Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What’s Up (with That), Doc?

Warner Home Video released “Looney Tunes Superstars: Bugs Bunny Hare Extraordinaire” on DVD August 10, 2010.

We’ll have a full review of it at TIAH Blog before long, but first an item or two of interest.

I can’t help but note the TEXT on the back of the package: “Here they are – the smart aleck rabbit’s cartoons you’ve probably never seen, because they’ve never ever been on DVD.”

Um… Consider how SAD that statement is!
You’ve never seem them, because they HAVEN’T BEEN ON DVD?!

In days gone by, Bugs Bunny was on TV virtually EVERY DAY! Local syndication, network (…usually cut to ribbons, but still THERE) and cable. But now, alas, that statement is TRUE, despite Warner owning SEVERAL networks of its own, and we are all the worse for it.

On the plus side, though, WHV is to be commended for releasing 15 (count ‘em fifteen!) Bugs Bunny cartoons that have NOT YET been released to DVD! So, they get major points for no “double-dipping” vs. previous releases, and a few more points for their honesty in revealing an unfortunate truth of their own making.

The other point that cannot wait for the full review is that, starting with the sixth cartoon of the set, they appear to have been remastered in “SIMULATED WIDESCREEN”!

Unlike MGM and Disney (and even later Columbia Three Stooges shorts), I don’t believe that any of the Warner Bros. animated shorts were released to theatres in widescreen. I can’t say that I know that for certain, but I don’t recall ever hearing so.

1954’s “Lumber Jack Rabbit” (the first short of this collection to receive the "widescreen treatment") was released in 3D but, to my knowledge, that was the only gimmick that Looney Tunes ever attempted to compete with the emerging medium of television.

Adding to my belief that WHV has indulged in some video trickery, is the fact that the TOP AND BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN IMAGE looks to be cut off – or, at least far too close to the frame than I recall from nearly a lifetime of viewing these cartoons. Such is not the case with the widescreen DVD releases of DONALD DUCK, TOM AND JERRY, and DROOPY cartoons of the later 1950s that WERE produced for widescreen Cinemascope viewing.

In these cartoons, credits might appear at the VERY TOP (or bottom) of the screen and, if (say) a tall character was wearing a HAT, said hat is cut off at the top of the screen.

Now, having recently gotten a widescreen HD TV, I must confess that I LIKE the widescreen effect, especially when compared to the standard (full-screen?) image of the first five shorts of the collection.

But, something still feels awry when viewing them this way.

I’m not an animation historian. My accumulation of knowledge comes from my life’s viewing, research books, and DVD collections. So, I cannot truly speak to what Warner might (or might not) have done to these shorts.

Perhaps our readers have some information to share…

That’s All Folks (…at least for now!)


ramapith said...

As far as I can gather, most theatres did run the LTMM shorts in widescreen from the mid-1950s on, and the studio treated them that way.

You'll notice that when you watch them fullscreen, the copyright notice on the main title card—and the "A Warner Bros. Cartoon" notice on the end title—aren't at the bottom of the screen (where they were placed on the pre-1953 cartoons), but rather up a ways. The positioning of these notices indicated about where the widescreen version was to be cropped off (i. e. directly under them).

That said, the Warner animation staff did a halfhearted job of keeping important information within the Scope "camera" range, so the results—particularly early on—don't look as good in Scope as their MGM or Disney equivalents.

As a result, I'd say putting the shorts out this way today may be historically accurate, but it's not how I'd prefer to see them.

Joe Torcivia said...

Thanks, David!

I was hoping you, or some other GAC’er would come forth on this!

I don’t doubt what you say, but I wonder why WHV waited until THIS series of releases to start getting “historically accurate”. (The same situation prevails with the concurrent DAFFY DUCK collection!)

After all, there were six previous Golden Collections – and Warner DID release Tom and Jerry and Droopy in widescreen, when they were originally produced that way. So, if this was the case, why didn’t the LTs and MMs get the same treatment?

It STILL looks as if detail is cut off top and bottom, based on my recollections of repeated TV viewings. Although the animators’ ability (or lack of same) in adapting to the new format could very well be responsible. Still, something seems off – even though I like it on the whole.

Have you seen them? Can you or anyone who has done so offer thoughts on the actual DVD presentation?