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The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. Two

Warner Home Video

Starring Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote,
Tweety, and Sylvester

Written and directed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Robert Clampett

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Review by Dawn Taylor                    

The second volume in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection from Warner Home Video offers, like Vol. One, a wealth of cartoon riches — as well as some disappointments. Sixty remastered, restored, uncut 'toons from the Warner vault are showcased, lauded on the box as some of "the finest, funniest, BESTEST Golden Era cartoons" from the folks at Termite Terrace — and many of the offerings are, indeed, gems. Understandably, however, the folks at Warner don't want to serve up all of the best cartoons in the first couple of sets, if only to keep the fans coming back and opening their wallets for each new collection.

Which is why the brilliant "What's Opera, Doc?" was left off Vol. One — but it's here, thankfully, along with a short "making-of" featurette about this beloved cartoon. It also explains the absence of all but one Road Runner cartoon in the first set — here, the Road Runner challenges Wile E. Coyote and his Acme gadgets on most of one whole platter of the four-disc set. And while Vol. One was so heavily weighted in favor of Chuck Jones and his work in the late '40s to early '50s, the second set showcases other animators a tad better, with more work by Friz Freleng and Bob Clampett, as well as several very early, more obscure shorts.

On the other hand, the disappointment factor for those of us who love the less-marketed WB characters is high. Three of the four discs are given over to Looney Tunes superstars — Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Tweety & Sylvester — with the fourth disc thematically devoted to "Looney Tunes All-Stars: On Stage and Screen," featuring shorts in which the characters are performing on stage, in films, or (in a real strain on the theme) from books come to life. What's missing are any cartoons featuring beloved second-tier characters — there's not a single short here featuring Pepe Le Pew or Foghorn Leghorn, for example. Perhaps they'll get their due in Vol. Three, but for those of us who actually like those characters best, the short shrift they've received in the two sets produced so far is a bitter pill to take.

However, there is a lot to celebrate in this second collection, no matter who your favorite 'toons may be. And for true cartoon lovers, there's no question that acquiring the entire collection, no matter how many volumes Warner manages to wring out of their catalog, is a must-buy.

Disc One — Bugs Bunny Masterpieces: Whether these are, indeed, "masterpieces" is in the eye of the beholder — in fact, none are among the best Bugs shorts made — but watching the carrot-munching troublemaker is always fun. Fifteen cartoons are featured on this disc, directed by Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and Tex Avery. It's fun to watch Bugs, voiced (of course) by the brilliant Mel Blanc, develop in both looks and character as different directors get their hands on him between 1941 and the mid-50s. Among the more memorable offerings are the hyper-stylized "Broom-Stick Bunny," with Bugs meeting the frenzied Witch Hazel (June Foray); "Little Red Riding Rabbit," with a delightfully obnoxious Riding Hood screeching, "Hey, Grandma, I brought a little bunny rabbit for ya — to have!" before Bugs makes the Big Bad Wolf's life appropriately miserable; "Baby Buggy Bunny," where our hero meets up with pint-sized bank robber trying to retrieve his loot; and "Slick Hare," a rather tepid Bugs-Elmer pairing that's at its best when the animators lampoon famous stars of the day like Humphrey Bogart, Ray Milland, and Frank Sinatra.

Most have commentary tracks or are available as music-only options, and the disc also includes the first part of the 1980s TV special, "Bugs Bunny's Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary"(24 min.), with clips, background, and sound bites from famous people like Cher, David Bowie, Chevy Chase, and Billy Dee Williams; the featurette "A Conversation with Tex Avery" (7 min.); plus black-and-white "bridging sequences" and a recording session from the old Bugs Bunny TV show.

Disc Two — Road Runner and Friends: Making up for the sad decision to feature just one Road Runner cartoon in Vol. One, Warner has granted most of Disc Two to the fellow, with 11 shorts from 1951-57. The plots are, essentially, the same in each — Wile E. Coyote attempts to catch the Road Runner through increasingly complicated means, failing hilariously each time. In Jones' autobiography, "Chuck Amuck," the animator wrote that the Road Runner's genesis was in his own hapless inadequacy as a handyman: "I can remember that my wife and daughter would start to weep bitterly and seek hiding places whenever they saw me head toward the tool drawer, if only to hang a picture." Although universally known as "Road Runner cartoons," the star of each is the fanatically single-minded Coyote, trying desperately, time and again, to capture his prey with help from the widely diversified Acme Corporation, who supplied him with everything from Acme Leg Muscle Vitamins to the Acme Burmese Tiger Trap. Whether flying triumphantly — for a few moments — in his Acme Bat-Man Outfit in "Gee Whiz-z-z," flinging himself off a cliff with an Acme Giant Kite in one hand and a bomb in the other in "Zipping Along," or going completely 'round the bend with his Acme Do-It-Yourself Tornado Kit in "Whoa, Be-Gone," the Coyote represents everything that is most noble and ridiculous about the human condition — the never-ending drive to succeed, even in the face of repeated humiliation and failure.

