Hey, kid, c'mere. Do you like--ah, say--do you like cartoons? How about old Warner Bros. cartoons featuring loudmouth troublemakers? Then let me tell you, today is your day. You've lucked into a situation that will make you happier than my grandmother with $3 in her pocket on $2 Bingo Nite. Warner Brothers has put together a compilation of nine different Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and five more like-minded Merrie Melodies and called it Looney Tunes Super Stars: Foghorn Leghorn & Friends. Of the fifteen short subjects, only one has been on a previous Looney Tunes collection, and all are presented in the original full frame aspect ratio, putting this compilation well-ahead of the much-maligned previous entries in the Super Stars series. For collectors who had been buying the apparently discontinued Warner Bros. Gold Collections, there's finally a release you might consider adding to your library.
Of course, your interest will likely depend on how much you like Foghorn Leghorn, the meddling, self-satisfied rooster who has a large vocabulary but little skill in anything else. The cartoons collected here are of a similar piece: either Foghorn tussling with one of his various rivals, be it one of a couple of hound dogs or predators like foxes and weasels, or his attempt to tutor those who aren't in need of teaching. The latter category is mainly occupied by Egghead Jr., a braniac chick who outdoes Leghorn's various schemes with his own book-informed versions of similar plans.
The Foghorn Leghorn series tends to be funnier for its main character's colorful Southern homilies rather than the gags and set-ups that serve the revenge plots or the odd one-offs like chasing the rock 'n' roll rooster that wanders into his henhouse. That particular cartoon, the cleverly titled "Banty Raids," was released in 1963, and is the most recent of the Leghorn episodes gathered here. It has a markedly different style, slightly more angular and abstracted, than the previous shorts. 1954's "Little Boy Boo" is the earliest, which is one of the few complaints you could have about this disc: it doesn't go back far enough. Foghorn Leghorn debuted in 1946, and there were more than 10 shorts prior to "Little Boy."
Personally, I enjoy the humor of Foghorn Leghorn. Unlike, say, Bugs Bunny, this blowhard is usually a victim of his own misguided self-importance. My personal favorite of the 'toons here was "Weasel Stop," a 1956 short where the rooster enlists a hyperactive weasel to try to get rid of the guard dog, who this time around isn't the usual Barnyard Dawg; instead, he's a drawling, easygoing foil whose own flair for language outshines the main character's.
Truth be told, though, a little Foghorn Leghorn can go a long way. His own words describe it best: "About as subtle as a hand grenade in a barrel of oatmeal." I think the DVD would have been better served by shaking up the running order. By the time we get our first "& Friends," selection, 1958's "Gopher Broke" starring the Goofy Gophers, the change in energy is a welcome one. Granted, "Gopher Broke," pitting the troublemaking pipsqueaks against Barnyard Dawg, isn't that vastly different than the previous chicken-coop shenanigans, but at least it shakes up the rhythm.
The back-end of the program holds the most treasures. "A Mutt in a Rut" is built around the concept that Elmer Fudd's dog has become convinced that Elmer is going to bump him off on a hunting trip, while "Mouse-Placed Kitten" has the funny scenario of an abandoned cat being adopted by a pair of married mice. (Both are from 1959.) "Cheese It, the Cat!" (1957) is one of the "Honeymousers" cartoons, a parody recasting "The Honeymooners" with rodents, and the last two shorts star the Mexican Crows, Manuel and Jose. These last two are the only shorts here that weren't directed by Robert McKimson: "Two Crows from Tacos" was helmed by Friz Freleng, and "Crows' Feat" by Freleng with Hawley Pratt. (These two pieces are likely the reason Warners felt compelled to put a warning about stereotyping, etc., at the start of the DVD, though I found their humor to be very mild, particularly compared to their more notorious racial caricaturing.)
The complete listing of cartoons on Looney Tunes Super Stars: Foghorn Leghorn & Friends is as follows:
All Fowled Up * Fox-Terror * A Broken Leghorn * Crockett-Doodle-Doo * Weasel While You Work * Weasel Stop * Little Boy Boo * Banty Raids * Strangled Eggs *
Gopher Broke * A Mutt In A Rutt * Mouse-Placed Kitten * Cheese It, the Cat! * Two Crows From Tacos * Crows' Feat
Warner Bros. offers viewers two options for how to view these cartoons. In an effort to continue to convince their audience that the wrong way is somehow right, Looney Tunes Super Stars: Foghorn Leghorn & Friends offers you the choice of viewing this vintage material in either the intended full-frame format or a rejigged widescreen aspect ratio. The latter choice would presumably give you more information on the left and right of your monitor, but this is actually not true. It gives you about the same framing on the sides but somewhat elongated and shrunk, and it actually removes information from the top and bottom. I offer as evidence:
As you can see, much of the expertly rendered background is now cut off by this attempt to "modernize" the cartoons. Don't give them the satisfaction!
Other than that, the DVD image here is actually really good. The source prints used are vibrant and free of any egregious scratches or dirts. Colors look strong, and the resolution is very good. The animation is nicely preserved.
The mono mixes on the cartoon soundtracks are also fairly good, with proper tones and no noticeable glitches.
Subtitles are available in English for the deaf and hearing impaired and also in French.
Recommended. Hardcore animation fans are definitely going to want to snatch up Looney Tunes Super Stars: Foghorn Leghorn & Friends. Those hoping Warner Bros. would finally start doing something with the pieces of their back catalogue not included on their previous boxed sets will be glad to find a disc with almost entirely new material. How far that gladness extends will depend on how into Foghorn Leghorn you are. I think he's funny, and though I think the arrangement on the disc could have been better, I got some good laughs out of the loquacious rooster's bumbling exploits.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.