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“Overture, curtains, lights”/This is it, the night of nights…”
For decades, these lyrics were heard in the TV show theme song for the Oscar-winning hare, Bugs Bunny. The “wascally wabbit” is celebrating a milestone commemoration, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is marking the occasion with the release of the "Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection" Blu-ray box set.
The gift set consists of 60 classic Bugs Bunny toons on three Blu-ray discs, packaged in a box made to look like a crate of carrots. Inside the box are the Blu-rays in an amaray case along with an introductory letter from animation historian Jerry Beck. Exclusive to the set is a Funko Pop! Diamond Collection Bugs Bunny vinyl figure.
Additionally, you get a digital copy of the 60 shorts when you buy the set. These cartoons are also available to own via iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and others.
Approximately three quarters of the shorts are new to Blu-ray. The collection spans from 1940's Elmer’s Candid Camera and A Wild Hare through to 1991's (Blooper) Bunny!: Bugs Bunny’s 51st and a ½ Anniversary Spectacular. The collection isn’t all Bugs Bunny's "greatest cartoon hits" per se, but it does include such favorites as the Oscar winning Knighty Knight Bugs (1958), the musically oriented Rabbit of Seville (1950) and What's Opera, Doc? (1957), and the first film in the Bugs, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd “Hunting Trilogy,” Rabbit Fire (1951).
Several of these cartoons, especially the ones from the 1960s, might not be overly familiar to classic animation fans. 1963’s The Unmentionables is a satire of The Untouchables TV series. Bugs plays agent “Elegant Mess” who’s out to track down and arrest criminals Rocky and Mugsy. One weapon at the hare’s disposal is his carrot gun.
In two shorts, 1960’s Rabbit’s Feat and the following year’s Compressed Hare, Bugs gets his opportunity to outwit a talking instead of silent Wile E. Coyote. 1962’s Shishkabugs finds Yosemite Sam working as a chef for the British king. The monarch demands that Sam cook him hasenpfeffer, meaning rabbit stew. That’s where the bunny comes in, and Sam wants to serve Bugs as the main course. On a side note, who knew that a Bugs Bunny cartoon could provide a partial clue as to what the '70s sitcom stars of Laverne & Shirley were chanting about as they skipped down the street during the intro to the show (“…Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”).
Bugs meets up with with several lesser known characters in the set’s films. The list includes the large hairy orange monster Gossamer, the aforementioned Rocky and Mugsy, Bugs’ young nephew Clyde Bunny, and The Big Bad Wolf and his unnamed adolescent nephew (who refers to the wolf as “Uncle Big Bad”). Then there’s Mama Bear, who develops a crush on the rabbit in Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears. It’s interesting to note that Mama Bear’s voice was provided by Bea Benaderet, who did much work with the Warners animation unit and was the original voice for Granny in the Tweety and Sylvester toons. She and Blanc would team up again in 1960 to play Betty and Barney Rubble in The Flintstones.
Additionally, if you’re a Yosemite Sam fan, than this set is for you. 15 of the 60 cartoons feature Bugs' fiery tempered adversary, said to have been modeled after Warner Brothers animation director, Friz Freleng.
"Hare-abian Nights" Clip-1959
Nearly half of the cartoons include audio commentary tracks. Two, Rabbit Fire and What’s Opera, Doc? offer music only tracks, and one, Baby Buggy Bunny, is available to play with just music and sound effects
But one unique experience is to hear the vocal tracks only, no musical effects, of Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) during the making of What’s Opera, Doc? Listening to the pair singing an a cappella duet in character as Bugs and Elmer is a real treat. Plus, from the film's recording sessions, director Chuck Jones offers advice to the two men on how to emphasize certain parts of the script. You really notice, too, how the music/orchestration and sound effects played such an important part in the finished cartoon.
Visual quality is excellent in these Bugs Bunny cartoons. The colors are vibrant with a sharp picture. The 60 shorts have been restored and remastered to their original 4x3 aspect ratio.
The toons feature a 192 Kbps 2.0 (dual mono) channel Dolby Digital audio soundtrack. The audio is not lossless, but still sounds good. Subtitles for the films are available in English SDH, French, and Portuguese.
Bugs With A Different Rocky the Gangster In "Racketeer Rabbit" Clip-1946
The new, one hour, "Bugs Bunny’s 80th What’s Up. Doc-umentary!" is the highlight of the set’s extra content. Narrated by Billy Crystal, the production tells the history of the character through vintage interviews with Warner Brothers directors Freleng, Jones, and Tex Avery; voice actors Blanc, June Foray and Stan Freberg, and others. The directors discuss how Bugs' personality developed from initially being a wild, screwball rabbit version of the early Daffy Duck with Woody Woodpecker’s laugh. It’s Avery who’s given credit for bringing out more of the characteristics we know in Bugs today, including his trademark phrase, “What’s up, Doc?” Also noted is that acting legend Clark Gable's carrot eating scene in the 1934 film It Happened One Night provided the inspiration for Bugs’ character to chew the vegetable in his movies. By the way, Blanc was munching on real carrots when voicing Bugs in those sequences.
The collection contains a 1986 CBS-TV special, Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes All Star 50th Anniversary, initially released in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2 DVD compilation set. The 47 minute program mixes clips from Warner Brothers cartoons with comic comments regarding Bugs from Cher, David Bowie, Penny Marshall, and Bill Murray. Behind The Tunes Featurettes, such as Hard Luck Duck, Forever Befuddled, and Short Fuse Shootout: The Small Tale of Yosemite Sam were originally found in the 2003 Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. 1 DVD box set. They are all in SD, not HD, in this new Bugs collection.
Moreover, 10 episodes of the new HBO Max Looney Tunes shorts have been included. Eric Bauza does a nice job capturing the combo Bronx and Brooklyn accents that Blanc created for Bugs. These new Looney Tunes shorts aren’t as funny as the original Warner Brothers films, but if a new audience discovers the Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer characters, then that’s a plus.
The Glittery Funko Pop! isn’t the greatest likeness of Bugs, but if you’re a fan of the figures, you might enjoy it. I think a book on Bugs’ history by Beck, along with a synopsis of the enclosed cartoons, would have been more useful. It would have been nice if the Bugs 80th Anniversary Blu-ray set were released separately without the box and Funko Pop! figure. I assume that will happen in the near future. Right now, the collector's edition is a little pricey.
The enclosed booklet is very thin, with just the listings of the cartoons and extras on each disc provided. No details on the individual cartoons are noted, such as release date, director, and characters besides Bugs in the short.
© 2020 Marshall Fish
With a few minor flaws, the Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection Blu-ray box set is a delightful salute to one of the most popular animated characters of all time. It is highly recommended.