Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 8, 2004)
A continuation of a series started in 2003, the Looney Tunes Golden Collection 2 provides four DVDs of wacky goodness. These shorts span a range of 21 years. The earliest – “I Love to Singa” – comes from 1936, while the latest emanate from 1957; four of the set’s cartoons came out that year.
For each short, I’ll offer the following information: the year in which it was produced, the director, and what kind of extra audio track if offers (if any). A “C” designates an audio commentary, while an “M” notes an isolated music track. “ME” means a music and effects mix, while “”V” indicates a voice-only piece. (When you see two “C”s, that means the short includes two separate commentaries.) I’ll also provide a quick synopsis of the cartoon plus my number grade for each one done on a scale of 1 to 10.
DVD ONE – Bugs Bunny Masterpieces (total 110 minutes, 18 seconds):
The Big Snooze (1946, R. Clampett - C): After yet another failed attempt to slay Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd quits. Not content to let his foe rest, Bugs infiltrates Elmer’s dream and torments him there. 9/10.
Broomstick Bunny (1955, C. Jones - C, ME): While trick-or-treating in a witch’s mask, Bugs meets a real crone who becomes jealous of his ugliness. When she learns his true identity, she attempts to kill him to use his parts for spells. 6/10.
Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1947, I. Freleng - C): When Yosemite Sam terrorizes an Old West town, only Bugs stands up to him. The two engage in an ever-escalating battle. 9/10.
Bunny Hugged (1950, C. Jones - ME): Bugs serves as the mascot to pro wrestler Ravishing Ronald. When the Crusher punishes his employer, Bugs intervenes to even the score. 8/10.
French Rarebit (1950, R. McKimson): As a stowaway in a shipment of carrots, Bugs ends up in Paris. Two competing chefs strive to capture the Bunny and put him on their dinner menus. 7/10.
Gorilla My Dreams (1947, R. McKimson - C): A shipwrecked Bugs winds up on the island of Bingzi-Bangzi, “land of the ferocious apes.” Mrs. Gruesome craves her own baby, so she claims Bugs as her child. Bugs plays along to make her happy, much to the annoyance of Mr. Gruesome. 7/10.
The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (1942, I. Freleng): Elmer attempts to use hypnotism to subdue Bugs. 8/10.
Hare Conditioned (1945, C. Jones): A department store owner wants to stuff Bugs and put him on display. Understandably, the Bunny resists. 6/10.
The Heckling Hare (1941, T. Avery - C): A hunting dog tries to capture Bugs. The Bunny resists the efforts of his dim-witted foe. 7/10.
Little Red Riding Rabbit (1943, I. Freleng): Riding Hood intends to deliver Bugs to her grandmother - to have! The Big Bad Wolf attempts to foil these plans. Bugs has other ideas. 10/10.
Tortoise Beats Hare (1941, T. Avery - C, C): Bugs challenges the orthodoxy and attempts to prove that the story’s not correct. He races Cecil Turtle in a context for the ages. 10/10.
Rabbit Transit (1946, I. Freleng): See “Tortoise”. 9/10.
Slick Hare (1946, I. Freleng): At a swank Hollywood restaurant, Humphrey Bogart threatens Elmer the waiter with bodily harm if he doesn’t deliver an order of fried rabbit within 20 minutes. Elmer tries to bag Bugs for Bogie’s consumption. 9/10.
Baby Buggy Bunny (1954, C. Jones - ME): A bank robber impersonates a baby to escape the authorities. When his ill-gotten gains accidentally wind up in Bugs’ rabbit hole, the crook uses his infant shtick to fool the Bunny and retrieve his cash. 5/10.
Hyde and Hare (1955, I. Freleng - M): Dr. Jekyll adopts Bugs. Our Bunny attempts to deal with his benefactor’s strange transformations. 7/10.
DVD TWO – Road Runner and Friends (total 104 minutes, four seconds):
Beep Beep (1951, C. Jones - C): Wile E. Coyote attempts to capture and eat the Road Runner. He uses many complicated devices in his unsuccessful quest. 6/10.
Going! Going! Gosh! (1951, C. Jones): See the prior entry. 4/10.
Zipping Along (1952, C. Jones): See the prior entry. 5/10.
Stop! Look! And Hasten! (1953, C. Jones - C): See the prior entry. 3/10.
Ready, Set, Zoom (1954, C. Jones): See the prior entry. 4/10.
Guided Muscle (1955, C. Jones - M): See the prior entry. 3/10.
Gee Whiz-z-z (1955, C. Jones - M): See the prior entry. 4/10.
There They Go-go-go (1956, C. Jones - M): See the prior entry. 4/10.
Scrambled Aches (1956, C. Jones - M): See the prior entry. 3/10.
Zoom and Bored (1957, C. Jones - M): See the prior entry. 5/10.
Whoa, Be-Gone! (1957, C. Jones - C): See the prior entry. 3/10.
Cheese Chasers (1950, C. Jones): Two mice gorge themselves on so much cheese that they decide life no longer has meaning. They attempt to commit suicide in the mouth of a cat. 9/10.
