Saturday, January 17, 2009

Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection Volume 2

In this particular installment, we're treated to 30 cartoons. These cartoons are also featured on the more in-depth Golden Collection, Volume Two.

As with all of my DVD commentaries, it will include spoilers...so if you don't want to know much about the cartoons and their punch-lines and sight-gags prior to watching for yourselves, then this blog site isn't for you.

The first DVD in the collection is almost entirely Tweety and Sylvester. "Bad Ol' Putty Tat", "All A-Bird!", and "Room and Bird" are laugh out loud with their visual humor. Friz Freleng, the director of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, put his cartoons together timed to music. His cartoons often featured musical accompaniment to almost every action. Sylvester stomping around on the floor would be accentuated musically...his climbing a set of stairs or a ladder...you'd hear the "da da da da da da" music as he's walking...the higher he gets on the steps the higher the musical notes become. "Room and Bird" is a stand-out for me...it's about a wacky hotel who has a NO PETS ALLOWED policy so Granny sneaks in Tweety while another older woman sneaks in Sylvester. There is also a dog that figures into the mix...all the animals have to keep their presence a secret...so, whenever the landlord is making his rounds they have to hide. The landlord is over-the-top...pounding on doors of suspected guests with animals. "Open up!! Open up that door!!! Open up I said!!!". Later, the landlord has all that he can stand and he makes a broadcast on the loud speaker about if anyone has pets in this building, they're to be removed and the pay-off comes with an entire zoo of animals running out of the hotel. In "All A-Bird!", the familiar crew of Tweety and company are on a train ride where the conductor looks after Tweety as his owner has dropped him off at the depot. The conductor assures the woman no harm will come to the bird...later, Sylvester tries to grab Tweety and the conductor interrupts and becomes a protector...warning Sylvester to behave because he'll have his eyes on him. "And remember, CAT, no tricks!!". Figuring into the mix is Hector the bulldog...in a cage in the same car as Tweety and Sylvester...one of the memorable scenes is the train going up and down a hill...slamming Sylvester's crate into the dog's...which causes the dog to punch Sylvester in the face each time.

The collection also contains "Tweety Pie", the cartoon that paired the two together for the first time. In the cartoon Tweety is being tormented by the cat...whose called Thomas, instead of Sylvester...but this is only a minor difference as the character is the same. "THOMAS!! YOU BRUTE!!!" is the cry of the owner each time she notices that the cat has harmed the bird. Sylvester and Porky Pig are depicted in "Kitty Kornered", a cartoon about a pack of cats who taunt and torment Porky, spoofing the WAR OF THE WORLDS panic about martians invading Earth. The cat isn't called Sylvester but he has the same speech pattern. In a departure of sorts, "Old Glory" is featured here. This was a cartoon made to promote patriotism. Porky Pig doesn't understand the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance and so in a dream he's taken back through time, via Uncle Sam. It appears between "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" and "Baby Bottleneck"...which sort of looks out of place sandwiched between two zany cartoons like that.

Bob Clampett created the Tweety character but Friz took over the character and added yellow "feathers" on him...actually, the character was painted yellow over censors objections to the bird looking naked without them.

"Snow Business" is about a blizzard hitting a rural area. Granny is stranded while Tweety and Sylvester are up in a cabin. The two start to get hungry...Tweety says there's nothing to worry about because the cabinets are loaded with bird seed. Sylvester hollers about not having cat food. Innocently, Tweety asks the cat what they eat. Sylvester names off a list of items...but becomes quiet realizing that birds is a food cat's love. So, the rest of the cartoon is Sylvester attempting to eat Tweety for supper. Later, Granny makes her way to the cabin with the news that she's brought food...but the cruel irony is she's brought more bird seed.

"Gift Wrapped" is a funny cartoon about Christmas. Granny gets Tweety as a Christmas gift...Sylvester notices this and before she wakes up to open gifts, Sylvester switches the bird with a rubber mouse. Granny notices the mistake and walks in to get her real gift...only to see Sylvester laying back like he's stuffed...coughing up feathers. Granny freaks out and demands: 'DROP HIM!! DROP HIM!!" as she literally pounds the bird out of Sylvester's stomach. The dog gets into the action later...he pounces on Sylvester and swallows him whole...after Sylvester had swallowed Tweety whole. So, Granny freaks out again and pounds on the dog who coughs up Sylvester...then she pounds on Sylvester who coughs up Tweety. 'DROP HIM!! OPEN YOUR MOUTH!!! DROP HIM!!!'.

