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The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie DVD Review

The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981) movie poster The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie

Theatrical Release: November 20, 1981 / Running Time: 79 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Friz Freleng / Writers: John Dunn, David Detiege, Friz Freleng (story)

Voice Cast: Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, Satan, Rocky, Mugsy, Clarence, Gerry the Idgit Dragon, Sir Osis of Liver, Sir Loin of Beef, Clancy, O'Hara, Cops, Porky Pig, Pepe Le Pew), June Foray (Granny), Frank Nelson, Frank Welker (Lawyer, Interviewer), Stan Freberg (Three Little Bops, Big Bad Wolf), Ralph James (Narrator)

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In 1981, VHS was just taking off. But rather than bringing the popular line of Looney Tunes animated shorts to home video, Warner Bros. sent some of them back to theaters, the place where they once thrived during a prosperous 40-year run.
Since the cartoon short had long been deemed passé, Warner bundled about a dozen of their triumphs from the late-'40s through the early '60s into a package feature film.

The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie actually became the second such beast, coming two years after The Great American Chase (later titled The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie) did essentially the same thing. Even before that, United Artists (who then owned the Looney Tunes library) had experimented with the anthology format on Bugs Bunny: Superstar, an Orson Welles-narrated documentary that mixed director interviews with nine classic cartoons.

After playing a modern WB Family Entertainment logo (updated, of course, for this DVD), the film gets started with 1958's Knighty Knight Bugs. In this, royal jester Bugs defies the odds and has no trouble taking the fabled singing sword away from the Black Knight (Yosemite Sam) and his dragon. It's the only cartoon to practically appear in full, which makes some sense since it is Bugs' only work to receive an Academy Award. The rest of the feature is divided into three distinct acts.

In the Oscar-winning film opener "Knighty Knight Bugs", Bugs Bunny is surprised to see the Black Knight and his mopey dragon. As if Bugs Bunny doesn't give him enough hell already, Yosemite Sam makes multiple visits to the actual netherworld in Act I: Satan's Waitin'.

Act I: Satan's Waitin' deals us a number of battles between Bugs and Yosemite Sam. They compete for the hand of a rich widow (Granny) in Hare Trimmed (1953). Sent back to Roman chariot days, Sam seeks Bugs but winds up wrangling with angry lions in Roman Legion-Hare (1955). The action moves to the desert, as Sahara Hare (1955) has the irate Sam again feebly pursuing the rabbit. Wild and Woolly Hare (1959) lets Bugs stand up to Sam in a Western bar, setting up a potentially head-on train collision.

Act II: The Unmentionables sets aside the differences of Sam and Bugs to tell us of detective Bugs' pursuit of Rocky and his gang. The 1963 "Untouchables" spoof The Unmentionables sets the tone, as Bugs disguises himself as a flapper girl to break up the crime ring. In probably the film's most abrupt jump, the focus turns to Daffy Duck as he claims responsibility for the laying of a golden egg in Golden Yeggs (1950). Upon learning that, Rocky and his boys use their guns to demand more. Then, Catty Cornered (1953) has Sylvester try to rescue a kidnapped Tweety.

Act III: The Oswald Awards presents another gear change. In a scene prescient of Disney's "House of Mouse", the entire Looney Tunes gang gathers for a character awards ceremony. Shorts are screened there, beginning with Three Little Bops (1957), a version of the Three Little Pigs tale centering on a porcine jazz band. Birds Anonymous (1957) finds Sylvester grappling with his Tweety addiction. Another Bugs/Sam showdown features in High Diving Hare (1949). Finally, distraught by his lack of a nomination, Daffy squares off with Bugs in the one-sided and ultimately deadly talent contest of Show Biz Bugs (1957).

Bugs Bunny goes undercover to bust Rocky the undersized gangster in "The Unmentionables." Clarence the Cat reaches out to Sylvester as "Birds Anonymous" is projected for the attendees of Act III's Oswald Awards.

There is quite a bit of original material found here in bridging segments. For instance, the first act creates continuity by borrowing the design of 1963's wrap-around Devil's Feud Cake and having Yosemite Sam sent to Hell, where Satan provides second chances and assignments, setting up the next adventure. Earning his titular status, Bugs Bunny narrates section introductions, which supply some cinematic context while celebrating the brand and specifically Friz Freleng, who directed all the recycled cartoons in addition to the new linking content.
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The legendary Freleng also produced this (and subsequent Looney Tunes compilation films), a fact he makes well known throughout, beginning with a possessive title antecedent.

As should be obvious from the 80-minute runtime and what I've described of the contents, the shorts of Bugs Bunny Movie are simply sampled; there are no credit or title cards and the film unfolds moving from one source to another, somewhat seamlessly. There are even some content-based edits to tone down violence. The piece does find clever ways of revisiting pre-existing animation, like having it exhibited for the gang in Act 3. Still, an uneven feel is inevitable, even within the disparate thirds.

