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 Platinum Edition: Volume One (Blu-ray) Collector's Edition (published November 27th, 2011) are also available.
"What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?"—Tasmanian Devil
Woo hoo! Woo hoo! The classic Looney Tunes cartoons have finally made it to DVD. But this bare-bones set may have animation fans asking, "Is th-th-th-at all, folks?"
Facts of the Case
Looney Tunes: The Premiere Collection serves up 28 shorts on two discs:
"Elmer's Candid Camera" (1940)—Elmer Fudd's out to shoot a wabbit—this time, with a camera. Unluckily for him, his subject is Bugs Bunny.
"Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears" (1944)—Goldilocks is nowhere to be found, but the Three Bears think Bugs is just right—to eat. Bugs, however, has other plans for the hapless trio.
"Fast and Furry-ous" (1949)—Accelerati Incredibulis meets Carnivarious Vulgaris on a desert highway. Carnivarious Vulgaris attempts to capture Accelerati Incredibulis. Final Score: Accelerati 1, Carnivarious 0, despite the latter's use of several fine Acme products.
"Hair-Raising Hare" (1946)—Bugs finds that monsters really do live such in-teresting lives.
"The Awful Orphan" (1949)—In this precursor to Single White Female, a persistent mutt shows Porky why dogs are man's best friend. Problem is, Porky's a pig.
"Haredevil Hare" (1948)—Decades before Neil Armstrong went to the Moon, a brave rabbit made one giant hop for mankind. Unfortunately, Marvin the Martian was waiting for him, with an Aludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.
"For Scent-imental Reasons" (1949)—This Oscar-winning short has "ze locksmith of love," Pepe LePew, pursuing a reluctant pussycat. "Do not come wiz me to ze Casbah," Pepe tells her. "We shall make beautiful musicks togezzer right here!" Pussycat is unimpressed.
"Frigid Hare" (1949)—Bugs takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque and winds up at the South Pole, pursued by an Eskimo. (Since there are no Eskimos at the South Pole, Bugs really made a wrong turn.) Bugs whips out the lipstick, and transsexual antics ensue.
"The Hypo-Chondri-Cat" (1950)—Hubie and Bertie the mice force Claude the hypochondriac cat to confront his inner demons—and angels.
"Baton Bunny" (1959)—Warner Brothers Symphony guest conductor Bugs Bunny conducts "Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna" by Franz Von Suppe to an overly appreciative insectile audience.
"Feed the Kitty" (1952)—In what may be the greatest Looney Tunes cartoon ever made, ferocious bulldog Marc Anthony is reduced to a big ol' softie by a cute kitten. (The gut-wrenching "cookie" scene was later paid homage in Monsters, Inc.)
"Don't Give Up the Sheep" (1953)—Neither wind nor rain nor Wile E. Coyote look-a-like Ralph the Wolf shall keep dutiful employee Sam Sheepdog from protecting his flock.
"Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid" (1942)—Bugs is targeted for carrion-ization by a family of buzzards.
"Tortoise Wins By a Hare" (1943)—In one of the rare instances in which Bugs loses, Cecil, the Lance Armstrong of racing tortoises, keeps outracing Bugs, who resorts to dressing up as an old man to pry Cecil's secrets out of his shell. The secret? "Streamlining."
"Canary Row" (1950)—Tweety Bird suspects he may have spotted a feline. This suspicion is shortly (and repeatedly) confirmed, prompting Tweety to declare that he did, in fact, see a putty-tat.
"Bunker Hill Bunny" (1950)—In this gripping account of one of the Revolutionary War's lesser-known battles, Bugs Bunny defends Fort Bagel Heights against "Hessian oppression" in the form of Yosemite Sam. True to historical record, Sam is soon rendered a "Hessian without no aggression," prompting him to join forces with his erstwhile enemy.
