Judge Clark Douglas desperately wants to be the Easter Bunny. Please, just give him a chance?
There's something funny about this bunny!
At a first glance, I assumed that Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies was a collection of vintage Looney Toons shorts with an Easter-y sort of theme. That assumption was only partially correct. The disc actually offers a compilation special of sorts that originally aired on television in the late 1970s, an era in which animation in general was in a very sorry state indeed. Disney was experiencing a creatively dry period, Rankin/Bass was unsuccessfully attempting to recapture the success of earlier hits and weekly television cartoons had become ultra-cheap both in terms of budget and artistry. Even the legendary Chuck Jones seemed increasingly like a shadow of his former self, as the specials produced by Chuck Jones Productions often failed to meet the level of work Jones had done at Warner Bros. and MGM.
Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies essentially serves as a direct contrast between what animation had been during its early glory days and what it had become by 1977. The story set-up is an exceedingly simple one: The Easter Bunny (voiced by Mel Blanc, who voices every other major character in the special except for Granny) has gotten sick and needs someone to fill in for him this year. For some reason, Granny (voiced June Foray) is in charge of finding a replacement, so she wanders over to Warner Bros. Studios and checks in on Bugs Bunny and all of her other friends there. While Bugs would seem to be the obvious choice for the role, he's too busy filming cartoons, so Granny has to find someone else from the Looney Tunes gang for the job. Each character attempts to convince Granny that they're the right for the role of the Easter Bunny by showing off their impressive acting skills in vintage shorts. Essentially, the special offers about 10 minutes of new branching material and about 40 minutes of classic cartoons.
The branching sequences aren't that great to begin with, but they feel flat-out awful when you contrast them to the classic animated shorts. The vintage shorts are prime Looney goodness: funny, witty, superbly animated and immensely entertaining. The new sequences are clumsy and awkward, as the seemingly neutered versions of the characters offer wheezy jokes and act like they all like each other very much (the Yosimite Sam depicted in this special isn't a gun-happy psychopath in real life, he's a nice guy who just plays crazy characters). The animation is bland and flat during the sequences as well, failing to generate any of the frenzied invention of the original shorts. Blah.
"But hey, didn't you say that the shorts take up the majority of the running time?" you may be saying. "Surely that would make the special at least reasonably enjoyable?"
Well, yes and no. Yes, the vintage shorts in and of themselves are quite good. However, for the purpose of this special they've been rather clumsily edited, as 2-3 minutes are often shaved off the shorts for the sake of time. This tends to disrupt the pacing and comic momentum of these pieces more often than not, even if what remains is still relatively enjoyable. In addition, I've grown spoiled due to watching full versions of these shorts via the lavish Looney Tunes Golden Collection sets, which offer beautifully remastered transfers of the complete, unedited cartoons. Unfortunately, this disc looks pretty awful, with scratches and flecks all over the place. There's also a ton of grain, plus the colors seem flat and lifeless most of the time. The mono audio is also tinny and sometimes downright painful to listen to. Ugh.
Truthfully, the most satisfying item on the entire disc is a bonus short, the classic "His Hare-Raising Tale" featuring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. The only other bonus item is a collection of interactive puzzles games.
My advice is for all but diehard animation buffs to skip this disc altogether and either check out the Golden Collections (perfect for the Looney Tunes fan who wants to experience these shorts along with a tremendous selection of bonus features) or the Spotlight Collections (perfect for families who just want to enjoy the more well-known cartoons in superior video quality).
Much of the content contained within this special is good stuff, but the
overall presentation is guilty nonetheless.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Bonus Cartoon
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