Blu-Ray Bunny: Bugs and Pals Shine Anew in New Looney Tunes Collection

Another volume of the best of the Golden Age of Warner Bros delivers artistic anarchy

By Scott Huver
|  Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012  |  Updated 11:13 PM CDT
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Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in “The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume 2.”

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When it comes to laughter generated by the original Looney Tunes cartoons, that’s NEVER all, folks.

The ageless magic of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Porky Pig and the rest of Warner Bros. stable of enduring cartoon stars and the animators whose screwball sensibilities brought them to life – including Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson and Bob Clampett – has yet to go out of style. And now some of the finest and funniest are sharper than ever – in both humor and high-def – are available anew in the Blu-Ray set “The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume 2.”

The second collection of the Looney Tunes classics features an impressive array of 50 of the most significant cartoons in the Warner Bros. library, including three Academy Award nominated shorts (among them “A Wild Hare,” also considered to be the very first appearance of Bugs Bunny as we know him today); the classic Hunting Trilogy from revered director Chuck Jones, pitting Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd in a battle of buckshot and wacky wordplay; classic one-shots like Jones’ “Rocket-Bye-Baby” and Tex Avery’s “Hollywood Steps Out."

Animation historian and author Jerry Beck, who had a major hand in assembling the Warner Bros. greats for both the latest Blu-Ray collection and its debut volume, chats about the many splendors encased within the set.

On the vision for bringing the classics cartoons back, better than ever, in Blu Ray:

“There are some fantastic cartoons that haven't been released before…We're living now in an era where we not only can see these cartoons almost at will, but these Blu Ray collections are night and day from what we used to have, because we can now purchase master copies of these things and in the shape that we've never seen them in my entire life. These are completely restored. When they made these things, they filmed the originals in 35mm, they were shown in movie theaters – they had a movie theater quality to them. Well, Blu Ray returned these cartoons to the big screen, just in your home – the way that they were meant to be seen in the first place.”

On bringing the cartoons back to their original versions after years of trimming:

“For Saturday morning, as the years went on, they edited and edited the cartoons both for commercial time, but also for violence, for any kind of explosion gags – and of course there are many in the Road Runner series and in Bugs Bunny. They would literally cut the explosion out and cut out the gag – they made mincemeat of these cartoons and they didn't really make much sense, so these are the original versions, and in fact we go the extra mile. A lot of times even the TV shows would cut out a lot of the credits and the original title sequences were cut, even for theater re-issue back in the 50s and 60s. We went back to the original titles wherever we could, so these are the absolute original versions.”

On the inclusion of historically significant animation:

“We decided that we're going to have the great one-shot cartoons, cartoons like 'Page Miss Glory,' which is an Art Deco masterpiece from the mid 30s and is a real special cartoon that has to come out in Blu Ray. Visually it looks amazing – it's a Busby Berkeley musical in seven minutes. 'Russian Rhapsody' is a classic World War II cartoon that actually stars Adolph Hitler, but he's the villain in a wild, wild propaganda piece; and 'Hollywood Steps Out,' which features some of those Hollywood caricature cartoons that they did so well. This is probably the best one –Tex Avery directed it. It's really funny, fantastic – with really, really perfect caricatures.”

On the mini-collections, some starring lesser-known Warner Bros. stars and some collecting thematically linked featurettes:

“We will take minor characters like Beaky Buzzard, or a little flea character that only appeared in two cartoons, and give you those complete appearances. There's the Bugs, Daffy and Elmer Fudd Hunting Trilogy, which is legendary amongst the animation fans: it's a series of three cartoons that Chuck Jones did that are very fun, really very funny, written by Michael Maltese. It's those three characters in the woods sparring with all sorts of word play – that's where Daffy Duck gets that line, 'You're despicable,’ and a lot of other memorable quotes. There's a trilogy of cartoons where Bugs Bunny has a race with the turtle, 'The Tortoise and the Hare' – the Cecil the Turtle cartoons. There's three of those, and they almost dovetail. They almost make a three-part series, although they were done years apart.”

