Friday, August 11, 2006


So here are my descriptions of the cartoons on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 4:

Disc 1 - Bugs Bunny

- Roman Legion-Hare (Friz Freleng, 1955): Bugs and Yosemite Sam in ancient Rome.

- The Grey Hounded Hare (Bob McKimsons, 1949): A particularly dumb and destructive Bugs goes to a dog track and falls in love with the mechanical rabbit. You may remember this one for the crazy names of the dogs ("He steps on Bill's Bunion!")

- Rabbit Hood (Chuck Jones, 1949): Bugs vs. the Sheriff of Nottingham; one of the all-time greats. Greg Duffell's animation breakdown of this short is here.

- Operation: Rabbit (Jones, 1952): Bugs' first and best encounter with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius.

- Knight-Mare Hare (Jones, 1955): Bugs goes back in time to the days of King Arthur. This was one of the first cartoons Jones made after the WB cartoon studio re-opened -- after Jack Warner shut it down for a few months -- and it shows some of those twee, overly-cute tendencies he would develop as the decade wore on; it's a little slow and self-conscious, and Bugs for the first time in a Jones cartoon acts like a world-weary sophisticate.

- Southern Fried Rabbit (Freleng, 1953): Bugs in the Deep South with Yosemite Sam as a guy who is still guarding the border against Yankees ("until I hears from General Lee official").

- Mississippi Hare (Jones, 1949): Bugs vs. Colonel Shuffle, a diminutive Southern colonel who Mike Maltese seems to have envisioned as Jones's answer to Yosemite Sam (he appeared in one more Jones cartoon, with a different voice, then disappeared).

- Hurdy-Gurdy Hare (McKimson, 1951): Bugs vs. an organ-grinder's monkey and his fearsome gorilla father; sort of similar to McKimson's "Gorilla My Dreams," but better, and indeed one of the last of the great McKimson Bugs cartoons (McKimson's Bugs Bunny cartoons from 1946 through 1951 are some of the best ever, with a characterization of Bugs that sort of takes what Clampett was trying to do with the character and does it much better). Famous moment: Bugs's reference to "Petrillo," the head of the musicans' union.

- Sahara Hare (Freleng, 1955): Bugs in the desert, vs. Riff Raff Sam, the Riffiest Riff that ever riffed a raff. ("Yoo-hoo! Mr. A-rab!"). The opening scene re-uses animation from Jones's "Frigid Hare." This is one of those Freleng cartoons that starts great -- with Sam's famously unresponsive camel -- and then kind of loses it in the second half, becoming a series of Road Runner-ish blackout gags where Bugs hardly does anything at all.

- Barbary Coast Bunny (Jones, 1956): Bugs gets swindled by Nasty Canasta and responds by swindling him right back. Most notable for the really terrific Carl Stalling score, which was released on a "Carl Stalling Project" CD and will be available here as an isolated music track. The latter half of the score is like a set of free variations on the Harry Warren song "We're in the Money."

- To Hare is Human (Jones, 1956): Bugs vs. Wile E. Coyote, round 2, with a typically '50s obsession with the new promises and problems of computerization (Wile E. uses a UNIVAC machine to formulate his plans to get Bugs).

- 8 Ball Bunny (Jones, 1950): The second, last and best cartoon pairing Bugs with the unbelievably cute little top-hatted penguin. (When I saw this in a theatre, someone cried out from the audience: "He's so cute!" when the penguin first appeared.) You remember this one for the famous spoof of Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

- Knighty Knight Bugs (Freleng, 1958): Bugs retrieves the Singing Sword from Yosemite Sam as The Black Knight. Nobody knows exactly why this entertaining but standard cartoon was the first and only Bugs cartoon to win an Oscar, except random chance.

- Rabbit Romeo (McKimsons, 1957): Elmer Fudd tries to pair Bugs up with a Slobovian lady rabbit voiced by June Foray.

Disc 2 - Frank Tashlin

- The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937): A terrific, and even a little scary, horror-comedy with Porky and Petunia. Also featuring "That guy in the third row."

- Little Pancho Vanilla (1938): Little Pancho gets a chance at his dream of becoming a bullfighter.

- Little Beau Porky (1936): In the Foreign Legion, Porky battles the nefarious Middle Eastern villain Ali Mode.

- Now That Summer is Gone (1938): A squirrel develops a gambling problem. No, really, that's what it's about.

- Porky in the North Woods (1936): Porky rescues animals from a very mean French-Canadian.

- You're an Education (1938): Another things-come-to-life cartoon, this time the pamphlets in a travel agency.

- Porky's Railroad (1937): Porky as a railroad engineer racing a new, slicker train.

- Plane Daffy (1944): Daffy Duck has to get past the sexy Nazi spy Hatta Mari to deliver an important military secret: "Hitler is a Stinker." One of my top 10 favourite WB cartoons, and a guaranteed killer in a theatrical screening.

- Porky the Fireman (1938): Porky leads a volunteer fire brigade.

- Cracked Ice (1938): Alcoholic pig W.C. Squeals tries to fake falling through the ice to score a free drink from a St. Bernard dog.

