Saturday, April 14, 2012

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Six

Well, at long last, I have purchased Volume Six of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection series! This was the final installment in that particular series...and while there are still many more Looney Tunes cartoons still to be re-discovered, the bulk of the studio's animated classics had already become available via this Golden Collection series and so with Volume Six the remainder of the classics made their way onto this collection. Much of the cartoons on Disc 1 and Disc 4 were part of a Spotlight Collection I had previously bought and so I didn't watch the cartoons on those two disc's. I mainly focused on Disc 2, the early black and whites on Disc 3, and the documentary on Disc 4 about Mel Blanc titled Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices. The documentary is exceptional, in my opinion, as it showcases Mel's career from it's beginnings on through to his death in 1989. There are vintage commercials and television performances shown featuring Mel's talents. His association with Jack Benny is chronicled. Mel joined the cast of Jack's radio program in 1939 and remained a recurring character actor for the rest of the radio series, which came to an end in 1955, but concurrent with the radio series Jack had a television program that began airing infrequently during 1950-1955 and then bi-weekly for another 5 years and then during it's final 5 years it was seen every week. Mel was a featured player on Jack's TV show, often appearing in bit parts and sometimes as characters originally created on the radio series. In short, Mel Blanc was a true superstar of radio, records, television, and cartoons. Yes...Mel made a lot of records in the '40s and '50s...a lot of those records were aimed at children. Most people don't know that Mel created the Woody Woodpecker laugh...and was the original voice of Woody at the very beginning.

Jack's television program gave Mel visibility to an even greater audience. The documentary explores all of this...as well as the car wreck he was involved in during the early '60s. 1961 to be specific. Those offering their thoughts on Mel in this documentary are a varied group. Everyone from Gary Owens and Stan Freberg to Chuck Jones and Bill Hanna.

Disc 2 is comprised mostly of the World War Two cartoons from the early to mid '40s. However, the last three cartoons on Disc 2 feature a mixture of the freedoms America offers to legal immigrants and the rewards of capitalism and how it's the ideal economic system for free nations: "By Word of Mouse" (1954), "Heir-Conditioned" (1955), and "Yankee Dood It" (1956) all feature stories about American business and the strength of an industrious nation. Unfortunately cartoons like this sometimes receive a black eye, figuratively, by those who either do not believe capitalism is fair or by those who have a hatred/envy of people who successfully live the American dream. The counter-culture of the late '60s and it's impact on certain elements of society also played a part in why these three cartoons are seen as propaganda by those who subscribe to the late '60s counter-culture attitudes in present year 2012. The original intent of the cartoons, I highly doubt, was purely for propaganda purposes and the original intent was more along the lines of educating people on capitalism...nothing more, nothing less. The three cartoons were underwritten by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

Meanwhile, the war cartoons in their unedited form have been a much sought after item of Looney Tunes fans for decades and it took until the final Golden Collection installment to have a disc devoted entirely to those particular cartoons. I saw a comment on-line about how a consumer was dismayed about the all-military art work on the DVD and how it made the person think the entire collection was only military cartoons. The consumer must've bought the DVD based upon cover art and didn't really notice the product page at any number of on-line shopping stores.  

Now...about the second disc...first and foremost I find nothing wrong with these war cartoons. I am not one of those whiny, overly sensitive types who have condemned these specific cartoons as being racist or politically incorrect. I am of the belief that the citizens of Germany and Japan were not being mocked or ridiculed in those cartoons...instead it was the Government of those countries and their military being ridiculed.

How anyone living in the United States today can draw the conclusion that pro-America sentiment during a time of war is a bad thing is beyond me. So, no, I've never bought into all the hype that the war cartoons were racist or anything. If the cartoons were offensive they were more than likely offensive to the dictators and those who shared dictatorial beliefs. I've read about the war...so have millions of others. To see characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and others pull out all the stops in their antics against animated versions of dictators and the cold-blooded nature in which those dictators ruled is entertaining to me and it should be entertaining to anyone who dislikes tyranny and everything that comes with it. The WWII cartoons are sought after so much that it appears the company deliberately used the military decor on purpose and perhaps they did. The individual disc's feature a character in a saluting position with an American flag backdrop. Each disc's number is penciled onto an illustrated dog tag, too, and the back of the DVD shows Daffy parachuting from the sky and Bugs in a carrot filled dirt mound.

On Disc 1 and Disc 3 you'll see cartoons and hear a lot of different voice actors. Daws Butler's voice appears in several cartoons on Disc 4. His voice can also be heard briefly on the short, "Heir-Conditioned", on Disc 2 as some of the alley cats who are after Sylvester's inheritance. Butler is also heard more prominently in "Yankee Dood It", on Disc 2, as the Shoemaker and the King Elf's apprentice who can never remember the name 'Rumpelstiltskin' and often utters the phrase 'Jehoshaphat'. King Elf is actually Elmer Fudd in traditional Elf costume sporting a big gold crown on his head. Sylvester is part of this cartoon but doesn't have many lines.

What are the extra's and bonus features you may be asking!?! On Disc 4, as mentioned earlier, there's the Mel Blanc documentary. There are four bonus cartoons on Disc 4. On Disc 2 there are three bonus cartoons of a military overtone to go along with the WWII cartoons on that disc. Also, there's the inclusion of The Captain and the Kids cartoons that Friz Freleng did for MGM during his short hiatus from Warner Brothers. On the black and white Disc 3 there's a special called The World of Leon Schlesinger while there are 4 bonus cartoons. In actuality there are 4 bonus cartoons on each disc, making that 19 cartoons altogether on each of the 4 discs.

There are 2 Looney Tunes television specials featured as extra's on Disc One.

The first special, from 1978, is listed on the DVD by it's VHS title of Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court. The original title was A Connecticut Rabbit in King Arthur's Court. The made-for-TV cartoon is entertaining and doesn't feature any clips of vintage cartoons which was often the case whenever the Looney Tunes appeared in TV specials. However, there are scenes in this special which re-use dialogue from other Bugs Bunny cartoons and the die-hard fans will spot it right away. Also something that will be detected right away is that Mel Blanc provides the voice of Elmer Fudd, as he had done off and on since original voice actor, Arthur Q. Bryan, passed away in 1959. Mel's natural voice was quite distinctive and it shines through in his performance as Elmer.

The second special, from 1980, is also listed by it's VHS title, Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement. The original title was Daffy Duck's Easter Special. In this special there are three newly created stories woven together: "The Yolk's On You", "The Chocolate Chase", and "Daffy Flies North". The characters featured are Daffy, Speedy Gonzales, Sylvester, Miss Prissy, Foghorn Leghorn. In subsequent decades the three cartoon shorts have been shown separately on various Looney Tunes programs.

All in all it's an outstanding collection...which is what the Golden Collection releases have always been.

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