Despite the title, Weird Al Yankovic is nowhere to be found on this DVD set, Judge Clark Douglas notes.
"I could go to jail for all the scenes I'm gonna steal!—Daffy Duck
For those unfamiliar with the series, The Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection is essentially a more affordable, accessible alternative to the much-acclaimed Looney Tunes Golden Collection releases. The deluxe releases spread some sixty or so cartoons over four discs, adding in lots of special features such as commentaries, old TV specials, and so on. The Spotlight Collection cuts the amount of cartoons in half, dumps the special features, and uses slim, simple packaging. Who would want that? Plenty of people. The Spotlight Collection is for the individuals out there who simply want to watch some good cartoons.
Let's take a look at this latest case. Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection—Volume 5 offers four discs as usual, each one with a different theme. Disc One has cartoons featuring Bugs and Daffy, Disc Two features fairy-tale spoofs, Disc Three highlights the work of director Bob Clampett, and Disc Four rustles up some of the vintage cartoons from the '30s and '40s. Volume 5 simply keeps the cartoons from the first two discs, as there are undoubtedly many cartoon fans (including a lot of kids) who could care less about Bob Clampett or cartoon history. They want Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck!
It's precisely those two characters that battle for the (ahem) spotlight on the first disc. Now when I say that the disc spotlights Bugs and Daffy, it doesn't mean that they're in all of the cartoons together…but there's not a short on the disc that doesn't star Bugs and/or Daffy. Five shorts star Bugs, seven shorts star Daffy, and the remaining three feature both characters.
The disc packaging promotes "Buccaneer Bunny" (Bugs and Yosemite Sam as battling pirates) and "Stupor Duck" (Daffy in a Superman spoof) as "landmark romps," but those two are far from being the highlights of the disc. There are three episodes I think are really worth noting, though. The first is one of the classic duels between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, entitled "Bugs' Bonnet." This short begins with some ridiculously funny psychology about hats, and then proceeds to use that psychology as a starting point for a fast-paced game of role-playing between the hunter and the rabbit. The whole thing ends on a tremendously funny note. Also, "A Star is Bored" is a highlight, featuring Daffy as Bugs' stunt double during the filming of various cartoons (Sam and Elmer make cameos). There's a lot of terrific gags in this short, and some nice observations about the never-ending resentment Daffy feels towards Bugs (essentially the theme of all their adventures together, and something Joe Dante tapped into in his underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action feature film). Bugs and Daffy also team up to great effect in the wonderful "Abominable Snow Bunny" short, featuring a clever reference to Of Mice and Men.
Bugs makes one more appearance at the beginning of Disc Two, in the rather amusing "Bewitched Bunny," in which our favorite hare saves Hansel and Gretel from certain doom. It's the first in a string of cute and clever fairy-tale spoofs, most of which do various versions of "Goldilocks and The Three Bears" or "Little Red Riding Hood." Though Porky and Tweety turn up twice on this disc, and Sylvester stars in no less than four of the shorts, Disc Two is considerably less "star-studded" than the first, as several of the shorts don't feature any popular Looney Tunes characters (though they do feature well-known storybook characters). The Big Bad Wolf makes a lot of appearances, and gets two shorts in which he attempts to try and tell his side of the story. In "The Trial of Mr. Wolf," he paints Red Riding Hood as a wicked accomplice to an evil grandmother, and in "Turn-Tale Wolf," he declares the three little pigs to be horrid bullies. However, one of the funniest shorts has nothing to do with fairy tales, as a couple of cats behave like Abbott and Costello while attempting to catch Tweety in "A Tale of Two Kitties." Yet another non-fairy tale short (and also the only black-and-white cartoon of the set) closes the disc; it's "Porky's Pooch," about a friendly dog who wants to be…well, you guessed it.
There's a rather pointless bonus feature on Disc Two called "The Looney Tunes Guide to Fairy Tales." A narrator describes the "rules of fairy tales" while playing clips from all the shorts we've just watched. The narrator grows frustrated at the fact that most of the shorts don't follow the rules, until he arrives at "Tom Thumb in Trouble" (the least loony of the 'toons) and points out that it is a textbook example of a fairy tale. I'm not sure whether to take this as something too satirical for its own good, or simply something ridiculously dumb (I suspect the latter), but I doubt anyone will enjoy watching it very much. Thankfully it's only ten minutes long. The only other extras are three trailers, for an awful-looking Looney Tunes video game, the first season of The Smurfs, and a poor-looking Dennis the Menace straight-to-DVD Christmas movie. Still, no one is buying this set for the bonus features; there are plenty of those on the Golden Collection, which has the same cartoons. Anyone buying this set just wants to see the cartoons, and they'll get to see them in all their glory thanks to some excellent re-mastering work. Though some cartoons look better than others (a few still have some notable grain and flecks), they all look quite good. Warner Brothers has done a terrific job cleaning these up with each and every set, and it is well worth the wait between volumes. The mono audio is just fine, and those terrific Carl Stalling scores sound pretty good considering their age.
Finally, I'd like to briefly touch on an issue that has come up a lot recently. A recent article in The New York Times noted that warnings have been put on recent DVDs of old Sesame Street episodes, due to the fact that they "might not be appropriate for children." The reasons? Cookie Monster smokes a pipe in a spoof of Masterpiece Theatre, and Oscar the Grouch is a bit too grouchy. That's nothing compared to the content in some of these cartoons, as the majority of them feature many acts of violence involving guns, knives, explosives, and just about everything else under the sun. Personally, I think most children are perfectly capable of discerning the difference between real violence and harmless cartoon violence. Yosemite Sam isn't going to turn your kid into a pistol-toting homicidal maniac. However, there are minor elements of concern in some of the cartoons, such as the stereotypical grotesque facial features of the Arabian characters in "Ali Baba Bunny." This is something parents may want to take into consideration when purchasing the collection for their young children. Still, these are fairly minor caveats, and most of the 'toons here are exceptionally entertaining. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "The Looney Tunes Guide to Fairy Tales"
• IMDb on Bugs Bunny
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