Also on Disc Two are two shorts featuring wise-guy mice Hubie and Bert, the old-fashioned melodrama parody "The Dover Boys," and the always hilarious Mama, Papa and Junior Bear in the classic "A Bear for Punishment," with the family trying to honor Papa on Father's Day — whether he wants it or not. Also on board: a TV pilot for "The Adventures of the Road Runner" (24 min.); the sound-effects featurette "Crash! Bang! Boom!: The Wild Sounds of Treg Brown" (11 min.); and an opening sequence from TV's "Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour," including the theme music for the Road Runner segments. This disc also offers commentaries or music-only options for several of the shorts.

Disc Three — Tweety & Sylvester and Friends: There are nine Tweety/Sylvester cartoons here, from the original pairing in 1946's Oscar-winning, pre-Granny "Tweetie Pie" (when Sylvester was known as "Thomas") through several of the duo's best, including the Christmas-themed "Gift Wrapped," Sylvester menacing Tweety in a department store in "A Bird in a Guilty Cage," and the pair doing battle while avoiding a suspicious house detective in a no-pets-allowed hotel in "Room and Bird." The disc also offers six blessedly non-Tweety shorts, too, including the freaky black-and-white Bob Clampett classic "Porky in Wackyland," with Porky hunting the elusive Dodo ("Do-do-do-dee-oh-do-do-do!") through a surreal landscape; "Baby Bottleneck," in which Porky attempts to right the baby-delivery mistakes made by a drunk stork; and "Old Glory," an early color short with Uncle Sam taking a dreaming Porky on a journey through U.S. history.

Extras include Part Two of the TV special, "Bugs Bunny's Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary"; the featurette "Man from Wackyland: The Art of Bob Clampett" (20 min.); an annoying new short, "Daffy Duck for President" (4 min.); and opening sequences from TV's "The Porky Pig" and "The Bugs Bunny and Tweety" shows. Several cartoons again feature commentary tracks (including a fascinating deconstruction of "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" by "Ren & Stimpy" animator John Kricfalusi) and/or music-only tracks.

Disc Four — Looney Tunes All-Stars: This one is the mostly musically themed collection with 15 cartoons, including a handful of true classics. Early shorts include "I Love to Singa," the classical-music homage "A Corny Concerto," the live action/animation mix "You Ought To Be in Pictures" (which features Porky interacting with producer Leon Schlesinger, who, according to Chuck Jones, never caught on that his voice had been the animators' model for Daffy's), and "Hollywood Steps Out," which parodied a herd of top Hollywood actors like Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland. The deservedly famous Wagnerian "What's Opera, Doc?" is here ("Kill da wabbit … kill da wabbit!" "Kill da wabbit?!") Despite having lost its once-obscure cartoon-geek cred, "One Froggy Evening" is still a riot, "Rhapsody Rabbit" features Bugs Bunny doing his classic number on Franz Liszt, and Friz Freleng's jazzy "Three Little Bops" is narrated by the great Stan Freberg.

The disc also offers the featurette "Looney Tunes Goes Hollywood" (9 min.), spotlighting various Hollywood parodies over the years; a "making-of" featurette, "It Happened One Night: The Story Behind One Froggy Evening" (7 min.); another "making-of" featurette, "Wagnerian Wabbit: The Making of 'What's Opera, Doc?'" (9 min.); and two "vault rarities," the black-and-white, live-action "Orange Blossoms for Violet" starring monkeys (yes, monkeys) and the Oscar-winning "So Much for So Little," a Chuck Jones-directed, public service short made for government's Public Health Service in 1949. There are also commentary and music-only tracks available on several shorts.

As the cartoons featured here are anywhere from four to over six decades old, the quality varies widely throughout the disc — even with restoration, many still have a fair amount of scratching and discoloration. But often the restoration is mighty impressive, and even the worst-looking shorts here look better than they have in a long, long time. The monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is just fine, delivering more than is needed for enjoyment of these cartoons. The whole thing comes in a somewhat unwieldy, fold-out four-disc case and a handsome cardboard slipcover.

— Dawn Taylor

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