Judge Victor Valdivia has seen cheapo Looney Tunes VHS tapes more essential than this collection.
20 classics on 2 discs
There are twenty cartoons here, and there are two discs here, but calling them all "classics" stretches the meaning of the word far beyond credibility. Try again, Warner Bros.
Facts of the Case
Here are the cartoons collected on two discs:
If you're going to call a collection The Essential Bugs Bunny and proclaim that it has twenty classic cartoons, then it had better live up to the billing, especially with a character as renowned and beloved as Bugs Bunny. It's certainly not an exaggeration to say that everybody has their own favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, so anyone you ask will easily list a half-dozen shorts without much thought. This set does indeed have some of Bugs Bunny's best moments, but too many choices here are utterly bizarre.
The first disc compiles twelve shorts from the '40s and '50s, all of which were previously released on the Golden Collection box sets, but they're not all equally great. "Rabbit of Seville," "What's Opera Doc?" (or, as generations of schoolchildren know it, "Kill the Wabbit!"), and "A Wild Hare" (the first Bugs Bunny short) are all recognized classics that deserve to be on this collection. "Hair Raising Hare" (which marks the first appearance of orange sneaker-wearing monster Gossamer), "Baseball Bugs," and "Rabbit Fire," one of the best cartoons in which Bugs and Daffy Duck confuse a none-too-bright Elmer Fudd, are also brilliantly funny cartoons that rank amongst the all-time best. Some of the others, though, are odd choices. For example, "8 Ball Bunny" is a rather obscure cartoon in which Bugs tries to get a penguin back to the South Pole. It's amusing in spots but hardly anyone's idea of a classic. Similarly, "Knighty Knight Bugs" is presumably included because it was the first Bugs Bunny short to win an Oscar, but, as is often the case, just because something wins the Academy Award doesn't necessarily mean it's particularly great. "Elmer's Candid Camera," however, is the worst choice here. The cartoon features Elmer being tormented by a gray rabbit, but the rabbit, who is short and has an annoying hick voice, is most assuredly not Bugs Bunny. Instead of wasting disc space with these choices, the compilers should have included real classics like "Bugs Bunny Rides Again," which is arguably the best Yosemite Sam short, or "Little Red Riding Rabbit," one of the funniest '40s period pieces in the character's history. There are some classic cartoons here but not nearly enough of them and since all of these are available on better collections, there's not much point to this disc.
The second disc is even more problematic. It compiles some TV clip shows, recent cartoons, and additional material, none of which could be considered classic even by the broadest definition of the term. There's an excerpt from the 1949 movie My Dream is Yours, in which Bugs and Tweety Pie appear in a dream sequence with Doris Day. It's not that exciting, since their appearances are barely cameos and the bulk of the scene centers on Day. How Bugs Bunny Won the West (from 1978) and Bugs Bunny's Wild World of Sports (from 1988) are typical TV clip shows in which excerpts from classic cartoons are presented with new material that is insufferably corny and dated. It would have been better to just present the original cartoons instead. "Carrotblanca" (from 1995) and "Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas" (from 2004) are recent cartoon shorts that ran theatrically with other films. They both have some mildly amusing gags here and there but pale in comparison to the classic Looney Tunes shorts. Hardcore collectors may be pleased to have some of this material on DVD, but none of it is essential; if anything, it's hard to imagine even the most devout Bugs Bunny fans watching any of these cartoons more than once.
The remaining material is listed on the second disc as "Special Features." The all-new featurette "Bugs Bunny: Ain't He A Stinker" (16:41) is hardly worth spending money for. It's little more than a collection of clips stitched together with cutesy, smirky narration and some interview snippets taken from the previous Golden Collection sets. "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers" (11:27) is a short from 1992, presented here in its extended director's cut version. Frankly, it's hard to understand why. It's a takeoff of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that's more creepy and weird than funny. The set is rounded out with two TV specials, Bugs and Daffy's Carnival of the Animals (24:17) from 1976, and Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over (23:45) from 1980. These are unusual in that they aren't clip shows but completely original animation supervised by legendary Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones. Bustin' Out is the better of the two, consisting of Bugs reminiscing about his childhood and springtime. It does have a few amusing gags here and there. Carnival of the Animals, on the other hand, is tedious. In it, Bugs and Daffy conduct an orchestra performing Camille Saint-Saenz's classical work, but most of the cartoon consists of abstract animation vignettes set to the music, while Bugs and Daffy barely appear. Again, as with much of the rest of this disc, it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to watch these cartoons more than once, let alone considering them essential classics.
Technically, at least the collection is decent. The cartoons on the first disc were remastered for the Golden Collection sets, so they look as sharp and pristine as ever (no additional remastering was done for this collection). The others look good for their age, with vivid colors and no damage to speak of. The mono mix sounds fine as well.
It's infuriating that Warner Bros. is marketing this set as Essential when it's really just an excuse to fob off some third-rate archival content that doesn't really fit anywhere else. There's a need for a concise collection of the best Bugs Bunny shorts, but this isn't even close. Less than half the cartoons here are genuine classics, while the rest range from mildly amusing to downright unwatchable. Add a forgettable featurette and you have a set that isn't worth caring about unless you absolutely must have every single Bugs Bunny cartoon, no matter how dull, in your collection. Start with the Golden Collection sets instead.
Guilty of being nowhere near as essential as it's supposed to be.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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