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Warner Home Video presents
Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection 2 (1936-1957)

"Be vewy quiet...I'm hunting wabbits..."
- Elmer Fudd (from the Chuck Jones classic, What's Opera, Doc?)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: December 01, 2004

Stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd
Other Stars: Voices of Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan, Bea Benaderet, Stan Freberg, Bill Roberts, Gloria Curran, John Deering, John Litel, Sara Berner, Delos Jewkes, Tedd Pierce, Georgia Stark, Kent Rogers, Billy Bletcher, Tommy Bond, Joe Dougherty, Bernice Hansen, Martha Wentworth, Johnnie Davis, Poley McClintock, George "Spanky" McFarland, Mabel Todd
Director: Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, Tex Avery

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild cartoon violence)
Run Time: 04h:00m:00s
Release Date: November 02, 2004
UPC: 012569455627
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+B+B D+

DVD Review

In the fall of 2003 when Warner Bros.' long-awaited initial DVD volumes of classic Looney Tunes cartoons debuted, there were shouts of joy, especially in the thousands of online discussion groups. But making just as much noise were the disappointed whiners and complainers: Where's What's Opera, Doc? Only one Road Runner cartoon? I just can't believe they'd leave out You Oughta Be in Pictures! What about all those early rare black-and-white 'toons?

Er, wrong studio, Doc.

Well, it's one year later and while there will no doubt still be some hissing heard, they'll be drowned up bythe multitudes praising the studio's follow-up packages including the value-priced Spotlight Collection 2, a condensed by no less charming double-disc set collecting 30 cartoons taken from the more expansive second volume of their Golden Collection series.

Like its premiere edition, Warner has simply taken two platters from their four-disc collection, slapped new artwork on both covers and disc labels, passing the savings along to you. So, for those who haven't the time to wade through mini-documentaries, alternate audio tracks and commentaries but still want the prestige of putting some classic animation from the best of the best upon your shelf, this set should be more than to your liking.

For Tweety and Sylvester lovers, Disc 1 will be heaven; it's first nine selections comprise the best of the Friz Freleng-directed series including the Oscar-winning Tweety Pie (where the lisp-y, red nosed cat was first dubbed "Thomas"); Ain't She Tweet, perhaps the best in the series, which finds Sylvester trying to maneuver himself into the golden birdie's house with many classic sight gags ensuing (including a gut-busting moment when a little old man tries to help...); and Gift Wrapped, a holiday-themed 1952 entry featuring Petticoat Junction's Bea Bernadett as the voice of Granny, who keeps a watchful eye on Tweety and punishes the chop-licking cat every time he attempts to swallow his eternal prey.

Sharing the stage with birdy and kitty on the tail end of the opening disc are Porky Pig and Daffy Duck, the latter of whom has never been as unhinged as in 1946's The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, the first of seven Bob Clampett-directed gems on the set in which the madcap quacker plays detective Duck Tracy, investigating the disappearance of prized piggy banks; Old Glory, an early Chuck Jones classic and a nice change of pace in which the spirit of Uncle Sam helps Porky to realize the importance of freedom by taking him on a magical history tour through significant events from the 17th century onward; and Porky in Wonderland, a mixture of slapstick and surrealism from 1938 (and one of two black-and-white 'toons on the set), which finds America's favorite pig in search of a dodo bird in a strange land; along the way he runs into some wonderfully weird beings, including a three-headed monster whose faces will immediately strike a chord with fans of classic comedy.

Though Disc 1 is fun, the repetition of the basic Tweety vs. Sylvester format does tend to get a little old after a while (even my great niece and great nephew watching along with me tended to agree; one of the most appealing things about watching these cartoons on TV way back when was the sense of variety most stations utilized in programming them, not repeating the same characters twice.

Disc 2 adapts that philosophy brilliantly with 15 titles exploring the entire spectrum of comedic possibilities with nary a dud in the batch, including some of the most requested classic titles by die-hard fans.

Though all are enormously entertaining, I must bestow blue ribbon honors to a few:

Back Alley Oproar is a great opener to the second disc containing a rare teaming of Elmer and Sylvester as the red-nosed cat uses the alley adjacent to Elmer's house as a makeshift rehearsal hall to practice his singing; this wonderfully comic musical gem anticipates future classics in the same vein (Barber of Seville, What's Opera, Doc).

