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    You WIll Need To Reset Your Password!!!

    We just moved hosts on this system, and this has caused a few updates. One is the way we encode and store the encoded passwords.

    Your old passwords will NOT work. You will need to reset your password. This is normal. Just click on reset password from the log in screen. Should be smooth as silk to do...

    Sorry for the hassle.

    Dave Koch
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    Other Side Of Maleficent

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    Renegades of Animation: Pat Sullivan

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LTGC4: Something New Has Been Added

Discussion in 'The Animated Word' started by Dave Koch, Jan 24, 2014.

  1. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Cartoon Admin

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    B000HC2LGM.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_V38080633_.jpg The latest installment of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection (known to cartoon fanatics simply and affectionately as "LTGC") is here; and anyone who already owns the first three volumes will immediately notice a few changes:

    First, Warner Home Video has wisely dispensed with their previous videotaped disclaimer featuring Whoopi Goldberg--which warned viewers that some of the cartoons that they were about to see contained ethnic stereotypes. Not content with simply inserting this lengthy message at the beginning of Disc 1, WHV included it on all four discs. With this new volume viewers are subjected only to a short (about 10 seconds) printed message which, unfortunately, cannot be skipped over before the disc menu appears. WHV is still treading carefully with regard to the release of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies that contains material that might offend some viewers.

    The good news is that more of these previously censored titles are coming to light in sparkling new restorations... Southern Fried Rabbit makes its DVD debut with this volume; can Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, Fresh Hare and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips be far behind?

    There still remains the problem of some cartoons that have unfortunately been released in their "Blue Ribbon" incarnations instead of with their original opening title cards and music cues (for an explanation of what all this means, I refer readers to my reviews of LTGC3 and LTGC2 in this forum). There is cause for celebration, nevertheless, because Chuck Jones directorial debut cartoon, The Night Watchman, has been released in all its splendor, with the original opening title card and music cue.

    One format change that I found to be impractical concerns the actual package design. Each of the previous three volumes of LTGC featured a 4-way folding cardboard and plastic DVD case with matching slipcase. Each disc was anchored in a separate plastic housing, mounted on each individual section of the cardboard case. With the present volume WHV has reduced the number of folded sections from four to three; and has consolidated the plastic housing so that two discs now occupy the space formerly reserved for one, resulting in a thinner package overall. The two discs are now "nested" together, one on top of the other; and while this might be good news for our precious rainforests and other eco-systems, it ultimately spells frustration for the rest of us:

    One must at some point remove two discs from the housing at once, depending upon which disc one wishes to view at any given moment. This may not be a great concern if one has a multi-disc DVD player or if one is playing a disc on a home DVD player or on a PC DVD-ROM drive; the disc(s) may simply be laid down momentarily on the coffee table or computer desk, or loaded into the multi-disc tray. If, however, one is trying to play the DVD's in an SUV rolling along at 35 mph, for example, juggling the discs can prove to be a bit more difficult.

    The main menu format of LTGC3 that I praised so highly in my last review has here undergone a change of graphics. In LTGC3 the main menu graphics consisted of clips from the actual cartoons contained in the set; here, however, WHV has reverted back to using still images--as they had in LTGC1. This time around the menu pages depict a television screen which frames still images from the cartoons contained on each disc. Fortunately the orchestral flourish that accompanied the main menus in LTGC3 (Carl Stalling/Milt Franklyn's arrangment of a leitmotive from Wagner's Die Walkure, followed by the opening cue from You Ought To Be In Pictures) has been retained.

    Special features that are an integral part of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, and that were codified beginning with LTGC1, include the always-fascinating "Behind the Tunes" segments (utilizing the opening music cue from Show Biz Bugs), isolated bridging sequences and voice-recording sessions from "Ball-Point Puns", an original prime-time episode of The Bugs Bunny Show, and vintage animation "From the Vaults". In the latter category, however, WHV has fallen down badly. Three additional titles from the Private SNAFU series have been included, but one of them, The Goldbrick, was dubbed at the wrong speed and the soundtrack consequently is distorted and pitched nearly a whole-tone flat. This is indeed unfortunate because that particular short features some wonderful song lyrics penned by Ted "Dr. Seuss" Giesel. The other two entries, The Home Front and Censored are run at their proper speed. What is more, Censored is complete and uncut; a few brief scens of SNAFU's girlfriend in the buff were missing when this short was featured in Mackinac Media's Cartoons for Victory. If you still want to see The Goldbrick in a decent transfer at the proper speed, the Rhino Video VHS compilation, Private SNAFU: The Military's Best-Kept Secret, is still available on Amazon. The DVD from Bosko Video of all 28 surviving Private SNAFU shorts is, unfortunately, out-of-print.

