Starting in 2003, Warner Brothers Home Video began releasing the Looney Tunes cartoons on DVD in wonderful 4-disc box sets packed with cartoons (of course) and extra features. The sets are called “Looney Tunes Golden Collection” and Volume One and Volume Two have been released in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood animation (myself included) are eagerly awaiting each new volume of Looney Tunes.
The market for such a release is huge thanks to the successful decades-long syndication of the Looney Tunes cartoons as Saturday morning TV shows aimed at kids throughout the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, the general upswing in TV DVD sales, and the renewed interest in classic animation (other recent releases include the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection, The Flintstones, and a new batch of Walt Disney Treasures – yet STILL no Popeye!). The success of these cartoons have far surpassed any expectations their creators may have had.
For instance: Until I was an adult, I never realized that the Looney Tunes cartoons were originally created for and shown in front of feature films as part of the movie-going experience in the Thirties, Fourties and Fifties and were generally never expected to be seen again. They certainly were never expected to cross over from the film market to the television market and then later into the home video market…talk about a cash cow!
The Golden Collection DVDs: The cartoons themselves have been beautifully restored. Forget those faded prints that they’ve been showing for four decades in syndication on television. The prints on these DVDs pop with vibrant and sharp colours and in some cases really show off the level of sophistication that I didn’t know existed (particularly in fan favourite “What’s Opera, Doc?”).
Perhaps more importantly: the cartoons are complete and uncut. After years of syndication, the television networks have, ahem, had their way with the cartoons (cutting out the more violent or politically incorrect scenes). You might be surprised by some of the humour in the cartoons, though in my opinion nothing too terribly offensive or shocking. The worst bits are: 1) Bugs Bunny violently shaking the gangster-disguised-as-a-baby in “Baby Buggy Bunny”, 2) Bugs Bunny popping a big sleeping pill in “The Big Snooze”, 3) Daffy Duck shooting himself in the head at the end of “The Scarlet Pumpernickel” and 4) A character drinks gasoline, swallows a match and is immolated as part of his stage act (I forget which character does this and in which cartoon).
Many of the cartoons have audio commentary tracks from animation historians/experts/enthusiasts such as Jerry Beck, Michael Barrier, Greg Ford and John Kricfalusi. If you’re interested (or bored and have nothing better to do), check out the special features that are included for the hard-core fans such as the documentaries on the many creators of the cartoons.
Volume 1 gave us a healthy dose of Chuck Jones classics (like “Rabbit of Seville” and “Duck Amuck“) and some great ones from Friz Freleng. Volume 2 digs a little deeper into those vaults and showcases some of Bob Clampett‘s best, a couple Tex Avery gems and have discs focused on Road Runner/Coyote and Sylvester/Tweety cartoons.
Animation fans, such as myself, are hoping that Volume 3 goes even deeper for more rare cartoons from Avery, Clampett and Frank Tashlin (including the many black and white cartoons that have not been seen in half a century) while it stands to reason that Warners will continue to mix fan favourites in future volumes (such as “Hillbilly Hare” and “Robin Hood Daffy”) and will obviously pay some needed attention to other characters like Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe Le Pew. We should be hearing about the contents of Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 3 in a few months as it is “leaked” onto the internet like the contents Volume 2 were last year.
How many volumes will there be? Well, there were about 1000 Looney Tunes cartoons created between 1930 and 1969, and each volume has about 60 cartoons on it, so you do the math. Now that you have the maximum number you have to decide whether Warner Brothers has the commitment to release all the cartoons in the DVD format (especially the banned/censored ones). If they do this at the rate of one set a year, we will be well in the HD-DVD era before all volumes have been released (and they’ll have to start all over again). My hope is that they will be ramping up to two volumes a year starting next year…though I have my doubts.
Anyway, big business pessimism aside, I highly recommend picking up some of these pieces of your childhood. Along with the nostalgia and humour elements, the beautiful thing about these cartoons is that they are no longer than 7 minutes each (long enough to fill up one film reel) so that they don’t take a lot of your time and are great when you need a little break from your heavy coding / porn surfing. Oh, and if you buy from any of the links in this article you’ll be proving to me that Associate Marketing actually works 😉