Be vewwy, vewwy quiet. Judge Clark Douglas is witing a weview.
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: Golden Collection, Volume Six (published October 21st, 2008), Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume Two (Blu-ray) (published October 22nd, 2012), and Looney Tunes: The Premiere Collection (published November 10th, 2003) are also available.
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"I may be a craven little coward, but I'm a greedy craven little coward!"
Facts of the Case
Fifty classic Looney Tunes shorts have been gathered into one lavish collection. Here's what you get:
When Warner Bros. first announced the Blu-ray release of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One, I was tremendously excited. At long last, we would have the opportunity enjoy some of these beloved cartoons in hi-def. However, I was surprised to see an atypically large amount of negative feedback from animation buffs on various internet message boards. The complaints were endless: most of the shorts included had been released before, the order in which the shorts were arranged made no sense, there were fewer shorts in this collection than in the first Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD set, the first volume had too many of the great shorts and would make later volumes feel less significant, etc.
Look, I understand that in an ideal world, the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection releases would be arranged in the same way as the Tom and Jerry Golden Collection Blu-ray releases: with all of the cartoons released in chronological order. However, that's never going to happen, because that would mean the first collection would be filled with black-and-white cartoons largely featuring unfamiliar characters. Warner Bros. actually wants to sell a few copies of this set, so they've gathered up a bunch of well-known shorts featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other animated icons. And you know what? It's nothing short of awesome.
The first installment of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection series is something every animation lover should own. The first disc of the collection is an embarrassment of riches; something of a "greatest hits" collection that contains several of my all-time favorites. "What's Opera, Doc?" is a brilliant, opera-themed riff on the hostile Elmer vs. Bugs relationship, while "The Old Grey Hare" presents that same conflict via a delightful, "Rip van Winkle"-inspired story. "Baby Bottleneck" offers the frantically hilarious saga of Porky and Daffy desperately attempting to manage a baby factory, while the peerless "Duck Amuck" finds Daffy in an existential battle against the cruel animator who controls his destiny. Though the first disc appears to have no theme aside from, "Here's a bunch of great cartoons," the characters are each given their own little self-contained section: first you get Bugs, then Daffy, then Porky, then Sylvester n' Tweety, then Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and finally brief appearances by Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew and Speedy Gonzales.
The second disc is even more neatly structured, kicking off with a half-dozen one-shots which don't feature any of the Looney Tunes regulars. Among these are such greats as the Aesop's Fables-ish "One Froggy Evening," the delightfully hip "The Three Little Bops," the surprisingly moving "I Love to Singa" and the darkly Twilight Zone-esque "Chow Hound." From there, we're given a number of complete character collections: Marvin the Martian (5 shorts), the Tasmanian Devil (5 shorts), Witch Hazel (4 shorts), Marc Anthony (3 shorts) and Ralph Phillips (2 shorts). It's hard to believe that figures as well-known as Marvin the Martian and Taz made so few appearances during the "classic era" of the show, but they certainly make a strong impression in their handful of shorts (of course, both characters would rise to prominence later in modern Looney Tunes-themed programming).
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One (Blu-ray) Ultimate Collector's Edition offers both immense joy and mild disappointment in the transfer department. On the plus side, these shorts look dramatically better than ever before; the level of detail is spectacular and colors are bold and vibrant. While the Golden Collection DVD releases set a new standard for remastered animated shorts in 480p, these HD versions are easily a huge leap forward. However, they're less than perfect. You'll still find a small handful of scratches and flecks present here and there, grain is fairly prominent at times and there are moments that look a little soft or smeared. Don't get me wrong; the transfer never approaches "dingy" or "beat-up," but it's not the magnificent Disney-style overhaul some may have been hoping for. Still, some may prefer the more naturalistic look of the shorts to the absurdly sharp Disney approach. Audio is also a little disappointing, as we're given a lossy Dolby 1.0 Mono track which gets the job done well enough but is basically indistinguishable from the DVD audio tracks used on these same shorts. Would it have been so hard to deliver lossless audio. Still, the dialogue is never muffled, the music is crisp and vibrant and the generally chaotic sound design is well-captured.
One thing's for certain: there's absolutely no reason to complain about the supplemental material this release provides. Here's what you get:
Commentaries: A whopping 37 commentaries are offered over the course of this collection. These vary in quality depending on the participants (surprisingly, the historians have a tendency to simply describe what we're seeing onscreen or spell out the meaning of jokes for us), but the hit-to-miss ratio is pretty high. You'll hear tracks from Eric Goldberg, Greg Ford, Chuck Jones, Mel Blanc, Jerry Beck, Michael Maltese, Maurice Noble, Daniel Goldmark, Bob Clampett, John Kricfalusi, Paul Dini, Michael Barrier, Martha Sigall, Friz Freleng, Treg Brown, Corny Cole, Stan Freberg, John McGrew, Paul Julian, Gene Fleury and Pete Alvarado. As you might expect, some of these tracks are culled together from older interviews. Additionally, a handful of shorts offer alternate music tracks, music and effects tracks and voice tracks.