On the unique, enduring flavor of the Looney Tunes style:

“What's great about a lot of the guys who worked at Warners is that at some other studios, all they cared about that the cartoons were popular: 'Give us seven minutes of Technicolor antics.’ But today nobody is celebrating the past with the Mighty Mouse cartoons the way that they do the Bugs Bunny cartoons, because the difference was the directors: Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones and others. These guys had an attitude of, 'If I'm going to make these cartoons I'm going to make them for me, and I'm going to make them for the other great director down the hall who I want to get a laugh out of him. I not only want to get a laugh out of the audience, but I want to laugh at them. I want to care. I'm not making these for kids. I'm making them for me.'”

On the works of revered animation director Chuck Jones:

“Chuck, who had that, he also fancied himself, and he certainly was correct in this, an artist. He was an artist, a real artist. He happened to be working in cartoons, in animated cartoons, but he recognized that it was an art. He studied the arts. He studied literature, and he cared about what he was doing. He included his personality in all of the things that he did and it comes through. It shows and it's what makes the Chuck Jones cartoons kind of a notch above some of the others. It's just his aesthetic, his point of view that does that. Chuck’s 'Rocket-bye Baby’ is a funny cartoon that works on any level. It's a little Martian baby who's accidentally left at a hospital and is adopted by a family, taken home by mistake by a couple and they raise it as their own. They think it's a little unusual, but it's still theirs. Adults can look at this and identify with it. Kids can look at it and laugh at it. It's craft and it's art and there’s attitude in it: it's a comic genius work.”

On the works of director Tex Avery:

“In this collection we decided to put the spotlight on Tex Avery. We have two documentaries on Tex: one of them was made in England and shown on the BBC about 20 years ago and was only shown on PBS here in America. That's really got a lot of great stuff in it – footage of Tex Avery and the other animators – and is just fantastic. And there's another brand new documentary, never on anything else before this collection: it's also a history of Tex Avery and his work. And we feature as part of the extras some of Tex Avery's cartoons at MGM – that's where he went when he left Warner Brothers in the early '40's, after creating Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny and many, many other great cartoons. He went over to MGM where he did Droopy Dog and a whole bunch of great one-shot cartoons that are very celebrated and very wonderful – and not on DVD, for the most part, so we put a bunch of them on here – not all! I wish we could put them all in!”

On the works of director Friz Freleng:

“I call Friz Freleng the ‘lifer’ at Warner Brothers. He spent practically his entire career there in 1930 and he was pretty much there until, really, the last cartoon in the '60's. He later went off and did the Pink Panther, but while he was at Warners, he was the guy behind the great Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzalez and certainly great Bugs Bunny cartoons and others…What's interesting is that one of the cartoons we have on disc one is called 'You Ought To Be In Pictures.' It's one of the best cartoons ever made, directed by Friz when he came back [after a year working at MGM]. It's black-and-white, the one where Daffy Duck tricks Porky Pig and says that he should go work on the main lot where they're making features.

'You don't need to work on these shorts anymore – work in the big time!' Porky Pig goes into the live-action world – the film is considered one of the inspirations for 'Roger Rabbit.' He goes into the Warner Brothers studio in live-action and he's chased around the lot by the guard and all kinds of nonsense happens there. He runs back to [Looney Tunes producer] Leon Schlesinger and gets his contract back and his happy to be in cartoons again. It was considered Freleng's comment on coming back to Warners - like 'My little nod to say thank you for having me back. It was a mistake to leave. I'm happy to be back.’”

On the inventive one-shot cartoons that don’t feature the familiar Looney Toons stars:

The one-shots are where they had a chance to blow off steam. Each director was required to do two or three Bugs Bunnys per year because Bugs was so popular, and they got a chance to do a character of their own, two or three of those. Chuck would do Pepe Le Pew, would do Road Runner, and then get a slot with one or two miscellaneous original ideas…I do my best to make sure that we get those one-shots in there and highlight them and showcase them, because to me that's the backbone of the Warner Brothers cartoons.”

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