"Kit For Cat" (1948)—On a frigid evening, homeless tomcat Sylvester finds refuge with mansion-and-yacht owner Elmer Fudd. Unfortunately, a cute orange kitty also seeks shelter in the Fudd residence. There can be only one.
"Putty Tat Trouble" (1951)—One white Chwistmas, a hungry orange feline intrudes upon Sylvester and Tweety's twisted co-dependent relationship.
"Bugs and Thugs" (1954)—When pampered urbanite Bugs Bunny gets mixed up with criminal masterminds Rocky and Mugsy, the talkative rabbit is forced, not only to shut up, but to "shut up shuttin' up."
"Canned Feud" (1951)—If Alfred Hitchcock directed a cartoon version of Home Alone, it might look something like this. Sylvester, left behind in a house full of canned food and no can opener, inexorably descends into madness and horror, aided by a sadistic mouse.
"Lumber Jerks" (1955)—The ambiguously gay gopher duo go looking for their missing tree. What they find instead is some fabulous home furnishings.
"Speedy Gonzalez" (1955)—The fastest mouse in all Mexico makes his debut in this Oscar-winning short, a class warfare allegory in which cheese factory owner-slash-capitalist oppressor Sylvester tries to keep the working mouse down.
"Tweety's S.O.S." (1951)—Tweety once again sees a bad ol' putty-tat, this time on a cruise ship. The result? Pain, exciting and new.
"The Foghorn Leghorn" (1948)—Henery the rising young chicken hawk is determined to bag himself a chicken—even if it is a loudmouthed Schnook.
"Daffy Duck Hunt" (1949)—A mentally unstable Daffy Duck power-dives his way into duck hunter Porky Pig's life, driving a wedge between him and his dog, and spraying them both with copious amounts of thpittle in the process.
"Early to Bet" (1951)—The Gambling Bug gets more than he bargained for when he nibbles on a cat, and stumbles into a weird sadomasochistic relationship between cat and bulldog involving gin rummy and a Penalty Wheel. David Lynch couldn't come up with material this kinky.
"Broken Leghorn" (1959)—Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, Foghorn Leghorn slips childless old Prissy Hen a fertile egg—inadvertently laying the seeds of his own destruction when the egg hatches his successor.
"Devil May Hare" (1954)—In his first appearance, the Tasmanian Devil is on the loose—with an appetite for tigers, lions, elephants, buffaloes, donkeys, giraffes, octopuses, rhinoceroses, moose, ducks…and rabbits. A nonplussed Bugs proceeds to bury Taz in the cold, cold ground.
It's Looney Tunes season!
Merrie Melodies season!
Looney Tunes season!
Merrie Melodies season!
Actually, it's animation fan season, judging by the massive volley of Looney Tunes product launched by Warner Brothers this fall, with the release of the two-disc Looney Tunes: The Premiere Collection, the four-disc Golden Collection, and two collections of all-new cartoons, Looney Tunes Reality Check and Looney Tunes Stranger Than Fiction. Not to mention new shorts included with the Casablanca and Treasure Of The Sierra Madre DVDs, the release of the Space Jam disc, and the upcoming Looney Tunes: Back in Action feature film. Depending on how you feel about the newly-produced product, it's a great time to be a Looney Tunes fan.
Unless you spent your childhood living in a cave in Siberia (and maybe even then), the Looney Tunes cartoons and characters have been permanently engraved into your frontal lobes. Most of us have at least one snatch of Looney Tunes dialogue memorized (my own favorite: "Wile E. Coyote…Super GEEENius!") and I have yet to meet someone who can't sing a few lines of Bugs and Elmer's "Return My Love" duet from "What's Opera, Doc?" More than anything but, perhaps, Coca-Cola, Looney Tunes is part of our global collective consciousness.
What's the secret of these cartoons that makes them so timeless? Part of the answer comes from director Chuck Jones, the mastermind behind most of the greatest Looney Tunes shorts. As Jones put it in his book Chuck Amuck, audiences respond to these characters because, although they may be animals, they're really people, and given the same foibles and psychological wrinkles as any of us. Who can't see something of themselves in Daffy's tireless need for acceptance, his bottomless ego, his disgust at a world that won't conform to his desires?
