Looney Tunes - Golden Collection: Vol. 1

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LOONEY TUNES go Golden, and what a way to run a railroad!

Jun 25, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:56 classic shorts restored to colorful new glory, and loads of bonus treats.

Cons:Be patient, and a second collection may come with more classics.

The Bottom Line: Pardon me, Doc, but...THIS IS A FIVE STAR PACKAGE!


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

The Looney Tunes collection is loaded with hundreds of classic cartoons that have survived Saturday morning TV appearances, short festivals, and repeated Cartoon Network airings to become beloved legend. Every time you see the cartoon Warner Bros. logo propelling towards you with its own nifty sound effect, you'd find cartoon heroes coming just mere seconds away. There was Bugs Bunny, the debonair and spotlight-thrusted rabbit who damn near drove everyone insane, but was such an adorably perky and mischievous creation that we didn't mind. To say he is the Mickey Mouse of the Warner canon is to forget you've ever seen them together sharing the same drawing in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? His unwilling partner, Daffy Duck, started out just like Bugs as a nuisance, but when Bugs Fever hit, he wanted a share of the attention, and only by getting his feathers blown off could he do it. In the middle was Elmer Fudd, the robust hunter who went to great lengths to shoot the both of them, and always pointed the shotgun towards Daffy’s direction for comic relief.

And all the other characters, from the comic foil and jolly presence of Porky Pig to the cutesy Tweety Bird to the irascible Sylvester the Cat to the stuttering rooster Foghorn Leghorn to the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote to Speedy Gonzales and that Tasmanian Devil, have found their own niche in the hearts of children and adults. Whilst on the other side of the animated world, Disney (who have surely their DVD cartoon collections, "Walt Disney Treasures," to thank for this) fashioned their cartoons with goodness and grandness, the Warner Bros. Characters just wanted to make you laugh and put a big smile on your face, and were less concerned with aiming their cartoons exclusively towards kids. They also had a faster pacing and less showy animation, as well as a surplus of cartoon violence that showed characters falling from high places, having rocks land on them, having shotguns go off in their face and other such indignities that would make any live person obviously dead, but gave a magical longevity to these characters. They took a lickin' and kept on tickin' for our sake.

And the works of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Isadore "Friz" Freleng, Fred "Tex" Avery, Robert McKimson and others, who have all basically passed on to that great big termite-infested wooden cottage in the sky, have been placed on many laserdiscs ("The Golden Age of Looney Tunes") that at least contained a great multitude of their best animated shorts. So it may be a fair reaction to suggest that maybe just 56 cartoons on 4 DVDs with bonus material may be selling the legacy too short. But if there's luck, we can count on a second multi-disc set of Looney Tunes classics including "What's Opera, Doc?," "The Big Sleep," "The Wild Hare," "Waikiki Wabbit," and at least 100 others, not counting a lot more Bugs Bunny bits ("Robin Hood Daffy," "One Froggy Evening," and "The Three Little Bops" come to my mind).

However, you've got two choices to spring for now these days. You can get a 2-DVD sampler of shorts called "The Premiere Collection," which criminally has less Bugs, Elmer, Daffy and Porky, or THE LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION, whose first two DVDs are devoted solely to those three characters. And even if the boldface type doesn't darken the title, it should be considered that this review you're reading is exactly for the 4-DVD package. These are cartoons of anarchic comedy that still hold sway today, perhaps because you couldn’t believe you got away laughing at this stuff as a child, if you were old enough to go back that far.

All 56 shorts on this collection have been restored to the point where the bold Technicolor detail will shock you. Certainly I have seen taped copies of the classic Daffy short "Duck Amuck" and also noticed it in "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie," so I have gotten used to the flat colors and softness. However, the new edition really brings out the blacks in Daffy's feathers and the orange hues of his rapscallion bill. So many of these cartoons display so much positives about how tidy the colors are and how accurate they look now that even though the occasional short might turn up some defects, specks and grit being the most obvious and enduring, you can easily forget about them and just marvel at the beauty of the cartoons. There isn't even any edge enhancement or artifacting anywhere on these shorts!

And the monaural audio tracks (in Dolby Digital 1.0) fare a similar way, where the quality of the sound is definitely better than before. The roughness in the music and voice in "Duck Amuck" has been removed as well, although as perhaps to be expected with the age of some of these cartoons, a slight handful couldn't all be saved. You can still hear slight distortion in dialogue, some analog artifacts, and the occasional "pop!" in only a few shorts, but the remainder benefit from some of the most crystal clear mixes ever appreciated for a cartoon.

