Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection (DVD)

Animation buffs have been waiting so long for Warner Bros. to release Looney Tunes cartoons on DVD that it would be almost impossible for any set to meet expectations. Sure enough, The Looney Tunes Golden Collection suffers from some glaring flaws, the most obvious being its middling selection. Warner wisely chose not to go the chronological route (which would have made its first set heavy with frenetic black-and-white cartoons lacking star characters like Foghorn Leghorn, Road Runner, and the late-arriving Bugs Bunny), but the studio callously ignored most of its pre-wartime archive, not to mention the work of directors Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin. Instead, The Golden Collection is loaded up with the work of Chuck Jones, but the conspicuous absence of such Jones favorites as "From A To Z-Z-Z-Z," "The Dover Boys," "Sniffles Bells The Cat," "One Froggy Evening," and "What's Opera, Doc?"–all regularly cited in surveys of the greatest cartoons
of all time–can't help but make the set feel a little slight, cartoon-wise. Extras-wise, it's a gem. Fully half the shorts have commentary tracks by animation historians (often aided by archival audio of the filmmakers), and the compact, informative assortment of featurettes offers multiple samples of some of the signature Looney Tunes not represented in the main program. Not that the main program is devoid of classics. One of the pleasures of the Golden Collection is the chance to watch, at will, cartoons that used to pop up only two or three times a year on Saturday-morning cartoon programs: mini-masterpieces like "High Diving Hare," "Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2th Century," and "Feed The Kitty," which collectively affected comedy for generations. The Warner artists and gag-men stole old vaudeville routines, punched up the dialogue with snide asides and jazzy lingo, and added fluid animation that was nonetheless plainer and more shamelessly laugh-oriented than the Walt Disney Studios' tamer, prettier product. These cartoons remain funny because they rely on repeated routines (think anvils, alum, and Albuquerque), and on single-minded characters in conflict, exploring the elemental dynamics of want and fear. In part because the Warner crew was underpaid and unnoticed, it frequently went wild in shorts both surreal ("Dough For The Do-Do," "Wearing Of The Grin") and philosophical (the postmodern cornerstone "Duck Amuck"). The Golden Collection's commentators pay tribute to less-heralded Warner staffers like abstract background artist Maurice Noble and intuitive composer Carl Stalling, who built careers and influenced peers. But the stars of the set are directors Friz Freleng, with his almost musical sense of timing, and Jones, with his ability to elicit laughs and/or sympathy using just his drawings of eyes.


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