Warner Bros. // 2003 // 411 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // November 25th, 2003
Fully restored. Completely uncut. Totally Looney!
This is my pick for the best DVD of the year. There are some tiny flaws present (which we will discuss later) but there is plenty of great material to be found in these four discs and that easily outweighs the bad.
A Brief History of the Looney Tunes
It all began with Walt Disney. His theatrical shorts were becoming quite popular and that wasn't lost on the other major studios. MGM would eventually get into animation, but Warner Bros. wanted some product immediately. They hire producer Leon Schlesinger to oversee production and he in turn hires a pair of Disney animators, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising. They in turn hired an assistant: Isadore Freleng (1905-1995), best known as "Friz."
Harman and Ising's first production was "Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid" (1929). Its wacky irreverence and experimental nature laid the groundwork for all future cartoons. Harman and Ising would depart for MGM in 1933, leaving Freleng as the senior animator (despite his youth).
The Looney Tunes animation department had six major directors: Freleng, Bob Clampett (1913-1984), Fred "Tex" Avery (1908-1980), Robert McKimson (1910-1977), Arthur Davis (1905-2000) and Charles Martin "Chuck" Jones (1912-2002). But there were others: Ben "Bugs" Hardaway (1897-1957), who left for Universal's animation studio in the early 1940s; Frank Tashlin (1913-1972), who left in 1950 to become a full time film director (a good one at that); and Abe Levitow (1922-1975), who came in a few years before the shutdown of the animation department.
The first Looney Tunes character was Foxy, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Mickey Mouse. The high point of his brief screen career was "Smile Darn Ya Smile" (1932) directed by Friz Freleng. The next attempt at a recurring character was Beans, who made his screen debut in 1935's "I Haven't Got A Hat." But he was upstaged by a cute fat pig named Porky, who became the first major animated star. Porky would usher in the screen debut of Daffy Duck in "Porky's Duck Hunt" (1937) and a wacky hare named Happy Rabbit in "Porky's Hare Hunt" (1938). Happy Rabbit would be rechristened Bugs Bunny, after his creator, for the next short "A Wild Hare" (1940). Other characters would follow over the fertile decades before the final shutdown of the animation department in 1969.
Fifty-six classic shorts have been restored to the best condition possible and have been spread out over four discs. For this set, I have decided to use a zero to four star rating system. I feel that system is more appropriate since these shorts were released theatrically. Anyhow, here we go:
Disc One: The Best of Bugs Bunny
"Baseball Bugs" (1946) dir. Friz Freleng
Bugs Bunny decides to teach the Gashouse Gorillas a lesson after watching them slaughter his beloved Tea Totallers.
"Rabbit Seasoning" (1952) dir. Chuck Jones
The second of a trilogy, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck try to confuse Elmer Fudd as to what hunting season it really is.
"Long-Haired Hare" (1949) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs gets revenge against Giovanni Jones, the cantankerous opera singer.
"High Diving Hare" (1949) dir. Friz Freleng
Upset that high-diver Fearless Freep no-showed, Yosemite Sam forces Bugs Bunny to substitute for him.
"Bully for Bugs" (1953) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs accidentally ends up in Mexico after taking the wrong turn from Albuquerque. And a big bull decides to use Bugs for target practice.
"What's Up Doc?" (1950) dir. Robert McKimson
Bugs tells the world how he got his start in show business.
"Rabbit's Kin" (1952) dir. Robert McKimson
Bugs protects a baby rabbit from the paws of dumb Pete Puma. How many lumps do you want, there, stranger?
"Water, Water, Every Hare" (1952) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs drifts to the castle of a mad scientist looking for a brain for his robot. The Simpsons paid homage to this short in the final segment of "Treehouse of Horror II." And besides, monsters are such in-teresting creatures!
"Big House Bunny" (1950) dir. Friz Freleng
Bugs ends up in prison after accidentally burrowing into the yard. He proceeds to drive guard Sam Schultz bananas. Or is that carrots?
"Big Top Bunny" (1951) dir. Robert McKimson
Bugs becomes a major circus star and makes Bruno the Russian Bear extremely jealous.
"My Bunny Lies Over the Sea" (1948) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs makes a Scotsman red with anger after mistaking his bagpipe for a monster and his kilt for a skirt.
"Wabbit Twouble" (1941) dir Bob Clampett
Elmer Fudd goes to a park for a relaxing weekend. He didn't count on Bugs Bunny crashing the party.
