Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DVD Review: Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks

Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks

(Released October 04, 2011 by Warner Home Video)

Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Did YOU know that “Supergenius” was one word?

To say that the “Looney Tunes Superstars” collections released thus far have been a mixed bag would be an understatement – but, “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks” takes us to new levels of… um, “bag-mixing”.

To its definite credit, it offers NO double-dipping with previous “Looney Tunes Golden Collections”, where many of the classic Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese Road Runner theatrical cartoons have already been offered. No double-dipping (even if said dipping involves quality product) will always be a plus with me.

But, what it DOES offer are Road Runner shorts of three completely different types – and from three completely different sources and / or eras.

The package offers no distinction or breakdown of these disparate offerings, but I would group them thusly:

• 2010 CGI shorts, averaging just over 3 minutes apiece. (Total of 3.)

• Modern-Era theatrical shorts: 1990s-2000s. (Total of 3.)

• Mid-1960s Era, Post-Chuck Jones theatrical shorts. (Total of 9.)

The theatrical shorts reflect lengths consistent with their era.

It’s true that previous “Looney Tunes Superstars” collections offered an abundance of late-period Warner or DePatie Freleng shorts, but each entry in the series had at least something that was representative of the classic period that lasted thru the mid 1950s. Not here, though.

It almost seems as if this set was considered as a dumping ground for “All Things Road Runner” that would not be considered “Classic” by animation enthusiasts.

It doesn’t bother me, though, because ALL of these are new to DVD animation collections! And I don’t hold the harsh opinion of the later Road Runner shorts that certain others do. Sure, they weren’t Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, but they were “good” in their own way.

What DOES bother me is the description (…if you could call it that) on the front of the package that says: Cartoon 15 Classics”!

What is “classic” is forever open to interpretation, but that’s not even grammatically or structurally correct! And, no… CGI animation hasn’t been around long enough to boast its own “classics”. Even if you disagree, and cite “Toy Story” and the like, it still wouldn’t include these. And despite my (perhaps misplaced?) fondness for the ‘60s Warner theatricals, even I cannot call them “classics”… At least not and maintain any credibility.

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS. Many of them will be lifted almost whole cloth from past reviews. …At least they make it easy on me!


The Number of Shorts vs. the Price: Fifteen cartoons may seem like a lot, until you consider that (at the rate of three shorts per a theoretical half-hour show), you are only getting the equivalent of FIVE SHOWS! That’s not very much for an MSRP of 19.98.

Now, I’ve said this exact same thing about every previous “Looney Tunes Superstars” collection that I’ve reviewed – but it’s all the more outrageous here, because the 3 CGI shorts are about FOUR MINUTES shorter each than a standard theatrical! You could have fit ONE OR TWO additional theatricals in the space left over by the shorter length of the CGIs!

The Extra Features: There are NO extra features! This is mitigated by the extraordinary amount of such features on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections and the new Looney Tunes Platinum Collection for 2011. But, still for the price, something could have been attempted. At the very least, a few short commentary tracks, as were done in the past.

Too Many Warnings: Like Disney, Warner has lawyered itself to excess. A more recent result of this is that, when the program content ends, there are ELEVEN (I’ll repeat it for effect: ELEVEN!) warnings against copyright violations and the like – and in more languages than anyone purchasing this DVD would be likely to comprehend!!! I can certainly understand the use of ENGLISH, SPANISH, and even FRENCH, but this expansive journey into multi-lingual legalese includes various Asian and Arabic languages! WHY? This excessive exhibition kicks in the moment the final cartoon ends and runs for over two minutes (…or nearly ONE THIRD the running time of some of the later cartoons!). Thankfully, you are able to skip through these, if you wish. …And you WILL wish!

Robo-Promos: “Robo-Promos” is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. They are unavoidably inflicted upon the viewer before “getting on with the show”. Warner sets have most often been the worst offenders in this regard. Here, at least, they reflect other products of possible interest to someone who would purchase this particular set. (…Okay, maybe not so much that second one!) They are:

An ad for the new “Looney Tunes Show” DVD.

