Thursday, August 04, 2011

Looney Tunes Continue to Appear In Physical Media

TV Shows on DVD has the complete contents for the Looney Tunes Blu-Ray set.

It seems like an uneasy combination of a best-of set and a family-oriented nostalgia release: the first disc and the first part of the second disc are mostly made up of all-time favorites (covering most of the major characters and most of the major directors except Tashlin), while the rest of the second disc consists of the complete cartoons for a number of post-1948 characters: Marvin the Martian, Tasmanian Devil, Mark Anthony and Pussyfoot. This is where most of the new-to-DVD cartoons appear, since the bulk of Marvin and Taz's cartoons were held back from previous DVD releases, and "Feline Frame-Up" was never on DVD. (If "Cat Feud" counts as a Mark Anthony/Pussyfoot cartoon, then this disc doesn't have their complete adventures. But "Cat Feud" already appeared on one of the Golden Collection DVDs.) So it's mostly a high-def sampler of the DVD contents, but there are some cartoons and featurettes that suggest what we'd have gotten if the Golden Collections had continued. There's also one cartoon on disc one, "Lovelorn Leghorn," that wasn't on the other sets.

I'll buy the set. I think cartoons, properly presented, can really gain a lot from the high-def presentation. I worry that some of Warners' Blu-Rays have been inferior to the DVD versions, with too much tinkering and over-saturation apparently applied to increase the "wow" factor. (Artificially brightening All the President's Men, which is was never intended to look spectacular, probably creates the illusion that Blu-Ray is making it look different somehow.) Except for the ones that had DVNR, I was generally happy with the restorations of the Looney Tunes -- the colors weren't always the same as in the prints we're used to, but those prints don't always tell the story of how the films were supposed to look. But if the color saturation is increased for Blu-Ray, they'll look wrong.

It would be nice if for the Blu-Ray, WB could fix some of the things that were wrong with the earlier releases: "Rabbit of Seville" (along with a few other cartoons that aren't on this set) used a soundtrack that seemed to be pitched too low. And several other cartoons used the "Blue Ribbon" openings where original openings exist ("For Scentimental Reasons," "Scarlet Pumpernickel," "Fast and Furry-ous.") I don't hold out hope that these things will be repaired for high-def, but if they were, that would be an inducement to buy these cartoons again.

Whether there will be other sets beyond this one (and the Tom and Jerry set coming out before that), or whether this is just the last gasp for physical media, I don't know. Old films don't sell well on Blu-Ray. There was a time when the same could be said about DVD, but the difference there was that DVD eventually entered most homes, and fans of old movies started to buy them in that format. Blu-Ray is not as big an advance over DVD as DVD was over VHS. People who had movies on VHS would (and did) buy the DVD to get them in better quality copies and in the original widescreen format (though that doesn't apply to Looney Tunes; I certainly hope there won't be any cropped widescreen versions in this set). Those same people still have those DVDs, and they're not worn out yet, and the Blu-Ray versions are usually taken from the same prints that were used for the DVDs. I have to say that I see these collectors waiting for more non-physical options rather than Blu-Ray.


Ryan said...

It's too bad old films haven't sold all that well on Blu-Ray. I've found that older titles, particularly black and white ones, really benefit from the High-Def treatment. They seem to "pop" in a way newer titles don't.

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