It’s hard to review the third Looney Tunes Platinum Collection release without addressing the genuine possibility that this may be the last Looney Tunes Blu-ray release for a long time. Between gradually declining sales with each volume, the market shifting away from Blu-ray to digital, and Warner Bros.’s reluctance to devote much of their budget to classic animation restoration due to those two factors, it seems unlikely that we’ll get very much more new-to-Blu-ray content in the near future. Warner Bros. may recycle previously-released shorts in a new package, but the days of discs full of brand new shorts are over. Which is a shame, because roughly half of the Looney Tunes filmography is still unaccounted for on DVD and Blu-ray and this new Platinum Collection doesn’t offer much new to home video, mostly consisting of double dips from DVD (albeit good-looking high def double dips).
What is new? “Life With Feathers,” the first Sylvester cartoon (where he’s harassed by a suicidal lovebird), and “Tree For Two,” a short where two thug dogs, Spike and Chester, chase Sylvester while a wild panther is on the loose. Yes, most of the cartoon was featured as part of the compilation film Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island, but here it’s completely intact. “Honey’s Money,” a 1962 short where Yosemite Sam marries a battle-axe for her inheritance but has to deal with her oafish son, was previously released on VHS, but makes its disc debut here (with optional audio commentary by Jerry Beck and June Foray). And “Beep Prepared,” while previously being a bonus cartoon on the DVD release of “Splendor in the Grass,” is fully restored here and looks (and sounds) fantastic.
There are also a couple of new special features, most notably a 33-minute documentary called “That’s All Folks! Stories From Termite Terrace,” which consists of archive interview footage with Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng (and others). It’s an unfortunately fitting name, and the closing montage, produced by historian Greg Ford, has a certain “finality” to its execution. There are also a couple of new audio tracks for “Satan’s Waitin'” and “Nelly’s Folly;” the former is a music-only audio track, while “Folly” has some rehearsal vocals.
Other than that, everything else on this set is a double dip from various previous Golden Collections or other DVD releases. Certain shorts have been remastered for high definition (as Warner Bros. didn’t initially restore the Golden Collection Vol. 1 shorts in high def), and there are a couple shorts which are upgrades from their DVD versions (for instance, “Gorilla My Dreams” is DVNR-free, and “Canary Row” has its original title sequence restored), but otherwise you won’t see much new here. To be fair, this is an entirely different home video format, so it’s not like you’re getting the exact same picture quality as DVD, but when you get right down to it, you’re still paying again for much of the same content.
One thing I definitely appreciate about this third volume is that it highlights more directors than Chuck Jones, whose work was heavily featured in the first two Platinum Collections. Don’t get me wrong, I love Chuck Jones’ cartoons, but he wasn’t the only one producing great cartoons at Warner Bros, and it’s only fair to shine the spotlight on Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Frank Tashlin, Art Davis, and Robert McKimson. For my money, the most entertaining shorts on this volume include “Slick Hare,” where Elmer accidentally crosses Humphrey Bogart while chasing Bugs through a nightclub kitchen; “High Diving Hare,” the classic “Bugs vs. Sam” short with high diving act mischief; “The Stupor Salesman,” where door-to-door Daffy tries to sell his wares to a fugitive criminal in a remote shack; “High Note,” a mime-and-music-only cartoon that stars a group of music notes and makes creative use of its environment; “Satan’s Waitin’,” one of the most sublime Sylvester and Tweety cartoons ever made, with Sylvester trying not to use up his nine lives (thus giving the short some dramatic stakes that many others in the series lack); “Birds Anonymous,” a dead-on parody of Alcoholics Anonymous with some memorable scenes (love Sylvester unable to sleep because all he can think about is devouring Tweety!); “Nasty Quacks,” a riotous Daffy cartoon where he faces off against a corpulent father; “Porky Pig’s Feat,” where Porky and Daffy try to escape a hotel without paying the absurdly expensive bill; and “Hillbilly Hare,” with the famous promenade scene. Really, there are no weak cartoons on this set, but the above are some of my personal favorites.
If I had to give a nitpick to the Platinum line (this release included), aside from the high amount of double dips, it’s the menu presentation. I miss the Golden Collections days, when the menus showcased pictures from the shorts included and had a classy feel. The bland clip art background used here isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, they keep playing the Looney Tunes theme over and over until you select a short, which is patently unnecessary. I love that song but I don’t need to hear it start over every fifteen seconds.
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 3 is an easy recommendation when solely reviewing its content: You get fifty classic, remastered cartoons and a lot of bonus features. However, it’s disappointing that there is very little “new” here for those who have been collecting the Golden Collection DVDs from the beginning. That said, at the risk of sounding like a shill, I will say this: the future of new-to-Blu-ray/DVD Looney Tunes shorts is dependent on sales, so if you want Warner Bros to reconsider its scaling back on this iconic property, buying the Platinum Collection line couldn’t hurt. It’s a quality package; I just wish it offered more new material.
(High-definition screencaps courtesy of Looney Tunes HD Captures)