• A DVD ad for an animated series based on MAD Magazine.

• Promo for the new “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection” in Blu-ray.

The Robo-Promos run for a combined 3:05 (As long a one of the CGI shorts!). You can always zip through them – but it is still annoying to have to do so.


No Double-Dipping: A “mixed bag of items” it may be, but NONE of these shorts have previously appeared on the series of Looney Tunes Golden Collections or other animation sets!

Menu and Navigation: A more “generic” menu series, with all of the popular characters – and not “Road Runner specific” – is employed for this collection, indicating that this will be the standard for all future collections in this series.

Menu navigation is very easy, though there are THREE menus of shorts (for a total of five on each menu). I’m not sure why, because the shorts are not delineated by the three categories mentioned above. It’s simply “five titles per menu screen”, when they can all fit on one.

Image Quality: In previous releases, there was a notable controversy over the presentation of post-1953 cartoon shorts having been remastered in some sort of WIDESCREEN effect. (See the BUGS BUNNY REVIEW for more details!)

Initially, I’ll admit that it looks nice when viewed on a widescreen HD TV, but closer inspection reveals that portions of the screen image look to be cut off – or, are far too close to the frame than I recall from nearly a lifetime of viewing these cartoons.

Check the Road Runner’s beak at the very beginning of “Sugar and Spies” in the widescreen version. The front tip of his beak is cut off, at the far right of the screen. Though, overall, the Road Runner shorts fare better in this respect than those in previous releases.

Still, you have a choice. In an unusual bow to the hardcore fans, WHV offers an option to view the cartoons in either “Full Frame” (as we’ve long been accustomed to) or “Widescreen”!

Though, typical of today’s Warner Animation DVDs, even this step forward is not without its inconvenience. The CHOICE between “Full Screen” and “Widescreen” is ONLY offered BEFORE the display of the main menu. Meaning that you cannot “toggle” back and forth between the two options once the DVD is engaged.

Let’s say I wished to see a cartoon in “Full Screen”, and then immediately after in “Widescreen” for comparison purposes. NOPE! Not so simple! You must completely disengage the DVD, and start it all over again before you can select the alternate viewing option.

Given this, I’ve tended to stay with “Widescreen”, as moving between the two options is far too time consuming for the “reward” involved.

And, the ultimate “PRO” for “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks”…

The Shorts (Separated by Category):

2010 CGI:

“Coyote Falls” (03:00): Wile E. and a BUNGEE CORD. No good can come of this!

“Fur of Flying” (03:06): A kids’ bike, a “Mega-Motor”, a football helmet, and a ceiling fan are cannibalized by Wile E. to make a handle-barred helicopter helmet. Nothing good comes of this either – especially when continental defense missiles get involved!

“Rabid Rider” (03:07): The “Acme Hyper-Sonic Transport”, a two-wheeled scooter with handlebars is Wile E.’s latest device to ensure that things end badly. Some nice western scoring help punctuate the wild goings-on.

Analysis: I am NOT the biggest fan of CGI animation. In a private moment of candor, I would very likely admit to actively disliking it. Aw, hell… I don’t like it at all!

However… I LIKED THESE! (…Yeah, surprised me too!)

The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote are probably the perfect characters to make the transition from traditional cell animation to this new medium, likely because of the action involved. Admittedly, seeing more than three in a row would surely wear thin, but Warner Bros. packaged just the right number to keep me entertained, without becoming bored and/or annoyed.

Director Michael O’ Callaghan does a fine job allowing you to see the feathers and fur of our Road Runner and Coyote, delivers perfect facial expressions, and the painfully funny violence achieves a new level in this form. He also adds a marvelously plaintive WHIMPER to Wile E.’s otherwise nonexistent vocabulary – making the “hurts” all the more humorous.