"Ballot Box Bunny" (1951) dir. Friz Freleng
Bugs and Yosemite Sam both run for mayor and take mudslinging politics to unheard levels.
"Rabbit of Seville" (1950) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs and Elmer proceed to turn Rossini's classic opera upside down after their high-speed chase ends up onstage. One of my personal 10 Best Looney Tunes.
Disc Two: The Best of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig
"Duck Amuck" (1950) dir. Chuck Jones
Daffy Duck is at the mercy of a naughty animator. Another of my personal 10 Best Looney Tunes.
"Dough for the Do-Do" (1949) dir. Friz Freleng
Porky searches for the lost Do-Do bird and finds himself in Wackyland. Extremely avant-garde for the time and not terribly funny, this is probably the worst short in the package.
"Drip-Along Daffy" (1951) dir. Chuck Jones
Drip Along Daffy and his sidekick Comedy Relief Porky attempt to run Nasty Canasta out of town, with unexpected (and hilarious) results.
"Scaredy Cat" (1948) dir. Chuck Jones
Sylvester is horrified to learn that the resident mice of the motel he and Porky are staying in plan to kill them.
"The Ducksters" (1950) dir. Chuck Jones
Daffy is the host of a maniacal radio show and Porky is his victim, err, contestant. Oh, I'm sorry, time's up! You must pay the penalty!
"The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (1950) dir. Chuck Jones
Daffy adapts "The Scarlet Pimpernel" as a vehicle for himself and other Looney Tunes.
"Yankee Doodle Daffy" (1943) dir. Friz Freleng
Daffy will do anything to get talent agent Porky to give an audition to his nephew, Sleepy Lagoo.
"Porky Chops" (1949) dir. Arthur Davis
Porky incurs the wrath of a squirrel after trying to chop down the rodent's tree.
"Wearing of the Grin" (1951) dir. Chuck Jones
Porky encounters a leprechaun while driving through Ireland.
"Deduce, You Say" (1956) dir. Chuck Jones
Dorlock Homes (Daffy Duck) and his companion Watson (Porky Pig) are on the trail of the Shropshire Slasher.
"Boobs in the Woods" (1950) dir Robert McKimson
A sort of reworking of "Wabbit Twouble" with Porky and Daffy in the respective roles Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny occupied in that short. This one is even funnier, with Daffy at his zaniest. The ending is particularly satisfying.
"Golden Yeggs" (1950) dir. Friz Freleng
Daffy takes the credit for laying a golden egg and becomes famous. Gangster Rocky decides it is time to become rich.
"Rabbit Fire" (1951) dir Chuck Jones
The first part of a trilogy featuring Bugs, Daffy and Elmer fighting over what hunting season it currently is. This is the best of them all, followed by "Rabbit Seasoning" (1952) and concluding with "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" (1953). This one has the benefit of freshness.
"Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century" (1953) dir. Chuck Jones.
Jones' masterpiece; a fantastic spoof of Buck Rogers with Daffy and Porky traveling to Planet X to replenish the shaving cream supply on Earth. There they run into a hostile Martian named Marvin.
Disc Three: Looney Tunes All Stars Part One
"Elmer's Candid Camera" (1940) dir. Chuck Jones
Elmer decides to break in his new camera taking a picture of a certain wascally wabbit.
"Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears" (1944) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs takes the place of Goldilocks and is certain to be doomed until he weasels his way out of the situation by "seducing" Mama Bear. (He'll live to regret it.)
"Fast and Furryous" (1948) dir. Chuck Jones
The debut Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner chase cartoon. These would get more innovative (and better) as years passed by.
"Hair-Raising Hare" (1946) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs Bunny is lured to a mad scientist's castle and tangles with Gossamer, the orange haired monster who leads such an "in-teresting" life.
"The Awful Orphan" (1949) dir. Chuck Jones
Charlie Dog tries to coerce Porky Pig into adopting him. One of Porky's best outings.
"Haredevil Hare" (1948) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs finds himself in outer space and tangling with Marvin the Martian.
"For-Scent-imental Reasons" (1949) dir. Chuck Jones
Pepe Le Pew's Oscar winning debut, in which he romances a cat who accidentally acquires a white stripe on her back.
"Frigid Hare" (1949) dir. Chuck Jones
Bugs once again takes the wrong turn, this time ending up in Alaska. He helps a penguin elude a pesky Eskimo.
