Review by KC Carlson
Now on DVD for the first time, The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie was originally released in 1981. It’s a compilation film of several Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from the classic era (most are from the 1950s). Since the first WB-produced compilation film of this era — 1979’s The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie — featured the cartoons of director Chuck Jones, this second collection features the work of the other major director of this era, the great Friz Freleng (still living when this was made).
The main portion of the film is divided into three sections. Following a prologue, the complete 1958 Oscar-Winning Knighty Knight Bugs, Act I begins a section entitled Satan’s Waitin’. It features several Yosemite Sam cartoons loosely linked together with new footage showing Sam bargaining with the devil for chance after chance at a new life, basically to capture Bugs. Cartoons in this section include Hare Trimmed (1953), Sahara Hare (1955), Roman Legion-Hare (1955) and Wild and Wooly Hare (1959). Some of these cartoons were reused in the wrap-around cartoon Devil’s Feud Cake (1962), then reused and expanded as an episode of The Bugs Bunny Show, and then reused again for this sequence.
If you were to attempt to apply comic book-type continuity to the Warner’s cartoons — surely the epitome of frustration and uselessness — the “Sam keeps getting sent back by the devil” bit sure helps to explain all of Sam’s various guises over the years (cowboy, Roman Centurion, arab sheik, knight, etc.). But not why Bugs seems to be several thousands of years old. Hmmm.
Act II is called The Unmentionables (after the 1963 cartoon) and features a series of cartoons starring Rocky and Mugsy, Warner’s inept but hysterically funny mobsters. Their adventures star Bugs Bunny (the title cartoon), Daffy Duck and Porky Pig (Golden Yeggs, 1950), and Tweety and Sylvester (Catty Cornered, 1953). There is some linking animation expanding on The Unmentionables, featuring Bugs as crime fighter Elegant Mess.
Act III, the longest and strongest of the three sections is called The Oswalds, which depicts an award ceremony (based on the Oscars) for cartoon characters. The award nominations include Friz’s musical tour de force The Three Little Bops (1957), featuring music by jazz composed Shorty Rogers and a marvelous vocal performance by Stan Freberg, who was doing similar musical parodies during this time frame in his “other life” as a satirical comedian. Also included is Birds Anonymous (1957), a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon that was another Academy Award Winner for Freleng; the classic Bugs vs. Sam cartoon High Diving Hare (1948) (“Great horny toads! What are ya doin’ down there upside-downy?”); and the influential Bugs and Daffy battle Show Biz Bugs (1957), which served as the template for The Bugs Bunny Show, the 1960 prime-time TV series. This was the heavily censored cartoon which depicts Daffy drinking gasoline, nitroglycerin, gunpowder, and uranium-238 before striking a match (“Girls, you better hold on to your boyfriends”) and swallowing it. This cartoon also includes the famous and much-used xylophone gag, also often censored. I guess this was censored by parent groups who feared children using nitroglycerin, uranium-238, dynamite, and xylophones (all common in households back then) in the wrong way.
Almost all of the included cartoons have been somewhat edited (although not necessarily for content — the above-mentioned xylophone and uranium-238 gags are intact), so this is not really a release for the serious collector, unless you want it for the “new” linking footage. Reportedly, that’s some of the last footage produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (best known for the Pink Panther shorts, but also primarily responsible for much of the new footage of the Warner characters used in commercials and TV specials as well as some of the 1960s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Trivia-wise, they also animated the title sequence for the I Dream of Jeannie TV series).
I personally think this is a great cartoon feature for the kids (unless as a parent you have problems with cartoon depictions of the Devil and Hell, as well as classic Warners-style gunfire, explosions, and other cartoony violence). Apparently, the MPAA agrees with me (for once), as this release is rated G. Running time for the feature is 80 minutes.
Also included as Bonus Features are three post-classic era WB cartoons: Box-Office Bunny (1990), From Hare to Eternity (1996), and Pullet Surprise (1997). These may be the actual bait for the collector, as some of them are making their DVD debut. Box Office Bunny was the first theatrical Bugs Bunny cartoon release since 1964; it’s also notable for being the first Bugs cartoon not to be voiced by Mel Blanc (who died in 1989). Jeff Bergman voices Bugs here. From Hare to Eternity, a Bugs vs. Yosemite Sam cartoon, would turn out to be the last cartoon directed by Chuck Jones. Ironically, it was a tribute to Friz Freleng (Sam’s creator and inspiration, as the character is largely based on Freleng’s personality) who had passed away the year before. Pete Puma fans (and I know you are out there!), probably already know that he stars in Pullet Surprise (vs. Foghorn Leghorn), as well as being voiced by Freberg and including his catch-phrase (” a whole lotta lumps!”). And rejoicing was heard across the land.
A nice little DVD, and affordably priced to boot! (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)