Modern-Era Theatricals:

“Whizzard of Ow” (Produced by Larry Doyle, Directed by Bret Haaland 2003): Runs (07:10) Over the desert, two wizards fight a climactic battle destroying each other with their magic – resulting in the “Acme Book of Magic” and a black cat falling into the hands of Wile E. Coyote – the latter immediately tearing Wile E. to shreds. Lots of violently funny magic-gags ensue, and fans of the “Beep Beep the Road Runner” comic book might even note the return of Matilda!

This may actually be the single most, out and out riotous short in the collection! Ironically, even more in the mold of classic Chuck Jones than…

“Chariots of Fur” (Chuck Jones, 1994): Runs (07:10) The triumphant return of Chuck Jones to a Road Runner theatrical – alas without Michael Maltese, who had passed-on by this point. Jones’ gags, poses, and timing still work as well as ever, highlighted by some “Acme Lightning Bolts (Fat Free) Rubber Gloves Included”, though the animation (particularly of Wile E.) is done in what I can best describe as “That Puffy Style” that Jones employed in his later years. Partisans of Jones’ more uniquely classic style of the ‘40s thru ‘60s may consider this a negative. I do. On the plus side, Maurice Noble is along as “Art Director”.

“Little Go Beep” (Produced and Directed by Spike Brandt, 2000): Runs (07:56) Written by the late and very much lamented Earl Kress, we see the heretofore untold backstory of (very) Young Wile E. Coyote – most notably, why he never speaks …outside of comic books and Bugs Bunny cartoons, that is! Stan Freeberg is on hand to voice Wile E.’s dad “Cage E. Coyote”. Unexpectedly funny moment: When Li’l Wile E. is “frozen in mid running pose” in order for his bogus pseudo-Latin zoological name to display, he LOOSES HIS FOOTING when “unfreezing” due to his inexperience in such matters! Earl Kress… WE MISS YOU!

Analysis: Each of these entries is very entertaining, with Doyle’s effort the clear prize winner! Sure makes you wonder why the larger studios refuse to continue in the tradition of lush, cell-animated theatrical shorts – because these examples prove that the magic CAN be recaptured! Warner? Disney? Universal? Paramount? C’mon folks! It’s not like you can’t export ‘em to TV and DVD once they run their course.

Mid-1960s Theatricals:

“Sugar and Spies” (Robert McKimson, 1966): Runs (06:24) The run of Mid-1960’s theatricals BEGINS with the LAST ONE ever made. Someone should explain that.

In the sixties, spies were everywhere… even here! This is my favorite of the Road Runner cartoons of this era, though it clearly exhibits the feel of a contemporary DePatie Freleng Enterprises cartoon, far more than a Warner production, from its title card to a uniquely sixties music score by Walter Greene – evocative of the DFE “Inspector” shorts.

Decades before that “Acme Book of Magic” dropped into Wile E.’s hands, he is slammed in the face with a Spy Kit, discarded by a short but sinister looking cloaked figure on the run from the authorities. (Said “sinister figure” also looking as if he were lifted from the “Inspector” series.)

From the Spy Kit, the Coyote employs various explosive devices with the expected results. An extended sequence, in which he builds a “Spy-mobile” out of junkyard parts – from plans found in the kit, dominates much of the cartoon. There’s a “So Subtle You May Not Notice It” visual gag reference to the “Hertz Rent-a-Car” commercials of the 1960s, for those who remember such things. To this cartoon’s credit, the use of the Spy Kit to drive the plot unites what is usually a series of disjointed gags to good effect. Wyle E. also looks good in his black spy garb.

“Clippety Clobbered” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:20) Opens with a nice sixties-stylized credits sequence, punctuated by the word “OUCH!” in different fonts throughout! Wyle E. receives a chemistry set, with which he creates Invisible Paint, a formula that turns him rubbery so that he might achieve acceleration by bouncing of rocks and cliff faces, and high-powered fuel for a pair of hand jets. We end with an equally stylized closing where the Road Runner appears for a final “Beep! Beep!” within the “field of yellow” of Wile E.’s eyes!

