Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: A big bunch of Looney Tunes (part 1)

In Australia, they never bothered to release the Looney Tunes "Golden Collection" sets. What they did instead, was release the first two sets in single disc form, then release a weird, bastardised version of the third set in single disc form, but with all the special features removed and a bunch of the cartoons missing. I have only just gotten around to buying the proper third set, and so will be going through quite a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons over the coming weeks.

Hare Force (1944, directed by Friz Freleng): - decent Bugs Bunny cartoon, with Bugs fighting a dog named Sylvester over who gets to sleep next to an old lady's fireplace on a cold winter's night. My only real problem with the cartoon is the disparity between the dog's voice and the dog's actions - he is actually a decent rival for Bugs, tough and clever and street-smart, but he is voiced like Lenny from Of Mice and Men - he has that typical Looney Tunes 'retard' voice, and seeing a character with that voice holding his own against Bugs is... weird. It's as if Friz Freleng decided to use that voice before any of the script was written, and when the dog was changed into a worthy adversary, he just went, "eh, fuck it" and kept it the same.

Hare Remover (1945, directed by Frank Tashlin): - I have always hated this cartoon. That first shot of Elmer Fudd, when his cheeks look like two giant goiters dancing on the sides of his face, always revolted me, and I've never really been able to pay attention after that. There are a few funny jokes, but... ewww... [shudder]

Hare Tonic (1945, directed by Chuck Jones) : - This cartoon always makes me think of Elmer's Candid Camera and Elmer's Pet Rabbit, two terrible caroons directed by Chuck Jones, both of which ostensibly star Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, but made at a time when neither of those two characters were, you know, good. The reason Hare Tonic makes me think of those two terrible cartoons, is because this is the first cartoon directed by Jones to use the Fudd-Bugs dynamic properly. Here, Jones had finished with the irritating voices, all-too-cutesy drawing style and deathly pacing that marked his films of a few years earlier, and had started using things like good jokes and funny drawings. Hare Tonic isn't perfect, but it is a massive step up from what came before.

A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947, Friz Freleng): - I don't understand the point of the framing device of this cartoon. Normally these fake "Hollywood biography" cartoons are a series of blackout gags, linked by the narration. I understand the point of the framing devices in those cartoons - it holds the thing together. Here, the actual cartoon is one long uninterrupted chunk of story, but before it begins and after it ends we get a bunch of basically unrelated... stuff. Not a bad cartoon or anything, just strangely formatted.

Easter Yeggs (1947, Robert McKimson): - I like how much of a dick everyone is in a McKimson cartoon. The Easter Rabbit is a lazy douche who tricks Bugs into delivering Easter eggs, the little kid is a hideous monster, and Elmer Fudd is a guy who is actually trying to kill, cook and eat the Easter Rabbit. The only character who starts off the cartoon as basically a good person (or anthropomorphic rabbit, or whatever), Bugs, ends the cartoon by blowing up the Easter Bunny. There's also some very, very funny animation in this cartoon - when Bugs is angrilly skipping and singing, "here's the Easter Rabbit, hooray!" through clenched teeth, it is basically impossible not to laugh.

The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (1942, Friz Freleng): - I really don't like this period's design of Elmer. The additional heft just makes him seem more pathetically lovable, and so when Bugs Bunny is super-mean to him for no real reason you just sort of feel bad, rather than thinking it's funny.

Bowery Bugs (1949, Art Davis): - I don't like Art Davis as a director. He doesn't really seem to be able to tell what's funny and what isn't, so he just piles an avalanche of unfunny gags on, until they become numbing. Sometimes there will be a funny joke, and when that happens you do laugh, but more often than not it is a confusing and disorienting experience. His visual style is interesting, but only in a slightly horrifying, ugly kind of a way. That said, this is one of his better cartoons, with some genuinely funny moments. But it still just doesn't... feel right.

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