Featurettes: Eleven "Behind the Tunes" featurettes (most of which are presented in standard-def) are offered for your viewing pleasure: "Wagnerian Wabbit: The Making of What's Opera, Doc?," "Twilight in Tunes: The Music of Raymond Scott," "Powerhouse in Pictures," "Putty Problems and Canary Rows," "A Chuck Jones Tutorial: Tricks of the Cartoon Trade," "The Charm of Stink: On the Scent of Pepe LePew," "It Hopped One Night: The Story Behind One Froggy Evening," "Wacky Warner One-Shots," "Mars Attacks! Life on the Red Planet with My Favorite Martian," "Razzma-Taz: Giving the Tasmanian Devil His Due" and "The Ralph Phillips Story: Living the American Daydream."
Chuck Jones Documentaries: The third disc of this collection (devoted solely to supplemental material) kicks off with a trio of documentaries spotlighting the great Chuck Jones: "Chuck Amuck: The Movie" (51 minutes), "Chuck Jones: Extremes & In-Betweens, a Life in Animation" (85 minutes) and "Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood" (26 minutes). There's a good deal of overlap between these pieces, but each has something interesting to offer. If you're looking to save time, the 85-minute doc offers the most comprehensive overview of the animator's life and career.
Chuck Jones Shorts: Hey, there's also a generous handful of non-Looney shorts for your viewing pleasure. Many of these were commissioned by the U.S. government and are a little dry, but still well worth a look for Jones fans: "Point Rationing of Foods," "Hell-Bent for Election," "So Much for So Little," "Orange Blossoms for Violet," "A Hitch in Time," "90 Day Wondering," "The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics" (my personal favorite of the bunch), "The Bear That Wasn't," "The Door" and "Drafty, Isn't It."
Bonus Cartoons: If you aren't 'tooned out by the time you finish plowing through the first two discs of this collection, you can check out this batch of shorts made after the franchise's original run. There's generally a noticeable dip in quality (the animation tends to be lazier and all of the Mel Blanc-voiced characters sound like they've aged a great deal), but most of these are nice companion pieces to other shorts included in this collection. Here's what you get: "Fright Before Christmas," "Spaced-Out Bunny," "Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 1/2th Century," "Another Froggy Evening," "Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension," "Superior Duck," "From Hare to Eternity," "Father of the Bird" and "Museum Scream." Sadly, all of the shorts (save for "Museum Scream") are presented in rather dingy standard-def.
Pencil Tests: Some pencil tests from Chuck Jones' legendary How the Grinch Stole Christmas short. A nice feature, but shouldn't this have been included on the Grinch Blu-ray release?
Physical extras: All three Blu-ray discs are housed inside a thick, attractive digibook, which contains 52 pages of full-color photos, descriptions of each short, character info and more. This Ultimate Collector's Edition release houses the digibook within an even larger cardboard box which snaps shut magnetically. The box also contains a framed litho cel with a certificate of authenticity, a souvenir tin sign and a collectible glass (the sign and glass I received both feature Bugs Bunny; it's unclear whether this varies from set to set). These Ultimate Collector's Editions are limited to 36,000 copies and are individually numbered (I'm the proud owner of #10,714). It's a lovely set, but I'm not sure these items are worth paying an extra $10-12 for.
Note: The box contains a warning that this set is intended for the adult collector and is not appropriate for kids. However, it's worth noting the shorts included here offer very little in the way of painfully dated racial stereotypes, so I'm guessing the warning primarily has to do with the occasional instances of smoking, drinking, and excessive violence. Anyway, I doubt most parents will object to the material this collection serves up.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Obviously, some people are going to view this collection as a great opportunity to introduce their kids to the world of Looney Tunes. My only concern is that many of the shorts offered don't exactly deliver the greatest starting point for these characters. "What's Opera, Doc?" or "The Old Grey Hare" shouldn't be anyone's very first Bugs n' Elmer cartoon, because they're riffing on a relationship which has been well-established in other shorts. Part of the fun of those classic cartoons is seeing that relationship transplanted to a new setting. Additionally, "Duck Amuck" might not seem like quite as much fun if one isn't already well-acquainted with the title character's enraged, put-upon demeanor. It might have been advisable to add a few shorts which veer a little closer to established formulas in this collection. Still, it's a minor complaint and a completely irrelevant one for the majority of viewers.
Looney Tunes Platinum Edition: Volume One—Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray) offers some of the finest cartoons ever made in hi-def and a seemingly endless supply of supplemental material. Go buy this set ASAP. Bring on Volume Two!
Not guilty, doc.
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