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Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1, Vol. 2

Warner Bros. // Unrated // April 21, 2009
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted May 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Click here and here to read our reviews of "Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1 Volume 1."

The big fear for animation fans in 1990 was that the new "Tiny Toon Adventures" would be a cheap "cartoons as kids" trend-follower cashing in on the success of such post-"Muppet Babies" clunkers as "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" and "The Flintstone Kids." While there's definitely much of "Tiny Toons" that relies too heavily on kid-ified versions of our favorite characters, the show's creators wisely chose to give us instead something along the lines of "Looney Tunes: The Next Generation," with new characters joining, not replacing, the classic Bugs and Daffy. The idea here is that these junior Looney wannabes are attending Acme Looniversity, where they learn the finer points in cartoonery from professors Bugs, Daffy, etc.

The characters are (almost) all based in one way or another on vintage Looney Tuners: Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) are smart-alecky rabbits in the Bugs mold; Plucky Duck is as selfish and scheming as Daffy; Hamton J. Pig has a certain Porky attitude. Side characters are even more familiar: Fifi La Fume, the skunk; Dizzy Devil, from Tasmania; Calamity Coyote, always chasing Little Beeper, the junior roadrunner; Furrball, a Sylvester-esque kitten. Chances are, if you saw it in a Warner Bros. cartoon, a junior counterpart will pop up here somewhere. (My favorite is Gogo Dodo, a descendant of the absurd birds from "Porky in Wonderland.")

Curiously, the series' most successful characters are the two who deviate the most from their sources. Elmyra Duff is meant to be based on Elmer Fudd, but she quickly becomes all her own, an animal lover who's one hundred percent thick-skulled innocence. Montana Max, meanwhile, hardly resembles his Yosemite Sam inspiration, loudmouth factor aside; he's a rude, crude, spoiled kid billionaire whose attempts to buy his way to victory never quite work out. Both have a habit of stealing every story they're in, so much so that Elmyra would later be granted her own short-lived show, pairing her with, of all mice, Pinky and the Brain from "Animaniacs."

After some format tinkering early in the first season, the show's producers quickly realized that the best episodes were the ones offering multiple shorts within a single half-hour, as opposed to full, single story adventures. (The show would alternate between the two formats throughout its three-season run.) Serving up two or three like-themed stories plus some wraparound "host" content, the multiple-short format allowed for faster pacing and greater variety of character, helping move things toward a true Looney Tunes anarchic feel.

That sense of anarchy also lends itself well to the comedy - as does the high quality of animation. The involvement of Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Studios resulted in a higher cel count than usual for TV animation, about two and a half times the normal amount, resulting in a noticeable visual fluidity. And that comes back to the comedy, as the cleaner, more theatrical look to the movement allows the trademark Looney Tunes slapstick to really shine here. Remember, "Tiny Toons" came to us at a dark time for TV animation, when fast and cheap was the method of the day, when Disney was the only studio churning out anything resembling quality; this was before "Batman" and "Animaniacs" and long before the format's current golden age. The look of "Tiny Toons" was something of a revelation. And yet the producers never allowed the show to look good just for the sake of looking good - all that polish went in to making each sight gag work. (Spielberg also pushed for full orchestral musical scores, thus giving each episode the sound of a classic cartoon as well.)

Less successful were attempts to modernize the characters through now-dated pop culture references. It's tough to complain about these choices, since even the classic Looney Tunes shorts relied on in-the-moment pop culture parody now and then. But here, the parody isn't as sharp, or as funny (frequent Robin Leach spoofs remain a particular dud), as if the focusing on younger viewers let some air out of the tires.

But having a younger target audience didn't keep the producers from taking unique risks. The casting of a cappella group The Roches as a trio of singing roaches might have gone over the heads of kids, but it's a neat inside joke. An episode consisting of music videos mostly fizzles, but shorts using They Might Be Giants' geek-friendly tracks "Particle Man" and "Istanbul" without relying on direct interpretations of the lyrics allow the animators to get creative.

Still, you can see "Tiny Toons" playing it a little safe, with most of the jokes relying on simple slapstick, kid-friendly parody, and familiar characters; the anarchy is too contained - if anarchy can be, that is. Warners and Amblin would really let loose in 1993, when production switched to the cleverly chaotic "Animaniacs." "Tiny Toons" feels at time like an "Animaniacs" test run, a warming up for the main act.

Still again, "Tiny Toons" remains very funny, and very clever. It's the sweet, well-behaved older brother to the juvenile delinquency of "Animaniacs," but it holds up on its own quite well.

The DVD

Warner Bros. rounds out the show's oversized first season with the release of "Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1 Volume 2," collecting the next thirty episodes onto four discs. The discs are housed in a single-wide keepcase with two double-sided hinged trays.

The episodes in this set, presented in original broadcast order, are:

Disc One: "Animaniacs!", "Career Oppor-Toon-ities", "Strange Tales of Weird Science", "Inside Plucky Duck", "The Acme Bowl", "Dating, Acme Acres Style", "Looniversity Days", and "Best O' Plucky Duck Day".

Disc Two: "Hero Hamton", "Whale's Tales", "Ask Mr. Popular", "Son of Looniversity Days", "Mr. Popular's Rules of Cool", "Fairy Tales for the 90s", "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny?", and "Tiny Toons Music Television".

Disc Three: "The Return to the Acme Acres Zone", "The Acme Home Shopping Show", "Weirdest Story Ever Told", "Viewer Mail Day", "Son of the Wacko World of Sports", "Pollution Solution", and "You Asked For It Again".

Disc Four: "Brave Tales of Real Rabbits", "How Sweetie It Is", "New Character Day", "Here's Hamton", "No Toon Is an Island", "K-ACME TV", and "High Toon".

Video & Audio

As with the show's previous DVD release, some dirt and grain remain all too visible on these 1.33:1 full frame transfers. Colors are a little too muted - although that's sort of how I remember it always looking - and the image is a little soft. There's also some minor interlacing here and there.

The soundtrack is offered up in both original Dolby stereo and a new 5.1 remix. The surround sounds unexpectedly sharp here, with nice use of the rear speakers for various effects without overdoing it. French and Portuguese mono dubs are included, as are optional English subtitles.

Extras

None - a real disappointment for fans wishing for more bonus material than Volume 1 offered.

Final Thoughts

The video quality and the complete lack of bonus material is a downer, but the episodes themselves still hold up well enough for this set to be Recommended. We're looking at over ten-and-a-half hours of "Tiny Toons" comedy, enough to keep any fan satisfied.
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