The Dover Boys (1942, C. Jones - C): Clean-cut Tom, Dick and Larry attend Pimento University. They battle their archenemy, Dan Backslide, and protect their fiancée Dora. 6/10.
Mouse Wreckers (1947, C. Jones - C): Two rodents decide to move into a house in which a very good mouse-catching cat resides. They attempt to prompt his departure. 8/10.
A Bear for Punishment (1950, C. Jones - C, ME): The Three Bears awaken after months of hibernation. This falls on Father’s Day, which the grumpy Papa Bear doesn’t enjoy due to his imbecilic son’s moronic attempts to treat his daddy right. 7/10.
DVD THREE –Tweety & Sylvester and Friends (total 109 minutes, 18 seconds):
Bad Ol’ Putty Tat (1948, I. Freleng): Sylvester attempts a number of methods to lure Tweety from his birdhouse into the cat’s mouth. 8/10.
All Abir-r-r-d (1949, I. Freleng): Tweety’s owner ships him on a train. He ends up alongside Sylvester, who’s also in transit. Sylvester attempts to eat Tweety despite the admonitions of the conductor. 6/10.
Room and Bird (1950, I. Freleng): Their respective owners sneak Sylvester and Tweety into an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets. Sylvester then tries to eat Tweety all while they avoid the attention of the building’s rule-enforcing detective. 6/10.
Tweet Tweet Tweety (1950, I. Freleng - ME): During his family’s stay at a national park. Sylvester attempts to sneak into the bird refuge. He finds an egg, on which he nests until it hatches. Tweety soon emerges, and Sylvester attempts to eat him. 5/10.
Gift Wrapped (1951, I. Freleng): Disappointed with his Christmas presents, Sylvester discovers that someone gave his owner Granny a Tweety. Sylvester strives to eat the bird despite Granny’s warnings. 5/10.
Ain’t She Tweet (1951, I. Freleng - C): Sylvester sees Tweety in a pet shop window. He tries to steal the bird so he can eat him. This intensifies when Granny buys Tweety and brings him to her home along with many dogs. 4/10.
A Bird In a Guilty Cage (1951, I. Freleng - ME): Sylvester sees Tweety on sale in a department store. He sneaks into the business and attempts to eat him. 6/10.
Snow Business (1951, I. Freleng): A terrible snowstorm traps best friends Sylvester and Tweety in a secluded cabin. With nothing to eat other than bird seed, Sylvester tries to consume his little birdie pal. Matters complicate when a starved mouse strives to chow down on the cat. 6/10.
Tweetie Pie (1946, I. Freleng - C): Thomas - the cat later known as Sylvester - finds Tweetie in the snow and tries to eat him. The feline’s owner catches him and makes the bird her pet. Despite her warnings, Thomas still tries to chomp on Tweetie. 6/10.
Kitty Kornered (1946, R. Clampett - C): Porky Pig tries to put his four cats out for the night. They prefer to avoid the cold and a struggle ensues. 8/10.
Baby Bottleneck (1945, R. Clampett - C): A baby boom taxes the stork. As such, unconventional help comes to the rescue, and Porky and Daffy Duck head up the efforts to streamline the operation. 7/10.
Old Glory (1939, C. Jones - C): Schoolboy Porky finds it tough to memorize the Pledge of Allegiance and throws away his textbook. When he snoozes, history comes to life to teach him the importance of the Pledge. 4/10.
The Great Piggybank Robbery (1946, R. Clampett - C): Comic book fan Daffy accidentally knocks himself unconscious. He dreams of himself as Duck Twacy and investigates a piggybank crime wave. 7/10.
Duck Soup to Nuts (1944, I. Freleng): Porky hunts ducks. Daffy outwits him. 7/10.
Porky In Wackyland: (1938, R. Clampett - C): Porky Pig travels the world to hunt the do-do bird. His quest takes him to the African nation of Wackyland, a terribly surreal place. 6/10.
DVD FOUR – Looney Tunes All Stars: On Stage and Screen (total 112 minutes, 38 seconds):
Back Alley Oproar (1947, I. Freleng - C): Sylvester sings his own street serenade. Elmer Fudd wants to sleep, so he attempts to quiet the cat. 7/10.
Book Revue (1945, R. Clampett - C): At the stroke of midnight, books in a store come to life. Daffy springs from the cover of a comic book and joins the festivities. 6/10.
A Corny Concerto (1943, R. Clampett - C): In the first segment, Porky hunts Bugs to the strains of a Strauss waltz. “Blue Danube” follows with the attempts of a vulture to eat some ducklings. 8/10.
Have You Got Any Castles? (1938, F. Tashlin): Ala “Book Revue”, characters from novels escape their text confines and party. 5/10.
Hollywood Steps Out (1941, T. Avery - C): Movie stars visit Ciro’s Nightclub for dinner and a show. We see many caricatures of the day’s famous talent. 6/10.
I Love to Singa (1936, T. Avery): Classical music aficionado Professor Fritz Owl’s wife gives birth to jazz-adoring owlet. The Professor attempts to force his beliefs on his offspring. 4/10.