Honestly, if you can look past the limitations of mid-sixties animation, the gags in this one are just as good as those of the Jones / Maltese era. This cartoon also employs the stock William Lava score that (for better or worse) we associate with these shorts. (You will KNOW IT, once you hear it!) While the animation and scoring may diminish this entry, some good gags and inspired attempts at stylization at both beginning and end lift it as well. Sadly, these “plusses” would not continue into the next cartoon…

“The Solid Tin Coyote” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:19) Like “Sugar and Spies”, this one is also united by a single plot point – Wile E.’s construction of a Giant Robot Coyote! Unlike “Sugar and Spies”, it is not well-animated enough to successfully carry off the gags, and what might be a good idea falls flat. This is especially so, when whatever logic this cartoon may possess is thrown out the window in favor of the (admittedly smile producing) gag where the Robot grabs the Road Runner – and Wile E. commands it to “Eat, stupid!”… and the Robot scarfs down the Coyote! Okay, I kinda like the sheer audacity (and dumbness) of the “Eat, stupid!” gag. BUT, didn’t Wile E. spend nearly the last two decades trying to eat the Road Runner HIMSELF?! I’ve heard of “living vicariously”… but Sheesh!

“Out and Out Rout” (Rudy Larriva, 1966): Runs (06:19) In another nod to sixties culture, Wile E. builds a “custom drag racer” to help catch his quarry. Not as successful as his misadventures with the “Spy-mobile”, but more effective gag-wise than the Giant Robot Coyote!

“Shot and Bothered” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:35) Begins with an extended chase through a lengthy series of pipes leading to the expected cliff drop, with the same sequence revisited later in the cartoon by Wile E. on a skateboard. (Way to save on animation!) Other unique aspects include an unexpected SERIES of boulders dropping upon Wile E. when only ONE was expected, Wile E. zipping out of several scenes with a whirling trail of motion lines behind him, and the words “THE END” displaying on-screen before the final explosion takes place.

“Chaser on the Rocks” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:51) It is VERY HOT in the desert today, as indicated by a large pulsating SUN, punctuated by sound effects to represent heat waves. At times, in this one, it seems that Wile E. wants WATER even more than he wants a Road Runner meal. Oddly, the sound effects in this cartoon are directly out of the various Jay Ward (“Bullwinkle”) TV series, rather than the now-familiar Warner Bros. sound effects. Did Treg Brown pack up the Warner sounds and take them with him when he departed?

“Highway Runnery” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) The cartoon begins with a red stylized map of dotted-line roads leading away west from a lone tall building at the far right. Then, unrelated gags involving a junky jalopy, a giant rubber band, and a skateboard with an attached sail propelled by an electric fan lead up to my most favorite gag of the “Larriva Era”.

Wile E. bands several sticks of TNT to an alarm clock to make a time bomb, and places said time bomb inside a giant egg. Not considering for a moment that his quarry is a MALE Road Runner, he figures the bird will sit on the egg to hatch it… and BOOM!

Sure enough the Road Runner DOES sit on the egg and, miraculously, it hatches! A curious creature emerges with the head of a Road Runner, complete with blue head plumage, the body of an alarm clock, and legs that send him directly toward the Coyote to the beat of a Jay Ward-borrowed mechanical sound effect. Needless to say, the “bird” explodes, leaving Wile E. to climb out of a huge blast crater – staring in annoyance at the remains of the original alarm clock.

What puts this completely over the top for me is that the alarm clock rings and the frustrated Wile E. smashes it with a rock… only to have the ALARM CLOCK (sans TNT) explode as if it WERE the TNT! The sheer audacity and outrageousness of such a gag is a breath of fresh air, when contrasted with the standard Warner Bros. type of gag, which was becoming tired by 1965.

Yes, I just spent three paragraphs describing a single gag! So what?

