Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Understand This Terrible New Road Runner Disc

I've sort of given up on Warner Bros. DVD releases of its cartoons: I accept that we're not going to get much of value until a) Blu-Ray becomes popular enough to spawn some Looney Tunes collections in that format, or b) That elusive Censored 11 set finally becomes a reality. (There's also online streaming, but frankly, while I want to see more older material in that format, I want to own good-quality copies, and always will. But that's another post.) But I had to say something about This Road Runner/Coyote DVD they're releasing, where the selection is so bad that it seems like a joke. And, who knows, maybe it'll turn out to be another list of cartoons that was prematurely leaked, except the corrected version almost always turns out to be worse than the leaked list.

Update: The list has been confirmed as real. Good lord.

Anyway, the list that TV Shows On DVD has consists entirely of Road Runner cartoons from after the original studio shut down, meaning: Rudy Larriva shorts, made-for-the-web cartoons (the "New 2010 Roadrunner" ones), Chuck Jones' two TV cartoons, Larry Doyle's Road Runner opus, and finally the two that I can actually enjoy watching again, "Chariots of Fur" and "Little Go Beep."

The conspiracy theorist in me wants to think that this is a way of making the upcoming "Looney Tunes Show" look good by comparison -- if kids are watching these cartoons, the CGI Road Runners Cartoon Network is preparing will look brilliant. I should add that I have no idea how good or bad "The Looney Tunes Show" will be, and wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be all right. Point is, it would still look worse by comparison with a bigger-budget pre-1964 cartoon.

The sensible side of me just thinks that maybe they're still hoping to save the "real" cartoons for when the home video market comes back. Or that this batch of cartoons was put together before the home video department agreed to include fullscreen options for the cartoons, and that the Larrivas were considered more "expendable" when it comes to cutting off the top and bottom. I don't know. I just know it's not much of a list.

One thing: though the Larriva years are evidence to the contrary, later on it seems like Road Runner cartoons managed to achieve adequacy more often than other types of Looney Tunes revival cartoons. "Chariots of Fur," which kicked off the series of Chuck Jones Productions cartoons, isn't up to the pre-1964 cartoons but is one of Jones' better late films. "Little Go Beep" turned out to be perhaps the best of the Kathleen Helppie-Shipley productions, and even "Whizzard of Ow" is one of the more tolerable Larry Doyle shorts. Maybe because the formula is so simple, or because it's one of the few series that doesn't lose anything from Mel Blanc's death, Road Runners seem to be the easiest to make in an acceptable way.


wcdixon said...

Thanks for this heads up, as much as it pains me to read. Why do they release this stuff...who thinks it's good, or a good idea?

Anonymous said...

The Road Runner formula is fool proof and low budget proof, except as practiced by De Patie-Freleng.

Anonymous said...

or, rather Format Films proof.

I get the sinking feeling that the recession was the excuse Warner's top brass needed to wrestle control of the Looney Tunes away from George Feltenstein's camp, so they'd be able to do these kinds of discs with the Family Division. Hell, the selection seems to be revenge against the complaints of the cropped Bugs and Daffy discs; hence this concerted "F*** you" towards LT fans everywhere.

J Lee said...

There has to be deliberate planning in leaving out not only all of the final series of Chuck Jones' Road Runner shorts, but the two D-FE period ones cobbled together from the "Adventures of the Road Runner" pilot, and the first Bob McKimson RR, "Rushing Roulette", which IMHO, is the best of the post-Jones efforts.

You don't go to all that trouble to put the dreck of the series on DVD unless you're either trying to see how low you can go with the video buying public, or if you're just trying to get the worst of the series out of the way, so it doesn't have to show it's face on any future Looney Tunes DVDs.

Don said...

It seems the lineup for this little gem has changed. Chuck Jones's pair of made-for-TV shorts are out, along with the three webtoons. In their place we get two more Rudy Larriva's and three CGI shorts from last year.

To anonymous: All of the "classic animation" Warner owns is controlled by the Family Division, the Looney Tunes included, and always has been. They've cooperated with Feltenstein in letting him work with the material, but, sad to say, it doesn't actually fall under his jurisdiction.