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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


By Kevin Wollenweber

Warner Brothers celebrates its 90th birthday this year!!

This is certainly cause to celebrate, most notably because this could mean stunning releases this year. We here at Orphan Toons sure hope this means cartoons, cartoons and *MORE* cartoons!! Oh, of course we know that there will be a LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION SIX, and I ponder, constantly, just what will be on same. Yet, as per usual, even the speculations have been kept under wraps for now. After all, the consultants and coordinators of such a package don’t want to promise titles that, although slated for the set, are never given the green light until even mere months before the physical product reaches shelves.

I do know, thanks to someone hinting at forthcoming releases on Amazon.com, and a pre-order representation there, that there will be a second BUSBY BERKELEY COLLECTION set: four disks to be precise. The first one is one of those rare sets that I bought for the musicals themselves, as well as the animated cartoons so generously tacked on to a few of the disks. This is nearly a perfect set, and does give the viewer/listener an idea of what inspired so many of those fun little 1930’s cartoons coming out of Warner's around the time of the creation of these musicals. Wikipedia.org has a full list of Busby Berkeley productions, but some are not represented with detailed synopsis and full credits, so I’m not sure of just which ones are Warner Brothers and which are MGM. But I think we can kind of figure it out, since the bio gives details as to which periods in film history Berkeley was connected with Warner Brothers and which with MGM, perhaps the two biggest and most creative periods in the man’s history. Of course, I’m not leaving out his work with 20th Century Fox, the resulting product of which will be issued as part of THE CARMEN MIRANDA COLLECTION. The musicals are worthwhile even without cartoons, but let’s face it, so many cartoon ideas came from these musicals that it is made twice as nice when the musicals are given some animation as extra feature.

I know, I know, I should dream on. This is about cartoons, though, and so, I hope that MGM and Warner's do celebrate their anniversaries with cartoons galore, especially since Warner Brothers owns the complete video rights to the golden age of both cartoon studios. TOM & JERRY has been well-represented, although not what we rabid fans would call “fully restored”. You can get impressions of what examples of a fully restored set of TOM & JERRY cartoons would look like if you see the titles from the series included in the ACADEMY AWARDS ANIMATION—15 WINNERS, 26 NOMINEES collection issued earlier this year. It all truly made me salivate for more!! There are HAPPY HARMONIES cartoons floating around out there as special features on various movie packs, including the recently released CLASSIC MUSICALS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY, VOL. 3 set, but these are not restored--just included. So the full and complete overhaul of the MGM classic cartoon has a long, long way to go before we can truly say that MGM cartoons are widely available as beautiful restorations with all kinds of background, etc.

It still is, however, the vast Warner Brothers classic cartoons library that I always hope keeps seeing the light of day: both as extras on movies and, most importantly, on the forthcoming sets of LOONEY TUNES cartoons. We animation fans have “won the day"--or have “taken back the night"--regarding these films in many ways, since the GOLDEN COLLECTION volumes are now looking at these films from an adult perspective, with all kinds of extras that show that the animators of these films were not aiming the stuff primarily at kids!!

So Happy Anniversary, Warner Brothers, and wear your badge proudly! I hope that the whole LOONEY TUNES rollout doesn’t reach its end real soon. It is at its high point now, and we’re starting to see the exhausting of all those titles that end up on these collections over and over again. This means that there are going to be titles that may see their first time on any video format--and isn’t that what all this hoopla is all about? I know that I can’t just stick to one decade for favorites, although I do hope that more attention is paid to the 1930’s and the exhaustive search for restorible elements to the titles as we’ve seen these far too many times as “blue ribbon” prints, often meaning that there will unfortunately be times when original title cards cannot even be simulated. As bland as some might think the character of Bosko to be, or Buddy (his successor, after Harman & Ising took Bosko to MGM) they have not really been represented in the main programs of the GOLDEN COLLECTION sets. The history seems to “begin” with the earliest incarnation of PORKY PIG.

That’s fine, but there were some elaborate entries in the BUDDY series that should be given a new lease on life since they were inspired by those afore-mentioned lavish musicals that came from the mind of Busby Berkeley. Although you cannot call them “production numbers” exactly, it seemed as if every BUDDY cartoon had its musical number, and these also spun off into the MERRIE MELODIES series that were almost entirely musicals up to the early 1940’s.

So it is my eternal hope that some of this great stuff, like “BUDDY’S BEER GARDEN”, “BUDDY’S THEATER”, “BUDDY’S BEAR CATS”, “BUDDY’S ADVENTURES”, “BUDDY OF THE APES” or surreal moments like “BUDDY’S BUG HUNT” (an elusive cartoon if ever there was one), or some of the MERRIE MELODIES of the period like “HOW DO I KNOW IT’S SUNDAY?”, “WHY DO I DREAM THESE DREAMS?”, “RHYTHM IN THE BOWL”, “THE GIRL AT THE IRONING BOARD”, “SITTIN’ ON A BACKYARD FENCE” and so many others--notable because of their interesting musical numbers inspired by Warners-owned pop tunes of the age--are finally given the chance to shine, shine, shine in the last real hoorah around the cartoon studio’s terrific run of success!!

Let’s all hope for the best and Warner Brothers Entertainment should be wearing all this stuff proudly to the point where *NONE* of it should any longer be in the public domain. Fully restored, these shorts are far more interesting, because you can see and hear things that were missed upon seeing it through all that dust of age from the prints of some of these that have been circulating out there for too long from other sources.


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