But since I got the technical details out early, just so you know how great it is to see these cartoons in a glorious new light, let me run through the discs and tell you what to find on this compilation. The cartoons are all mainly from the span between 1940 and 1959, so you'll hear how Bugs Bunny looked and sounded in an early state on "Elmer's Candid Camera" and then see him in the 1950s shorts, with the long ears, thin body, the carrot-chomping swagger and the "Ehhh...what's up, doc?" delivery that is now the rallying cry for the most adamantly loony Looney Tunes fans. I'll also point out whether or not there's a commentary track or a isolated musical score to be found, and, seeing as how this is a big old special edition release, keep individual short information to a minimum, rating each cartoon on a four-star scale.

DISC ONE: THE BEST OF BUGS BUNNY
Baseball Bugs (1946, Dir: Friz Freleng) The burly baseball boys in the Gas House Gorillas are mercilessly defeating the hometown team the Tea Totallers until Bugs Bunny makes a loud statement saying even he could whup them in the game all by himself. Bugs becomes the sole player for the Tea Totallers, and wouldn't you believe it when Bugs finally evens the score with the Gorillas? ****

Rabbit Seasoning (1952, Dir: Chuck Jones) In the sequel to "Rabbit Fire," a toon featured later in the collection, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck engage in a manipulative battle of wits when Elmer Fudd starts brandishing his shotgun in their direction. And how many ways you think can the Duck get his beak blown to deformity? There's only one way to tell, just by watching this **** episode, a hilarious little treat.

Long-Haired Hare (1949, Dir: Jones) Bugsy's just hanging out in the woods singing and playing songs on his banjo, when a practicing opera singer named Giovanni Jones beats on the bunny for being so bothersome. But as Bugs would say, "Of course, you know this means war!" Bugs truly makes Giovanni sing for his supper, as evidenced in the final moments when a Leopold-dressed Bugs becomes the conductor. ****

High Diving Hare (1949, Dir: Freleng) Yosemite Sam paid good money to see the great Fearless Freep perform his death-defying high diving act, so when Freep is delayed by storm, Sam decides Bugs Bunny should be the main attraction. However, Sam has no such luck getting the rabbit to take a fall. ****

Bully For Bugs (1953, Dir: Jones) In a slightly less engaging but still outrageous confrontation, Bugs Bunny gets lost on the way to the Coachella Valley and ends up...in MEXICO! And in the middle of a bullfighting arena as well! The horned beast angrily attempts to gore the bunny, so our hero must provide the Toro with a proper challenge. ***½

What's Up, Doc? (1950, Dir: Robert McKimson) The life and times of Bugs Bunny, from his days as a precocious baby bunny to his short-lived Broadway stage career and his career resurgence thanks to his work with Vaudeville sensation Elmer Fudd, are told in candid detail to a reporter. A few hilarious celebrity digs, a sly parallel to Bugs’ real life Looney Tunes success, and also the use of Carl Stalling's "What's Up, Doc?" in a musical number make this one of McKimson’s best shorts to date. ****

Rabbit's Kin (1952, Dir: McKimson) A cute little relative of Bugs is being chased by an angry, yet imbecilic Pete Puma, easily duped and defeated by the older cotton-tailed one. Pete Puma just isn't one of my favorite Looney Tunes characters, so it was great to see him take his lumps, but still, it's just not enough of a classic thanks to him. ***

Water, Water Every Hare (1952, Dir: Jones) A flood sweeps Bugs Bunny from his hole and away towards the lair of the Mad Scientist, whose furry red monster Rudolph lies hungry and lonesome (see also Gossamer from "Hair-Raising Hare"). However, the scientist is specifically interested in Bugs because he wants to harvest his brain for a giant mechanical being. When Bugs fails to comply, the monster is unleashed. ****

Big House Bunny (1950, Dir: Freleng) Bugs has this nasty habit of driving people nuts, or carrots if you will. And when Yosemite Sam gets the treatment, you know how fun it will turn out. In this particular showdown, Bugs Bunny accidentally ends up in Sing Song Prison seeking refuge from rabbit hunters, where Officer Sam Schultz insists on keeping the rabbit. The neat thing about this episode is that cartoon violence prohibits Sam from actually dying from a noose strangulation. ****