"The Hypo-Chondri-Cat" (1950) dir. Chuck Jones
Mice Hubie and Bertie are bothering poor Claude Cat again, this time after discovering his obsession with avoiding germs. One of Jones' best non-regular Tunes shorts.
"Baton Bunny" (1959) dir. Chuck Jones, Abe Levitow
Bugs is conducting the Warner Bros. Orchestra and a fly interrupts the proceedings. Despite a few chuckles, there are better Bugs (and Looney Tunes) shorts that should have been included first.
"Feed the Kitty" (1952) dir. Chuck Jones
Another Jones masterpiece; bulldog Marc Anthony becomes smitten with a cute little kitty. Hilarious yet poignant, it earns its' laughs and tears the honest way, without manipulation. On my list of the 10 Best Looney Tunes cartoons ever made.
"Don't Give Up the Sheep" (1953) dir. Chuck Jones
The first Ralph and Sam short (with each being called by the other's name!), and it sets the tone for the rest of the series.
"Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" (1942) dir. Bob Clampett
A doofy young buzzard is told to capture a rabbit for supper and guess who he targets? Hilarious.
"Tortoise Wins By A Hare" (1943) dir. Bob Clampett
The best of the Bugs Bunny versus Cecil Tortoise series, Bugs decides that the shell must be the secret to Cecil's victory and creates a faux shell of his own. Unfortunately, a group of gangster rabbits decides to fix the race for Bugs and get the "toitle."
Disc Four: Looney Tunes All Stars Part Two
"Canary Row" (1950) dir. Friz Freleng
Sylvester spots Tweety in an apartment building and decides to capture him for a quick lunch. Obstacles stand in his way.
"Bunker Hill Bunny" (1950) dir. Friz Freleng
The Battle of Bagel Heights: Rebel Bugs Bunny takes on Hessian Yosemite Sam for control of a fort.
"Kit for Cat" (1948) dir. Friz Freleng
Two cats vie for Elmer Fudd's love: Sylvester and Melvin. Who will win?
"Puddy Tat Trouble" (1951) dir. Friz Freleng
Sylvester and Sam both spot Tweety above a pole. Visions of roasted squab dance in their heads.
"Bugs and Thugs" (1954) dir. Friz Freleng
Bugs accidentally gets into a gangster getaway car after mistaking it for a taxi.
"Canned Feud" (1951) dir. Friz Freleng
Sylvester is all alone with lots of canned food, but no can opener. The resident mouse has one, but will he give Sylvester a break?
"Lumber Jerks" (1955) dir. Friz Freleng
The Goofy Gophers, Mac and Tosh, follow their chopped down tree to a lumberyard. One of the funniest moments comes when Mac recites a classic English rhyme "there was a little girl who had a little curl..."
"Speedy Gonzales" (1955) dir. Friz Freleng
After a mediocre debut in "Cattails for Two," Freleng gave Speedy a much-needed makeover and sped off with the Oscar. In this short, Sylvester is the security guard for a local cheese factory. Speedy decides to get cheese for his starving compadres.
"Tweety's SOS" (1951) dir. Friz Freleng
Sylvester, a stowaway on a cruise ship, discovers Tweety and once again tries to score an easy lunch.
"The Foghorn Leghorn" (1948) dir. Robert McKimson
After a successful debut in "Crowing Pains" (1947), Foghorn continues to torture Barnyard Dog some more and convinces Henery Hawk that he is not a chicken.
"Daffy Duck Hunt" (1949) dir. Robert McKimson
Porky and Barnyard Dog go hunting for duck and find one...a certifiably crazy one with the initials DD.
"Early to Bet" (1951) dir. Robert McKimson
The Gambling Bug's bite gives one crazy side effect: anyone bitten acquires an insane passion for gambling. A bit unusual, but one of the better non-Looney shorts.
"Broken Leghorn" (1959) dir. Robert McKimson
Prissy's egg hatches and out comes a baby rooster. In a plot that would make Ira Levin (Deathtrap) proud, Foghorn plans the tyke's displacement.
"Devil May Hare" (1954) dir. Robert McKimson
The screen debut of the Tasmanian Devil, and what a debut it is! Bugs Bunny is tops on Taz's dinner menu and it's up to the little stinker to stop the devil at all costs, even arranging marriage.
The Looney Tunes have always been very special to me. I have many happy memories of watching them on television with my grandfather. His particular favorite was Bugs Bunny, who he claimed was his great friend for many years. I laughed then, since I was a young boy. But now that I'm an adult, I find myself thinking that his remark is actually a very valid and agreeable point. These characters may be cartoons, but think about it. They're such well drawn, developed characters that we feel like we really do know them personally. It's a shame he didn't live to see this set; he would have loved it.