Katnip Kollege (1938, C. Dalton and C. Howard): Jazz is the order of the day at this institution of higher education. The feline students study “swingology”, a subject that eludes nerdy Johnny. He needs to get his groove on to pass the class and get back his girlfriend Claudia. 3/10.
The Hep Cat (1942, R. Clampett): Rosebud the dog tries to put a cocky “hep cat” in his place. This leads the pooch to try to trap the kitty. 7/10.
The Three Little Bops (1956, I. Freleng - C, M, V): The Three Little Pigs play a club called the House of Straw. This leads to an updating of their tale in a jazzy setting. 8/10.
One Froggy Evening (1955, C. Jones - C, M): The destruction of an old building reveals a singing and dancing frog inside its cornerstone. The worker who finds him tries to parade the croaker for monetary gain, but the frog only performs for the man, which causes frustrations. 8/10.
Rhapsody Rabbit (1946, I. Freleng - C): Bugs performs a piano concert. The Bunny encounters problems when a pesky mouse makes himself part of the act. 8/10.
Show Biz Bugs (1957, I. Freleng - C): Bugs and Daffy play a musical show together. The Duck becomes irritated because the Bunny receives top billing and all the adulation. 8/10.
Stage Door Cartoon (1944, I. Freleng): Elmer hunts Bugs. As the Bunny flees the predator, he ends up in a musical theater, where their chase becomes part of the show. 7/10.
What’s Opera, Doc? (1957, C. Jones - C, C, M, V): To the strains of Wagner, Elmer attempts to “kill the wabbit”. An operatic battle ensues. 8/10.
You Ought to Be in Pictures (1940, I. Freleng - C): At the Warner animation studios, Daffy and Porky leap off their drawing pads when the artists go to lunch. The Duck challenges the Pig to quit and get a gig as Bette Davis’s co-star. This leads to a meeting with producer Leon Schlesinger and Porky’s departure from the studio, which excites Daffy since he plans to become the big star. 8/10.
When we look at my unscientific assessments of the various shorts, DVD One ends up as the clear winner of the four. Those cartoons averaged a number grade of 7.80, which was more than a point and a half higher than the second-best set, DVD Four; it received an average score of 6.20. DVD Three narrowly ended up in third with a 6.07, while DVD One was clearly the weakest of the batch with a 4.93.
Of course, your mileage will vary, as my scores showed some of my character biases. Bugs remains my favorite Looney Tunes personality, so it came as no surprise that I most enjoyed the disc devoted to him. In addition, I truly don’t care for Road Runner, which led to such low scores for the disc on which that character’s shorts dominated.
Frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of the Road Runner. Every cartoon presents exactly the same story in the same setting. Sure, lots of Bugs shorts put him in a situation where someone - usually Elmer - hunts him, but they vary the scenarios and offer a mix of differences. Even the moderately tedious Sylvester/Tweety shorts broaden their horizons to a mix of places and other participants.
Not Road Runner. Those pieces are always set in the desert and always have the Coyote try to catch the bird. They limit themselves to just the two characters as well, at least in the shorts I’ve seen. Some may like this simplicity and value the moderate creativity that goes into the various methods the Coyote uses, but I think they’re monotonous. If you’ve seen one Road Runner short, you’ve literally seen them all. I’ll watch DVD One again for the four non-Road Runner cartoons on it, especially since most of those were good. I have no desire to ever watch its Road Runner offerings again, though.
Even without the Road Runner, Golden 2 would have demonstrated a drop in quality from the first package. Admittedly, my ratings are subjective, but none of the discs from the 2003 set earned below a 7.00, and that one’s Bugs Bunny set merited a whopping 8.22, almost half a point higher than this release’s rabbit-centric platter.
Clearly, Volume One provided the absolutely cream of the crop. But that doesn’t mean Golden 2 doesn’t include a lot of entertainment. Only two shorts earned my highest rating of a “10”: “Little Red Riding Rabbit” and “Tortoise Beats Hare”. Not surprisingly, both star my favorite character, Bugs Bunny. That’s down from the nine perfect “10”s on the first package.
Another 18 got grades of five or below, a big increase from the original set’s seven mediocre to low ratings. Of course, the prevalence of the Road Runner accounts for a lot of that; his shorts account for 10 of those 18 rankings.
Despite these misfires, many of the cartoons seem quite entertaining. Granted, I don’t know if I’d espouse watching them the way I did. I took in all 60 shorts over a two-day period, which is a bit much. Too many of the similarities between shorts pop up when seen in such a short span, and that robs some of them of their impact. I still enjoyed the cartoons, but the shorts start to lose some of their vitality when watched so close together. The absolute highs still worked well, but the lows probably came across as more disappointing via such direct comparison.
Not that my lowered grades should connote that I didn’t enjoy my time with the Looney Tunes Golden Collection 2. Indeed, I had a lot of fun as I watched these shorts. Personally, I preferred the first set, mostly because it more strongly showcased my favorite characters, whereas we get too much of lesser lights like Road Runner and Tweety here. Nonetheless, it’s another good package.