It's not really clear if Bugs Bunny Movie was a success in Warner's eyes. The fact that further package compilations (Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales, Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island) were released to theaters in successive years, even though Looney Tunes began turning up on video in 1982, suggests that goals were met. Certainly, these compilations never enjoyed the attendance levels of Disney's feature film releases (a Cinderella reissue in December of 1981 grossed $28 M), but then, package films have never been an easy sell, their most attractive quality being the minimal costs of assembling already-completed works.

Three and a half years after the first and third Looney Tunes anthology features came to DVD as a 2-disc Movie Collection, Bugs Bunny Movie comes to disc on its own next Tuesday.

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1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English, French, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned
Extras Subtitled in English and Portuguese
Release Date: April 28, 2009
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Black Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Bugs Bunny Movie appears in 1.33:1 fullscreen, which the case defines as the aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. By 1981, the Academy Ratio had largely been abandoned by working filmmakers in favor of wider dimensions, but theaters could have been set up to show older films in the squarer ratio.
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Certainly all of the older cartoons were originally created for 1.37:1 and thus are appropriately displayed here. One can safely assume the new material would have followed suit.

Picture quality isn't the best. Speckles and scratches maintain a fairly regular presence throughout. Some segments are worse for the wear than others, but I doubt that any look as good here as they hopefully do on the Golden Collection DVDs. Understandably and satisfyingly, the bridging content looks the best; its artifacts are far less evident. The film is definitely watchable, but not as clean as one hopes for a major studio work belonging to such an esteemed tradition.

The monaural soundtrack is pretty thin, which doesn't surprise on quickly-produced cartoons that are 50-60 years old. There is slightly better range on the 1980s-created bits, but nothing about the one-channel mix really demands praise or notice.

Daffy Duck tries to illuminate movie theater usher Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny's diversions in 1990's "Box-Office Bunny", one of three new-to-DVD shorts. Buccaneer Sam is none too pleased to find Bugs Bunny atop this treasure chest in "From Hare to Eternity." Foghorn Leghorn shows Pete Puma the puma entrance to the chicken house in the bonus 1997 cartoon "Pullet Surprise."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

For bonus features, the DVD takes the sensible route of dipping into Warner's vast Looney Tunes library and giving us some supplementary shorts.

What makes the selection especially sweet is that all three 1990s inclusions make their DVD debuts here, having originated long after the well-treated classic era. Presented in fullscreen and stereo, these semi-recent works look and sound pretty good, with only a few artifacts spotted.

In Box-Office Bunny (4:56), Bugs pops up at the 100-screen, 24-hour movie theater built above his home. There, usher Elmer Fudd is ready to bust the bunny for his lack of ticket. That's easier said than done, even with Daffy Duck helping Elmer keep up with Bugs' fleet-footed hijinks. This short was theatrically exhibited in 1990 with The NeverEnding Story II.

Yosemite Sam (voiced by '60s Riddler Frank Gorshin) is Buccaneer Sam, a tough ship captain looking for island treasure and finding Bugs Bunny instead in From Hare to Eternity (7:10). Chuck Jones' final Looney Tunes cartoon is dedicated to recently-deceased Friz Freleng. Though Internet sources peg this as a 1996 or 1997 release, I can find no record of this short playing in theaters prior to its July 1998 VHS debut.

Pullet Surprise (6:47) has Foghorn Leghorn (Gorshin) "training" Pete Puma on how to take chickens from a farm. It was released to theaters in 1997 alongside the Turner Entertainment bomb Cat's Don't Dance.

Beyond those, we get trailers (ads) for Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword, "Tiny Toon Adventures": Season 1 Volume 2 & "Freakazoid": Season 2, "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!": Volumes 2 & 3, and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."

The disc's four static menus (which bafflingly don't even include scene selection) keep things simple, recycling the red carpet premiere backdrop of the DVD's cover with different character clip art in front. Some fanfare accompanies the main menu, which is otherwise a straight port of the cover. There are no inserts inside the standard black keepcase.

Guns and cigarettes used to be cartoon staples, as Yosemite Sam and Bugs illustrate in their "Wild and Woolly Hare" saloon standoff. Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny dance together before throwing it down in "Show Biz Bugs." Thanks to consistent wardrobe, this final cartoon of the movie blends with the Oswald Award bits around it.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie is only recommended for Looney Tunes completists and those with a strong personal attachment to this presentation. There's enough neat material exclusive to this movie and DVD that some animation fans will decide it warrants a look. And anyone who'd favor a feature film edit of classic Warner highlights over a more faithful and complete cartoon set should also appreciate it (although the 2-Movie Collection is clearly a better value right now). Otherwise, the Golden and Spotlight Collections should better serve your Warner shorts needs.

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Related Reviews:
Looney Tunes: Warner Bros. Academy Awards Animation Collection • The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries: The Complete First Season
Follow That Bird (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) • The Muppet Movie (Kermit's 50th Anniversary) • Popeye (1980) • The Devil and Max Devlin
The Fox and the Hound (25th Anniversary Edition) • The Chipmunk Adventure • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Friendship Edition)
Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse
New: Walt Disney Animation Collection: Mickey and the Beanstalk • Lilo & Stitch (2-Disc Big Wave Edition)

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Reviewed April 23, 2009.



Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1981 Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.