Big Top Bunny (1951, Dir: McKimson) Colonel Korny hears about a performing rabbit and decides to have him as an attraction in his circus. Korny pairs Bugs up with an egotistical acrobatic bear named Bruno Slobokian, who seeks the spotlight all for himself and tricks our hero to the point where our beloved stinker swings back, by trapeze or by diving platform. ***½

My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (1948, Dir: Jones) After Bugs ends up in Scotland, he accidentally confuses a man's bagpipes for a monster and his kilt for a skirt. The Scotsman gets hostile and starts to hunt the rabbit, and Bugs decides to engage in a golf game in order to settle the score. ***½

Wabbit Twouble (1941, Dir: Bob Clampett) Elmer Fudd goes to Jellostone National Park ("Rest and relaxation at last!"), but his serenity is violated by that wascally wabbit, who once again brings Elmer over the edge (see also "Elmer's Candid Camera"). ****

Ballot Box Bunny (1951, Dir: Freleng) Yosemite Sam runs for mayor in a small town and promises to rid the place of each and every rabbit. But Bugs overhears, and decides to give Sam a little friendly competition. Both campaigns go head to head in a war of explosive cigars, hungry picnic ants, and a final game of Russian Roulette to even the score. ****

Rabbit of Seville (1950, Dir: Jones) A lead-popping pursuit involving Bugs and Elmer nosedives onto an opera soundstage, where the duo carry on to the tune of Rossini. This isn't exactly "What's Opera, Doc?" but will do nonetheless. ***½

DISC TWO: THE BEST OF DAFFY DUCK AND PORKY PIG
(All shorts directed by Chuck Jones unless noted otherwise)
Duck Amuck (1950) This is one of the all-time BEST Looney Tunes shorts. An unseen animator tortures poor Daffy Duck by changing his scenery, his appearance, the structure of the cartoon, and other animated aspects. This is simply a brilliant short: surreal, inventive, and outrageous. ****
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier, music-only track.

Dough For The Do-Do (1949, Dir: Freleng) Porky Pig treks through Wackyland, an African region populated by 100 nuts and a squirrel. Actually, its inhabitants include the three-headed stooges and also a rubber band, but a dodo also lives there. The dodo is worth $6 trillion, but the chase is better than the catch, and also a heck of a lot funnier. ***½

Drip-Along Daffy (1951) In a Lawless Town called Snake-Bite Center, where the horses even have the tenacity to become robbers, a Hero, Drip-Along Daffy, his trusty horse Tin Foil, and his sidekick Comic Relief Porky seek to catch the dreaded Nasty Canasta and bust him for good. But a duel erupts between Sheriff Daffy and the bandit, and the proud Hero must put his lead where his beak is. ***½
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier, music-only track.

Scaredy Cat (1947) Porky Pig and his pet cat Sylvester move into a creepy manor occupied by psychotic mice who continually scare the cat witless and try to injure his owner, who is ashamed by Sylvester's cowardice. A one-joke premise like many cartoons, but executed well enough to make it somewhat bearable. ***

The Ducksters (1949) A farcical, funny Daffy/Porky collaboration. A maniacal Daffy Duck is the host of a radio quiz show called "Truth or AAAAAAAAH!" On this particular show, Porky Pig is his contestant, and he takes pleasure in tricking Porky into saying the wrong answers just so he can suffer various painful punishments. "Oh, I am sorry, but you must pay the penalty!" ****

The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950) In this exhaustive, humorous swashbuckler satire, Daffy Duck pitches a script for a new project so he can stretch out into dramatic roles: an adaptation of the "The Scarlet Pimpernel," starring Porky Pig as the Lord High Chamberlain, Sylvester as the Grand Duke, and Elmer Fudd as a hotel-owning peasant. ****
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier, music-only track.

Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943, Dir: Freleng) Porky Pig is a talent scout at Smeller Productions ready to take a business trip, until Daffy Duck shows up as a representative of the most sensational discover since the Sweater Girl. "He's colossal! Stupendous! One might even go far as to say...he's mediocre." It's Sleepy Lagoon! However, as the young charge sits licking his lollipop, Daffy provides a screwball personality who refuses to let Porky go away with his sanity. Easily the zaniest collaboration between the duck and pig to date. ****

Porky Chops (1949, Dir: Arthur Davis) About a Flatbush-based squirrel vacationing in the North woods whose serenity is interrupted by lumberjack Porky Pig, who attempts to chop down his home. A humorous cartoon with a neat ending, but is it really one of the best? The squirrel character sure didn’t catch on, and for good reason. **½

The Wearing of the Grin (1951) Porky heads off to Dublin, but a rainy night takes him off course and he decides to stay at a castle populated by leprechauns. Porky doesn't believe in them, but they believe in him. A lot of harassment and plenty of absurd, if slightly amusing, stereotypes ensue. Still, at this point, it's obvious that Porky has a lot more appeal when he’s being tormented by Daffy Duck. **½
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

Deduce, You Say (1956) Daffy Duck and Porky Pig star as deductive detective Dorlock Holmes and Watkins, on the case of the Shropshire Slasher, an escapee from Dartmoor Prison who threatens to continue his murderous ways. They solve the case, but any thanks to Mr. Holmes? It's always great to see the two cartoon heroes get involved in lampooneries of famous film genres/literary figures. ****

Boobs in the Woods (1950, Dir: McKimson) Daffy Duck and Porky Pig take over for Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in this one, and the result is another keeper starring the duo. Daffy Duck goes to great lengths (even dressing up like Pocahantas) to make sure Porky Pig doesn't get to paint the scenery around him. "Do you have a license to sell hair tonic to bald eagles in Omaha, Nebraska?" ****

Golden Yeggs (1950, Dir: Freleng) At Porky's chicken farm, the hens crowd around a 24-karat golden egg, but the goose who actually laid the it is too smart to admit so. So he tells the world Daffy Duck did produced the wealthy dropping, and this arouses the interest of the greedy Rocky and his thugs, who force the duck to produce more golden eggs. ***

Rabbit Fire (1951) Daffy Duck needs to get paired with Bugs Bunny on at least one part of this disc in order to return the favor on Daffy’s cameo on Bugs' compilation. The hysterical prequel to "Rabbit Seasoning," where Bugs and Daffy vie over who will get the business end of Elmer Fudd's shotgun. Naturally, Daffy gets all the hits. ****
BONUSES: Music-only track.

Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953) Duck Dodgers, along with eager young space cadet Porky, heads off to Planet X in order to discover the shaving cream atom. However, following their landing, Marvin the Martian comes along claiming control of the property, and intergalactic war is waged.
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

DISC THREE: LOONEY TUNES ALL STARS, PART ONE (All shorts directed by Chuck Jones unless noticed)
Elmer's Candid Camera (1940) Elmer Fudd becomes interested in wildlife photography, and decides to snap pictures of a sleeping rabbit, who turns out to be a nuisance of the first degree. However, this is an early version of Bugs Bunny, with his white mouth area as tan as Elmer's skin and his long ears tipped in black. He also talks alarmingly different as well, doing a Woody Woodpecker laugh at the end. Still, this near-perfect short shows the madness that drove poor Elmer into repeated attempts to kill that screwy wabbit. ***½

Bugs Bunny & The Three Bears (1944) A dysfunctional family of bears decide to lure Goldilocks to their denizen by brewing carrot stew. Hey, it worked in the book! However, carrot stew instead of porridge attracts our old friend Bugs, who has to rely on his manipulative charms to get out alive. **** alone on the way Bugs particularly gets the attention of Mama Bear and also the lame-brained, oversized Baby Bear.
BONUS: Commentary by Stan Freberg.

Fast & Furry-ous (1948) The very first Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote chase cartoon, and the only one on the set, which merits four stars just for goodness sake. Desperate and hungry, the Coyote chases after the Road Runner, but cannot match the Road Runner for speed nor wits, and gets continually beaten up and flattened as a result. That Road Runner…what a creation, with the way he sticks out his tongue several times then kisses off the hapless coyote with a “Meep meep!” And those Acme products! Is there no relief?! ****
BONUS: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

Hair-Raising Hare (1946) "Did you ever get the feeling you was being watched?!" After a mechanical female bunny lures Bugs to the lair of a Mad Scientist, the demented man unleashes his giant, furry red monster Gossamer, who plans to eat our hero. This is where Bugs once again gets the chance to try out his lisping beautician impersonation ('I'll bet you monsters lead interesting lives!"), and it's just one of the 10 reasons this one gets ****.
BONUS: Commentary by Michael Barrier and Greg Ford.

