Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Unremastered Future

It's looking like Warner Brothers will release some single-disc collections of new-to-DVD cartoons next year, but they will not be restored or remastered. If this is so -- and the post I linked is from a very reliable source -- they'll look like the cartoons that are used as filler on classic-movie releases, and the pre-1948 cartoons will presumably have that stupid "dubbed version" logo that Turner added in the '90s.

We know why remastered, Golden Collection-style releases aren't going to happen in the foreseeable future: it costs a lot of money to restore an old film from the original negative, and studios are no longer willing to spend that kind of money. I'm not sure if I see this changing any time soon. One of the things we hear a lot is that the collapse of the classics-on-DVD market is due to the bad economy, but the DVD market was slowing down even before the recession arrived. (I suppose that's usually the case: the businesses most affected by a recession are the ones that were in trouble anyway. What the recession does is take away any wiggle room they might have had.) When/if the economy improves, the home video market will have the same problems it does now, chain stores will still be unwilling to stock classics, and Blu-Ray will still be mostly for recent releases.

The way things are heading is very much in the same direction as the VHS era: classics will be released, but without much money spent on restoring or remastering them (though at least most of them won't be panned and scanned), while cartoons will be released on single-disc compilations rather than in big full-season or multi-disc boxes. If the studios move more strongly toward online streaming, as they've been promising/threatening to do, they'll have to make some classics available -- because they'll have to have a lot of content in order to brag about how much content they have. But again, the economics won't support the kind of expensive, original-elements restoration we took for granted in the first part of the decade. That was a unique, lucky convergence of factors. I'm just glad we got so much stuff in better-than-expected picture quality before the boom ended.

One of the cartoons released on the Bugs disc will be a childhood favorite of mine, "Hare We Go," which looks good even in its "unrestored" version. (There are huge variations in the prints used for post-1948 cartoons; some look very good, some clearly need to have work done on them.) One of the last cartoons made before Warren Foster moved from the McKimson unit to the Freleng unit, it has kind of a late '30s feel to it, complete with a gag lifted from a 1939 Columbus cartoon. Though Bugs already has a sleeker, less ugly look than in the post-'40s McKimsons.

Embedding disabled, but you can watch it here. I recall Greg Duffell saying on alt.animation.warner-bros that this was one of his two favorite McKimsons (along with "Hillbilly Hare," made around the same time as this one).


Brian C said...

Yeah, it's too bad we won't get any new restored cartoons for a while, but at least they're going to be on TV again.

Sort of related to that, do you think that they should show the restored ones in addition to the ones that haven't been yet or just show all the old prints that they've using already?

Anonymous said...

This can't end well. If we've learned anything from the Tom and Jerry debacle is that Warner + unrestored TV prints will = censorship.

If Warner is going to be this tight-wadded, why don't they just license the cartoons out ot Criterion?

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Did you check out the LT marathon Jamie ? It's pretty much what Cartoon Network did in the past, a surplus of Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng and poor prints. Oh well, as long as the kids are watching.

Anonymous said...

"Looney Tunes Super Stars DVDs" with 15 restored cartoons:

"Bugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire DVD":
1.Hare We Go (1951)
2.The Fair-Haired Hare (1951)

"Daffy Duck: Frustrated Fowl DVD":
1.Tick Tock Tuckered (1944)
2.Daffy Doodles (1946)