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Looney Tunes Golden Collection - Volume 2
Warner Bros. have restored and remastered sixty more classic cartoons for this second Golden Collection, which goes for a less eclectic mix and instead zeroes on four main subjects - Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner, Tweety & Sylvester and cartoons with showbiz spoof themes.
Naturally, everyone has their favorites and it looks like the studio could keep this up for about ten years before unearthing every single one of the hundreds of Looney Tunes short subjects - talk about a gold mine. By then, there'll probably be an newer HD-DVD system on the market.
The restoration quality is really good. They've all been optimized for color and sourced from the best possible elements, unlike some older issues (and everything on old television prints) that were made from old reduction negatives. In all but a few cases, the colors pop and the detail is like we've never seen it before.
That reveals a lot of schmutz here and there - white flecks, the odd dinged animation cel or imperfection in the animation - but I'm glad that nobody's going to the trouble of repainting these little gems into homogenized mediocrity, as has happened to some of the Disney classics. And it doesn't look as though 'image enhancement' has had a chance to blur lines or second-guess original detail either. These are the real cartoons and nothing but the cartoons.
Lets go through the inventory, which admittedly will take upwards of 9 hours to watch in its entirety. This is the subjective part ... all cartoons are created equal, but Savant's entitled to his petty personal predjudices.
Bugs is always great and this collection of top titles shows him at his best - the middle section of his career design-wise and attitude-wise. He's not just a smart-aleck, he's a malicious little jerk, and we love him for it, smiling as he dishes out mayhem to poor Elmer Fudd. My favorite is right off the top, Bob Clampett's The Big Snooze. It's got a number of practically psychedelic gags, like the 'super chief' express that runs Fudd over with a parade of chugging, grinning rabbits. Bugs is gloriously irresponsible, downing sleeping pills so as to invade Fudd's peaceful dreams with his 'nightmare paint.'
The extras stack pretty high, having been sourced from the vault and augmented by special material produced by New Wave. Ten of the fifteen cartoons have commentaries or music & effects-only tracks. Cartoon authors Greg Ford, Jerry Beck and Michael Barrier take turns yack-tracking, and voice talent June Foray does the honors on Broomstick Bunny. An older recording from Chuck Jones himself graces Tortoise Beats Hare, one of the best Bugs shorts for character animation.
Each disc also has a number of extras, which vary in interest depending on how deep one's commitment is to the ink 'n paint legacy. Going from least to highest interest there's: A collection of animation clips for TV's The Bugs Bunny Show, filler to bridge between cartoons. A much longer TV special called Bugs Bunny's Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary Part 1 tells the tale of Schlesinger's cartoon unit and Termite Terrace from Bugs' POV. We get to hear an amazing voiceover recording session with Mel Blanc, whose skill is incredible - even though the particular tracks he's voicing are those offensive Mexican stereotype mice, Slowpoke and Speedy Gonzales. And finally, there's an older interview with Tex Avery, who talks about his career in very general terms and seems like a really nice guy.
2 (Road Runner and Friends) - Beep Beep; Going Going Gosh; Zipping Along; Stop Look and Hasten; Ready Set Zoom; Guided Muscle; Gee Whiz-z-z-z; There They Go-Go-Go; Scarambled Aches; Zoom and Bored; Whoa Be Gone; Cheese Chasers; The Dover Boys; Mouse Wreckers; Bear for Punishment
The Road Runner was a top thrill for Savant at the Saturday morning movie shows at our local theater - when I was 8. The familiar formula of Wile E. Coyote blown up, crushed, or stir-fried every 50 seconds or so was screamingly funny then. It's not that there's anything particularly sadistic about it - the timing is excellent - but instead of a story we get a comic strip-like stack of gags. If you threw away the titles and credits and just put them in a row, it could go on forever, with the characters never advancing beyond their initial conflict. Maybe that's the whole point, that the RR cartoons are the genre reduced to its purest form.
There are ten or eleven of these things in a row. Filling out the back end are several one-shot oddball cartoons like The Dover Boys, a take-off on goody two-shoes juvenile pulp heroes already culturally dead when the cartoons were made. But they do provide some needed variety.
There more commentaries and special audio tracks and an unsold TV pilot called The Adventures of The Road Runner which is an elaborately-mounted setup for recycled cartoons with some odd musical choices. Another vault collection gathers together bumpers and interstitial material from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show that might be fun for those who remember the country-flavored Road Runner jingle. I have to admit that in college I thought of using that track, but somehow making the Coyote into a Green Beret and the Road Runner into a Viet Cong. No matter what the Yank does, the Commie escapes and the grenade/rocket/booby trap backfires. College was troubled with too many violent fantasies.
The best piece is on sound man Treg Brown, with a wide spread of interviewees describing his amazing repertoire of wacky sound effects, even Ben Burtt from the Star Wars films. That rubber-band musical note that accompanies the shield zooming up at the beginning of each cartoon? It's made by the slide on a Hawaiian guitar.