The Awful Orphan (1947) Starring Porky Pig and Charlie Dog as, respectively, a stuttering pig in clothes who wants to get a pet canary and a stray mutt who looks to Porky in the hopes he will be adopted. When Porky is reluctant to accept him as a respectable member of the household, Charlie decides he'll make Porky his master even if he has to drive him crazy. Loved the twist ending, and although Charlie is no Bugs or Daffy, he makes a nice foil for the strait-laced Porky. ***½

Haredevil Hare (1947) Scientists drag Bugs Bunny kicking and screaming on a rocket to the moon, where he soon runs into Marvin (the) Martian. Marvin has plans to launch a Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator right into the planet Earth, but not if Bugs can stop it. The interaction between Bugs and K-9, Marvin's dopey green dog, is classic, and this remains one of my more favorite Bugs cartoons. ****
BONUS: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

For Scent-imental Reasons (1948) Pepe le Pew is that irresistible French stink bomb with a hopeless romantic streak, and he decides to go shopping at a perfume shop in Paris. When "le belle femme skunk fatale" arrives into his life, who is in actuality a cat with an unfortunate white stripe on her backside, Pepe falls head over heels in love with her. This is a classic episode that shows Pepe le Pew at his leading man best, and by the end, the stinky Casanova gets exactly what’s coming to him. ****
BONUS: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

Frigid Hare (1948) Bugs Bunny makes that left turn at Albuquerque and ends up not in Miami Beach, but at the South Pole, where he runs smack dab into an Eskimo chasing after a baby penguin. It's strange to see the bunny bond with a wee bird, but Bugs is appropriately frustrated and has an admirable moral center. However, the Eskimo man doesn't really talk and is not in the same league as Elmer Fudd. The Bunny easily gets the show. ***

The Hypo-Chrondri-Cat (1950) Bert and Hubie are a couple of mice who discover a home with a nice block of cheese to dine on. The cat protecting the house, Claude, is a germ-fearing feline who closes all the windows and takes lots of medicine regularly. The mice sense this weakness, and use it to their advantage, becoming Claude's unlikely doctors. The hallucinatory interlude is one of Chuck Jones' best moments outside the typical Looney Tunes fare, but the joke fails to sustain enough comedic steam for about six minutes. ***

Baton Bunny (1958, directed by Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow) This particular cartoon relies solely on sight gags, as we see Bugs Bunny taking the "Leopold" role as conductor of the Warner Bros. Symphony Orchestra in a rendition of Franz Von Suppe's "Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna." It's a fairly silly affair as Bugs is besieged by a pesky fly and phony white arm sleeves that fall onto his ankles. Funny at times, but I wouldn't necessarily deem it a classic. **½
BONUS: Music-only track.

Feed the Kitty (1952) A big brown bulldog named Marc Anthony has his gruff heart warmed by the playful antics of a small kitten, but his nagging owner tells him that there's no guests allowed in the house. When the little rascal shows up in all the wrong places, it gets tough to keep the jig up. The relationship between the big dog and the little cat is quite adorable, and even springs some surprising emotional moments on us, making it one of Chuck Jones' all-time best. ****
BONUS: Music-only track, audio commentary by Greg Ford.

Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953) Wile E. Coyote is an insatiable predator who has sought bunnies, birds, and now sheep. Ralph, a precocious sheepdog, makes the lip-licking dog pay in various manners. It doesn't match the energetic exploits of the Road Runner toons, but this is a cheerful, wild cartoon nonetheless. ***

Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942, Dir: Clampett) A mama vulture forces her incompetent offspring Killer to go out and fetch a rabbit. But Killer fails to realize that Bugs Bunny is the last person in the world you'd ever decide to hunt. ***½
BONUS: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

Tortoise Wins By A Hare (1943, Dir: Clampett) Peeved to the point of insanity because Cecil Tortoise always defeats him at racing bouts, Bugs devises an attempt to uncover Cecil's secret to winning and exploit it to his gain. However, when he decides to actually dress up in turtle gear, Bugs is immediately targeted by rabbit gangsters who don’t know that the turtle is actually the rabbit, and vice versa. ****

DISC FOUR: LOONEY TUNES ALL STARS, PART TWO
(1-9 directed by Friz Freleng, 9-14 by Robert McKimson)
Canary Row (1950) Tweety Bird sits in his cage on a window ledge, in plain view of that "mean ol' puddy tat" Sylvester. When Sylvester gets hungry for a raw canary lunch, he brews up several means of obtaining his prey, but thanks to the efforts of Tweety and his keeper, Granny, there's a chance Sylvester would have to go for sushi instead. ***½
BONUSES: Commentary by Jerry Beck.

