Be Judge Victor Valdivia the mean hombre that's a-hankerin' for a heap o' trouble?! Well, be he?! He be.
Our reviews of Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume One (published November 25th, 2003), Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Two (published January 24th, 2005), Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Three (published December 12th, 2005), Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Four (published January 8th, 2007), Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Five (published November 14th, 2007), Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume Two (Blu-ray) (published October 22nd, 2012), Looney Tunes Platinum Edition: Volume One (Blu-ray) Collector's Edition (published November 27th, 2011), and Looney Tunes: The Premiere Collection (published November 10th, 2003) are also available.
"Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!"
Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six continues Warner Bros.' streak of superbly chosen and presented cartoons from their great catalogue. While this set may be more designed to appeal to animation fans than general consumers, it's still an outstanding collection that belongs in any Looney Tunes fan's library.
Facts of the Case
Here are the cartoons collected on this four-disc set:
Disc One: Looney Tunes All Stars
Disc Two: Patriotic Pals
Disc Three: Bosko, Buddy & Merrie Melodies
Disc Four: Most-Requested Assorted Nuts & One-Shots
Of all the Looney Tunes DVD collections released to date, this may be the one that is most geared towards animation buffs rather than general consumers. That's not to say that all of these cartoons are bad or esoteric. It's just that several of them will not appeal to kids or fans of the more pop-friendly classic Looney Tunes. This makes this set not the place for Looney Tunes newcomers to start, but for devoted fans, it's a must-have.
Disc One is by far the one that casual fans will like the most. It contains the most famous characters in Looney Tunes history, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat, Pepe LePew, Foghorn Leghorn, and Yosemite Sam, who makes his debut appearance in "Hare Trigger." These cartoons help define the differing styles of the three Looney Tunes directors who did the most cartoons. Chuck Jones' cartoons were neurotic and intellectual, Friz Freleng's were musical and raucous, and Robert McKimson's were droll and pop-culture related. There are also some cartoons by Robert Clampett, the brilliant but mercurial director who was credited, along with Tex Avery, as someone who brought faster timing and raucous jokes to Warner Bros. There aren't any Avery cartoons, unfortunately, but it's possible that those may be brought out in other volumes.
It's the cartoons on Disc Two that will thrill animation buffs. This disc contains eighteen shorts that were done during World War II, with a few that relate to World War I, that have not been seen since the '40s. Because of their potentially offensive and dated content, none of these shorts ever aired on TV or were previously released on home video, so for many fans these will be a revelation. Actually, for all that they address issues related to the war, many of these are similar to other cartoons. "Herr Meets Hare," for instance, is just another Bugs Bunny-Elmer Fudd cartoon, except that in this case, Elmer is replaced by Nazi Air Force Marshall Hermann Goering. Similarly, "Russian Rhapsody" takes the same basic plot as "Falling Hare," the cartoon where Bugs Bunny tangles with a gremlin on a bomber, except that instead of Bugs, the protagonist is Hitler. "The Ducktators" is maybe the most original cartoon, in which a screaming Hitler duck, a tubby Mussolini duck, and a smiling Hirohito duck take over a barnyard through sheer terror. Most of the controversy will stem from whether the likes of Hitler and Goering are appropriate subjects for satire, particularly since they come off as harmless buffoons. Also, there are a few racial stereotypes against the Japanese, and some of the older cartoons, such as "Bosko the Doughboy," are surprisingly gruesome and dark. Still, as politically incorrect as they are, many of these cartoons are surprisingly funny and, even with their wartime references, hold up quite well. It's understandable that they weren't shown on TV, as younger viewers will either not understand them or will find them disturbing, but for adult animation fans, these are a real treat.
The cartoons on Disc Three will also mainly appeal to animation buffs, but for different reasons. The cartoons on this disc were released under the Merrie Melodies banner in the 1930s and mark the first cartoons released by the Warner Bros. animation studio. Though future Looney Tunes directors like Freleng and McKimson animated them, they were directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, the duo originally hired by producer Leon Schlesinger to supervise the studio. Consequently, these are radically different in style and tone from the later brand of Looney Tunes that everybody knows and loves, and not just because they're all in black and white. Like Disney's Silly Symphonies, many of these cartoons are essentially animated music videos, mostly for songs that the studio commissioned and bought. The stars here are Bosko, who's a monkeylike little imp, Foxy, who's essentially Mickey Mouse with pointed ears and a bushy tail, and Buddy, a cloyingly sweet little boy. These cartoons, with thinly defined characters and nonexistent plots, are more about animation and music and on that level many of them are enjoyable. However, that also makes them fairly interchangeable, and even diehard buffs may have a hard time sitting through more than a few at a time. They're fascinating historical pieces, and are agreeable on their own terms, but they're simply not in the same league as the best Looney Tunes cartoons.