3 (Tweety & Sylvester) - Bad Ol' Putty Tat; All Abir-r-r-d; Room and Bird; Tweet Tweet Tweety; Gift Wrapped; Ain't She Tweet; A Bird in a Guilty Cage; Snow Business; Tweety Pie; Kitty Kornered; Baby Bottleneck; Old Glory; The Great Piggy Bank Robbery; Duck Soup to Nuts; Porky in Wackyland (B/W)
These cartoons are repetitious too, but Tweety and his feline nemesis Sylvester have great personalities to exploit - unless you're offended by speech impediments, a Looney Tunes comedy necessity. I still think the old lady who joined in the cartoons was a take-off on the grandma from the Ealing The Ladykillers, but I'm probably wrong.
The oddball cartoons on the end of this disc's queue are all classics. Old Glory shows Porky being led by Uncle Sam on a tour of great moments in American history, and is a very nicely done piece of patriotism. John Kricfalusi comments on The Great Piggy Bank Robbery. Duck Soup to Nuts and Porky in Wackyland (in B&W) are surreal masterpieces.
This third disc has a part two of Bugs Bunny's Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary and an even more interesting piece on Bob Clampett and his particular brand of anarchy - he's the director who seems to warp the characters out of shape more than anyone, with eyes that crawl around corners to see, etc. More TV monotony comes with the opening sequence to the Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show. And there's an all-new cartoon called Daffy Duck for President that tries hard, but the parade seems to have gone by.
4 (Looney Tunes All Stars On Stage and Screen) - Back Alley Oproar; Book Revue; Corny Concerto; Have You Got Any Castles; Hollywood Steps Out; I Love to Singa; Katnip Kollege; The Hep Cat; Three Little Bops; One Froggy Evening; Rhapsody Rabbit; Show Biz Bugs; Stage Door Cartoon What's Opera Doc?; You Ought To Be in Pictures.
Sub-billed as an All-Star Cavalcade of Hollywood Parodies, these are the pictures that mined audience recognition laughs by caricaturing (mostly Warner) stars. Interspersed are a few cartoons that deal with cats singing on fences, etc., as a musical theme. The parade of movie stars can be good, especially with the occasional audio commentary to tell us who we're looking at: Even Savant needs help with some of these faces, even though I know who Jerry Colonna is, etc.. The showbiz wannabe stories like You Ought To be In Pictures can be cruelly cynical. Two favorites are Chuck Jones' immortal One Froggy Evening, the one about the singing and dancing frog that nobody ever forgets; and The Three Little Bops, a demented musical exaggeration of the Bop fad in swing jazz with a hypnotic vocal. The music in that one, by the way, is by Shorty Rogers, the auteur of the dance music in the ultra-weird Dementia / Daughter of Horror.
There are new short subjects on the Hollywood parody cartoons, and a docu each to cover One Froggy Evening and the much-lauded What's Opera Doc?, which I neglected to say is a highlight of this disc as well. Two rare animated shorts are the extras here: So Much for So Little is a plea for public monies to help fight baby-killing infant diseases. Chuck Jones' doe-eyed baby in this one is so exaggerated, he looks like some kind of insect. Orange Blossoms for Violet is a hilarious live-action film that appears to be a silent movie made with monkeys, dogs in costume and the like, arranged into a cliffhanger serial format. Mel Blanc is obviously doing the voices and they're a scream. You don't know the meaning of being drunk until you hear him protest indignantly, "Whoosh been DRINKING?!" The packaging text mentions a short called Sinkin' In the Bathtub, but unless I'm wrong, it isn't on the disc.
Orange Blossoms has some non-PC content mostly as concerns drinking. Earlier this year Disney released a bunch of War-themed cartoons with all kinds of un-skippable disclaimers and modifiers to excuse their extreme content. But Disney showed all of the films intact, which was highly commendable. Warners has a stack of their own notorious cartoons of this kind and some of them really aren't suitable for showing on DVD, at least not with the corporate mentality that wants to deny the kind of racial mean-spirits that powered things like Tokyo Rose. But I think the Private SNAFU cartoons are kind of cute and harmless, what with parodies of Hitler and Tojo, etc. Maybe some of those will sneak through eventually.
Like I said before, all the cartoons look great, even the earlier ones with less than optimum color. The packaging is less confusing than usual, with one-page tables of contents to tell us what's on each of the four discs. The card & plastic inner disc holder folds only one way, so you won't mangle the set trying to get it back in the box. DVD and controlled substances don't mix!
I'm sure diehard cartoon junkies will devour this set and then complain that there's still stuff they want to see ... and Warners will make another trip to the bank next year.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Looney Tunes Golden Collection - Volume 2 rates:
Supplements: 30 commentary tracks, 2 documentaries, 9 behind the scene featurettes, Music-only tracks, audio sessions, TV tribute shows, rareties, a new 2004 cartoon, Daffy Duck for President
Packaging: 4 discs in folding plastic & card case in card sleeve
Reviewed: November 6, 2004