- Puss n' Booty (1943): A cat tries to eat the house's new bird. A prototype for the Tweety and Sylvester series; in fact, this cartoon was remade as a Tweety/Sylvester cartoon, which you can see in the accompanying Bugs Bunny Superstar documentary ("I Taw a Putty Tat"). This was also the last WB cartoon in black and white.

- I Got Plenty of Mutton (1944): A wolf tries to get at a flock of sheep by disguising himself as a sexy female sheep, attracting the attention of a horny ram.

- Booby Hatched (1944): A duckling who hasn't fully hatched out of his egg gets into a lot of trouble, some of it involving cartoony dynamite.

- Porky's Poultry Plant (1936): Porky protects his poultry farm from a buzzard. Tashlin's first WB cartoon, and Carl Stalling's first score for the studio.

- The Stupid Cupid (1945): Elmer, as Cupid, shoots Daffy with his arrow and gets him to look for love in all the wrong places. Notable for its extremely stylized movement, with characters moving part of their bodies sideways and back again while the rest of them stays still; also notable because the ending was censored (at the time, not for TV) and appears to have been lost.

Disc 3 - Speedy Gonzales

Okay, I really don't think anything would be served by my trying to describe every one of these things. Suffice it to say that "Cat-Tails For Two" is the debut of Speedy, in a much less cute and merchandising-friendly incarnation; "Mexicali Schmoes" and "Mexican Boarders" are the two with Slowpoke Rodriguez; the last four are the ones from the DePatie-Freleng years (after the WB studio proper had shut down and WB outsourced the making of cartoons to the independent DePatie-Freleng company); and the best cartoons on this disc are "Cat-Tails," "Tabasco Road" and "Mexicali Schmoes." In general I think McKimson's Speedys hold up better than Freleng's, since McKimson gave Speedy and his environment a little more edge -- not much, but a little.

Disc 4 - Cats

- The Night Watchman (Jones, 1938): A cat takes over for his dad as the night watchman, and the mean mice take the opportunity to push him around. Jones's first cartoon as director.

- Conrad the Sailor (Jones, 1940) - Conrad Cat, a short-lived Jones creation, goes up against Daffy Duck. I mostly remember that Conrad spends about half of the cartoon singing "Over the Sea, Let's Go Men" (another Harry Warren song) - this was when Jones' cartoons were very, very slow.

- The Sour Puss (Bob Clampett, 1940) - Porky Pig's cat pursues a wacky flying fish. This was near the end of the period when Clampett was in charge of most of the black-and-white Porky Pig cartoons, and by this point he was hardly featuring Porky in most of those cartoons at all.

- The Aristo-Cat (Jones, 1943) - The debut of Hubie and Bertie the mice, as they play their first mind games on a cat; this is also an example of the stylized backgrounds Jones and layout artist John McGrew were using at this time.

- Dough Ray Me-Ow (Art Davis, 1948) - In a very dark and strange cartoon, a parrot tries to bump off the household cat because he's next in line for the cat's inheritance.

- Pizzicato Pussycat (Freleng, 1955) - A cat tries to take credit for the musical talent of a brilliant, nerdy, piano-playing mouse. This was one of the cartoons Freleng made in 1954-5 to try and imitate the style and tone and look of UPA cartoons, and this is the best of the lot.

- Kiss Me Cat (Jones, 1953): Learning that Pussyfoot the kitten will be thrown out of the house unless he learns to catch mice, Marc Anthony the bulldog tries to teach him to be a mouser.

- Cat Feud (Jones, 1958): Pussyfoot and a re-designed version of Marc Anthony on a construction site; lots of "cute little guy walks along steel beams and almost falls off" gags.

- The Unexpected Pest (McKimson, 1956): Sylvester needs to catch more mice, so he makes a deal with one mouse to keep catching him over and over. Another great Stalling score available as a music-only track.

- Go Fly a Kit (Jones, 1957): The story of a cat raised by birds, who, due to his upbringing, learned to fly by spinning his tale like a propeller. An odd combination of Jones' late-'50s cuteness and the nasty streak that writer Mike Maltese could sometimes exhibit -- the cartoon looks sweet but the gags are pretty cruel to the dog the cat beats up on.

- Kiddin' the Kitten (McKimson, 1952): the lazy cat Dodsworth (Sheldon Leonard) tries to get a gullible kitten to do his work for him.

- A Peck o' Trouble (McKimson, 1953): Dodsworth tries to get someone else to catch a woodpecker for him.

- Mouse and Garden (Freleng, 1960): in one of the best of the later Freleng cartoons -- an Oscar nominee -- Sylvester and his dopey pal Sam (Daws Butler) agree to share a mouse they've caught, and then each one spends the rest of the cartoon trying to get the whole mouse for himself.

- Porky's Poor Fish (Clampett, 1940): When Porky goes out to lunch, a cat attacks his fish store. I don't think Porky's in this one for more than a minute.

- Swallow the Leader (McKimson, 1949): A cat tries to eat swallows on their way to Capistrano.

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