    As usual, music-only tracks to individual cartoons are included wherever possible. This can be fun, especially for those of you who know the dialogue to such stalwart gems as Operation: Rabbit by heart; just select the music-only audio track and get ready to read the lines aloud (for those of you who can imitate the voice characterizations faithfully, here is your chance to impress your friends!)

    Audio commentaries (by such animation luminaries as Paul Dini, Jerry Beck, Mike Barrier, Greg Ford, Eric Goldberg and June Foray) are again included for selected cartoons in the set. One noticeable change in LTGC4, however, is the marked absence of commentaries by animator/director John Kricfalusi. Presumably Mr. K was too busy with other ongoing projects to participate this time around; but I personally believe that WHV had grown weary of his particular brand of [Chuck] Jones-Bashing that he occasionally lapsed into in previous volumes. The additional features menu options have not changed, one can still opt to view a particular cartoon with or without the spoken commentary and/or music-only tracks.

    As with previous volumes, each disc in the 4-DVD set is devoted to either one starring character or genre:

    Disc 1 is (rightfully so) reserved for cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Disc 2 is devoted in its entirety to cartoons directed by Frank Tashlin and Disc 3 is devoted to cartoons featuring "the fastest mouse in all Mexico", Speedy Gonzales. Unfortunately these include some of his later (and, IMHO, downright bad) titles produced by Depatie-Freleng Enterprises during the mid-to-late 1960's. Disc 4 may seem a curious choice, but it is indeed an apt one: the program here revolves around cartoons featuring cats. The decision to include Chuck Jones' Conrad the Sailor, however, defies logic as the title character displays few, if any, feline tendencies. I will discuss this more at length in Part 2 of this review.

    One important feature in the current volume is the inclusion of the 1975 documentary, Bugs Bunny: Superstar, which is divided evenly between Discs 1 and 2. Just as in the documentary that was featured in LTGC3, What's Up Doc?, this film contains a number of pre-1948 Merrie Melodies cartoons. Unfortunately viewers who own the first 3 volumes of LTGC will notice some duplication of titles that have already been released on DVD in pristine restorations. The cartoons are presented complete with opening and end titles, albeit mostly in "Blue Ribbon" reissue prints.

    I never saw this documentary when it was released theatrically; I owned it for a few years on VHS, however, and remember that the quality of the prints used for the compilation were serviceable at best. Viewers who own LTGC3 should note that this documentary also contains a print of Bugs Bunny's seminal cartoon, A Wild Hare; but that here the Blue Ribbon print which inadvertently mistitles the cartoon as "The Wild Hare" was used. This version of the cartoon also deletes Elmer Fudd's original reference to Carole Lombard, who died in a plane crash shortly after the cartoon was originally released. Viewers who own both LTGC3 and LTGC4 can now compare and contrast the two different versions of this important cartoon. My only complaint is that no attempt at restoring the original version with the original titles has been done yet. This is possibly the single most important Bugs Bunny cartoon in the entire series; the one that codified several elements of Bugs' character and the plot elements involving his relationship with Elmer Fudd. And yet it has not received the restoration of picture and sound that it well-deserves. As it currently appears on DVD, the visual quality is good but could be so much better.

    Bugs Bunny Superstar will be of value to collectors because of the rare home-movie footage (much of it in color) of Chuck Jones, Robert Clampett, Fred "Tex" Avery and other denziens of the cartoon studio that they affectionately dubbed "Termite Terrace". Beyond that, the interview segments (particularly those of Clampett) seem contrived and scripted. Clampett seems to dominate the proceedings, and the other segments with Isadore "Friz" Freleng, Avery and Mel Blanc are far too brief by comparison. Jones reportedly refused to participate in the film because of Clampett's alleged insinuations that he alone created Bugs Bunny. It has been well-documented elsewhere that there was a long-standing feud between these two animator-directors, so I won't elaborate on that topic here.

    Visually the film appears to have been remastered from the same negative used for the VHS release. Orson Welles narrates the proceedings (how the producers managed to secure his services is a miracle... he must have been really hard-up for work at the time) and gives the film a big build-up at the beginning. Nevertheless, not even his contributions can completely salvage this film, which drags a bit in places. The segues from one cartoon to the next seem clumsy, and indeed seem to actually get in the way of the cartoons themselves. One thing that I noticed immediately is that those cartoons that were released previously in Volumes 1-3 of LTGC (particularly Rhapsody Rabbit and A Corny Concerto) are here shown in their recently-restored versions; instead of the ones that were used for the VHS and the original theatrical release. Other cartoons are shown in "dubbed" versions dating from the mid-1990's. The only reason I can think of as to why this was done is that the prints originally used were deemed as visually unsuitable.

