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Ruminations - The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volumes I, II and III

Ruminations - The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volumes I, II and III

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This week's effort should have a subtitle. How about "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly"? Because that is how I feel after watching all twelve discs of these three DVD sets -- especially after watching Volume III.

Let me say that I have always enjoyed the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. The Bugs Bunny Show was standard viewing for many of my Saturday mornings for a long time. To this day, if I can see one of them on the big screen at a theater here in the Bay Area, it is hard not to pass up a showing.

But having said that, I have to be honest and say that these discs were somewhat of a disappointment.

Starting off, these animated short subjects were (and are) the product of a different time. They were not children's or family programming. Their roots go back to the simple black out style of comedy that was found in vaudeville and silent films. They were designed to be seen by adult audiences as part of the entertainment in movie theaters, not at home on a small screen. As much as I enjoy them, there is something watching them at home that will never match up with seeing them on a big screen and enjoying the shared experience with a theater of full of laughing people.

Happily, these shorts are shown in almost their original format. Some of the title sequences come from later

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versions. But the allegedly well-intentioned efforts of the political-correctness police that haphazardly edited them for "objectionable" content (such as violence) have been corrected and they now appear on these discs as originally intended. Make no mistake. These were never designed for specifically for children. They were never the Golden Era equivalent of the "Smurfs" or the "Carebears".

For the Volume III discs, I found the introduction segments with Whoopi Goldberg a bit over the top. Having to couch her appreciation of the cartoons with a warning that they were products of a time when it was acceptable to portray ethnic groups in a less than favorable light was just too politically correct for me. Having it auto play at the start of each disc of the set was even more over the top.

Sadly, many of the commentaries on the discs came too late for us to hear directly from the folks who created the cartoons. While it is interesting to hear from contemporary animators on their appreciation of various titles, it seemed a bit of a stretch at times. However, a fair amount of the extra content on the discs is worth watching. But there tends to be more fluff among the extras than was necessary. I would have enjoyed more cartoons per disc and less of the extras.

As for the shorts themselves, yes, we do get restored images and audio. Restored almost too well in some cases. Remember that the color versions of these were produced using the Technicolor process. This means that unlike many restored films, there was no color film negative. As nice as it is to see the cleaned up and restored images, I found the colors overly bright on a number of cartoons and almost too much at times. Even the sound is cleaned up a bit too much with the best of modern technology to fix perceived deficiencies.

I know that many of the people at Warner Brothers look on these cartoons as the gems of their film collection. As much of a part of our culture as they have become, that sentiment may be appropriate. Give credit where due for all of the hard work to bring these to DVD and making them available for us to watch again. But I guess I would appreciate seeing them in theaters as they were meant to be seen even more than I do on these discs.

The discs do have many of the traditional favorite titles from "What's Opera Doc?" to "One Froggy Evening" to the Wabbit Seasoning triology. We get a good look at the efforts of the directors and do see how different approaches to the characters worked. But we should remember that these aren't great literature or cinema. As much as some folks want to revere them as great works, it is far easier to see them as "fun".

So, the big question: Should you plunk down the cash and buy these sets? While I wish I had an easy answer for you but that just is not the case. My best advice is to pick and choose what appeals to you. If you have a favorite character or titles, then the disc that has the best content for you might be here.

Check these links for the details on the three volumes:

Looney Tunes Golden Collection - Volume I

Looney Tunes Golden Collection - Volume II

Looney Tunes Golden Collection - Volume III

If you see something that interests you on a particular set, then check out this full list of Looney Tunes DVD titles here and see if it appears on one of those discs as well. You might be better off only buying what you want as many of these recent discs have the restored versions on them. In any case, I would not recommend paying the full retail price for any of the sets. Plenty of places online (including Amazon) have good discounts available and during the holiday shopping season I suspect that even your local retailers will offer them at a bargain price. If you must have them, then definitely buy them where the savings are.

I don't think we have seen the last of these sets. With over a thousand animated short subjects from Warner Brothers, the problem becomes what will make us want to buy more of them. Personally, I hope for better than what we have so far.

With the holidays approaching, it is definitely going to be a difficult time for many people across the country. If you can find a way, do what you can to share with those in need. A donation to a charity in your community will go a long way right now. Everything from the United Way to the Salvation Army to Toys for Tots and more will appreciate your help.

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