For years while I was growing up, Saturday mornings meant Bugs Bunny. Sure, I'd try out the new cartoons every fall, they were they only thing that made starting a new school year bearable, but I rarely stayed with them. After a few episodes of The Roman Holidays or Deputy Dawg, the jokes started to repeat themselves and the shows grew old quickly. Not so for Bugs and his pals. I could sit through the same cartoon time after time and laugh myself silly. Even my father, who usually eschewed children's programing would come in and watch the Road Runner with me. He'd laugh just as hard as I did too.
Warner Brothers has been releasing their catalog of Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts on DVD, and now the third such set has arrived. Like the two previous sets, The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three consists of four DVD that contain some of the funniest cartoons ever made.
Before I start discussing the cartoons themselves, a few words about the collection in general. The cartoons have been restored and look fantastic, much better than when they were shown on TV. The colors are solid and bright, and the lines are clean and tight. The wonderful thing about the restoration is the brought the shows back up to the quality they had when they were first made, but didn't improve them. The errors and imperfections that were originally in these cartoons were left in. You can still detect some cells that weren't properly cleaned, and the occasional miscolored object, just as they were first presented to the public. I'm glad these slight goofs were left in, it gives the cartoons a feeling of genuineness.
The cartoons are also presented in their uncensored forms. When they were presented on TV, some scenes and dialog were cut to avoid angry mothers writing in. Seemingly innocuous things as a Elmer choking Bugs were excised (in Hare Do) and the networks even zoomed in on frames to remove objectionable material (the word "cigarette" was cut out in such a way in A Hare Grows in Manhattan.) Some cartoons had little or no cuts, while others like Hillbilly-Hare had several scenes removed. Happily the cartoons on these discs are all in their original un-edited forms.
There are also a couple of short that contain racial stereotypes and ethnic humor. (These are in the "From the Vault" section in the extras.) To appease anyone who might be offended by these and the other cartoons being released in unedited form, each disc on the set starts with a (skipable) introduction by Whoopie Goldberg. (Similar to the Leonard Maltin introductions on the Disney Treasures series.) She talks about her love for the characters then segues into why these cartoons should be presented with their ignorant stereotypes intact. Though she's not my favorite performer, I don't mind having her introduce each disc if that's the cost of having these cartoons in their unadulterated form.
Well, sort of unadulterated. There are some Blue Ribbon cartoons present, which is a shame but not a tragedy. In 1943 Warners started to re-issue their cartoons. To distinguish these from new shorts they cut out the original titles and credits and replaced them with a generic Blue Ribbon title card. (This card has a ribbon on the left and a picture of the Grand Shorts Award on the right. Warner Brothers did win the award, but putting it before a short implies that particular cartoon was the award winner, which isn't the case.) The sad thing about these re-issues is the colorful original title card is missing, and viewers don't get to see the credits. (The Blue Ribbon cartoons started adding the credits in 1956.) In addition, Porky's famous closing "Th-th-th-that's all folks!" is also cut. There are several of these Blue Ribbon cartoons, and I assume that they are the only versions in existence. The shows with the Blue Ribbon openings include Homeless Hair, Pigs is Pigs, Pigs in a Polka, Thugs with Dirty Mugs, Goofy Groceries, Walky Talky Hawky, and Swooner Crooner.
Each of the four discs in this set has its own theme, and comes with a great amount of bonus material (which will be discussed separately in the "extras" section.) I enjoyed all of these discs, and each one has some great cartoons.
The set starts off with a DVD full of Bugs Bunny cartoons. Easily the most popular Looney Tunes character, he shows why he's an American icon with these cartoons. You have to love how calm and cool he is when a gun is pointed at his head. A Hare Grows in Manhattan is a great short which has Bugs telling the story of his early years to a gossip columnist. He relates how he was able to outsmart a gang of dogs while growing up, with his usual panache. Another funny cartoon is Homeless Hare, where Bugs fights with a beefy construction worker who wants to dig up Bugs' home to build a skyscraper.
The disc ends up with two of my favorite Bugs Bunny shows: Hillbilly Hare and Duck! Rabbit, Duck! The first has Bugs getting lost in the mountains and getting on the wrong side of two brothers. It end with an extended square dance sequence with Bugs calling the dance and the brothers getting the worst of it. The latter show is the final episode of Chuck Jones' "Hunter Trilogy" where Elmer is out hunting, but he doesn't know what season it is. Daffy wants him to shoot Bugs, but somehow he's the one who always ends up on the wrong side of the rifle. Watching all of the myriad ways that Daffy's beak can be shot off his face is hilarious, but the ingenious ways that Bugs always turns the tables on the scheming Duck make this a classic.
Disc two is built around Hollywood. It includes cartoons that lampoon Hollywood, the movies, and the stars. Wideo Wabbit, has Bugs answering an ad for a job in TV only to discover that he'll star in Elmer Fudd's hunting show; as the prey. The Honey-Mousers is an amusing takeoff of Jackie Gleason's show The Honeymooners, with an all mouse cast, of course.
Hollywood Capers in one of only two solo "Beans" shorts. This character usually stared with a new character Porky (Porky and Beans, get it?), but Porky was much more popular than his little companion and Beans was dropped. I wish they would have included the other solo Beans cartoon, A Cartoonist's Nightmare. (That short has never been released to home video and may no longer exist.) In this cartoon Beans "of the Boston Beans" tries to break into the movies by sneaking into a movie studio. Mayhem ensues.