I Love to Singa is my all-time favorite Merrie Melodies cartoon that doesn't feature one of the trademark characters: a mother owl gives birth to several instantly musically talented offspring specializing in the classical field, except one that is the black sheep of the ensemble, coming into the world singing like Al Jolson. Initially appearing like a cute variation on The Ugly Duckling, Singa develops into a wickedly sly parody of Warner's 1927 partial sound classic, The Jazz Singer, and is one of director Fred 'Tex' Avery's finest.

The Three Little Bops is the classic fairy tale revamped with our three porcine protagonists getting hip as a jazz trio whose gigs are constantly interrupted by a square, incompetent trumpet player. Try as they can, he keeps huffin' and puffin', man. The short features vocals by legendary musical satirist Stan Freberg with arrangements courtesy of noted jazz arranger Shorty Rogers.

One Froggy Evening: A construction worker gets more than he bargains for upon discovering a long lost singing frog (complete with top hat and cane) at his current job. With visions of fortune in his eyes, he shucks his current gig to play manager to his discovery, only to discover that the amphibian has a nasty habit of going silent when he's displayed in front of others.

You Oughta Be in Pictures: Pre-dating the arrival of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? by nearly 50 years, this combination of live action and animation puts Porky out into the real world with encouragement from Daffy to go out and test his talent in features. What a nice gesture... not! While the duck kisses up to studio boss Leon Schlesinger (appearing as himself), the Porkster must do battle with an irate studio gate guard (Looney Tunes scripter Michael Maltese). Made in 1940, this groundbreaking short still looks impressive today, particularly when Porky hotfoots it through Tinseltown traffic in the madcap homestretch.

What's Opera, Doc? is an absolute classic that tops many animation buff's lists, including mine: Elmer and Bugs take their rivalry to another stage (really) in an operatic skewering of Wagner-ian proportions. A short that succeeds on every level of animation, it has beautifully drawn backgrounds, terrific scoring, witty dialogue (I never get tired of "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!"), and frantic pacing; a triumph for director Chuck Jones and the animators behind this masterpiece.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: For material that covers a 21-year period, the level of consistency from short to short is very impressive. Although some may complain that the quality control people didn't go all the way as far as spit-n-polish refurbishing (slight grime even present on some of the most recent toons, nicks that couldn't be repaired without ruining original artistic intent, etc.), to be painfully honest, I kind of prefer it that way. Although I have the uppermost respect for restoration specialist houses like Lowery, I don't want these classic pieces of animation history looking contemporarily sharp like the ink has just dried. Eliminate as much dirt as possible, filter out the scratches and don't overdo the colors on faded materials.

Happily, that's just what the remastering on this set has accomplished with this batch of entries looking even better than the initial volumes collector's anxiously unwrapped last year, and there are pleasant surprises on even the most unlikely shorts; the beautiful array of colors in Old Glory (could this really date from 1939?); You Oughta Be in Pictures looking brighter and more sharper than ever before; virtually no grain at last on Hollywood Steps Out, and my list of impressions could occupy another paragraph or two. If you had little or no complaints over previous volumes, you'll be over the moon; maybe you will want to "singa!"

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: If you listen very intently to the audio on these 30 cartoons, you're bound to notice a little distortion on the sound effects, some of Carl Stalling's classic orchestral seasonings have some peaking problems (probably inherent from the limited techniques available at the time) and so on. But in the spirit of my visual commentary, I'm not bothered whatsoever. All of the necessary aggravations that have cursed TV prints (hisses, pops, breaks, wavering audio) are in the past, which is more than could be hoped for on these fine 2.0 mono tracks. Some of the latter day efforts like Three Little Bops sound beyond vibrant.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Four Learn How They Draw Segments: Cat Got Your Brush? (01m:49s), Reach for Your Brushes, Ya Varmints! (01m:24s), Framing Up Michigan J. Frog (01:36s), The Trace Race (01:26s)
Extras Review: Like flying in first class, if you want the prestige, you're gonna have to pay for it. In other words, the extras on this budget-minded two-fer are the equivalent of being stuck in coach.

Only four Learn How They Draw segments featuring time elapsed sketching demonstrations comprise these meager bonus sections (but looking on the sunny side, put that slo-mo function of your remote to good use, slow it down and these bits become much more entertaining; just slip on a Carl Stallings compilation CD and you're all set...)

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

For Looney Tunes aficionados like myself who just have to go whole hog for bonuses and all, we just can't pull over for the double-disc condensation. But those a little short on pocket change who are in desperate need of an immediate ACME fix, Spotlight Collection 2 will more than satisfy their hunger.

 


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