Looney Tunes set has 56 cartoon classics

New on DVD

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

November 20, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Say what you will about the recent theatrical release of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but here's one indisputable positive: It seems to have spurred Warner Home Video to release what may be its best DVD compilation of vintage Looney Tunes yet.

The four-disc Looney Tunes Golden Collection (Warner Home Video, $64.92) contains 56 beautifully restored classic cartoons from the premier years of Warner Bros. animation (roughly 1935-1958). While you don't get all the classics - inexplicably, "What's Opera, Doc?" animator Charles M. Jones' hilariously dead-on spoof of Wagnerian opera (featuring Elmer Fudd singing "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit") is nowhere to be found - there's more than enough to legitimize claims that the folks at Warner were the true comedic geniuses of the golden age of animation, not their counterparts over at the Mouse House.

There's Bugs and Elmer in "The Rabbit of Seville"; Daffy in "Duck Amuck" (a surrealist masterpiece); and the first-ever Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote short, "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century" (with Daffy, Porky Pig and Marvin Martian, in an adventure noted by George Lucas as a major influence). There's even the classic "Feed the Kitty," starring a lovable kitten and an oversized mongrel in an atypically sweet (for a Looney Tune) but still hilarious 8-minute comic melodrama.

The collection could be better annotated (there should be an accompanying booklet, at least, with some details about the cartoons); the commentary tracks (which accompany only a handful of 'toons) are perfunctory and sometimes hard to hear; and for some reason, characters' heads often extend beyond the frame (who knew cartoons required letterboxing?). But let's not quibble; until something better comes along, The Golden Collection is the gold standard in must-have animation.

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