Bunker Hill Bunny (1950) Yosetime Sam is a Hessian, Bugs Bunny is a Rebel, and they engage in an explosive, farcical war over their forts. Such classic gags include the trail of gunpowder that leads to the bad guy, as well as the old standby of the cannon that fires when the enemy immediately opens the door. ***½

Kit For Cat (1948) Sylvester is given shelter on a cold night thanks to Elmer Fudd, but he also does the same for a smaller, more cutesy kitten. This doesn't sit well with the jealous Sylvester, who, when Fudd states he can only keep one cat in the house, schemes once again to get the competition vanquished. ***½

Puddy Tat Trouble (1951) A tale of two puddy tats, Sylvester and Sam, both of whom compete over who gets the boid. Unfortunately, Granny doesn't do that much cane abuse in this one. In fact, she's non-existent. Still, it's got enough diverting cartoon shenanigans to merit ***.
BONUSES: Music-only track.

Bugs and Thugs (1954) Bugs takes a walk around the city and gets into a couple of bank robbers' getaway car he mistakes for a taxi. With the short but vile gunslinger Rocky and his dopey assistant Mugsy holding him hostage, Bugs decides to use his wits in order to elude death whilst waiting for the cops. ***½

Canned Feud (1951) After his owners leave to go on a lengthy vacation, Sylvester is left home alone and hungry, with lots of canned food in the pantry but no can opener. That's because an annoying mouse has the can opener, and he isn't surrendering it for nobody. ***½
BONUSES: Commentary by Jerry Beck.

Lumber Jerks (1955) Mac and Tosh, the Goofy Gophers, have set up home in a tree, but it ends up cut down and washes away to a lumberyard. There's a couple of hilarious jokes involving the use of natural trees as synthetic products, but the two chatty gophers are the main attraction, and, whilst not memorable characters, they hold this cartoon together well. ***

Speedy Gonzales (1955) Oscar-winning clip starring the fastest mouse in all Mexico, Speedy Gonzales, a sombrero-wearing hero who comes to the rescue of a bunch of starving mice by obtaining a factory full of cheese under protection of the sourpuss Sylvester. Although I have no animosity towards the character like many, it's unfortunate that Speedy’s continuous yelps grate on the nerves every time he runs. That prevents this episode from being truly great. ***½
BONUSES: Commentary by Jerry Beck, music-only track.

Tweety's S.O.S. (1951) Sylvester is once again at it, trying to capture Tweety and elude the scolding of Granny, only this time it's set on a cruising ocean liner. A lot of similar punishments ensue. The overtly cute but previously fathomable foil of Tweety is starting to become somewhat of a nuisance. ***
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

The Foghorn Leghorn (1948) The son of Henry the Hawk decides to hunt after a chicken of his own, but repeatedly confuses a chicken with a dog, which upsets the chatty rooster known as Foghorn Leghorn. Not only does the confused young predator attempt to harm the dog in various ways, but he implicates Foghorn Leghorn in the many deeds, which only gets him humiliated even further. A nice, if somewhat disappointing DVD debut for the stuttering cock. ***½
BONUSES: Commentary by Michael Barrier.

Daffy Duck Hunt (1949) Barnyard Dog from the previous episode shows up here as Porky Pig's hunting pooch, who "captures" Daffy Duck and takes him home. But Daffy won't go down without a fight, which means the colorful, zany duck provides some more wiseacre hilarity. ****

Early to Bet (1951) The Gambling Bug causes bets to happen worldwide, yet decides he must take a day off from the job. However, when he catches a cat refusing to play gin with a gruff dog, the bug bites again and causes the cat to suffer various termed penalties at the hands of the mutt, like "Roll Out the Barrel" and "The Gesundheit." It's surprisingly funny for one of the lesser known character pieces. ***½

Broken Leghorn (1959) Prissy is harangued by the other hens for not laying an egg, but when he squeezes a rooster's egg under her feathers, Foghorn fears the little one might take over his duties. So not only does Foghorn become the boy's trainer, but also plots to be his executor. The various schemes backfire in his face, literally. ***½
BONUSES: Music-only track.