The disc ends up with a later Looney Tunes short, The Mouse That Jack Built which starts Jack Benny, Marry Livingston, Rochester, and Don Wilson. This amusing parody fo Benny's TV and radio show has the cast preforming as mice. Jack goes down to his vault, and then tries to find a place to take Mary for her birthday, but one that's not too expensive of course.
Disc three is devoted to porcine cartoon stars, especially Porky Pig. The highlight of this disc is the wild take off of Robin Hood, Robin Hood Daffy. Daffy Duck takes on the role of Robin Hood, but when he runs into Friar Tuck (Porky) he can't convince the jovial priest that he's the real Robin Hood. Of course Daffy/Robin comes up with a good idea: "See yon rich, unwary traveller? I'll rob him of his gold, and give it to some poor unworthy slob! That'll PROVE I'm Robin Hood! Huh? Hm? Okay?" An uproariously funny short.
The disc ends with another great Porky cartoon, Rocket Squad. This futuristic parody of Dragnet Sgt Joe Monday and his partner Detective Shmoe Tuesday hunt for the villain George 'Mother' Machree. This seemingly odd combination of a parody of a popular radio/TV show and a sci-fi setting works very well. It's odd, yet familiar, and laugh out loud funny.
The last disc in the set has to be my favorite. It's just a collection of great cartoons, all of which will make you howl with laughter. I enjoyed all of these, but the best are Walky Talky Hawky, a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon with Henry Hawk, (That character has been woefully under represented in these sets), Friz Freleng's Birds Anonymous (which won an Oscar), and Falling Hare a very funny short that's been included in many cheap public domain video tapes and DVDs, but finally gets the respect it deserves with a wonderful looking transfer. It's like seeing this cartoon for the first time.
The last disc also ends on a high note with a pair of great cartoons. Gonzales' Tamales has Sylvester trying to catch the "fastest mouse in all of Mexico", and To Beep or Not to Beep is a wonderfully funny Roadrunner cartoon. (Interesting note: Did you know that they did the voice for the Roadrunner, but only once? They just used that recording over and over.)
This is another great set. The thing that makes it so outstanding is that they have a great mix of cartoons. There are many of the wonderful shorts that were shown on Saturday morning for years and years, which will please the casual fan. There's also a lot of older and rare material that die hard collectors and people interested in the history of cartoons will be overjoyed to see. This set included the first Looney Tunes cartoon (Sinkin' In The Bathtub) the first Porky Pig cartoon (I Haven't Got A Hat) and the only cartoon where Bugs Bunny appeared in black and white (Porky Pig's Feat).
In addition to these historically interesting films, there are several cartoons directed by the very under-rated Frank Tashlin. Tashlin, one of only two directors to make the jump from animation to live action films, had a wacky sense of humor and his cartoons included here are wonderfully inventive and funny. It's fantastic to see this great director's cartoons being released.
The cartoons included in this collection are:
Disc #1: Bugs Bunny Classics
1. "Hare Force" (Bugs Bunny; 1944)
Disc #2: Hollywood Caricatures and Parodies
1. "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (Daffy Duck; 1938)
Disc #3: Porky and the Pigs
1. "I Haven't Got a Hat" (Porky Pig, Beans; 1935)
Disc #4: All Stars Cartoon Party
1. "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" (Daffy Duck, Casper Caveman; 1939)
These four DVDs come in a fold out book with an episode list conveniently located on the back and flaps. The book comes with a slipcase making it a nice tidy package.
The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is excellent. The audio has been cleaned up with wonderful results. There isn't any his or humming in the background and distortion and pops are not present either. Of course there isn't a lot of range, having been recorded over half a century ago, but what is there sounds very good. A clear and crisp soundtrack that gives no cause for complaints.
Like the audio, the full frame video is impeccable. The restoration team has done an wonderful job cleaning up the image. As I mentioned in the body of the review, they left the smudges and slight errors that were on the cells themselves, while bringing the clarity and color back to life. These looked as good as when they were first shown. The colors are solid and bright, the lines are tight and the level of detail is good. One the digital side, there aren't any compression artifacts or encoding errors. A very nice looking set.
This set is packed with added material. 32 There in addition to 32 commentaries (!) by such luminaries as Paul Dini and Joe Dante, there are three Private Snafu cartoons that were done during WWII, an hour long feature on Bugs Bunny, and another hour show on Chuck Jones. There are featurettes on the restoration and director Frank Tashlin as well as a look at the Hunter Trilogy. Just a great set of extras.
The extras included are:
Audio Commentary by:
Audio Commentary by:
Audio Commentary by:
Audio Commentary by:
Overall, this is a fantastic set. I watched it with my two sons, and the three of us were laughing uproariously. This has a great mix of shows, better than the other collections in a lot of ways. There's a good selection of old black and white cartoons, various characters (including Ralph and Sam, the sheep dog and wolf) and a nice mix of directors including Frank Tashlin. These shows look fabulous too, the restoration team did a top-notch job making these shorts look as good as the day they were filmed. If that wasn't enough, there's a fantastic collection of bonus material. From commentaries to featurettes and audio only tracks, this is a very complete set. This deserves the highest recommendation it can get: DVD Talk Collector Series.