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Looney Tunes - Golden Collection, Volume Two Disk 2

Before I continue, I should mention two things:

1. First, I had neglected to take a look at the early Harman-Ising cartoon, Sinkin' In The Bathtub (which was the very first Looney Tune) and write a review for it. Although the packaging lists this cartoon as being included on Disc 4, in the "From the Vaults" section of the extra features, it has actually been left out of the compilation. I found out recently that this was done, unfortunately, because of space limitations. Hopefully this cartoon will be included in the next volume of LTGC.

2. Second, I had neglected to mention the classic Clampett short, Porky In Wackyland (1938), which is contained on Disc 3. The short, as presented here, has the original titles intact but is not as clean-looking as it could be. The visual quality is not too bad--a few light scratches and specks here and there, but I saw a better-quality 35mm print that was struck several years ago for a retrospective program on Bob Clampett. It looks as though the present remastering was done from an existing archival print rather than from the original negative, but I can't be absolutely certain about that.

Let us now turn our attention to Disc 2...

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3. This disc is almost entirely devoted to cartoons featuring the Road-Runner and Wile E. Coyote. The very first Road-Runner cartoon, Fast And Furry-Ous, was featured on the first volume of LTGC and was presented in a stunning new transfer. The second cartoon in the series, Beep, Beep, is no less visually appealing. Mike Barrier's comments on the alternate audio track are revealing.

For instance, we learn that the Road-Runner's trademark utterance was created not by vocal artist Mel Blanc, but rather by background artist, Paul Julian (who substituted for Peter Alvarado on this production.) Julian reportedly used to make a "Mweep-Mweep" vocal sound whenever he roamed the corridors of the WB studio--in order to alert the others that he was approaching.

Compare this story with the one provided by Mel Blanc in his autobiography, "That's Not All, Folks: My life in Cartoons and Radio" (co-written by Philip Bashe.) According to Blanc, the first Road-Runner cartoon utilized an electric car horn (called a claxon) for the sounds of the desert bird. Somehow that device got misplaced in the interval between production on the first cartoon and that of the second. Blanc continues that he was approached (either by Chuck Jones or Treg Brown) and asked if he could vocally replicate the unique sound of the claxon. He apparently could, and recorded it only once; the film loop was reused over and again for each subsequent production. I have read other accounts of the first story involving Julian, and it seems to me the more plausible.

4. The other Road-Runner cartoons on this disc look and sound just as good; and I, for one, am thankful that so many of them include music-only tracks. The music-only track for There They Go-Go-Go has amazing fidelity for a mono recording. It was featured on the first volume of the Carl Stalling Project Audio CD, released in the early '90's.

Watching these cartoons in succession allows one to witness the gradual changes in visual stylings as the series progressed. The first cartoons utilized standard (for the period) backgrounds. Later on Layout Artist Maurice Noble began to employ more stylized backgrounds--which were often flat fields of color with a plateau here, and a cactus there. In addition, as the series progressed there was a codification of the disciplines (or "rules") that governed each subsequent cartoon. For example, anything that befell the coyote in these cartoons was of his own doing; the cartoons always took place in the desert; etc. Some of these stylistic changes may be seen to good effect in Stop! Look! And Hasten!

5. One of the extra features on Disc 2 is the complete version of the television pilot, Adventures of The Road Runner. Excerpts of this extended short were featured in Volume 1, as part of the Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons segment. Unfortunately, the clips derived from a badly faded and scratched film print. Therefore the visual quality of this restored version is all the more appreciated. Granted, there are still some scratches remaining, but the colors are brighter. I noticed that the Ralph Phillips cartoon, From A To Z-Z-Z-Z is of somewhat better quality than the linking material. Perhaps a newer print was substituted for the original at that point in the segment.

6. There is one other thing I have noticed. It is, of course, of no real consequence; but not one of the Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoons that I have ever seen displays either the "RCA Sound Recording" or "Western Electric: The Voice of Action" logo in their title cards. MGM Cartoons (after the early 30's), the Fleischer Studio, and Columbia utilized the Western Electric (later "Westrex" Perspecta Sound) system, while Disney, UPA, Harman-Ising, Famous Studios, Walter Lantz, and Terrytoons utilized the RCA system.

The RCA logo is displayed in The Adventures of the Road-Runner and in the end credits for The Bugs Bunny Show. I'm not certain why this is; I can only surmise that Warner Bros. utilized their own sound recording system for the theatrical cartoons. I know that they perfected the "Vitaphone" process--which incorporated a synchronous sound-on-disc format--in the mid-1920's. This resulted in the world's first (partially) talking picture, The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson.

7. Other cartoons featured on Disc 2 include a restored version of the Chuck Jones classic (one that was ahead of its time), The Dover Boys At Pimento University or The Rivals Of Roquefort Hall. The first time I saw this cartoon was in a scratchy, faded 16mm print at a local independent cinema. Subsequent TV presentations were always so dark and lacking in contrast that one couldn't read without squinting the title of the book, "Handbook of Useful Information", that Dan Backslide pulls out of his pocket. Happily, the colors are much brighter in this restoration and printed words (in the titles and elsewhere) are much more legible than before.
8. Mouse Wreckers also boasts a cleaner overall image. This cartoon has a truncated ending. The original ending, according to Mike Barrier, had Claude Cat climbing down the chimney of the house now occupied by Hubie and Bertie and being set on fire. Apparently this irked the censors, so that ending was cut at the last minute and we see the cartoon fade out on the two mice as they roast marshmallows in front of the fireplace.
9. The one true anomaly that I found on Disc 2 was in the cartoon, A Bear For Punishment. It is only noticeable if one plays the cartoon again with the alternate music and SFX audio track. First of all, this cartoon was originally produced (in 1950) and released (in 1951) theatrically as part of the "Looney Tune" series. In the late 1950's it was re-released as a "Blue Ribbon" Merrie Melodie cartoon, but the original Looney Tune beginning and end title music cues were retained. To add further to the confusion; this restored print not only retains the "Blue Ribbon" title cards, but the Looney Tunes music cue at the beginning of the cartoon is not even the one that was in use circa 1951--the later orchestration by Milt Franklyn has been substituted instead! Again this may not be noticeable unless one listens to the alternate audio track. Not only is there a marked difference in the orchestration, but also in the ambience of the recorded sound. One can even hear a difference in microphone placement. In the late 1950's, the Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra had been greatly augmented, and the recording sessions were transferred to a larger and more acoustically-resonant sound stage. You can clearly hear the difference. One wonders why the original opening music cue and title card wasn't used. Even if the original WB logo for that particular production couldn't have been found, they could have substituted one form another Looney Tune cartoon from the same period and simply inserted the correct production number at the bottom of the concentric circles.

In any event this is a very funny short; the highlight of which is Mama Bear's riotous "buck-and-wing" dance number as animated by Ken Harris.

As for the other features on Disc 2, I will reserve my comments about The Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special, since it is split between two discs, for the final installment of my overall review.

I will close out here by saying that the segment on Treg Brown (Crash, Bang, Boom!) was informative, to a degree. Most of what is said about Treg Brown in that segment I have read before. It would have been nice if the producers had included more information or visual/aural demonstrations on how Brown achieved certain sound effects (ones that he didn't record "live" in the field.)

See you next week!

A Review by zavkram
First Published on December 2, 2004

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