Devil May Hare (1954) In his first animated outing, the Tasmanian Devil seeks to dine on Bugs Bunny…big mistake! ****
BONUSES: Commentary by Jerry Beck.

Disc one starts off with an Introduction by Chuck Jones (3:46), which were his last remaining words about the Warner Bros. cartoon characters to be recorded. This also shows you the length which this whole collection came to materialize.

Overall, the music-only tracks and commentaries house several surprises. Carl Stalling was definitely a pioneer in terms of animated short music, underscoring every fall, thud, step and facial grimace with a well-placed music cue, and working with a house-sized orchestra always lends spirit no matter what the venture. Listening to these isolated tracks makes you appreciate his work even more.

The commentaries include discussions by Looney Tunes historian Michael Barrier, who gets the most commentary space with 15 shorts, filmmaker Greg Ford, animation historian Jerry Beck, and voice actor Stan Freberg. In what has to be a first for DVD commentaries, archival interviews from the shorts' creators (people like Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese, Friz Freleng, and Mel Blanc) get interspersed amongst the various commentaries and serve not just to fill up dead space, but actually give us lost commentary from the masters themselves about their own creations and the cartoons. For instance, Michael Barrier utilizes Chuck Jones' actual commentary on how Groucho Marx influenced most of Bugs' mannerisms. With the exception of Stan Freberg, who flatters himself by proving he can still recall lines of dialogue wholesale (his "Rabbit's Kin" commentary is Dullsville), the other three men are quite informative and full of fascinating tidbits about the cartoons they are commenting on. The only problem is that Barrier, who gets the most commentaries, has a very dry speaking voice that's too often replaced by audio recordings. Still, the commentaries are well worth listening to, and can be accessed with a play all option (although the fourth disc has no such option!).

Behind the Tunes are a 12-part series of brief character/artist-based documentaries that run from 3 minutes to 6 minutes in length. Each disc contains three separate short subjects, with "Blanc Expressions" and "Merrie Melodies: Carl Stalling and Cartoon Music" on the third disc being the only two items that don't concern fictitious characters. The interviews include commentary by the directors (Chuck Jones, Friz Freeleng), voice talents (Stan Freberg, June Foray), animators (Bill Melendez, Willie Ito), surviving family members (Ruth Clampett, Noel Blanc), contemporary Looney Tunes personnel (Joe Dante, who directed "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," and "Tiny Toon Adventures" composer Bruce Broughton), and many historians (Jerry Beck and even Leonard Maltin).

With the exception of those two aforementioned personnel profiles, which contain about 4 minutes worth of actual material once you get past the long, recurring opening segment (Bugs going "Okay Smokey, roll 'em!"), the shorts mostly deal with the personalities and creative evolutions of each of the many characters, from Bugs to Daffy to Porky to Tweety to Speedy and so on. Since these are very short in length, they provide information too compact to be essential, and most of the time they just tend to typical talking head praise (a big fault of the "Blanc" and "Stalling" segments). However, those who wish to further view what went into the studio design and personal care given to each of the characters, including the director who gave Yosemite Sam his fiery personality, are poised to definitely check out these collective documentaries.

All these personalities return on disc four for Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, a new 50-minute documentary that sums up all the information you've learned watching the previous documentaries, commentaries and interview segments in one helpful platter. It's kind of like an extended "Behind the Tunes" featurette devoted to the history of the "Boys From Termite Terrace," who have been documented on a couple previous DVD extras (see the coming paragraph). You learn of the genesis of Looney Tunes history, when Friz Freleng was still working for Walt Disney in Kansas City and Hollywood, when "Bosko the Talk Ink Kid" became the first Looney Tunes short produced, when producer Leon Shlesinger got involved in the Looney Tunes history, when all the famous personalities got involved, and when Warner Bros. picked up the Looney Tunes until the eviction in 1963. As told through interviews, clips, historical photos and archival filmed footage, this in-depth documentary, narrated by Stan Freberg, manages to be a great way to experience the full and final word on the classic Looney Tunes era of Chuck, Friz, Robert and Bob.