What the geniuses of Termite Terrace understood was to make cartoons with wide appeal. They're entertaining enough for children, with the hijinx and slapstick. But they're also a lot of fun for adults, with the zany in-jokes and subtle comedy. Many insiders said they made them for adults, so it comes as no surprise.
Mel Blanc was the first man to receive a screen credit for vocal characterization and he deserved it. He voiced many different types of roles for the Looney Tunes, and it was amazing that he invested so much feeling into them. Also, he was supported by a top-notch supporting cast including Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), June Foray (Granny), and Stan Freberg (Pete Puma, Junior Bear, etcetera).
Things to look for the Looney Tunes:
* If Friz Freleng directed it, the word Friz is somewhere in the
* Bugs always takes the wrong turn off Albuquerque
* ACME isn't just present in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote shorts
* Ralph Wolf and Wile E Coyote are one and the same, only Ralph has a red nose.
* The animators would recycle some characters into different shorts, Barnyard Dog specifically in this set
* Friz Freleng and I. Freleng are the same man
* The Goofy Gophers strike a resemblance to the Pigeon Sisters in The Odd Couple
There are many others, but some I will leave you to discover.
The full frame transfer is appropriate. Sometimes on television, the opening credits feature windowboxing and even very slight letterboxing. Unlike many other studios experimenting with widescreen (MGM having made several years worth of CinemaScope shorts), the Looney Tunes shorts weren't composed or intended to be seen in that fashion. I'm glad Warner Bros. took notice before the transition to DVD. As Judge Byun pointed out in his review of The Looney Tunes Premiere Collection, there are imperfections present, despite the restoration efforts. The same problem is present in The Golden Collection. Some shorts are in beautiful virgin condition. Others are less than stellar but a major improvement from any previous incarnations. And there are some, such as "Yankee Doodle Daffy" and "Lumber Jerks," which have fallen in the public domain and suffer from the aftereffects of thousands of dupe prints being made over decades past. Those shorts have very visible grain and dirt present. Despite these shortcomings, these are the best the shorts have looked since their theatrical premieres. Colors are appropriately bold and vibrant looking and those used to seeing these shorts on television will drool over this set. Taking into consideration all the factors, The Golden Collection is still a first class presentation.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. This is appropriate, remaining true to the original sound schemes of the shorts. Again, while other studios were experimenting with stereophonic sound, Warner Bros. stuck with what they knew best. The sound mix here is excellent. There are, again, problems such as tape hiss and assorted tell tale signs of analog recordings, but nothing that will agitate potential viewers to the point of distraction. Carl Stalling's music has never sounded better.
There are many extras included in this set. After reviewing several box sets with minimal extras, what a pleasure it was to see so many here! First up are 26 commentary tracks: film historian Michael Barrier appears on seventeen of them, official Looney Tunes historian Jerry Beck appears on three, voice talent Stan Freberg appears on two, and contemporary Looney Tunes director Greg Ford appears on three. Barrier's commentaries are the most informative, but his delivery is very dry. Beck's commentaries are entertaining to listen to. Ford is okay, but could have given some more insight into the inspiration these shorts gave him. Freberg's commentaries are, as Herman's Hermits would put it, a must to avoid. He devotes most of his commentaries to reciting the dialogue he voiced in the individual shorts. Who wants to hear this? Not I. Soundbites from various Looney Tunes directors and crew are sprinkled throughout some of these tracks. It is nice to see that even in death, these geniuses are "still" participating in reevaluations of their work.
Eleven shorts contain a music-only track selection. You can listen to Carl Stalling's scores without the dialogue or sound effects. Listen to them and you'll see what a major contribution Stalling made to these shorts.
A "Greeting from Chuck Jones" is exactly that. Taped shortly before his death, this is a must-see for all fans alike. It also shows us how long this project was in gestation.
Twelve featurettes are included, all running about three and a half minutes in length. All contain comments from family members of Looney Tunes directors, surviving animators, vocal talents, historians, and even current Looney Tunes animators. All are worth seeing and provide great insights into their subject matter.
