Reviews: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3
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Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3

A review by Matthew Hunter

Just in case you were living under a rock (or one fell on you) the day this collection came out, I will go ahead and let you know how great it is. There's not a lot to say about Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 3 that hasn't already been covered, but it can't hurt to keep it fresh on your mind, and let Warner Home Video know what a great job they're doing on this series.

This particular volume is aimed more at the adult collector, and includes many cartoons that the average person probably hasn't seen before. All of them are presented in their original, uncut form, fully restored. The black and white cartoons, which look amazingly sharp, are thankfully left alone, despite some clips of colorized versions in the special feature documentaries. To further show us that the set is aimed at an older audience, there is an introduction by actress Whoopi Goldberg that warns us about potentially offensive racial content, and while it's not necessary, if this is what it takes to give us a set this good uncut, I have no reason to complain.

The cartoons:

As with previous Golden Collections, Volume 3 gives us 4 discs, each with a particular "theme". Disc one is devoted to Bugs Bunny, and breathes new life into cartoons we've all seen a million times. "Hare Tonic", "The Wabbit Who Came To Supper", "Wackiki Wabbit" and "Case of the Missing Hare" are particularly impressive to look at. The color is amazing, and in comparison with the old Turner TV prints we've all been accustomed to, they are a whole new experience. Subtleties in the backgrounds that were once blurry and gray now stand out, and show a sophistication that was missing before. Even later cartoons that have been kept in relatively good condition in the past are cleaner and brighter-looking, and it's about time we saw "Hillbilly Hare" and "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" get a DVD release!

Disc two gives us a collection of cartoons themed around Hollywood, featuring either celebrity caricatures or film genre parodies. While some of these shorts are, frankly, a big bore plot-wise, They are worth a look for the sheer beauty of the restorations! "The Coo Coo Nut Grove" may not be a laugh riot, but you won't believe the color! This disc has a very good sense of variety to it as well, with a mix of star character shorts and one-shots, spanning nearly every era of classic WB animation. I particularly recommend the eye-popping  restoration of Tex Avery's "Daffy Duck in Hollywood", Bob Clampett's black and white Porky outing "the Film Fan", and the later Freleng Sylvester and Tweety gem, "The Last Hungry Cat". Also, if you've never seen Clampett's "Goofy Groceries" uncut, the ending is included unaltered here, complete with Jack Bunny's blackface gag..Disc three is devoted to Porky Pig, with several other cartoons involving pig characters. There is a nice mix of color and black and white here, and as with the other discs, the restorations are incredible. There are some real classics on this one, and some oft-overlooked cartoons that, frankly, should be a lot better known than they are. "I Haven't Got A Hat" shows the first appearance of Porky Pig, while Bob Clampett's black and white surrealist piece "Porky in Egypt" demonstrates Clampett at his most extreme.  Hardaway's "Porky and Teabiscuit" is included here, as well as a wonderfully restored Freleng musical, "Pigs in a Polka". Robert McKimson's "Windblown Hare" features Bugs Bunny going up against the 3 Little Pigs, but these guys are the polar opposites of the cute fairy tale critters we're used to! The runaway surprise hit on this disc, for me, is "Claws For Alarm", and if you saw this on the Cartoon Network, you saw an imposter! The color will blow you away, particularly the lighting effects of the sunrise toward the end. The violence is untouched, and there is no time compression. Check out Arthur Davis' classic "Bye Bye Bluebeard" while you're at it, a cartoon that proves Porky doesn't have to be a straight man to be funny.

