Many Three Stooges fans will welcome this five-disc (four DVDs and one CD) deluxe set, new from Image Madacy Entertainment, The New Three Stooges Complete Cartoon Collection. This marks the first home video release of all 156 animated shorts produced for the The New Three Stooges, originally aired from 1965-66. As an added bonus, the shorts are enhanced by ‘wraparounds’ featuring the ‘real’ Stooges—Moe Howard, Larry Fine, “Curly” Joe Derita, and Emil Sitka—performing some of the skits that made them famous.

The animation shorts were produced by Cambria Studios, and Moe Howard’s son-in-law, Norman Maurer, served as executive producer on the 41 live-action shorts. By the mid-sixties, the Three Stooges were well past their prime and it shows. The original Curly had died in 1952, he had been replaced by a game ‘Curly’ Joe Derita, but it just wasn’t the same. Larry and Moe were aging and dealing with health problems, and it was obvious. The slapstick humor that team is famous for has been heavily watered down; you might say they were a kinder, gentler version of the Three Stooges. To make matters worse, in an effort to avoid legal issues, the familiar theme songs used in previous Stooge shorts (“Three Blind Mice, “Listen to the Mockingbird”) were discarded.

The cartoons themselves are aimed at very young viewers. As such, this set will primarily appeal to those who have watched the original series on television, and the hardcore stooge fans among us. If you are new to the Three Stooges, and interested in starting a collection, don’t start here. It’s nice to have The New Three Stooges: Complete Cartoon Collection available, but it’s more of a curiosity for diehard fans than a true example of the Three Stooges at their best.

Each episode of The New Three Stooges: Complete Cartoon Collection is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality is best described as mediocre. The colors look washed out, and dirt and other small defects are evident throughout.  Nonetheless, this is probably the best this series is ever going to look.

The soundtracks for each episode are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 in English. They’re nothing special, but do the job well enough. Dialogue is occasionally muffled, but generally understandable. Music and effects sound fine. There are no alternate subtitles or audio tracks on this four disc set.

Image Madacy has delivered this set in a nice package. It’s a nice sturdy box, with a thick cardboard fold-out tray housing the discs. The fifth disc is an audio CD containing two Stooges music albums. The first dozen tracks are from Sing-a-Long with the Three Stooges and the second eleven are from Christmas Time with the Three Stooges. It makes for a nice little extra.