“Boulder Wham!” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) Another clever opening title sequence displays the word “BOULDER”, then a big rock falls to the ground center screen, and the word “WHAM!” displays in response. And another entry with a single plot theme: The Road Runner is across a chasm from Wile E. Coyote, and the Coyote spends the cartoon inventing increasingly unconventional ways to breach the gap. His attempts include a tightrope, pole vaulting, and a trampoline – eventually leading to hypnotism and even karate! And, for a short titled “Boulder Wham!”, the count of “Boulders Falling on Wile E.” totals only TWO! You think there would have been more…

“Hairied and Hurried” (Rudy Larriva, 1965): Runs (06:49) Unrelated gags include the use of a snow-making machine which covers the desert-scape with snow (Chuck Jones would do a version of this idea in a later made-for-TV special.), bombs dropped from a kite, skydiving into a whirlwind, and karate again.

Writers for this series of shorts include: Tom Dagenais (3), Don Jurwich, Dale Hale, Nick Bennion (2), Al Bertino, and Len Janson. Names not normally associated with Warner Bros. cartoons. All but “Sugar and Spies” (by Walter Greene) were scored by William Lava, most often employing his stock “Road Runner score”.

Analysis: Overall, this series of cartoons does not compare to the best of Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, nor do they compare to those Jones did solo – or with the vastly underrated John Dunn – after Maltese departed for Hanna-Barbera. But there is a general dislike of them that I feel is disproportionately directed at Rudy Larriva (…and, by extension, to Robert McKimson as well).

They are simply not as bad as they are often made out to be, especially when viewed through the prism of what animation was as the 1960s wore on. I always regarded them as “something different” than what Jones and Maltese had done – but they were still “gag cartoons”, something that would unfortunately soon fall out of fashion, much to the detriment of animation for the two decades that followed. Perhaps we can compromise and call them “serviceable”. …Deal?

They seemed more as if they were made for TV, rather than theatricals. And, having been brought to television as part of the new “Road Runner Show” (“If you’re on a highway, and Road Runner goes Beep-Beep…”), as a young viewer of the time – I thought exactly that.

This may help explain my fondness for them, and I’m glad to see nine of them collected here – because I don’t think they’re ever going to make it to the coming Blu-ray “Platinum Collections”!


While far from perfect, “Looney Tunes Superstars: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Supergenius Hijinks” is, as I began the review, a mixed bag.

The cartoons are (to the best of my knowledge) all new to animation collection DVDs. The “Robo-Promos” are back with a vengeance, having been previously omitted from last year’s Foghorn Leghorn release. The widescreen issue is as good a compromise as can be done, I suppose.

The issue of “number of cartoons vs. list price” will vary by viewer, as discounted prices can be found by anyone with a search engine.

The VARIETY of shorts – in both medium and time period – is enough to keep it interesting.

Strictly speaking for myself, I find the complete and total absence of “Extras” to be the greatest negative – especially as WHV has already and routinely shown us just how WELL they can be done. Indeed the aforementioned variety of shorts in this collection almost demands some optional commentary or a featurette to provide additional background on these lesser known contributions to the Warner Animation legacy.

This set is: Recommended for its diversity – but with the usual reservations for this series!

That's All, Folks! 


Comicbookrehab said...

I'm going to pick this one up - I remember seeing those 60's cartoons in the 90's - maybe this means the Daffy Duck - Speedy Gonzalez cartoons won't stay in limbo forever. The unusual pairing of those two characters was the highlight of it - though some fans refer to it as Daffy's Desperate-for-work "Lindsay Lohan phase". That would also include his meeting with the Groovie Ghoulies.

I'm surprised they did not include that one cartoon where Wile E. Coyote and Sylvester team-up as the Road Runner and Speedy compete in a race - that was a good one.

I wouldn't mind a collection of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog cartoons.

It's nice to see the CG shorts collected - have you seen the CG Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote shorts on the Looney Tunes show? They're the best part of the program. They did an Iron Man parody that was great!