    The "Behind the Tunes" featurettes included on Disc 1 focus on the music of Raymond Scott and the influence of his style on Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies music directors Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn. There is a clever short, entitled Fifty Years of Bugs Bunny in 3-1/2 Minutes, which shows rapid-fire clips from virtually the rabbit's entire film career. Disc 1 is rounded out with the original theatrical trailers for two different cartoon compilations produced by the Warner Bros. Studio during the mid-1950's. Two such trailers were featured as part of LTGC1 but suffered from varying degrees of film deterioration (the second trailer was also curiously out-of-focus near the end). There are no reservations about the trailers featured here, however; they look as though they had been produced only yesterday.

    The Bugs Bunny cartoons featured on Disc 1 include the Academy Award-winning short, Knighty-Knight Bugs(1958), plus two of my all-time favorites: the aforementioned Operation: Rabbit (which is presented in a gorgeous restoration) and Rabbit Hood (which was previously released on the WHV Special Edition 2-DVD set of The Adventures of Robin Hood). For the last few years, I have only been able to see Operation: Rabbit in a scratchy, splice-ridden 35mm print which unfortunately cuts out the penultimate gag of Bugs dragging Wile E. Coyote's explosives hut in front of an oncoming train. What a joy it was, then, to be able to watch this cartoon in all its glory! It has been mentioned in the Big Cartoon Forum that there exists a visual flub in Rabbit Hood (albeit one that lasts only a split-second) that is inherent in the original film negative and not the digital remastering--and which results in a small white patch appearing near Bugs' outstretched left foot as he proceeds to dupe the Sherriff of Nottingham one last time.

    Three Bugs Bunny cartoons with a distinct "southern" flavor include the aforementioned Southern Fried Rabbit, Mississippi Hare and 8-Ball Bunny. I noticed an interesting continuity error, in the first cartoon, involving Yosemite Sam's head: at the start of the cartoon whenever Sam removes his hat he is completely bald. When he gets blasted by a hidden cannon in the southern mansion (the mistress of which is Bugs in drag), however, he is revealed to have a full head of hair(!) Apparently gunpowder burns are faster and more effective than Rogaine. Mississippi Hare is notable in that it features Chuck Jones' own version of the Yosemite Sam character: a riverboat gambler (voiced by Billy Bletcher) named Col. Shuffle. This cartoon has been banned from television for years because of its depiction of black cotton pickers at the opening and because of an unfortunate blackface "minstrel" gag; which nevertheless features some impressive animation of Bugs dancing done by Ken Harris (not Virgil Ross, says commentator Eric Goldberg, as others have maintained over the years). 8-Ball Bunny (which actually depicts Bugs' ultimate destination as the South Pole) features a running gag with Humphrey Bogart's "Fred C. Dobbs" character (voiced here not by Bogart, as previously believed by many viewers, but by an actor named Dave Barry) from Treasure of the Sierra Madre interrupting the action by asking Bugs for a handout. The audio commentary for this cartoon is invaluable for animation buffs, in that it provides a scene-by-scene breakdown of which animator worked on which scene. Rabbit Romeo features an interesting audio commentary by veteran voice-actor June Foray and animation historian Jerry Beck.

    All of the cartoons on Disc 1 (indeed in the entire set) look and sound magnificent; with Sahara Hare looking particularly vibrant and showcasing Hawley Pratt's and Irv Wyner's layouts and backrounds to good effect. The producers of the DVD have also uncovered original storyboard and layout drawings from this cartoon (along with Porky's Poor Fish) and integrated them into the print as a separate bonus feature.

    Disc 2 in entirely devoted to cartoons directed (or "supervised", during his tenure under Leon Schlesinger) by Frank Tashlin. It is interesting to note here the stylistic changes in Tashlin's cartoons produced at Warner Bros. that took place between 1937 and 1943. The visual look of his earlier cartoons appears to have been heavily influenced by the Disney style of animation that dominated the field in the 1930's: the characters are cute and cuddly and emphasize rounded forms. Nowhere is this more evident than in cartoons like Now That Summer is Gone. This cartoon boasts some impressive layout work that often gives the illusion of depth. Tashlin's cartoons at Warners (and later at Columbia) are the most cinematic of those of his contemporaries in terms of dramatic camera angles and use of such devices as the montage (a superimposition, via optical printer, of numerous filmed images meant to convey a particular mood or a chronological sequence of events). Tashlin would later go on to produce many successful live-action comedies for Columbia, Paramount and 20th Century Fox; starring Jerry Lewis, Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield, among others. In so doing, however, he would not completely overlook his background in animation. One visual gag that appears in the 1937 Looney Tune, Porky's Railroad--in which Porky's steam engine is beaten by a snail as it chugs uphill--would turn up later with minor variations in the 1963 Jerry Lewis vehicle, The Disorderly Orderly.

    The cartoons that Tashlin directed in the early-to-mid 1940's had a more angular style in the design of characters and in their extreme poses. Compare his hilarious Daffy Duck vehicle, Plane Daffy with the two titles mentioned above. In addition to exploring the animated cartoon as an authentic film form, Tashlin was interested in making cartoons that guaranteed genuine belly-laughs. Therefore, his cartoons are fraught with adult humor of a sexual nature (that also, no doubt, pushed the limits of the motion picture censorship codes that were then in effect). When Mata Hari's electrifying kiss backfires at one point, Daffy is wont to remark to the audience (a la Jerry Colona), "Well now, something new has been added!" Even the ending of Now That Summer Is Gone is a far cry from anything that Disney would have attempted: Johnny Squirrel, about to receive the beating of his life from his father, tries to escape punishment by tossing for it, "double or nothing"... his anguished cries can be heard over the end titles and music cues (!)

    Little Pancho Vanillais probably the most Disneyesque of the Tashlin cartoons featured on Disc 2. It certainly boasts a wide range of colors in its backgrounds and the remastered version here is definitely a feast for the eyes. Still, I found this to be is a somewhat strange cartoon--particularly with regard to its main character. The principle animation was done by Robert McKimson (who would eventually head his own unit at Warner's during the mid-to-late 1940's and throughout the 1950's) and is wonderfully fluid; particularly during the bullfight sequence. My problem is with the character of Pancho Vanilla (his name a pun on the famous Mexican rebel leader, Pancho Villa). Usually Bernice Hansen was recruited to provide the voices of children and small animals in the Warner's cartoons during the 1930's and early 1940's; here Pancho is voiced by Mel Blanc and he has the curious (and somewhat annoying) habit of mumbling under his breath. Indeed, this character could be thought of as being the unholy love child of Popeye the Sailor and the "Frito Bandito" (whose voice Blanc provided in TV commercials for "Fritos" Brand Corn Chips).

    There are no fewer than six cartoons featuring Porky Pig that are included here. Porky looks a little strange at times, however; fatter and more "pig-like" than the character we know today. Tashlin took over the character from director Jack King, who had a brief sojoun as a director at Warner Bros. before returning to Disney where he had previously worked as an animator. King had done much of the animation of the pigs in Disney's most famous "Silly Symphony", The Three Little Pigs, and was reportedly responsible for the look of the early version of Porky when he migrated to Warners. Between 1937 and 1938 Tashlin gradually opted for a cuter, more child-like version of Porky that had been developed by Bob Clampett's unit; and one can see these design changes take place over the course of earlier cartoons like Porky's Poultry Plant,The Case of the Stuttering Pig, Porky In the North Woods, Little Beau Porky andPorky's Romance (which was featured in LTGC2) and later cartoons like Porky's Railroad, Porky the Fireman and Wholly Smoke (not yet released on DVD).

    One thing that is curious about these early Porky entries (which were all produced as part of the black and white "Looney Tunes" series) is that the end titles do not show him bursting forth from his trademark bass drum and uttering his immortal tag-line, "Th-Th-Th-That's All, Folks!"1 Rather these cartoons end with the final music cue from the cartoon proper playing over the animated script version of that tagline. Curious indeed... as each of the early Looney Tunes depicted the starring character (i.e., Bosko, Buddy) for a particular cartoon stepping out from behind a drum and uttering the closing tag-line. Even the opening music cues for these cartoons is also markedly different from those of the Looney Tunes from 1938 onward; Carl Stalling had just taken over at the Schlesinger Studio at Warner Bros. as Music Director in 1936; and would not utilize the now-familiar Looney Tunes theme, "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" for another year-and-a-half. All of these early Looney Tunes are presented in their original, glorious black-and-white versions and are completely unedited. Inside gag: watch for the scene in Porky's Railroad where Porky's steam-engine, "Toots" collides with the "S.S Leon"... a deliberate jibe towards Producer Leon Schlesinger, who fancied himself an avid sailor and yacht owner.

    Of special interest to collectors of Looney Tunes miscellany is the inclusion here of the unpublished manuscripts for two children's story books that Tashlin wrote and illustrated in the 1950's; Little Chic's Wonderful Mother (read by June Foray) and Tony and Clarence (read by Stan Freberg) The producers have endeavored to present these charming texts, utilizing a clever blend of limited computer-animation and camera pans and tracking shots of Tashlin's original sketches. It is somewhat hard, at first, to believe that the same person responsible for cartoons like The Swooner Crooner and Plane Daffy could have created these innocuous stories. Then again, Ted Giesel (a.k.a. "Dr. Suess") wrote the scripts for many of the Private Snafu cartoons and also turned out some of the best-known and best-loved children's books of the 20th century.

    New Warner Bros. animation is offered in the form of a (very) short cartoon featuring Porky Pig and Daffy Duck; entitled, Porky and Daffy in The William Tell Overture. If there is a point to this lackluster effort produced by Greg Ford, however, I fail to see what it is. The premise is simple to the point of absurdity: Porky and Daffy appear on stage (apparently at the Hollywood Bowl, according to the opening shot which has been reused from Chuck Jones' Rabbit of Seville), ostensibly to perform the overture to Rossini's opera, William Tell as a duet. What ensues is a lamentable mish-mash of one extreme pose or expression after another, padded out with some very dull and tired gags.

    The operative word for this cartoon, then, appears to be "derivative". The cartoon seems to answer the question, "What would happen if Robert Clampett, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and John Kricfalusi decided to co-direct a Porky Pig and Daffy Duck cartoon?" Porky and Daffy can be seen wearing costumes, each from their respective, previous "period" cartoons: Daffy's getup is similar to the one he wore in Jones' Robin Hood Daffy and Porky's is reused from McKimson's Paying the Piper. The scenes with Daffy trying in vain to dispose of Porky in various ways--including running over him with a freight train--recall the manic chase scenes from Baby Bottleneck and The Big Snooze, directed by Clampett. In fact, the plot device of Daffy constantly trying to dispose of Porky--only to have him reappear a split-second later--had been done to better effect in any number of the Droopy cartoons (Dumb-Hounded comes instantly to mind) directed by Tex Avery at MGM (or even in Avery's earlier WB Bugs Bunny effort, Tortoise Beats Hare).

    There is virtually no dialogue in this cartoon; Porky (voiced by Jeff Bergman) has but one line, "Who was that masked man?", in reference to a cameo appearance by the Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver. Even the ending of this cartoon is similar to that of Avery's Magical Maestro, in which the end title card comes crashing down onto one of the characters. All-in-all, this forgettable short can't even begin to compare with Daffy Duck for President, a far superior effort with a much more coherent storyline, which was released to DVD last year as a bonus feature on LTGC3.

    In previous volumes of LTGC there have been entire discs devoted to at least one of the other Warner Bros. cartoon "stars" in addition to Bugs Bunny. Thus far Porky Pig, The Road Runner and Coyote and Tweety and Sylvester have had their proverbial turn at bat. With Volume 4, WHV now turns their attention to "the fastest mouse in all Mexico", Speedy Gonzales. While I'm sure that there are more than a few die-hard Speedy afficianados out there, I am not one of them. I don't dislike the character, don't get me wrong, but I'm not crazy about him either. Personality-wise, he is only marginally more interesting to me than the baby kangaroo, Hippity Hopper; and so I was somewhat disappointed that he would merit a complete disc in the present DVD set.

    All of the better-known Speedy titles are featured on Disc 3, including the very first cartoon that introduced the character: Cat-tails for Two (Robert McKimson, 1953). Speedy isn't very attractive-looking in his debut short, sporting only a t-shirt and a gold tooth. And although he goes so far as to hand out business cards to his adversaries, advertising his super-sonic speed, this part of his persona is rather underplayed. The feline foils in this cartoon are George and Benny, a take-off on the characters of "George and Lenny" from John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men. The two cats have snuck aboard a cargo ship docked in a Mexican port and are searching for mice to eat. They meet Speedy, who proceeds to thwart their attemps to capture him at every turn. What prompted McKimson and writer Tedd Pierce to set this cartoon in Mexico, or to bill Speedy Gonzales as "the fastest mouse in all Mexico" is unclear, and the spoken commentary by Jerry Beck and Stan Freberg doesn't give any useful background on the character. Rather, Freberg at one point goes off on a tangent to complain about the fact that Mel Blanc's name always appears on all the post 1945 Warner Bros. cartoons and that he never received any screen credit for his own voice characterizations (Junyer Bear, Pete Puma, Bertie and, here, Benny the cat).

    Friz Freleng, having adopted the character two years later and having redesigned him to make him more appealing to audiences, featured him in what is considered the "official" Speedy cartoon, Speedy Gonzales (1955, included in LTGC1). McKimson must have been spurred on by the success of this cartoon--it won an Academy Award--because he went on to direct the character in what are arguably the best entries in the entire series: Tabasco Road (1957) and Mexicali Shmoes (1959) which also marks the debut of the laconic "Slowpoke Rodriguez". Both of these cartoons benefit from deft writing and superior direction and animation, as well as the superb vocal contributions from Mel Blanc. The former cartoon is especially funny because of the antics of Speedy's compadres, Pablo and Fernando, who while on the mother of all benders constantly try to pick fights with the local cats. Speedy here seems less bland than in his other cartoons, as he tries in vain to keep his friends out of trouble.

    The other Speedy cartoons produced by the Warner Bros. between 1957 and 1961 are for the most part enjoyable; but I found it difficult to sit through any of his cartoons produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (who leased the Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio after it closed in 1963). Nearly all of the cartoons they churned out in the mid-to-late 1960's starred either Speedy Gonzales or the Road-Runner and Coyote (inadequately-directed, alternately by Rudy Larriva and Robert McKimson). These cartoons are undoubtedly the worst ever to be released by Warner Bros. On the whole they suffer from weak stories and direction and also from the heavy-handed music underscores of Bill Lava. The Speedy cartoons from this period usually paired him with Daffy Duck, in a painfully-humorless and uncharacteristic adversarial role. In A-Haunting We Will Go (1966) Daffy has a son, dons a curious-looking hunter's cap (a la Elmer Fudd) and matches wits with both Speedy and Witch Hazel. The cartoon also briefly reuses animation of Daffy from Duck Amuck.

    One cartoon from the DePatie-Freleng years that defies all pre-conception and logic (inexplicably, as it was directed by Friz Freleng), The Wild Chase (1965), actually has Wile E. Coyote teamed with Sylvester in pursuit of the Road-Runner and Speedy, who are in a race against one another. This is a "cheater" cartoon in the worse sense of the word, in that it consists of nearly two-thirds reused animation from previous classic Road-Runner cartoons. The only part of this cartoon I found amusing was commentator Paul Dini's speculations about what Sylvester and the Coyote would say to one another; if they had been given any dialogue. He adds that this must have been the easiest assignment Mel Blanc ever had--as the Road-Runner's "meep-meep" and Speedy's trademark "Andalay, Andalay!" are about all one hears on the soundtrack.

    Bonus features on Disc 3 include an insightful and informative new documentary on legendary Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies director Friz Freleng, simply entitled, Friz on Film. The biography chronicles the vast span of his career, from his humble beginnings working alongside Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in Kansas City to co-running an independent production company with producer David DePatie. Included are archival interviews with Freleng himself, family members and colleagues in the animation industry.

    Rounding out Disc 3 are two educational films commissioned by the U.S. Army and directed by Chuck Jones, Drafty, Isn't It? and 90 Day Wondering, feature a grown-up Ralph Phillips (voiced by an uncredited Daws Butler) as he weighs the pros and cons about a career in the military and the possibility of reenlistment. Both shorts have been expertly remastered and look better than the clips that were featured in the Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons segment in LTGC1.

    We come now to the 4th and final disc in the compilation, that with a particular feline bent. I used the term "apt" earlier to describe the DVD producers' thematic programming here; since cartoons featuring cats (and by association, mice and birds) had been a mainstay of the "Merrie Melodies" and "Looney Tunes", from the early 1930's up until the final closing of the studio.

    Robert McKimson is represented on Disc 4 by four shorts, two of which feature a unique character named "Dodsworth" (voiced by an uncredited Sheldon Leonard): Kiddin' the Kitten and A Peck O' Trouble. In both cartoons Dodsworth takes advantage of a hapless, unnamed kitten for his own gain, but ultimately receives his comeuppance. The third short, Swallow the Leaderfeatures a nondescript cat who attempts to capture one of the swallows who return to San Juan Capistrano every March 19th. In the end, however, he has to settle for a "swallow" of tequilla. Robert C. Bruce provides the narration. The last short, The Unexpected Pest , features Sylvester (how could they put together a DVD about cartoon cats and not include him?) as a champion mouser whose comfortable life-style is threatened by the potential lack of mice in the household. Enter the titilar "pest", a mouse whose own survival depends upon his being continually pummled by Sylvester in the presence of his owners. Once the mouse realizes that without him Sylvester will get the boot, the worm turns. He then begins to indulge in all manner of destructive behavior, confident that Sylvester will be in tow trying to avert disaster. After a misplaced bomb blows the master of the house to smithereens, Sylvester receives the thrashing of all his nine lives. In the end the mouse, feeling sorry for him, feigns suicide and then in an aside to the audience explains: "After all he's been through, I thought he deserved a happy ending."

    Art Davis' Dough Ray Me-Ow provides another take on the "George and Lenny" dynamic, this time in the personas of a big, dumb cat who stands to inherit a fortune and his crafty parakeet pal who tries to do him in to get the money for himself. What is interesting about the cartoon is that it was originally one of a dozen or so to be produced in the cheaper "CineColor" process during the late 1940's; but as presented here it boasts a rich palette of colors that one would normally expect from the 3-strip TechniColor process. CineColor, like the earlier 2-strip TechniColor, usually emphasized just the red and green hues of the spectrum. The question is, did WHV tweak the digital color correction when remastering this cartoon? While the results look good, they are possibly false--in which case the integrity of the original source materials would be compromised.

    Two vintage 1940 Porky Pig Looney Tunes directed by Robert Clampett are included on Disc 4 because they feature a feline supporting character. One, The Sour Puss, has previously appeared on TV in a colorized version, but here has been restored to its original black and white. What a pity, then, because it is unfortunately not one of Clampett's better efforts. The plotline involves Porky and his pet cat, "Sour Puss" making plans to go fishing at a nearby lake in the morning, but its exposition is a bit uneven. Nearly two-thirds of the cartoon (or so it seemed to me as I was watching it) is spent by Porky and Sour Puss making plans to go fishing, going to bed and dreaming about all the fish they're going to catch (as Sour Puss "counts fish" to fall asleep, he sounds amazingly like South Park's "Mr. Hankey"). The next morning as the two attempt to catch a few fish, they are heckled by a flying fish who acts crazy and talks with an curious vibrato in his voice. If Clampett was trying to come up with a new Looney Tunes character here he failed miserably: that fish is probably the most annoying cartoon character ever to grace the silver screen (second only, perhaps, to the little duckling with the grating laugh who was featured in Tex Avery's Lucky Ducky at MGM). The version of The Sour Puss presented here is uncut and includes a scene where a canary, as he watches Sour Puss cavorting around in Porky's living room, exclaims (a la Jack Benny) "well, now I've seen everything..." and shoots himself in the head.

    Porky's Poor Fish is officially billed as a "Porky Pig" Looney Tune in most books on Warner Bros. animation, but in reality he spends only about a minute or so onscreen, at the beginning and end of the cartoon. The bulk of the action takes place while Porky is out to lunch and involves a cat who has broken into Porky's pet fish store in order to have himself a fish dinner. The fish who inhabit the store, however, have other ideas and rally their forces to vanquish the hapless feline. Verbal puns abound in this cartoon; look for the daily special on "Little Shrimp with Big Mussels".

    In addition to the aforementioned The Night Watchman, Jones' cartoons on Disc 4 include two titles that feature Marc Anthony the bulldog and Pussyfoot the kitten (first paired in Feed the Kitty): Kiss Me Kat and Cat Feud. There is a fourth cartoon that features a kitten and a bulldog, entitled, Go Fly a Kit; but viewers are divided on whether or not the cat and dog depicted here are actually Pussyfoot and Marc Anthony. Indeed, there has been much debate on the subject here in the Big Cartoon Forum and even the cartoon synopsis in the BCDB officially lists the characters in Go Fly a Kit by those names. I am not convinced, however, that these are the same characters as in the three previous cartoons. Since those characters had established a meaningful friendship over the three previous cartoons, it seems incongruous that Marc Anthony (if it is indeed him) would now behave in an antagonistic manner towards any kitten, let alone Pussyfoot. The Jones unit appear to have utilized a similar character design (albeit with slight variations) not only for Marc Anthony, but for practically every bulldog that was featured in the cartoons they produced. The bulldogs in the aforementioned titles look similar to the ones that appear in other Jones cartoons like Mouse Wreckers and Cheese Chasers. I'm certain that many, here in the Forum and beyond, will refute my claims; but I will not be swayed: to me the bulldog and kitten in Go Fly a Kit are completely different characters. As further proof, I submit the fact that neither Leonard Maltin, in Of Mice and Magic, nor Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald, in Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, explicitly refer to the main characters in this cartoon as "Marc Anthony" and "Pussyfoot".

    In my honest opinion the inclusion of Conrad the Sailor (1942) on Disc 4 was a mistake on the part of the DVD producers; especially since Robert Clampett's excellent A Tale of Two Kitties has yet to be released in LTGC (it is available, however, as a bonus on the WHV DVD of They Died With Their Boots On, starring Errol Flynn). The character of Conrad had been featured in two previous Jones-directed cartoons (also released in 1942), Porky's Cafe and The Bird Came C.O.D. Conrad's third cartoon, which features Daffy Duck, bears the distinction of being the only one of the three in which he is given a voice (here by Pinto Colvig); although he has no spoken dialogue: he merely sings "Song of the Marines" as he swabs the deck of the destroyer on which he serves. This cartoon is also the first of three to feature distinctive layouts by John McGrew (with backgrounds rendered by Gene Fleury). McGrew would collaborate with Jones on The Dover Boys and Case of the Missing Hare later that same year, and on The Aristo-Cat and Wackiki Wabbit the following year before leaving Warner Bros. (McGrew ultimately left the United States just after the end of WWII and went to live in in the Beaujolais region in France.) 2 The Aristo-Cat, which concerns the assimilation of a spoiled house cat into mainstream animal society, boasts possibly the most abstract backgrounds of any animated cartoon produced in Hollywood at that time. It was rare, to say the least, for the mood of a cartoon character to be reflected through subtle shifts in layouts and backgrounds (i.e., rounded figures during moments of peace or repose, vs. angular lines and stark contrasts of color representing the cat's growing anxiety at being left alone to fend for himself). It is to his credit that Jones was so willing to experiment with the stylistic conventions of the animated cartoon--even at the risk of alienating audiences and the studio bosses. The Jones/McGrew collaborations were far ahead of their time, and could be thought of as precursors to the cartoon shorts that would be later produced at the UPA studios.

    Finally, this compendium would not be complete without contributions by Friz Freleng. Mouse and Garden, featuring Sylvester and (in his second and final appearance) his pal Sam, is a hilarious study in greed and avarice. The pair have a caught a mouse but are unwilling to share and share alike. Blackout type gags abound as each tries to outwit the other and obtain the mouse for himself. Their unwillingness to compromise ultimately proves to be their undoing: the mouse escapes and the two cats are left to perpetually kick each others' behinds.

    Pizzicato Pussycatis another music-based Freleng cartoon with some unique plot variations. A mouse regularly ventures outside the safety of his mousehole; not to swipe cheese or any of the conventional mouse consumables, but rather to add to his library of piano scores. This rodent claims to be a keyboard prodigy; but the resident felix domesticus isn't buying it and goads the mouse into displaying his talents at his miniature piano. At that moment, however, the couple who own the house overhear the strains of Chopin coming from the next room. When the cat hears them approaching he stuffs mouse and keyboard into the baby grand and pretends to play. The cat is immediately hailed as a musical genius, examined by scientists and music critics and booked to play Carnegie Hall. No problem, the cat has made a deal with the mouse: in return for helping him dupe his adoring public, the cat promises to spare the mouse's life. The facade appears to be working until the cat inadvertently breaks the mouse's reading glasses. The mouse can now barely make out the blurred piano score and lets loose with a torrent of cacaphony that empties the auditorium in no time flat. The cat is declared a fraud and the couple go into self-imposed exile. There is a happy ending to all this; for, as it turns out, the cat has a flair for the drums and forms a jazz duo with the mouse.

    This cartoon is also unique in it's visual styling. By the mid-to-late 1950's all of the production units at the Warner Bros. Cartoon Studio had keenly felt the influence of the cartoon shorts being produced at UPA; and had begun experimenting with "modern" layouts and backgrounds, just as Jones and his associates had done a decade earlier. Characters were still rendered using the full, flowing animation that had become standard in the industry, but they now moved over "flat", impressionistic backgrounds that only suggested a 3-dimensional quality.

    Some members of the BCDB, in describing the 4th installment of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, have made comparisons to the 3rd Season of Friends (also on DVD); meaning that the series has ultimately hit a bit of a snag. While there is much here in LTGC4 to delight the viewer, the set is not as good as it could have been. In Part 1 of this review I mentioned the ongoing difficulties with the remastering of these cartoons from surviving original elements (the dubious choice of some titles over others for inclusion notwithstanding), as well as the occasional technical glitches (such as in the Disc 4 bonus features) that I feel could have been prevented. I also voiced my personal dissatisfaction with the "new and improved" package design (WHV take note: that was a bad decision on your part!) Rumor has it that WHV plans to limit LTGC to just ten volumes. Let us hope, then, that the remaining six volumes retain all of the best attributes of the first three, with none of the shortcomings of this, the 4th.

    With a rating system of:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Excellent
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Good
    [​IMG][​IMG]Fair
    [​IMG] Poor
    Parentheses ( ) around an emoticon indicate that there are reservations regarding some technical or programming aspect.

    My overall rating of this set, then, is: [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Package Design [​IMG] (please bring back the old format! This one is highly impractical!)

    Visual Quality [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]([​IMG]) (but, please, no more "blue ribbons"!)

    Sound Quality [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]([​IMG]) (the sound distortions in The Goldbrick could have been prevented if someone had been paying attention during the remastering process)

    Bonus Features [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]([​IMG]) (excellent; but please, let's have a complete episode of The Bugs Bunny Show, in color, with the original shorts; and more Private Snafu!)

    Value for the Money [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (would have been better were it not for the inclusion of the post-1964 cartoons... please, fellas, don't include any of the inferior Rudy Larriva/Robert McKimson "Road-Runner" cartoons in LTGC5!)

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    Notes
    1. The earlier version of Porky also utilized a different voice. Originally a bit player/extra named Joe Dougherty had been spotted on the Warner Bros. main lot and was hired on the spot because he had a unique stutter. The only problem (albeit a serious one), however, was that he was unable to control it--which resulted in a lot of re-takes during dialogue recording sessions. This proved to be extremely costly, since dialogue, sound effects and music were recorded on 35mm film using optical soundtracks. Magnetic tape, which could be erased and re-recorded, would not become a standard in the film industry until the mid 1950's. Dougherty was eventually replaced by Mel Blanc who was able to mimic the stuttering as well as improvise comic variations with it--such as: "bye-bye... so long... auf Wiede--auf Wiede... toodle-loo!"

    2. For this bit of information I am indebted to Peterhale for providing links to an archival interview with McGrew by Michael Barrier
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