Finally, disc 4 is a mix of different all-star cartoons, most of them classic favorites. "The Super Rabbit" looks superb, as do "Daffy Duck and Egghead" and "Draftee Daffy". "Odor-Able Kitty" gives us the first appearance of Pepe Le Pew on the Golden Collection. "Gonzales Tamales" is an excellent restored print of the only cartoon to feature Speedy Gonzales as an antagonist rather than a hero. Further proof that this set is intended for older viewers, Speedy's rendition of "La Cucaracha" includes an uncut reference to marijuana, the subject of the original Mexican folk song. Chuck Jones' overlooked classic "No Barking" with Claude Cat and Frisky Puppy is included here, and is notable for being the only time Chuck Jones ever used Tweety in a cartoon. There are some lighting effects on this one that are not to be missed. Restoration note: for eye-popping color you never thought existed,  check out Bob Clampett's  "An Itch in Time'  and "Falling Hare"! "A Gruesome Twosome" is another revelation color-wise.

Special features:

I am especially impressed with the color on all these shorts, and even the 1950's and early 1960's offerings are a new experience. I am, however, quite disappointed by some of the commentaries here. While John Kricfalusi is a joy to listen to on many shorts, he goes out of his way to bash a few and constantly derides any other director or animator who is not Bob Clampett! In the cases where he shares a commentary with someone else, he will often encourage them to diss a particular director or animator. He even tries to get Bill Melendez to say something bad about Robert McKimson, on the commentary to "Falling Hare"!. Kricfalusi's commentary on "Claws For Alarm" with animator Eddie Fitzgerald is sheer torture to listen to, at least if you're as big a fan of Chuck Jones as I am. I didn't learn or gain anything from it except that these guys don't like Jones' subtler, more limited style, and they liked "Scaredy Cat" better. And this commentary made the cut? shame on them. On the bright side, Kricfalusi's commentaries on "A Gruesome Twosome" and "Wackiki Wabbit" are fun to listen to. Greg Ford's commentaries are all good, Jerry Beck's while few and far between, are pleasant, and in most cases include a guest commentator and act more as an interview session. I found Martha Sigall and Art Leonardi particularly interesting, although I wish Leonardi would've spent more time on the cartoons at hand rather than going on tangents as much.

The documentaries here are good, particularly a long overdue look at the work of Frank Tashlin. The "Looney Tunes Go To war" documentary is good, but not near as good as the Cartoon Network "Toonheads" special on wartime cartoons that was done a few years ago, and I wish they would have given us that one instead. I did get a kick out of seeing clips from "Scrap Happy Daffy" in a colorized version! One would think that a historical documentary would be historically accurate by showing the clips as they originally apeared, but it's a forgiveable error as long as they keep the cartoons themselves unaltered. If you're curious how the cartoons are restored and why they look so good, don't miss the restoration featurette that tells you . "Philbert", a TV pilot directed by Friz Freleng, is fun, and it's a shame it never made it as a show. It's obvious that Thurston Howard, the original voice artist, feels that same shame as you hear his nostalgic commentary. As with previous sets, we get another "Bugs Bunny Show" episode, and a Mel Blanc recording session that demonstrates how Daffy Duck sounded before the voice was sped up. Finally, we get some Bosko on a Golden Collection, although why "Sinkin in the Bathtub" is buried in the extras and presented unrestored is a mystery to me. Still, it's THERE, right along with another Harman/Ising curio, the better than average Merrie Melody "It's Got Me Again!" For a rare look at how a WB cartoon was written, try watching one of the storyboards! Bob Clampett's "Porky's Party" is fascinating in that the cartoon was originally written to include Petunia Pig, and "Falling Hare" had a different character design for the now-famous gremlin. You may be surprised to find an MGM cartoon on a WB cartoon collection, but we get "The Bear that Wasn't", included for its significance as a collaboration between Chuck Jones and Frank Tashlin, who originally wrote it as a children's story. This is Chuck Jones' artsy-fartsy later style at its best, and though it's not a WB cartoon, it fits in well and I'm glad someone had the foresight to include it!

Overall, this set is just as good as the previous two, and it's certainly worth it to see material you may never see anywhere else. The restorations will blow you away, and if you're like me and want to see these classics uncut and unaltered, you will not be disappointed! Good job, Warner Home Video!

All cartoon characters are © and TM their respective owners. All images are © Warner Home Video. Textual content © 2005 by Matthew Hunter.

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