Disc Four is similar to Disc One, but even here viewers will be surprised by some of the cartoons here. These cartoons are all one-shots, meaning that no famous or recurring characters appear. In addition to the Dr. Seuss adaptation, fans will enjoy "The Hole Idea," McKimson's cartoon about a scientist who invents portable holes, and some of Jones' more fantastical oddities like "Martian Through Georgia." It also contains another cartoon that has not been shown often on TV, Jones' "Fresh Airedale." It's by far one of the darkest pieces of satire ever created, especially by the usually gentle Jones. The cartoon, in which a duplicitous and greedy dog becomes more and more lauded while a cat who knows the truth about him is vilified, is so bleak yet so funny, that some viewers may find it downright distressing. Viewers who enjoy black humor in the manner of Monty Python or South Park, however, will be amazed at just how perfectly it sums up the current state of fame and the media. It's one of the many unheralded gems on this disc.
As always, Warner Bros. puts great care into their Looney Tunes sets, packing them full of informative and entertaining extras. Each disc has three or four "Bonus Shorts," although it's unclear why many of these are considered bonuses instead of just being included with the others. Some, such as Jones' "Punch Trunk" (the one where a tiny elephant wreaks havoc in New York City) and "Rabbit Rampage" (a rewrite of "Duck Amuck" with Bugs Bunny as the victim) are noteworthy enough that they should have been considered part of the regular cartoon listings. Selected cartoons have commentaries from animation historians, animators, and directors, and all of these are worth hearing, as they help explain some jokes that may have dated or point out how some characters are caricatures of animators or writers. There are also options on some cartoons to watch them with only the music track playing. Disc One contains two TV specials: Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court (directed by Jones) and Daffy Duck's Easter Eggs-travaganza (directed by Freleng). They're both mildly amusing, but can't hold a candle to the earlier classic cartoons. Disc Two adds some shorts directed by Freleng when he jumped over to MGM for a brief period in 1937, based on the old comic strip The Captain and the Kids. They show off Freleng's impeccable timing and gift for inventive gags, but the protagonists are so unappealing that they're just not as much fun to watch as Freleng's best work, much of which is collected elsewhere on this set. Disc Three has the most fascinating extras. "The World of Leon Schlesinger" examines the career of Looney Tunes original producer and some of the stories in the early days of the animation studio, known informally as "Termite Terrace." There are the opening credits of the John Wayne film Haunted Gold, which Schlesinger produced and for which he employed his animators to create. Also included is "Crying for the Carolines," an animated short that Schlesinger produced that used a cutout form of animation set to instrumental music. For fans, however, the biggest find will be the "Schlesinger Productions Christmas Party" films. These are packed with filmed sketches and comedy bits featuring many of the animation staff, including directors Avery, Clampett, Jones, Freleng, and McKimson. For anyone curious to learn a little more about the men behind the cartoons, these films will be a must-see. The Christmas films can be viewed with optional commentary by animation historian Jerry Beck and original Termite Terrace employee Martha Sigall, who worked in the ink-and-paint department. Both also filmed an intro explaining each extra. Finally, Disc Four includes "Mel Blanc: Man of a Thousand Voices," an engaging hourlong documentary examining the life and career of the actor who did almost all of the voices for the Looney Tunes characters. The full-screen transfer and mono mix are both impressive, and even the oldest cartoons look and sound surprisingly sharp.
There's no reason to avoid buying this set, especially if you have the earlier ones, but viewers should be aware that some of these cartoons might not exactly be the Looney Tunes they remember from their childhood. There are cartoons that some may find offensive and others that can seem rather dated. Nonetheless, there are surprisingly few clinkers, and even the weakest cartoons have moments of wit and energy. Warner Bros. has, as always, put an enormous amount of care and effort into this package, with sterling remastering and well-produced extras. Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six is a worthy entry in the Looney Tunes DVD series, and is highly recommended.
Not at all guilty. But buy the other volumes first.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Bonus Cartoons
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