Joe Torcivia said...


“The Wild Chase” (Road Runner / Speedy Team-up) appeared on both the “Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 4” and “Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume Two”

Find my review of that great set at:


If you have neither, I would actually advise getting “The Wild Chase” on the “SAT AM” set, so that you can see it as part of the 1960s ROAD RUNNER SHOW, as I first saw it. And, you’ll get so many more great things that haven’t been seen in this particular way SINCE the ‘60s! Themes, interstitials, etc.

Haven’t seen THE LOONEY TUNES SHOW yet, because I’m waiting for a DVD collection that offers more than four episodes at a clip.

My “inclusion wish” for this Road Runner set was for it to have included “Hare-Breadth Hurry”… the one where Bugs Bunny substitutes for the Road Runner. That’s not been released to DVD yet!

The only “Daffy/ Speedy” that’s ever been released to DVD is “A-Haunting We Will Go” – that very weird cartoon that riffs on “Broomstick Bunny” and “Duck Amuck”. That’s also on “Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 4” – and the brand new “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Volume 1” so we can now see in it Blu-ray!

But, there is a WONDERFUL mock-documentary on Daffy’s career on “The Essential Daffy Duck” that mentions his period with Speedy (…and not in a positive way!) and references “See Ya Later, Gladiator”, with brief glimpses of it!

I’ve long ago conceded that we will never be able to accumulate a complete set of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies – but I DO so much enjoy what I have!


Ryan Wynns said...


I've seen a couple of the CGI shorts on Cartoon Network. My kneejerk reaction, upon becoming aware of their existence, was unfavorable ... but I agree with you that Road Runner is much more suited for a CGI revamping than any other Looney Tunes staple, due to the shorts' nature as each being a series of visual gags devoid of dialogue -- that's easily maintained, even if it's rendered in a completely different style than it traditionally was. Better these shorts than a CGI Bugs or Daffy! (And better these shorts than a played-straight sitcom about the Looney Tunes cast's domestic/social/dating lives! *cough*The Looney Tunes Show*cough*)

I recently saw one of the '90's Chuck Jones shorts during Cartoon Network's Looney Tunes package that airs at 6:00 A.M. EST -- it very well may have been this one (or was this the only one?) The "poofiness" also threw me off a bit, at first ... but once I got past it, I admired how, even though it had the intermittent hyperkinetic-ness of classic Road Runner shorts, at the same time, it had a certain grace and refinement, which I attribute to Jones having honed his skills even further over the years. (Not that his work from the classic era isn't masterful, but it's only natural that his work would've changed and developed as the decades went by.)

As always, Joe, a great, very thorough review!


Joe Torcivia said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ryan!

Yes, I really have no interest in seeing a Bugs or Daffy CGI. In my view, they were perfected in the ‘40s and ‘50s theatricals – and those will never be beat!

Despite my unexpected enjoyment of the Road Runner CGIs, I hope this trend someday reverses itself – or that Warners, at the very least, comes to its collective senses on the matter. I’ve seen previews/trailers for the new Green Lantern CGI series – and, honestly, it looks like I’m watching puppets!

Just as with the Warner theatricals above the DC Comics animated look and feel was perfected by Bruce Timm and those that followed his lead. Various Green Lantern appearances on Superman, Justice League, Brave and the Bold – and even Duck Dodgers(!) and Direct to DVD projects have ALREADY been done in that style – so why not do the series that way? I’ll probably pass on GL, simply because it’s done in CGI when it didn’t need to be!

You may very well have seen “Chariots of Fur” on CN – why Looney Tunes are on at 6 AM—and not Prime Time – is another matter entirely! Or, it might have been one of the (two?) RR shorts he made for the various prime time specials in the seventies or early eighties.

No matter what I may think of his later drawing style. Chuck Jones was a consummate pro through the very end. He may well be the greatest cartoon director of them all. If not, he is certainly the most distinctive.