Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 31, 2003)
After a long drought, Warner Bros. finally has opened the vaults and started to release their classic short cartoons. With the Looney Tunes Premiere Collection, fans will find two DVDs of wacky goodness. These shorts span a range of 19 years. The earliest – “Elmer’s Candid Camera” – comes from 1940, while the latest – “Broken Leghorn” – emanates from 1959.
For each short, I’ll offer the following information: the year in which it was produced and its director. 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 (total 102 minutes and 57 seconds):
The Awful Orphan (1947, C. Jones): A stray dog tries to find a home. Porky Pig wants a canary, but this pooch tries to horn his way into Porky’s abode. 9/10.
Don’t Give Up the Sheep (1951, C. Jones): Apparently tired of his constant humiliation at the hands of the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote attempts to steal and eat sheep. Ralph the sheepdog tries to stop him. 6/10.
Daffy Duck Hunt (1947, R. McKimson): Porky Pig goes on a duck hunt. Daffy allows Porky’s hunting dog to catch him as a favor and then needs to escape the Pig abode. 9/10.
Frigid Hare (1948, C. Jones): On the way to Miami Beach, Bugs takes a wrong turn and ends up at the South Pole. Before he heads back, he helps a tiny penguin survive the pursuit of an Eskimo. 7/10.
Tortoise Wins By a Hare (1943, R. Clampett): Bugs races Cecil Turtle and loses for the umpteenth time. He tires of this trend and decides to investigate the trick behind Cecil’s constant victories. With some new knowledge in hand, Bugs tries again. 10/10.
Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940, C. Jones): Elmer Fudd decides to take up wildlife photography. Along the way he runs into troubles with a rabbit who looks and acts – but doesn’t sound – like a certain legendary Bunny. 9/10.
Baton Bunny (1958, C. Jones and Abe Levitow): Bugs conducts the Warner Bros. Symphony Orchestra in a performance of “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna” by Franz von Suppe. Silliness ensues. 4/10.
Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942, R. Clampett): A mama vulture sounds out her kids to fetch some eats. Slow-witted Killer resists but she forces him to at least bag a little rabbit. He attempts to sic Bugs, with the usual results. 9/10.
The Foghorn Leghorn (1947, R. McKimson): Henry the Hawk’s dad won’t let the kid go with him to hunt for chickens, so the little guy strikes out on his own. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know what a chicken looks like. He mistakes the dog for a chicken and doesn’t believe Foghorn Leghorn when he claims to be a part of the fowl breed. 9/10.
Tweety’s SOS (1950, I. Freleng): Desperate for food, Sylvester spies Tweety on board an ocean liner. He attempts to grab and eat the bird. 7/10.
The Hypo-Condri-Cat (1949, C. Jones): A pair of mice named Bert and Hubie sneak into a home filled with cheese. Unfortunately for them, a cat resides there who attempts to evict them. Fortunately for them, he’s a hypochondriac, so they torture him to get their own way. 6/10.
Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944, C.Jones): The Three Bears lack for food, but they plan to trap – and apparently eat – Goldilocks. With only carrots as bait, they instead lure Bugs. He then needs to evade their attempts to bag him. 10/10.
For Scent-imental Reasons (1948, C. Jones): The owner of Parisian perfumery finds a skunk in his store. He sends a cat to try to remove Pepe le Pew from the premises, but the amorous skunk takes the feline for another of his species and attempts to romance her. 6/10.
Canned Feud (1949, I. Freleng): Sylvester’s family goes on vacation and leaves him home alone with cans of tuna for survival but no can opener. The house mouse has one, so Sylvester connives to get it from him. 6/10.
DVD TWO (total 99 minutes, 15 seconds):
Bunker Hill Bunny (1949, I. Freleng): Set in the 18th century, Bugs defends American soil against Hessian (Yosemite) Sam von Schmamm. Battles ensue. 8/10.
Hair-Raising Hare (1945, C. Jones): An evil scientist tries to lure Bugs to his lair so his horrible monster can eat the rabbit. Naturally, Bugs prefers to avoid this fate. 10/10.