Perhaps a less shallow documentation of how the Looney Tunes creative apex unfolded and blossomed lies in The Boys From Termite Terrace. This is a 1975 "Camera Three" documentary that is divided into two nearly half-hour segments on discs one and two. The interviews contain Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc, and were taken over a decade after the Warner Brothers animation unit dissembled. Hosted and narrated by animator and animation historian John Canemaker, the first part details the history of the Looney Tunes personalities getting involved and supplies plenty of valuable background information on the work that not only the four major members, but also people like Carl Stalling and Tex Avery brought to the table. The second half gets into detail about the characters and developments that they underwent, with hand-drawn animated designs of characters like Bugs Bunny and Michigan J. Frog. This is truly an excellent bonus feature.

Disc one houses an abundance of additional extras related to Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny At the Movies contains two brief snippets from Jack Carson films in which Bugs was animated into the proceedings, "My Dream is Yours" (which starred Doris Day in rabbit drag) and "Two Guys From Texas." The Bugs Bunny Show contains a couple elemental features from the short-lived animated show. We see exclusively designed book ending animated sequences for an episode called "A Star is Bored," and also get to see Mel Blanc inside the recording studio as he records the voices for an episode called "The Astro Nuts." Blooper Bunny is an eight-minute cartoon from the early part of the 1990s that celebrates Bugs' 51½ anniversary by showing what went wrong during the recordings. It's fun to watch as we see Daffy Duck going to the bathroom, delaying one take, and also seeing a stray lit rocket stuck on Yosemite Sam’s back as he bursts out of a giant cake. Greg Ford was one of the directors on the piece, and he offers optional audio commentary about how the short was designed. We conclude the disc with a trailer gallery ("Bugs Bunny's Cartoon Festival" and "Bugs Bunny's Cartoon Jamboree") and a 50-frame stills gallery full of conceptual drawings and promotional material.

The remaining three discs also contain their own still galleries as well, 50 slides in non-controllable succession, with disc three also containing Scheme-Atics for the cartoons "Hair-Raising Hare" and "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat," which employs available storyboards in the place of the respective scenes from the actual cartoons. The third disc also contains Toon Heads: The Lost Cartoons, a 45-minute special developed for the Cartoon Network. We go through so much material that we rarely touch down on a whole lot of feature length material. The documentary is devoted solely to exposing some of the more rare cartoons in the Warner vault, from Bosko to Foxy (an alarming Mickey Mouse clone who starred in the featured Spoony Melodies short "Lady Play Your Mandolin") to Private Snafu (who was an early gig for some man you might know about named Theodore Geisel) and Seaman Hook, which was co-created by Hank Ketcham, the man who brought us Dennis the Menace. We also see clips of Bugs Bunny in a cartoon promoting the purchase of war bonds, the pilot for a Road Runner TV series, a Tang commercial starring Bugs and Marvin Martian, and a Christmas time gag reel developed by the boys behind the scenes at the Looney Tunes studio. It's also important to know that Image Entertainment had picked up the rights to the Bosko and Snafu cartoons and had released them on DVD themselves.

Finally, disc four contains more vault footage. Virgil Ross Pencil Tests is about a minute of rough animation from one of the studio's greatest animators, and Bosko the Talk Ink Kid presents the complete four-and-a-half minute short film that was made in 1929 and presents the earliest Looney Tunes short, the one that won Leon Shlesinger's attention. All cartoon shorts contain 1.33:1 full frame presentation, English or French monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks, and optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish languages.

The years have definitely been more kind to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, with TV reruns having etched the gags and lampoonery of the Looney Tunes shorts onto the minds of old and young alike. They are the kind of cartoons that work in repeated viewings, and yet you don't want to watch them just for the chore of it all. These are fun cartoons, with for the most part timeless characters, slapstick comedy, brilliant orchestral music, colorful animation, and solid writing/directing. That's why 56 cartoons is just not enough, and a sequel boxed set should definitely be in the works. LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION remains one of the greatest collectible DVD set gems one could ever hope to obtain, with plenty of side-splitting laughs, amazing technical restoration of classic animation, and hours worth of insightful extra features that take you into the minds and lives of the people who made perhaps the most long-lasting and timeless cartoon collection ever. Those who have intent on purchasing the "Premiere Collection" will definitely want to scrape and purchase this set, which is the best way to visit the Looney Tunes characters on the digital disc format to date. And Doc, you ain't seen nothing yet!


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up to Age 4


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