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Thursday, May 21, 2015


Anyone who knows what an animation cel is should at least be aware of the classic Warner Brothers theatrical cartoon shorts of the 30s-60s.  If you grew up with them, then chances are that they, along with the equally brilliant MGM cartoons of the same era, are among your all-time favorites. 

And since they were made to entertain both the adults and children in the theater audience with a combination of slapstick absurdity and wry, sophisticated humor, their appeal doesn't diminish with the passage of time.  Indeed, many of them are even more impressive today than ever before.

If nothing else, the Warner Brothers animation department--including such directors as Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Robert McKimson--were a wildly innovative bunch, and this is rarely more evident than in their experimental music-based cartoons.  Some of these, such as "Rabbit of Seville", "One Froggy Evening", and "What's Opera, Doc?", are nothing short of astounding.  With LOONEY TUNES MUSICAL MASTERPIECES, Warner Home Entertainment has collected 18 of these on one DVD which should delight any fan of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

Not only do we get a cross-section of the best WB musical cartoons but also, for most of them, commentary tracks by film historians and in some cases the original directors, animators, etc.  Some also have isolated music and voice tracks. 

The artwork and design of these classic shorts are just as beautiful as ever, from the more lavish, rounded figures and backgrounds of the earlier ones ("I Love to Singa", "Page Miss Glory", "Katnip Kollege", "Rhapsody in Rivets") to the later, more abstract and angular look of the "modern"-era cartoons (the mindboggling "What's Opera, Doc?" and "One Froggy Evening", the jazzy "Three Little Bops").  Even the occasional misfire ("Nelly's Folly", "High Note") is worth a look. 

Old standby characters are called into service and perform brilliantly, with such legendary figures as Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, and Sylvester the Cat ("Back Alley Oproar") proving themselves quite adaptable to the musical format thanks to the voice talents of the great Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan, Stan Freberg, and others.  Warner Brothers musical maestros Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn provide the robust musical backing. 

Bugs is the runaway star here--in addition to "Rabbit of Seville" and "What's Opera, Doc?", he's also at his irreverent best in "Corny Concerto", "Rhapsody Rabbit", and "Hillbilly Hare" with its hilarious square-dance finale.  But the one-shot efforts in which the directors were allowed to experiment most freely ("Pizzicato Pussycat", "Lights Fantastic", "Pigs in a Polka", the delightful "Holiday Shoestrings") are loaded with a warmth and charm all their own. 

The DVD from Warner Home Entertainment is in the original standard format with Dolby English and Spanish mono and English subtitles.  In addition to the various commentary and isolated tracks are the "Behind-the-Tunes" featurettes "It Hopped One Night: A Look at 'One Froggy Evening'", "Wagnerian Wabbit: The Making of 'What's Opera, Doc?'", "Merrie Melodies: Carl Stalling and Cartoon Music", and "Sing-a-Song of Looney Tunes."

Those who grew up with Looney Tunes already know how great they are, but for anyone who has somehow managed to miss out on the wonders of the Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons all these years, LOONEY TUNES MUSICAL MASTERPIECES should be a real eye--and ear--opener. 
Street date: May 26, 2015


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