Looney Tunes Golden Collection
December 10, 2001
One of the most sought after and anticipated DVDs in recent years has been for Warner Bros. to assemble and release a collection of their classic Looney Tunes cartoons. For years they have appeared on television in a censored form, or, in some cases, not at all because of the politically correct times we live in. Finally, Warner Bros. has released the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, 56 animated shorts digitally remastered and restored in their original form, spread out over four DVDs with an impressive collection of audio commentaries, featurettes, documentaries and still galleries.
Disc one is dedicated exclusively to Bugs Bunny, the most popular Looney Tunes character. The cartoons assembled on this DVD run the gamut from Bugs’ early appearances to his more famous shorts like “Rabbit Seasoning” (where Bugs, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd debate about whether it’s rabbit or duck season). Watching these cartoons, the first thing that is apparent is how good they look—pristine prints with crystal clear sound. While vintage shorts like “Water, Water Every Hare,” (Bugs takes on a mad scientist) are included, there are also glaring omissions, like “What’s Opera, Doc?” arguably one of the most famous Bugs cartoons. This is the problem inherent with best of collections—something is always going to be left out. However, so many other good ones are included that this really is a very minor criticism.
Disc two features Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, both in their own cartoons and some of their more memorable pairings. No Daffy collection would be complete without classics like “Duck Amuck” (a self-reflexive short where Daffy acknowledges he’s in a cartoon!) and genre parodies like “Drip-Along Daffy” (Daffy and Porky lampoon every cliché of the western) and his most famous cartoon, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century” (Daffy and Porky face off against Marvin the Martian in a Buck Rogers spoof). Porky also has cartoons that showcase his talents. “The Wearing of the Grin” is his famous trip to Ireland where he mixes it up with two mischievous leprechauns.
The last two DVDs are a grab bag of cartoons featuring a variety of Looney Tunes characters. “Fast and Furry-ous” is the first cartoon to feature the classic struggle between the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. “For Scent-imental Reasons” is vintage Pepe LePew as he obsessively pursues that female black cat, unaware that he is a stinky skunk. “Canary Row” is the Looney Tunes take on Cannary Row, starring Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird. Also included are popular mainstays, Speedy Gonzales (whose self-titled short won an Academy Award) and that know-it-all chicken, Foghorn Leghorn. These discs also contain Bugs, Porky and Daffy cartoons that didn’t make the cut on their own respective DVDs.
Each DVD has a wealth of supplemental material such as audio commentaries by animation historians for selected shorts; music-only tracks that showcase Carl Stalling’s brilliant soundtrack work and featurettes that aren’t about specific cartoons but rather the characters that inhabit them.
The audio commentaries are very informative and even feature clips of interviews with the likes of director Chuck Jones that talk about various aspects of the cartoons. The commentaries cover a wide range of topics, from the influence of Vaudeville to the kinds of music composer Stalling used in such a way that it complimented the on-screen action. Some of the best commentaries offer funny observations on the characters themselves. One such track observes that Daffy often comes across as “a self-confident idiot,” while another comments that Porky’s personality was that of “a stuffy middle-aged bachelor.”
The featurettes on each disc typically run from three to five minutes and examine a wide variety of topics, from how Mel Blanc created the voice of Bugs Bunny by mixing a Bronx and Brooklyn accent, to the origins of Elmer Fudd and how he started off as a character named Egghead. One of the better ones looks at how Daffy typified the looney in Looney Tunes and developed a crazy sensibility where he thinks that he’s the star of the show when it’s really Bugs. The featurettes feature a nice cross mix of interviews with animation historians like Jerry Beck and Leonard Maltin, and the usual suspects like Jones, Mel Blanc’s son, Noel, and other key members from the Looney Tunes crew.
Also included on the discs are more substantial documentaries that examine the history of the studio. “The Boys From Termite Terrace” is divided up over two DVDs and features interviews conducted with the likes of Bob Clampett, Mel Blanc, Chuck Jones and others from 1975. This is a wonderful look at the Looney Tunes outfit and how all these extremely talented people got together in one place to create some of the most memorable animation ever produced. “Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons” is a Cartoon Network production that looks at obscure animated shorts from the vaults of Warner Bros. that haven’t seen the light of day in decades. This is a treasure trove for die-hard Looney Tunes fans.
It has been a long time coming, but the Looney Tunes Golden Collection is more than worth the wait. This excellent four-DVD collection is packed with hours of extra material and archival footage that rivals only Disney’s superb Fantasia box set. Best of all, 56 classic cartoons have been restored and preserved forever. These cartoons have never looked or sounded better, and best of all they are shown the way they were meant to be seen: uncut and without commercials. This collection magically transports the viewer back to when they used to watch these cartoons for the first time on Saturday morning or afternoons after school. That feeling is more than worth the price of purchase.