Marc Elias · November 12, 2004
| If Volume One of this collection could be considered Warner 101—a primer for the cartoon lover ready to take a step up to Animation Enthusiast—then welcome, true believers, to Volume 2: Summa Cartoon Laude. Having dispensed with the necessary introduction to the Termite Terrace Hall of Fame in the first volume, the compilers at Warner now find themselves free to dig deeper into their vaults, reach out to more of their extended family, and to bring us closer to these classic shorts than ever before. In Volume 2, the focus on the Joneses and Frelengs gives way to features on lesser-known cartoon masterminds, such as Bob Clampett and Tex Avery. Franchise characters such as Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner, and Tweety continue to merit extended showings, but this time they are bookended by more of the hidden gems of the studio's catalogue: Clampett's insane Kitty Cornered
and Porky in Wackyland
, Jones's Cheese Chasers
, Avery's I Love To Singa
and many more titles that will elicit a cheer from the Enthusiasts among us; not only because we have been waiting for them, but also because we can now anticipate a new generation of fans appreciating them.
There are sixty cartoons on these four discs, all of them lovingly renovated for DVD. The newer cartoons (if the mid-'50s can be safely called "new") are simply glorious, with eye-popping colours and razor-sharp character outlines. What's Opera, Doc?,
which many connoisseurs couldn't believe was omitted from the first volume, finally appears with every shade and nuance of the elaborate background paintings finally getting the home entertainment treatment that they deserve. Some of the older films, such as the classics The Dover Boys
and A Corny Concerto
, sometimes evidence noise in flat-coloured areas, which the disc makers clearly decided was an acceptable trade-off for optimum sharpness. Overall, the effect on cartoons that most of us grew up watching on television—telecined from prints that were often less than pristine—is startling. I remember The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour
portraying Wile E. Coyote as a dirt-brown animal in a washed-out beige landscape. The revival of the vibrant colours of the original theatrical shorts, down to the now-vestigial violent red rims around the coyote's eyes, is breathtaking.
Aside from the inadvisable return of a late-'80s Bugs Bunny Anniversary TV special (in which pleasant interviews with the cartoon creators are interrupted by annoying improvisations from various celebrities), the bulk of Volume 2's extras are very valuable to the cartoon cognoscenti. Interviews with Avery and Clampett help to cement their invaluable contributions to the studio's oeuvre, while offering extra insight into the cartoon-making process. Revolutionary soundman and editor Treg Brown is given a long-overdue feature, in which cartoon historians and filmmakers discuss the immense contribution his highly creative sound effects made to the overall personality of the Warner cartoon shorts. Some of the other tidbits brought up from the vaults will send most thirty-somethings into an immediate nostalgia spiral, such as the "pilot" for an undeveloped Road Runner television show, featuring superb linking animations from Chuck Jones
's unit (remember the little cowboy trying to psychoanalyze Ralph Phillips out of believing himself to be the Road Runner? "Beep beep, zip, tang!
"). A new short based on Jones's work (Daffy Duck for President
) is also included, presumably as further proof that, despite the best efforts of Warner to continue to leverage the Looney Tunes brand, the magic of the original shorts may never be recaptured.