The second DVD in the collection focuses on the music-related cartoons and some of the Hollywood spoofs. "Have You Got Any Castles" and "Hollywood Steps Out" are featured on this DVD as are a 13 more music-enhanced productions. Sylvester fancies himself as a singer...so in the opening cartoon "Back Alley Uproar" we see him singing his heart's content all at the expense of an impatient and sleepy Elmer Fudd. "Katnip Kollege" is an older cartoon spoofing the new sound of jazz/swing music. The cartoon is about a cat who isn't familiar with this new sound...the teacher is a parody of Bing Crosby vocally...by cartoon's end he learns how to perform in the new style. Jazz is also featured on "I Love To Sing-a" about an owl family whose father wants his children to be successful...one of his sons has a talent for singing but the parent's are horrified that the boy sings jazz instead of pop music. The boy, named Owl Jolsen, finds his way to a talent show and wins with his jazz performance. "The Hep Cat" is another spoof of pop-culture...this time it's about a cat who fancies himself as a Don Juan and ends up having a date with what he thinks is a knock-out but is in reality a hand puppet being performed by a bullying dog. This DVD also features classics: "One Froggy Evening", "What's Opera, Doc?", "Rhapsody Rabbit", and the live action blend with animation "You Ought To Be In Pictures".

In addition to those, we also have "Stage Door Cartoon", "Corny Concerto", and "The Three Little Bops", the latter a cartoon voiced/sung by Stan Freberg. "One Froggy Evening" is the famous cartoon about the singing frog who only sings in front of the man who found him and nobody else. The frog is now known as Michigan J Frog and it the mascot of the Warner Brothers network, The WB for short. The frog is famously known for singing bits and pieces of 'Michigan Rag' and 'Hello, My Baby' as well as 'I'm Just Wild About Harry' and other pop-standards. Chuck Jones directed the cartoon and he also directed "What's Opera, Doc?". That particular cartoon, like several others on DVD #2, seem to have lives of their own...going beyond just being a 7 minute cartoon. "You Ought To Be In Pictures" is the mini-biography of Friz Freleng's departure from Warner Brothers to a rival studio and how after his contract was up at the rival, he immediately rushed back to Warner Brothers. However, this was slightly changed for cartoon's sake and the story was about Daffy Duck tricking Porky Pig into leaving Warner Brothers for a much bigger career in movies. Porky gets out of his contract...talking with Leon Schlesinger, mixing animation and live action. He heads to the studio's for his big break but finds contempt and confusion...not to mention the rage from a security guard played by cartoon writer Michael Maltese with the voice of Mel Blanc.

Here's the story about that...it's accurate to the best of my knowledge: Warner Brothers didn't want to pay the writer an "actors fee" for speaking on camera and so they dubbed Mel's voice over-top of Michael's lines so they didn't have to pay extra...and Mel was their voice actor anyway...so that's the story i'd read as to why Mel's voice is heard when Maltese is "speaking" in the cartoon.

Porky ends up making his way back to Warner Brothers where he overhears Daffy telling Leon how Porky wasn't really much of a star or a talent anyway...he's attempting to become the star of the cartoons but Porky makes his presence known to Daffy...a sweaty, nervous Daffy sees what's happening. Porky motions for Daffy to step outside...then we hear thrashing and fighting. Porky rushes into the office and asks Leon for his job back. Leon chuckles and tells Porky he really never ripped up his contract. Daffy, shown in bandages, whispers to Porky about a new offer elsewhere...showing us Daffy hadn't learned his lesson.

"Show Biz Bugs" is about Bugs and Daffy competing in a song and dance routine. It was directed by Friz Freleng and it made use of Daffy being jealous of Bugs Bunny's fame and popularity.

The "Stage Door Cartoon" is a gag-filled cartoon about Elmer and Bugs in a vaudeville theater. There is a scene with a southern sheriff who some say became the model of Yosemite Sam...his voice is similar in tone to both Sam and Foghorn Leghorn. Bugs is in disguise as the sheriff and while in the theater the film shows a scene of Bugs dressing up as the sheriff...Elmer thinks "I got him!" and he runs over and rips the sheriff's clothes off to reveal it's a real person. Bugs closes the cartoon Durante style... "I got a million of 'em!".

Funny collection for those not too interested, unlike myself, in having the Golden Collection with all of it's extra features. These 30 cartoons as I mentioned previously, can be found on the 60 cartoon Golden Collection, Volume Two.

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