Also, as the selections on these discs make clear, the best Looney Tunes cartoons have aged so well because they're great stories, stripping away ephemeral topical humor and trendy pop culture references to get to the very foundations of comedy. "Feed the Kitty," for instance, is more like a tiny movie than a cartoon, a miniature masterpiece of narrative, character, and comic timing. Long after cultural satire-based cartoons like Family Guy have outlived their shelf lives, Bugs, Daffy, and the gang will continue to make kids and adults incontinent with laughter.
Not to be confused with the feature-laden Golden Collection, the Looney Tunes: Premiere Collection is a considerably scaled-down set that contains 28 of the same cartoons found on the four-disc set, but without the extra features. Like the Golden edition, however, the cartoons on the Premiere Collection have been digitally re-mastered and cleaned up, and are presented here in their original, uncut form—a godsend for those of us who have only had access to the heavily bowdlerized versions shown on TV.
As is inevitable with any collection drawn from over a thousand possible choices, the selection of shorts on these discs is bound to disappoint somebody. One could argue that there are far better cartoons that could have been included in place of "Elmer's Candid Camera" or the so-so "Kit For Cat." Marvin the Martian's appearance in "Haredevil Hare" is far from his funniest; and as much as I like Hubie, Bertie, and Claude in "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat," it isn't the insane masterpiece that "Cheese Chasers" (in which Hubie and Bertie grow tired of cheese and decide to end it all by being eaten by Claude—who, suspicious, refuses to eat them) is. Fans of Bob McKimson, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett will no doubt be unhappy with the preponderance of Chuck Jones-directed shorts. And where is Tex Avery in all this?
Yeah, yeah. But on the other hand…twenty-eight digitally re-mastered Looney Tunes cartoons!
To be sure, despite a lovely restoration job, the cartoons show their age. None of them is likely to fool anyone into thinking they were made yesterday (and not just because they don't stink). The full-frame transfers show varying degrees of wear, with some of them, like "Feed the Kitty," looking near-perfect, while others look a bit scratched up. Still, the colors are rich and vivid, and overall the video presentation is as good as anyone could ask. Toss in a soundtrack cleaned up and presented in pristine Dolby Digital monaural, and this is the best you've ever seen or heard these cartoons.
This being the scaled-down edition, there are virtually no extras to speak of, aside from an eminently dismissable "Bugs Bunny's UFO Challenge" DVD-ROM game.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Which leads me to the main problem with this set. While I prefer to judge a DVD by what it has rather than by what it doesn't have, the fact is that the Premiere Collection can't hold a lit stick of dynamite next to the vastly superior Golden Collection. There's simply no comparison. On one you get 28 cartoons; on the other, you get 56 cartoons, plus audio commentaries on nearly half of them, plus documentaries, featurettes, and much more.
Yes, the Golden set is also more than twice the price, but considering what you get (as well as the fact that you can pick up the souped-up edition for less than $40), dollar for dollar it's a better deal. Especially galling is the fact that the two discs on the Premiere Collection are essentially the same as discs 3 and 4 of the Golden Collection—except that Warners has taken the extra-chintzy step of omitting the special features of those discs on the cheaper set.
Features or no features, what's offered on the Premiere Collection is the real stuff—pure, unadulterated, beautifully restored Looney Tunes. Yes, there's a bigger and better edition out there, and all diehard Looney Tunes fans are directed to purchase the Golden Collection immediately and without hesitation.
But if you're more of a casual viewer who simply wants a quality collection of Warner Bros. cartoons, or an inexpensive disc for the kids, this set will do quite nicely.
After extensive deliberations, the Court has decided that the Looney Tunes Premiere Collection just don't add up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "Bugs Bunny's UFO Challenge" Game (DVD-ROM)
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