Judge Steve Power really wants to go to Happy World Land.
Spend your vacation with Tiny Toons!
The Tiny Toons' first full-length animated adventure finally lands on DVD, but is this animated relic ripe for rediscovery? Or is this one vacation better left to memory?
Facts of the Case
Summer has hit Acme Acres, and it's vacation time for Buster, Babs, Plucky, Hampton, and all the other young students from Acme Looniversity. Everyone ditches the Acres for the summer, and Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation gives us a look at just what kind of adventures our Tiny Toons could squeeze into two months without school.
It's really hard to believe, but when Steven Spielberg co-created Tiny Toon Adventures in the late '80s, the Looney Tunes moniker was more of a fond memory than a relevant franchise. This series, alongside Warner's own 1990's Batman: The Animated Series would be largely responsible for wresting kids' animations away from the "half hour toy commercial" stigma that plagued it for much of the '80s. The Tiny Toons were first out of the gate, featuring a new crew of young Toons led by Buster and Babs Bunny, with the real classic greats looming in the background as teachers at Acme Looniversity. Thanks to the show's combination of witty, tongue-in-cheek humor and surprisingly effective characters, it went on to be something of a syndication hit, paving the way for fan favorite Animaniacs, a more original concept, and in 1992, America's first direct-to-video animated feature; Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation.
The feature assumes familiarity with the new characters right out of the gate, and features five or six short stories featuring the show's central characters, weaving in and out of one another as the kids go about their vacation hijinks. Among the plots are a road trip with Hampton (we'll call him Porky Pig Jr.) and Plucky (a young, green, Daffy Duck), and a colossal waterfight that becomes a wild Bayou excursion with Buster and Babs Bunny. Other characters get little one-off vignettes, including Elmyra torturing the animals of a Drive-Thru Safari, and Fifi (a young, purple Pepe LePew) stalking a big Hollywood celebrity. The best of the stories is definitely that of Hampton and Plucky, featuring annoying parents, a disgusting uncle, the worlds shortest amusement park visit, and a hockey-mask wearing, chainsaw wielding hitchhiker with a penchant for pork.
What's really great about the whole thing is the writing; the humor is childish to be sure, but it's surprisingly biting at times, and almost always laugh-inducing. There's plenty of sing-songing in there as well, but I'll be damned if it wasn't just a little bit infectious (I still find myself humming that damn "waiting for the clock to strike 3!" number from time to time). It would also be easy to write off these characters as Looney Tunes also-rans, just junior versions of their grown up counterparts, and to an extent, that might be true, but the creators have done an admirable job of giving Babs, Buster, Plucky, Hampton, and the rest of the cast some rather unique identities, and it must be said, they're a pretty charismatic bunch. I'm as shocked as anyone.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The DVD treatment here certainly does nothing to disguise the origins of How I Spent My Vacation. The fullscreen print is about on par with what originally hit VHS in 1992. Soft, grainy, dirty, and generally dull to look at. The mono audio mix is clear and free of hiss at least, but everything feels pretty flat. There's very little TLC put into what is clearly a dump release on Warner's part, which is a shame, as the flick itself is a surprisingly solid effort. I don't expect some big multi-disc platinum edition or anything, but a little bit of background on the Tiny Toons project as a whole, and maybe the participation of some of the original creators would have been nice. I'd have loved a retrospective look by Spielberg and his production partners. I'm sure they'd still have a ball with this show.
It really is a shame the Tiny Toons have wallowed in relative obscurity for the past 20 years or so (Dang, I'm old!). There's a lot of great material here, and some wonderful humor that really hearkens back to the Warner classics that inspired Spielberg and co. to create these guys to begin with. How I Spent My Vacation is a pleasant little surprise, marred only by the lack of any concern on Warner's part for putting together a decent DVD package.
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