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The Looney Tunes Golden Collection was a yearly series of six four-disc DVD box sets from Warner Bros.' home video unit Warner Home Video, each containing about 60 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated shorts. The series began in October 2003 and ended in October 2008
Volume 5 (released on October 30, 2007) continues the broad range of cartoons yet again. Disc one features Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Disc two contains fairy tale stories, Disc three honors the work of director Bob Clampett, and Disc four features Porky Pig and other early classics. Special features includes the 2000 PBS documentary Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, a Life in Animation, and the director's cut ending from Hare Ribbin'. Volume 5 contains 60 cartoons: 41 in color and 19 in black & white.
***DISC 4: Early Daze***
For the final disc of the set, we actually go backwards to the beginning. The fifteen cartoons on this DVD are from 1942 and earlier, predating the Looney Tunes' switch to color. We get several more Clampett cartoons here, as well as some by Frank Tashlin and Tex Avery, and 1936's "Alpine Antics," directed by Jack King.
What I usually like about earlier cartoons is how adventurous they tend to be. Not yet knowing what the medium was fully capable of, the pioneering animators who helmed these shorts seemed willing to try anything. This leads to a lot of inventive visuals and even more surreal gags, such as Beans digging straight down the center of the mountain in "Gold Diggers of '49." Once he reaches the bottom, the mountain's base becomes a slot machine, making it a true gamble whether or not he will find treasure.
A lot of these shorts have a heavier focus on music, such as "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" and "Porky at the Crocadero." (Porky is the main franchise character represented here, along with a couple of appearances from Daffy.) Bob Clampett's "Eatin' on the Cuff, or The Moth Who Came to Dinner" isn't just driven by a jazzy piano number, but the pianist appears on screen, performing alongside the insects he sings about in an early experiment with combining live action footage and animation. It's pretty impressive.
Despite the more innocent air that permeates a lot of these cartoons, it should be noted that the shorts on this disc tend to have more racist stereotypes than on the others (DVD 3 has several, as well). "Gold Diggers," for instance, has a pair of Asian prospectors speaking in gibberish until a puff of smoke turns them to blackface, whereupon they start talking like a caricature of African Americans from the South. Or there's "Scrap Happy Daffy," a typical wartime piece with exaggerated images of the Japanese.
I know some people grow weary of the almost obligatory mention of such issues in reviews like this, but I think it's only fair to warn potential consumers of what is in store for them. Yet, as always, a set like this is about historical preservation, and we can't be secure in where we are if we don't look at where we came from. Plus, as adults in a progressive society, one hopes we can set aside such errors of the past and enjoy the cartoons for the incredible craft that is being showcased.
The full list of cartoons on DVD 4:
* Alpine Antics * Eatin' on the Cuff, or the Moth Who Came to Dinner (commentary by historian Jerry Beck) * Milk and Money * I've Got to Sing a Torch Song * Porky at the Crocadero (commentary by historian Daniel Goldmark) * Polar Pals * Scrap Happy Daffy (commentary by filmmaker Greg Ford) * Porky's Double Trouble * Gold Diggers of '49 * Pilgrim Porky * Wise Quacks * Porky's Preview (commentary by filmmaker Greg Ford) * Porky's Poppa * Wholly Smoke (commentary by historian Daniel Goldmark) * What Price Porky