Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LOONEY TUNES: PLATINUM COLLECTION VOL 1 - Blu-ray (WB 1930-1969) Warner Home Video

Throughout the golden age of Hollywood there were many cartoon studios that attempted to revolutionize animation. Most fell under the umbrella of a studio major. Paramount had Popeye. MGM developed Tom & Jerry under Hanna/Barbera. UA owned The Pink Panther. Arguably, only one studio could lay claim to 'revolutionizing' the cartoon as an art form - Disney. But that did not stop the other studios from making their own valiant attempts at sibling rivalry.

Although no other studio from this period ventured into feature length animation, Warner Bros. quickly established itself throughout the 1940s and early 50s as the undisputed monarch of the celebrated cartoon short. The Looney Tunes brought together some of the most prominent directors ever to work in the medium: Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Robert McKimson, et al. and it yielded an iconic cavalcade of lovably obtuse slapstick characters that have lived in our hearts and minds ever since.

Who in the world today does not instantly recognize Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, or Sylvester and Tweety, or the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote for that matter. My personal favorite has always been Pepe Le Pew. My dad is partial to Foghorn Leghorn...and this list of WB alumni is hardly exhaustive. Virtually no other studio in the history of animation can claim to have created so many fondly appreciated and enduring cartoon whack jobs as Warner Brothers did in their prime.

Part of the Looney Tunes lasting legacy and success rests with the understanding that these cartoons were never meant to indulge children. Rather, they were forerunners in the theatre to the feature film (1930-1969) and presented primarily to an adult audience for pure slapstick comedy entertainment. As such we tended to see ourselves in the Looney Tunes - both the best and the worst embodied in the human condition.

It is perhaps just one of those Hollywood ironies that Bugs and his buddies became even more iconic when television snapped them up in the 1950s for perennial Saturday morning kiddy cartoon fodder. Because of their relatively short run times, the Looney Tunes were an ideal fit for the small screen, endlessly repackaged by Warner Brothers over the decades with special 'tags' created expressly to introduce them for TV.

As I write this review I find myself singing the first few bars of "Overture...candle lights. This is it. The night of more rehearsing, or nursing of parts...we know every part by heart..." Well, enough of that.

Warner Home Video releases Looney Tunes: Platinum Collection Vol. One on Blu-ray - a veritable potpourri of some of the best loved shorts from the WB vaults, most remastered to perfection for this hi-def debut. Fifty shorts in all comprise this collection.

Disc one contains the following: Hare Tonic, Baseball Bugs, Buccaneer Bunny, The Old Grey Hare, Rabbit Hood, 8 Ball Bunny, Rabbit of Seville, What's Opera Doc?, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, A Pest In the House, The Scarlet Pumpernickel, Duck Amuck, Robin Hood Daffy, Baby Bottleneck, Kitty Kornered, Scaredy Cat, Porky Chops, Old Glory, A Tale of Two Kitties, Tweetie Pie, Fast and Furry-ous, Beep-Beep, Lovelorn Leghorn, For Scent-imental Reasons and Speedy Gonzales.

Disc Two includes: One Froggy Evening, The Three Little Bops, I Love To Singa, Katnip Kollege, The Dover Boys At Pimento University, Chow Hound, Haredevil Hare, The Hasty Hare, Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century, Hare-Way to the Stars, Mad As A Mars Hare, Devil May Hare, Bedevilled Rabbit, Ducking the Devil, Bill of Hare, Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare, Bewitched Bunny, Broomstick Bunny, A Witches Tangled Hare, A-Haunting We Will Go, Feed The Kitty, Kiss Me Kat, Feline Frame Up, From A to Z-Z-Z-Z, Boyhood Daze.

These shorts are presented in remastered hi-def 1080p and with very few exceptions are as close to perfect as the Looney Tunes have ever looked on home video. Colours are exceptionally vibrant. The image is razor sharp. Occasionally there is a hint of edge enhancement, but nothing that will distract from your viewing pleasure. Age related artifacts are still present, and, on a few cartoons, are quite obvious and briefly distracting.

This reviewer owns all of the aforementioned 'Golden Collection' DVDs and can attest to the overall improvement in the visual quality made for this Blu-ray reissue. Colours are markedly brighter. The image is definitely cleaner, though not always pristine.

The audio is another matter.

Doing side by side comparisons I could not detect any noticeable differences between the audio on the aforementioned DVDs and these Blu-rays. I'm assuming some audiophile will prove me wrong, but on my system the audio sounded virtually identical. Let's be frank - there's just so much you can do with 50 plus year old monaural tracks. Having said that, I always thought these shorts sounded great on home video. So, no harm no foul. There's really nothing to complain about. "On with the show, this is it!"

Warner Home Video has also been particularly adept at amassing nearly 5 hours of extra features. Most are direct imports from their previously issued 'Golden Collection' DVDs and range from many featurettes, isolated scores and commentary tracks specifically dedicated to some of the cartoon shorts listed above.

But herein we also get the feature length movie 'Chuck Amuck', several glowing tributes to veteran animator Chuck Jones, nine vintage Chuck Jones rarities that (at least to my knowledge) have never been seen before, pencil tests for How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and these bonus cartoons (Fright Before Christmas, Spaced Out Bunny, Duck Dodgers and the Return to the 24th 1/2 Century, Another Froggy Evening, Marvin the Martian in the Third Dimension, Superior Duck, From Hare to Eternity, Father of the Bird, Museum Scream).

Warner Home Video has made this set available in two competing editions. One simply offers all of the aforementioned content in a slim case packaging. But there's also a limited edition 'box' that contains a letter of authenticity, a commemorative lithograph cel, a Looney Tunes magnet and a Bugs Bunny shot glass (I'm not exactly sure I understand the significance of this last trinket).

Bottom line: break out the mallets and stun guns for a hilarious trek through the studio's animated heritage. It's quite a journey, sure to illicit outrageous laughs along the way. Box or no box, this one comes very highly recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)






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