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"Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 1": Double Dips, But What Good Looking Double Dips!

Looney Tunes has had a few rough years on home video lately. The annual Golden Collections ceased coming in 2008 after the sixth volume, and the only new releases in 2009 were a couple of theatrical compilation films, both of which were mostly made up of cartoons already on DVD. Things improved a tad in 2010 with the four single-disc Super-Stars releases, but two of them were plagued with cropped widescreen picture that (rightfully) upset many fans. Additionally, one of the Super-Stars releases was all double dips. The Looney Tunes Essential line has mostly double dipped as well.

The double dips mostly continue with the first dedicated Blu-ray Looney Tunes release, called “Looney Tunes: Platinum Collection Vol. 1″. But in this case, it’s best to think about the double dips differently. Yes, many of the cartoons on this release have been previously released on DVD, which will vex collectors. That said, this is an entirely new format. It’s not like you’re buying the exact same presentations back. Think of it like the transition from VHS to laserdisc, or laserdisc to DVD. In that sense, the double dips are a bit easier to swallow.

So what is new on the first Platinum release? First up is “Hare-way to the Stars”, which is my favorite Marvin the Martian cartoon, largely thanks to the memorable bird-alien adversaries that Bugs faces, but also because of the abstract space backgrounds and floating red platforms, laid out by Maurice Noble. Yes, it was mostly intact on the DVD of “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie”, but it’s presented here with its original title card. Also new is “Bill of Hare”, a Bugs/Tasmanian Devil short that gets a lot of fun out of how Bugs is able to get out of seemingly inescapable traps. I even listed it as an underrated Bugs short a while back. “Lovelorn Leghorn”, previously only a bonus cartoon on I’ll See You in My Dreams, is restored here, and is one of Foghorn’s finer hours. It’s the first cartoon to pair coy old maid hen Miss Prissy with Foghorn, and has one of the funnier Rube Goldberg-style finales I’ve seen. Similarly, “The Hasty Hare” (another Marvin the Martian entry) was a bonus cartoon on The Hasty Heart, but is fully restored here. “Feline Frame-Up”, a Claude, Marc Antony, and Pussyfoot cartoon where Marc the dog is kicked out of the house (a frame job by Claude the adult cat) is also new, and offers some great slapstick as Marc keeps breaking into the house to pummel Claude. Finally, “A Witch’s Tangled Hare”–a Bugs/Witch Hazel cartoon that works in numerous Shakespeare references–makes its debut as well. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s fun.

The rest of discs 1 and 2 are repeats from the Golden Collections or the Super-Stars line, albeit with superior Blu-ray picture quality. Such well-known classics as “Rabbit of Seville”, “What’s Opera, Doc?”, “One Froggy Evening”, “Duck Amuck”, and “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” are present. As with the Golden Collections, the discs go by “themes”; disc 1 starts out with eight Bugs cartoons, then shifts to Daffy for six cartoons, followed by a smattering of Porky, Sylvester & Tweety, Road Runner, and one Speedy Gonzales and Pepe Le Pew cartoon each. Disc 2 has a series of one-shots, four of them music-themed (such as “I Love to Singa” and “Katnip Kollege”), but quickly veers back to recurring character territory by containing the complete filmographies of Marvin the Martian, Taz, Witch Hazel, daydreaming boy Ralph Phillips, and most of Marc Antony and Pussyfoot (it’s missing “Cat Feud” for some reason).

Speaking of reused material, discs 1 and 2 include optional audio commentaries (featuring animation industry individuals and historians, and even a few people who worked on the original cartoons, like June Foray) on most of the cartoons, and many were previously heard on the Golden Collections. Seven new commentaries appear for “Baseball Bugs”, “Buccaneer Bunny”, “Rabbit of Seville”, “Scaredy Cat”, “I Love to Singa”, “Chow Hound”, and “Boyhood Daze”, all by Eric Goldberg. The commentaries are at their best when Eric says who animated what, or reveals the origins of obscure jokes. His announcing what’s happening on screen isn’t nearly as illuminating. Most of the music-only audio tracks are the same as previous releases, although four new ones appear, for “Hare-way to the Stars”, “Ducking the Devil”, “A Witch’s Tangled Hare”, and “Feline Frame-Up”. As always, these tracks are a great way to listen to geniuses Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn. Rounding things up are numerous featurettes (ex: “It Hopped One Night: The Story Behind ‘One Froggy Evening’”), which are also recycled from the Golden Collections. However, there are three new featurettes: One about Marvin the Martian, which runs 14 minutes, one on Taz, which runs 11 minutes, and one on Ralph Phillips, which runs 6 minutes. All have interviews from many of the same people on the recently-released Tom and Jerry: Golden Collection release’s special features, such as Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler, Eric Goldberg, and Michael Mallory, among others. They’re worth a watch.

