s to 2024 and what it could bring to us!

  • There are only 3 titles in your list I have not picked up this year.

    Re Mickey And Friends 10 Classic Shorts – I do not see copy and paste title cards with wrong years, or appalling DVNR and shimmering on e.g. Thru The Mirror as merely “quibbles” – especially on Volume 1.

    The only other title I would mention is the Blu Ray release of Ivor The Engine, a 1950’s and 1970’s British tv cartoon series, which also aired in overseas markets (maybe not the USA).

    But if you’re going to include stop motion, then I would also include the Blu Ray release of Bagpuss, a 1970’s British tv show which also aired in overseas markets.

  • ” I hope they are doing this for the rest of the pre-1970 features”

    If there must be a limit – make that 1971 !

  • Long live, physical media!

  • Didn’t know about #s 6, 8, and 9—-Great job getting the word out, Warner Archive. And with all the shorts included with Cats Don’t Dance, why was “Pullet Surprise” (which was released with the movie) not added?

    And in the FWIW dept., Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt has advised against purchasing the R/B box set, citing numerous substandard quality issues.

    • They didn’t want to put it on the disc with an SD transfer and they didn’t have enough time to make a new HD quality master without delaying the release.

    • The Extras podcast and are the best references for Warner Archives new releases.

      (Extras discussion on new animated releases also occasionally features dialogue with a certain blogger)

      Rodney Dangerfield on blu ray is out next month.

      • WA used to send out an email newsletter announcing their new releases. Last one I received was back in November 2020. Really shortsighted of them to have stopped this practice.

        You mean Rover Dangerfield, I presume? Thanks for all the info.

  • A Universal/Warner Bros. joint venture?

    Marx Brothers box set, with Universal owning Paramount’s movies, and WB owning MGM’s! The complete Karloff/Lugosi features, with Universal having “Son of Frankenstein,” four non-creature horror films, and cameo by each separately in the comedy musical “Gift of Gab,” and Warners contributing RKO’s comedy “You’ll Find Out” and the horror “The Body Snatcher.”

    Cartoon DVDs haven’t focused on the directors: Chuck Jones, for example, despite his work for WB and MGM having been consolidated for decades. Would adding Tex Avery’s work for Lantz be enough to get him a spotlight collection?

  • It’s all your fault, CR, that I’ve ever heard of Cats Don’t Dance. I’d like to see it someday.

    Not much interested in the Disney Blu-Ray. The uncensored Treasures are worth the $50.

    I’m most interested in the Gay Pur-ee Blu-Ray!

  • I would throw in The Legend of Calamity Jane from Discotek Media – it was a pleasure seeing what was previously a “lost media” cartoon for the first time. It’s SD only but it still looks fine.

  • Excellent list. Sticking with the theme there’s only a handful that I think that I could add:

    1. The Nightmare Before Christmas – Ultimate Collector’s Edition 4K – Like the Snow White/Cinderella discs, this looks fantastic.
    2. The Legend Of Calamity Jane – A French/Us co-production, this is a series I’d not heard of before from the late 90s. It’s a good series and seems more adult oriented and almost anime like.
    3. Wallace and Gromit The Complete Cracking Collection – I’m not the biggest Wallace and Gromit fan but this does collect every short in one package.
    4. Claydream – A fascinating look at the history of the Will Vinton studio and in a way the start of Laika.

  • Oh how fun it was to work on Flip with Steve! I admire his tenacity and ambition on this project, as it was highly important to him, us, and the pre-code cartoon community. As I”m still young in my animation restoration career, I learned so much by working on this set, and was grateful to work with such a great team. I should also mention, some films Steve cleaned more than once just to ensure it was perfect. I can’t emphasize enough that he (and small team) really put his heart into this. So honored to work on this! Thank you Jerry and Nelson!

    • (Thanks from me too, Nelson, though that goes without saying… or croaking. As a Flip fan since my embarrassing—and now public!—childhood, working intimately with Steve on this collection was the fulfillment of a long-held goal.)

  • “Gay Purr-ee” and “Cats Don’t Dance,” for all their merits, had the same problem: too campy and in-jokey for kids (and not funny enough to compensate, a la Jay Ward) and too cute for their parents. Another film that didn’t get a fair shake at the box office, the brilliant “Iron Giant,” I’d like to have seen listed here. That one is second only to “Nightmare Before Christmas” among the great animated features of the ’90s, but it rankled some on its initial release because of its anti-gun stance and its satirizing of fifties Cold War paranoia.

    • I agree with you completely regarding The Iron Giant – but the blu rays listed in this post were actually released during 2023. The most recent physical media release of The Iron Giant was, I believe, in 2016.

  • Great list Jerry! Have you seen the animated films that Deaf Crocodile has released this year?

  • The release of “Gay Purr-ee” was quite timely considering, in particular, two related events this year: an interactive exhibit in New York City’s Battery Park district showcasing the works of Van Gogh in a unique format, and the passing of starring voice actor and singer Robert Goulet.

    And on that note, I would hope that “Shinbone Alley” would also get an official Blu-Ray release someday soon, with the inclusion of a featurette that covers the history of the Broadway musical it was based on. For the meanwhile, it’s free to watch via

  • Splendid list, Jerry! Among my favorites are Cats Don’t Dance and Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear!. I love the art direction of Gay Purr-ee. I’ve always found that aspect lent itself perfectly to the film. Always a delight to see a Rankin Bass collection added on a list. Even in the age of streaming, there’s just something about physical media that is to be greatly appreciated. I think it makes the viewing experience more enriching especially with the addition of the extra features and content.

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