The ‘Looney Tunes Showcase: Volume 1’ brings to American Region free Blu-ray a fine selection of some of the best Warner Bros cartoons in digitally remastered 1080p with AVC/MPEG-4 encodes. All are in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which is how they were originally produced. As you’d expect from material that spans a significant number of years, there is some variation in quality. Most noticeably ‘Hare Tonic’ features some density loss towards the edge of frame. In general though, colours are strong with vibrant reds and deep blues, coming from a Technicolor print. On most of the cartoons, sharpness is very good with the hand drawn ink lines being crisp and contrast is healthy throughout. While there’s been some digital clean up, those responsible haven’t dabbled too much and have left in things like specs of dirt caught between the animation cel and the background. On some you can see what looks like the use of washed cels, where cels were cleaned of ink and paint using turpentine and then re-used. This manifests itself in fine ‘wear’ marks that appear on the cel now and again. The cartoons look very good, without appearing as pristine as a Disney feature. They look remarkably good compared to some of the scratchy 16mm prints I used to show. But, c’mon – it’s the witty content of these classics that we all want. The nice picture quality is an added bonus.
The audio on the Warner Bros cartoons comes in Dolby Digital mono and it’s a real mixed bag. The volume varies as does the amount of treble i.e. – some are clearer than others. I remember this from showing optical sound prints too. All the same, Mel Blanc’s delivery comes across clear as a bell. Each explosion, punch, gunshot and whistle is as lively as ever.
The clean up has removed age related hiss, snap, crackle and pop. These were never going to be sonic masterpieces on Blu-ray, but they’re still very funny.
Commentaries -There are 23 commentaries covering individual cartoons by a mixture of directors, writers and historians. Look out for ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel' which has one by voice artist Mel Blanc. Chuck Jones contributes his comments to ‘What’s Opera Doc’ as well as ‘Duck Amuck.’ They’re quite informative but some from historian Michael Barrier are a bit too ‘learned’ and suck all the fun out of the cartoon.
Alternate Audio Programs - We get music only tracks from ‘What’s Opera,Doc’, ‘The Scarlet Pumpernickel’, ‘Duck Amuck’, ‘Robin Hood Daffy’ and ‘Speedy Gonzales’. We also get a vocal track for ‘What’s Opera, Doc’. So if you ever wanted to script and provide the voices for cartoons, here’s you chance.
Behind the Tunes Featurettes - In most of the featurettes, the cartoon clips look like Standard Definition, while the 'talking heads' were shot in HD.
Wagnerian Wabbit: The Making of ‘What’s Opera, Doc’ (HD, 10 mins) - We hear how Chuck Jones loved to work with classical music and we get a bit of a history lesson on the process behind this cartoon.
Twilight in Tunes: The Music of Raymond Scott (HD, 7 mins) - A look at the work of 1930’s bandleader Raymond Scott who went on to provide the scores for the WB cartoons.
Powerhouse in Pictures (SD, 2 mins) - This just seems to be a montage of clips from a whole bunch of WB cartoons. Somewhat fuzzy by comparison to the main cartoons on the disc.
Putty Problems and Canary Rows (HD, 6mins) - Various historians investigate the development of Tweety Pie and Sylvester from the first sketches, through voicing to the characters we know today.
A Chuck Jones Tutorial: Tricks of the Cartoon Trade (HD, 13 mins) - Director Ron Howard kicks off this look at the ‘knowledge’ behind the work of the animator. It gets a bit technical and so it’s for animation buffs.
The Charm of Stink: On the Scent of Pepe Le Pew (HD, 7 mins) - Writer Michael Maltese gets the credit for the whiffy but loveable skunk and many others contributed to his nuances.
‘Looney Tunes Showcase: Volume One’ has some of the best Warner Bros cartoons crashing their way on to American Region free Blu-ray with a pretty good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
Considering the age and handling that cartoons get, the image is overall very good with vibrant colours and healthy contrast. The hand drawn animation lines are sharp too.
The Dolby Digital mono sound tracks vary in level and clarity, but they’re not bad and the witty delivery by Mel Blanc is easy to make out. They’re brash and chock full of bangs, crashes with the occasional wallop.
There are 6 mini featurettes plus a few music only tracks and 23 commentaries for individual cartoons.
Never mind subtlety, this is real comedy.
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