Disc 3 is all special material, and again, most of it is reused from previous DVDs. What’s new? “Father of the Bird”, a Sylvester short which only got a limited theatrical release in L.A. It’s well-animated, but not particularly funny. Sylvester is too talky here, which doesn’t help. Also new is “Museum Scream”, which fares better than “Father”; it’s an unreleased 2003 Sylvester & Tweety short taking place in, what else, a museum. Its animation is stiffer than the old shorts, but it makes up for it with a lot of creative gags and a faithful tone. It also has a really fast-paced, well-storyboarded finale. In terms of really rare, though, you’ll want to check out “Marvin the Martian in the 3rd Dimension”, a 3D short which only played at certain theme parks. In truth, the short isn’t anything special (it’s just another Duck Dodgers outing except in 3D), but for novelty’s sake, its inclusion is definitely appreciated. “A Hitch in Time”, a war-themed short once thought to be lost, also debuts, and its restoration is fantastic. Interestingly, its educational content (demonstrating the pros to military life versus civilian life) is very similar to another pro-military short, “90 Day Wondering”. Finally, Ken Mundie’s “The Door” is also new. It’s an independent short co-produced by Bill Cosby and has nothing to do with Looney Tunes, but since it was released by Warner Bros., it is included here. While I don’t care for the short itself (it seems pretentious at times, and it sounds like it was recorded in a tin can), its restoration is great and certainly an improvement over the crappy prints circulated on the internet for years. In that sense, I’m glad it was included.

Chuck Jones hogs the spotlight on disc 3, with “Chuck Amuck: The Movie”, “Chuck Jones: Extremes & In-Betweens, A Life in Animation”, “Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood”, and “A Greeting From Chuck Jones” available for viewing. He also directed the majority of cartoons on disc 3, with “Point Rationing of Foods”, “Hell Bent For Election” (a short Jones directed at UPA), “So Much For So Little”, “A Hitch in Time”, “90 Day Wondering”, “Drafty, Isn’t It?”, a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” pencil test, “The Dot and the Line” (an MGM short), “The Bear That Wasn’t” (ditto; adapted from a book by former Looney Tunes director Frank Tashlin), “Spaced Out Bunny”, “Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th 1/2 Century”, “Another Froggy Evening”, “Superior Duck”, and “From Hare to Eternity” all his work. Look, I love Chuck Jones and (most) of his cartoons, but there’s such a thing as getting burned out on one director’s stuff, and he wasn’t the only one who produced entertaining cartoons at Termite Terrace. Hopefully with volume 2, they vary the praise a bit more.

Another complaint with disc 3? The bonus shorts vary highly in picture quality. Some look great (“A Hitch in Time”, “The Bear That Wasn’t”, “The Dot and the Line”, “Superior Duck”, “Museum Scream”), while others are obviously sourced from inferior prints and have jaggies aplenty (“Another Froggy Evening” and “From Hare to Eternity” both look atrocious, and “Marvin the Martian in the 3rd Dimension” is unfortunately presented in non-anamorphic aspect ratio. Why?). Yes, I’m aware that many of the bonus cartoons on previous Golden Collections weren’t restored, so there’s some precedent, but it’s disappointing that for a brand new format, there couldn’t be a change in “policy”. Oh well, at least the main shorts on disc 1 and 2 look fine, and all are presented in Academy ratio, the way they were created. There’s no cropped widescreen stuff here, thankfully.

The set is being sold in both regular and limited edition packaging. I received the limited edition version, which is housed in a larger box than I was anticipating. The spine is 3 1/4 inches long, so it takes up a decent amount of space on my shelf. The box art is great, though, with the inside background a collage of numerous lobby cards (that is, drawings on display in theaters). The discs are housed in a hard cover, deluxe color digibook that features more lobby cards, artwork, a few introductory pages on why the Looney Tunes are so enduring and part of our heritage, and a synopsis of each cartoon on the set. Disc 2 overlaps disc 3, but luckily it’s very easy to get all three discs out of their holders. No Back to the Future or Star Wars: The Complete Saga nonsense here, where you need directions on how to remove them, or you risk scratching the discs every time you do. This edition comes with a fridge magnet of Bugs and Daffy (Daffy dressed in a Bugs disguise), a color lithograph cel of Tweety, Porky, Daffy, Sylvester, Elmer, and Bugs marching down the street, and a shot glass. The last one isn’t my thing, but it’s there for those who, I dunno, want to make a drinking game out of how many times Bugs says “What’s up, doc?”.

Would I recommend “Looney Tunes: Platinum Collection, Vol. 1″? If you’ve never bought Looney Tunes on home video, the answer is an obvious yes. The picture restoration is great (aside from some bonus shorts), there’s a ton of bonus material that will keep you occupied for hours, and many of the shorts are entertaining and well-animated, even to this day. And it’s obvious this Platinum line is the future of Looney Tunes on home video. If you’ve been a die hard collector since day one, the answer gets a little trickier. It really all comes down to how badly you want the new-to-video material, and how big of a ratio of new vs. rehashed you’re willing to accept. Speaking personally, there were a few on here that I wanted, so I’m glad to have the set, but I know others have no interest in owning the same cartoon twice, despite that these are on a new format. Your mileage may vary.

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