Four documentaries, all gems, are worth seeing. The first is split into two parts on the first two discs: "Camera Three: The Boys from Termite Terrace." This is outtake footage from a 1975 United Artists compilation film Bugs Bunny Superstar, which combined interviews and selected shorts. Here the subjects are Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Friz Freleng. "Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons" is a May 2000 Cartoon Network special containing several goodies: the first Merrie Melodies production "Lady Play Your Mandolin" (1930), an Academy Award winning instructional short featuring an adult Ralph Phillips (the boy dreamer Chuck Jones so wonderfully created) that is a four-star classic, and surviving outtakes from a failed "Road Runner" pilot for ABC-TV in 1969. A must for all animation buffs. "Behind the Tunes" is what it says, an inside look into the production of the classic shorts. Lastly, there's the hour long "Irreverent Animation: the Golden Age of Looney Tunes," a well detailed, in depth look at their history with invaluable interviews with many now-dead animators.
"Blooper Bunny: Bugs Bunny's 51st Anniversary" is a 1991 short subject directed by Greg Ford, lampooning the often unfunny bloopers we DVD owners are so often subjected to. There is optional commentary by Ford that is worth a listen.
Bridging material from the 1960s primetime TV series "The Bugs Bunny Show" is basically padding, but it's worth seeing from a historical perspective and you will see where the opening from the ABC-TV Saturday morning series "The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show" originated.
Surviving footage of the debut Looney Tunes short "Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid" gives you a look at how much this series evolved over the next forty years. Definitely worth watching at least once.
"Bugs Bunny at the Movies" features two clips from two Warner Bros. musicals that each featured Bugs Bunny. My Dream is Yours features a cameo from Tweety and is also one of Doris Day's first features (she dances with Bugs!). Two Guys from Texas features Bugs giving advice to Jack Carson on how to get the girl. Again, interesting from a historical perspective and a must see.
Virgil Ross' pencil tests and schematics for two classic shorts give us an idea of the work that went into developing these shorts into their final cinematic form. Excellent.
"The Astro Nuts Recording Sessions" features Mel Blanc and gives us a front seat look at his amazing talent.
Four extensive stills galleries featuring sketches, theatrical posters, promotional cards, and cels are included. This is what a stills gallery should be. Other studios, pay attention!
Two theatrical trailers for two '60s Looney Tunes compilation films are in rough shape but worth a look.
If I have any complaints, it's there are more confirmed classics out there that could have been selected for this set. But that's a moot point. The fact is that all of the Looney Tunes shorts are undergoing restoration and all will be available in future compilations. It's just a matter of waiting and being patient.
Me, I'm just glad to see these shorts in such good condition.
With a retail price of $62.99, this is an expensive purchase that is worth investing your hard-earned money on. Some will no doubt choose The Premiere Collection since it is selling for less than half the price of this set, but in the long run, your money is better spent on The Golden Collection.
Plus, there are no extras in the cheaper set. How much longer do I have to argue here? Just buy this set!
The fact that any charges were brought up against this wonderful collection is absurd. Dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2003 Winner: #5
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 411 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* A Greeting from Chuck Jones (2002)
* Commentary Tracks on 26 Shorts Featuring Historians Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck, Vocal Talent Stan Freberg, Director Greg Ford, and Soundbites from Various Looney Tunes Animators
* Music-Only Track Option on Eleven Shorts
* Bonus Short: "Blooper Bunny: Bugs Bunny's 51st Anniversary" with Optional Commentary by Director Greg Ford
* Bridging Footage from "The Bugs Bunny Show"
* Featurettes: "Bugs: A Rabbit For All Seasonings," "The Small Tale of Yosemite Sam," "Forever Befuddled," "Hard Luck Duck," "Porky Pig Roast," "Animal Quackers," "Too Fast, Too Furryous," "Merrie Melodies: Carl Stalling And Cartoon Music," "Blanc Expressions," "Needy For Speedy," "Puddy Problems And Canary Rows," "Southern Pride Chicken"
* Documentaries: "Camera Three: The Boys from Termite Terrace" (Parts 1 and 2), "Toon Heads: The Lost Cartoons," "Behind the Tunes," "Irreverent Animation: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes"
* From The Vaults: Surviving Footage of Debut WB Short "Bosko The Talk-Ink Kid," Virgil Ross Pencil Tests, Schematics For "Hare Raising Hare" and "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat," "The Astro Nuts" Mel Blanc Audio Recording Sessions
* "Bugs Bunny at the Movies": Excerpts From My Dream Is Yours and Two Guys From Texas
* Stills Galleries
* Theatrical Trailers
* Looney Tunes Official Site