Broken Leghorn (1959, R. McKimson): Prissy the chicken finds herself unable to lay an egg. Foghorn Leghorn connives to help her out to shut up the nasty biddies. This backfires when the egg hatches and a rooster appears, as the young bird will compete for Foghorn’s job. 7/10.
Putty Tat Trouble (1950, I. Freleng): When Sylvester attempts to nab Tweety from his nest, the cat discovers competition. Another feline desires to chow on Tweety too, so the pair do battle for the tasty morsel. 6/10.
Kit for Cat (1947, I. Freleng): On a cold night, Sylvester finagles his way into the warm home of Elmer Fudd. However, a cute stray kitten does so as well. When Elmer declares he can only keep one of them, Sylvester schemes to get Fudd to evict the youngster. 8/10.
Canary Row (1949, I. Freleng): Sylvester the Cat spies the caged Tweety Bird living in a hotel across the way. He concocts increasingly complex plans to catch and eat Tweety. He fails. 5/10.
Haredevil Hare (1947, C. Jones): As scientists send a rocket into space, they recruit Bugs to man it against his will – until he sees the mass of carrots stocked in it, that is. He soon lands on the moon, where he attempts to stop a mission by Marvin the Martian to destroy the Earth. 10/10.
Fast and Furry-ous (1948, C. Jones): Wile E. Coyote tries to trap the Road Runner so he can eat him. Violence ensues. 5/10.
Feed the Kitty (1951, C. Jones): A kitten charms a tough dog named Marc Anthony. However, his owner warns him not to bring anything more into the home, so he needs to hide his new friend, a task that becomes difficult due to the kitty’s innocent mischief. 8/10.
Speedy Gonzales (1955, I. Freleng): Sylvester patrols the border and keeps Mexican mice away from American cheese. They recruit Speedy Gonzales to zip past the pussy and nab some illicit tidbits. 4/10.
Bugs and Thugs (1953, I. Freleng): Bugs inadvertently ends up in the getaway car for two bankrobbers. He needs to outwit them to escape their clutches. 7/10.
Early to Bet (1950, R. McKimson): The Gambling Bug takes a vacation and visits the country. However, when he sees a cat resist a challenge to play cards with a dog, the Bug bites him and inspires gambling mania in the feline. 7/10.
Lumber Jerks (1954, I. Freleng): As the Goofy Gophers attempt to move into their new tree, a logging company chops down their home. They attempt to reclaim their property. 7/10.
Devil May Hare (1953, R. McKimson): The Tasmanian Devil comes to Bugs’ neighborhood and attempts to eat the Bunny. However, Bugs uses his wits to trick Taz into going down other paths. 8/10.
When we look at my unscientific assessments of the various shorts, DVD One ends up as the winner by a moderate margin. Those cartoons averaged a number grade of 7.65, which was more than half a point higher than DVD Two’s 7.08. Of course, your mileage may vary, as my scores demonstrated my own biases. I tend to like the newer Looney Tunes less than the older ones; as the series progressed, the shorts got more stylish, but I prefer the rough and tumble feel of the earlier shorts. One DVD One, 11 of the 14 cartoons come from the Forties, while only six of DVD Two’s 14 shorts are from the Forties. Naturally, I like DVD One more since it favors my preferred era.
Nonetheless, the quality remains pretty high throughout both discs. Four shorts earned my highest rating of a “10”: “Tortoise Wins By a Hare”, “Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears”, “Hair-Raising Hare”, and “Haredevil Hare”. Not surprisingly, all star my favorite character, Bugs Bunny. Another four got grades of five or below: “Speedy Gonzales”, “Fast and Furry-ous”, “Canary Row”, and “Baton Bunny”. Only that last one comes as a surprise since it stars Bugs; the others feature Speedy Gonzales, the Road Runner, and Tweety, who aren’t characters I particularly like.
The biggest problem with the Looney Tunes Premiere Collection comes from the fact it’s too short! Fans will rectify that problem if they go after the Golden Collection instead; it doubles this set’s 28 shorts. (All 28 of these also appear on the Golden Collection.) For those who just want a small sampler, however, the Premiere Collection might fill the bill.