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page created: 10/23/03

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection
Various (2003) - Warner Home Video

review by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection

Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/A+

Specs and Features

411 mins (56 shorts at approx. 7 mins each), NR, full frame (1.37:1), 4 single-sided, dual-layered discs, Digipak packaging with slipcase, audio commentary on 26 shorts (with film historians Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck, filmmaker Greg Ford and actor Stan Freberg), music-only tracks on 12 shorts, Greeting from Chuck Jones introduction, The Boys from Termite Terrace, Part I documentary (28 mins), The Boys from Termite Terrace, Part II documentary (29 mins), Toon Heads: The Lost Cartoons documentary (46 mins), Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes documentary (51 mins), 12 featurettes (including Bugs: A Rabbit for All Seasonings, Short-Fuse Shootout: The Small Tale of Yosemite Sam, Forever Befuddled, Hard Luck Duck, Porky Pig Roast: A Tribute to the World's Most Famous Ham, Animal Quackers, Too Fast, Too Furry-ous, Merrie Melodies: Carl Stalling and Cartoon Music, Blanc Expressions, Needy for Speedy, Putty Problems and Canary Rows and Southern Pride Chicken), Blooper Bunny: Bugs Bunny 51st Anniversary bonus cartoon (with optional commentary), Bugs Bunny at the Movies (excerpts from My Dream Is Yours and Two Guys from Texas), recording sessions with Mel Blanc, trailers from Bugs Bunny's Cartoon Festival and Bugs Bunny's Cartoon Jamboree, schematics for Hare-Raising Hare and The Hypo-Chondri-Cat, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid introduction, Virgil Ross pencil tests, stills galleries, animated program-themed menu screens with music, short access, languages: English and French (DD 1.0 mono - shorts, DD 2.0 - featurettes), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

From the day that DVDs first appeared over six years ago, perhaps nothing has been more requested by classic film enthusiasts than Warner Brothers cartoons. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series that graced the screen from the early 1930s until the early 1960s represent animation at its zenith and seeing them brought to DVD in all their original glory has been a long-standing hope for fans. With its new four-disc/56-cartoon Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Warner Brothers has taken the pressure off itself, but also created another problem. This collection is so appealing that it will likely immediately cause a demand for encores. And room for encores there is a-plenty - 56 cartoons down, nearly 1000 to go.

Those of you who have any of the five Golden Age of Looney Tunes laserdisc collections - the Looney Tunes video standard until now - will want to know how the cartoons look in comparison. How does night and day sound? Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit because the laserdiscs are reasonably good, but there's no denying that all these cartoons on the new DVDs are brighter, much more colourful, cleaner, sharper, and generally better-framed than their laserdisc counterparts. They do not look like pristine restorations as the odd speckle and minor scratch do show up and whites are not always as pure as they might be, but I can't imagine anyone really complaining about what they see here. These cartoons look wonderful and the word 'Technicolor' that precedes them all lives up to its reputation. All are presented full screen in accord with their original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The sound is the original mono restored to remove virtually all hint of age-related hiss, crackle, or distortion. Both English and French tracks are provided as are English, French, and Spanish subtitling.

The packaging is similar to that used by Warners for its 2-disc SEs. There is a separate cardboard slipcase within which we get a fold-out set of plastic trays - in this case, four - one for each disc. Disc One (The Best of Bugs Bunny) contains 14 Bugs Bunny cartoons featuring Bugs alone, Bugs with Daffy Duck, Bugs with Yosemite Sam, and Bugs with Porky Pig. The work of Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and Robert Clampett is all represented among these various efforts. The cartoons included are, in the order presented on the disc: Baseball Bugs (1946), Rabbit Seasoning (1952), Long-Haired Hare (1949), High Diving Hare (1949), Bully for Bugs (1953), What's Up Doc? (1950), Rabbit's Kin (1952), Water, Water Every Hare (1952), Big House Bunny (1950), Big Top Bunny (1951), My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (1948), Wabbit Twouble (1941), Ballot Box Bunny (1951), and Rabbit of Seville (1950). Everybody of course has their own favourites; for me, the best of these 14 are High Diving Hare, Wabbit Twouble, and Rabbit of Seville (the latter partly because it presages the classic 1957 What's Opera Doc?). You will note that most of the titles are drawn from the 1948 to 1953 period. Only one - Wabbit Twouble - significantly predates this, and that was the only quibble I had with the selection. I'd have preferred to see a few more of the earlier titles included in this first collection. Disc One, as with the other discs, offers a play-all or play-individually menu choice.

Disc Two (The Best of Daffy and Porky) contains 14 cartoons that focus on Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. We get Daffy alone, Porky alone, the two together, and a few with Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the Cat and even Bugs thrown in for good measure. The cartoons included are, in the order presented on the disc: Duck Amuck (1953), Dough for the Do-Do (1949), Drip-Along Daffy (1951), Scaredy Cat (1948), The Ducksters (1950), The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950), Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943), Porky Chops (1949), Wearing of the Grin (1951), Deduce, You Say (1956), Boobs in the Woods (1950), Golden Yeggs (1950), Rabbit Fire (1951), and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953). Nine of these are Chuck Jones efforts with the rest mainly by Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson. As with the first disc, the focus is on the 1948 to 1953 period, so we get none of what are usually referred to as the wartime cartoons with their propaganda angles and the priceless parodies of Hitler and his henchmen. For me, Yankee Doodle Daffy and The Scarlet Pumpernickel are the two highlights on this disc. I'm less impressed with Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, just because I've never cared for the Marvin Martian character.

Discs Three and Four (Looney Tunes All Stars) give us a little wider sampling of the Warner Brother cartoon characters. Bugs is still best represented (particularly on Disc Three) and Daffy, Porky, Elmer and Sylvester all reappear, but now we also get Tweety thrice), Foghorn Leghorn (twice), Pepe LePew (once), Speedy Gonzalez (once), and the Road Runner (once). Disc Three is pretty well an ode to Chuck Jones with the exception of two Robert Clampett efforts. It also contains a higher percentage of 1940s cartoons than any of the other discs, including such gems as Elmer's Candid Camera, Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, and Tortoise Wins by a Hare. Disc Four contains nine Friz Freleng cartoons and five Robert McKimson ones, and again focuses on the late-1940s-to-early-1950s period. It contains the widest diversity of characters amongst its various titles, but overall is the weakest of the four discs in terms of cartoon quality. The cartoons included are, in the order presented on the discs: Disc Three - Elmer's Candid Camera (1940), Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944), Fast and Furry-ous (1949), Hair-Raising Hare (1946), The Awful Orphan (1949), Haredevil Hare (1948), For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), Frigid Hare (1949), The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (1950), Baton Bunny (1959), Feed the Kitty (1952), Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953), Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942), and Tortoise Wins by a Hare (1943); Disc Four - Canary Row (1950), Bunker Hill Bunny (1950), Kit for Cat (1948), Putty Tat Trouble (1951), Bugs and Thugs (1954), Canned Feud (1951), Lumber Jerks (1955), Speedy Gonzalez (1955), Tweety's S.O.S. (1951), The Foghorn Leghorn (1948), Daffy Duck Hunt (1949), Early to Bet (1951), Broken Leghorn (1959), and Devil May Hare (1954).

In addition to the cartoons themselves, there is a very generous selection of supplements spread fairly evenly over all four discs. Firstly, 26 of the cartoons include audio commentary by either animation historian Michael Barrier, animation historian Jerry Beck, filmmaker Greg Ford, or actor Stan Freberg, while 12 of them include music-only audio tracks. The latter in themselves give an entirely different feel to each of the cartoons, while the audio commentaries are almost uniformly insightful and informative - either explaining the context within which the cartoon was made or illuminating the role of the cartoon or a segment of it in the historical development of its principal characters. Two documentaries, each running just under an hour, cover the historical development of Looney Tunes production at Warner Brothers. Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes is a new documentary that uses numerous interviews with surviving members of the animation unit or relatives of members who have passed away along with historical photographs, film clips, and cartoon segments to cover the period. The Boys from Termite Terrace is a 1975 documentary in the Camera Three arts series (presented in two parts on Discs One and Two) that covers much of the same ground but is particularly useful for its extensive interviews with Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng at a time when the Warner Brothers animation unit had been disbanded for almost ten years, but was on the verge of being reunited once again at the studio.

Also included are 12 new featurettes referred to collectively as Behind the Tunes. Each runs between three and five minutes and focuses on individual cartoon characters or creative personnel. Thus the likes of voice artist Mel Blanc or music director Carl Stalling are recognized at least briefly. Of interest among the remaining supplements are Toon Heads: The Lost Cartoons, a 46-minute documentary from the Cartoon Network that tells about various Warner Brother cartoon efforts that have been considered lost although they're not really. Topics covered include the early Bosko cartoons (available on two DVDs issued by Image several years ago), an excerpt from one of four Spooney Melodies which were the forerunners to the Merrie Melodies, the Private Snafu cartoons (also available on a DVD issued by Image), and several public service and advertising animation efforts that have employed the WB animation unit and its characters. An introduction by Chuck Jones, a bonus cartoon, stills galleries, pencil tests, cartoon schematics, cartoon collection trailers, and animation excerpts from a couple of WB 1940s features round out the collection.

Well, the wait for Looney Tunes on DVD has been long, but in the end definitely worthwhile. Warner Brothers has given us an attractive, well-thought-out package that includes almost seven hours of cartoons and easily as much again in supplementary material. The cartoons look and sound great and the supplements are almost uniformly informative and entertaining. And the best thing is that we've only scratched the surface of all the material that's available. The Looney Tunes Golden Collection is highly recommended. Also available is The Looney Tunes Premiere Collection, which contains half of the cartoons of the Golden Collection (duplicating discs Three and Four). Still, why settle for less when you can go all the way!?

Barrie Maxwell
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