Gay Purr-ee Blu-ray Review: Judy Garland Gets Animated

By the 1960s, Judy Garland was in decline, no longer a potent or reliable force at the box office and battling her demons that would end her life by the close of the decade. Thanks to the magic of animation, she was able to soar one last time in this charming musical cartoon. In one of her final screen roles, Garland provides the acting and singing voice of lead character Mewsette, an innocent young French country girl cat who dreams of the glamour of Paris, or Purr-ee.

When Mewsette finally sets off for Paris, she’s tailed by her concerned country boyfriend, Jaune Tom (Robert Goulet). Sure enough, she quickly runs into trouble in the big city, seduced by slick-talking Meowrice, played by voiceover titan Paul Frees. This sets up a battle between the good and evil boyfriends, with Mewsette the ultimate prize for the winner.

The film is a reunion of sorts with Garland’s songwriting team from The Wizard of Oz, Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. They serve up eight original songs of varying quality, with Garland shining in all of her contributions. It’s a dream team putting the gang from her superstar breakthrough back together for her virtual swan song, and while nothing compares to “Over the Rainbow”, nothing tarnishes their legacy.

Interestingly, the film was written by animation legend Chuck Jones and his wife Dorothy, but he yielded the director’s chair to a key member from his old Looney Tunes production unit, Abe Levitow. That results in some interesting animation choices, where it’s clear that the Jones touch isn’t really there, but it’s close enough thanks to his always inspired pratfall writing that his spirit is still very much present. His absence is felt most acutely in the key character animation, where one may be expecting his character’s sly mouth curls and side-eye expressions but instead gets fairly generic character representations. 

The overall animation style is nonetheless impressive, powered by the innovative animation studios of UPA who were firmly following their simplified, abstract muse here. Bold colors spill over line boundaries, backgrounds are more evocative than realistic, and the feel is more akin to Pink Panther shorts and Mary Blair’s most surreal output than any classic theatrical shorts from Disney, MGM, or Warner Bros. It’s a bold, inviting vision that holds up remarkably well, bolstered by absolutely stunning color grading for the Blu-ray that pumps up its vibrancy to the HDR max.

The Blu-ray also includes three classic Warner Bros. cartoon shorts appropriately set in France, two Pepe Le Pew shorts directed by Jones as well as the Bugs Bunny gem, French Rarebit. Audio versions of five songwriter demo recordings are also included, offering valuable insight into the songwriting process. Bonus features are rounded out with a theatrical trailer.

I’m not really clear who the film was made for in its era, as it’s hard to believe ‘60s kids were clamoring for old-timer Judy Garland in a trippy musical cartoon, and an adult animation audience was a risky proposition. However it got greenlit, it’s still here and better than ever in this charming and eye-popping Blu-ray release. It’s a fine send-off for Garland’s collaboration with the songwriters, and a fitting coda for Garland’s monumental career.

Posted in , ,

Steve Geise

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter