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"The Looney Tunes Golden Collection" Deserves Applause

Discussion in 'The Animated Word' started by Dave Koch, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. Dave Koch

    Dave Koch Cartoon Admin

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    [​IMG] Disappointment has plagued Warner Bros. Home Video for quite some time. Both The Iron Giantand Space Jam had only sparing DVD releases. The debacle regarding proper collections of Batman episodes continues to this day. We still haven't seen anything from Animaniacs or Pinky and the Brain. So what a surprise it is to see a DVD set from them that goes far above and beyond the call of duty in honoring and presenting its content, and how appropriate that kid gloves should be employed in handling the Looney Tunes. This was really a do-or-die issue for WB; if they couldn't do justice to the guys who have been doing them justice for so many decades, then all hope would be lost. Thankfully, not only is this not the case, but what they've given us in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection is a box set that captures the exact spirit of the shorts themselves -- full of fun, love, and quality.

    If any group of classic cartoons had the potential to be released in a condescending, for-the-kiddies way, it's the Termite Terrace shorts, because they're the only ones still truly entertaining all new generations of fans. Kids and adults alike love them just as much today as they did back in their heyday, and there must've been plenty of executive impulses to make this a kid-friendly DVD set. It's not here. No cheap DVD games, no pithy, still-screen character biographies. Don't get me wrong; this set won't turn kids off. Nearly everything bursts with color and energy, from the menus to the documentaries to the interviews. As I watched it, I truly felt like I could enjoy this at any level for any age. In fact, this is one of the few times I'd honestly use the phrase, "something the whole family can enjoy".

    Naturally, like any release of something truly beloved, the main attractions are the shorts themselves, and the restoration is absolutely wonderful. There are moments in a few of the featurettes or documentaries where footage is shown of the unrestored prints, the kinds we're used to seeing on television and video. The difference is absolutely astounding, and just further highlights the brilliant work of people like Maurice Noble, Ken Harris, Gerry Chinquy, and all of those behind-the-scenes geniuses. With the visual and audio quality restored to something we'd expect of modern-day animation, all of the animators' remarkable talents become all the more obvious and incredible. It can most definitely be seen why this are the pinnacle of the theatrical short.

    Now, when discussing the shorts, we run across the one real bone of contention people are likely to have with this DVD set, and that is short selection. Already, hullabaloo is being made over the absence of "What's Opera, Doc?" and "One Froggy Evening", probably the two most notable MIA cartoons. For my part, I find the controversy very silly. WB Home Video has already clarified that their restoration process takes time (and it should, if they're doing it right), so releasing collections instead of one set with ALL the shorts is far more intelligent. Additionally, I think those arguing the all-or-none stance seem to not understand that such a box set would be astronomically more expensive, and would be a very unintelligent marketing choice. As far as not putting all their starry eggs in one basket goes, there's no way of pleasing everyone when you have to pick and choose, and what would be the point of putting out a set of only second-stringers? (I will admit to being happier than some are, because my personal favorite, "Rabbit Of Seville", is there in all its glory.)

    If the shorts weren't enough -- and they would be -- this set includes a massive list of extra materials. There are three different documentaries: Camera Three: The Boys from Termite Terrace, which comes in two parts and was made in the 1970s; Toon Heads: The Lost Cartoons, which originally aired on Cartoon Network; and Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, an all-new documentary that chronicles the history of the studio. All three cover their respective subjects thoroughly and entertainingly (Camera Three is a little drier than the others). In addition to that, there are several featurettes scattered across all four discs, detailing the histories of either various characters or various people behind the magic. Also, there are various commentaries by four different folks for many of the shorts. Michael Barrier's commentaries often segue to interviews he's had with people like Chuck Jones or Ben Washam; the sound quality varies, but still highly interesting. Stan Freberg's commentaries are rambling and loving anecdotes of his time spent with Mel Blanc. Greg Ford, whose voice sounds rather odd, comments and critiques the action before him. And Jerry Beck, like always, is a cascade of information on anything he's talking about. One boon of the release is the accessibility of all these features. Each menu for choosing specific shorts will also have direct links to their individual commentaries, featurettes, or music-only tracks as they apply. Those features are also all available in a separate menu, where handy-dandy play-all options wait. This makes the DVD a breeze to use to any effect. Still more! The set includes both of Bugs' appearances in 1940s Warner Bros. live-action films (of questionable entertainment, but exceptional historical value). There are sections on Bugs' television show. Stills galleries. Schematics. Pencil tests. An extra short (the very funny (blooper) Bunny!). How can you lose???

    This DVD, to me, seems very important. It brought together so many people from so many different worlds: animation historians (Beck, Barrier, John Canemaker), current animators and industry folk (Ford, Eric Goldberg, Joe Alaskey), descendants from the originals (sons and daughters of Clampett, Freleng, McKimson, and Jones), those who were there (Freburg, Bob Givens, June Foray), and even a couple of admirers (Joe Dante and Frank Darabont). That there was so much input from all of these sources speaks of the shorts' universality. It's a colorful, goofy set comprised of geek material, and it seems like all of the different possible audiences can get a large amount of value from this set. There are more to come as years progress, and if this is any indication, they're all worth it. The Looney Tunes Golden Collection is now one of the crown jewels of my DVD collection.

    A critique by Alex Weitzman

    This review originally appeared at Toon Zone.

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