I'm a sucker for old Looney Tunes cartoons, even when they are a series of theatrical-release cartoons strung together with new material for TV. Warner Bros. appear to have an endless vault filled with classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated material, and they have repackaged the product in endless ways. In 1977 they wove together "Knighty Knight Bugs," "Birds Anonymous, "For Scent-imental Reasons," and other classic cartoons for a TV Easter special. For fans of Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, Pepe Le Pew, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Granny, and the rest, you'll find them all here. Whether the individual cartoons were better by themselves than cut up to fit this hodgepodge may be another question.
Warners drew upon their vast back stock of animated titles to create this fifty-minute television special, capitalizing on their seemingly limitless catalogue to celebrate the Easter holiday. They created a framework for the old matter and new bridging material to tie it all together, resulting in a somewhat disjointed narrative but containing a few pleasant, and very funny, segments along the way.
The new fundamental structure concerns the plight of the Easter Bunny and his inability to deliver eggs one year due to an illness. He goes to Granny for help, and, of course, the ever-diligent grandmother does her best to find a replacement. She knows just the thing: She'll ask her friends at the WB studios to help out. Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, and the crew are more than willing to do what they can, each of them trying to impress Granny that he is the best choice to replace the Easter Bunny. They attempt to persuade Granny by showing her glimpses of and clips from some of their favorite work. Thus, we get old stories within the new story.
In the first episode, Bugs explains that he's doing a show about Knights of the Round Table at the moment, and Granny can watch how well he performs in it. During the movie within the movie, Bugs is a court jester assigned the job of recovering the Singing Sword from the Black Knight (Yosemite Sam). After that, we get a hillbilly dance sequence that comes out of nowhere and really just seems arbitrary, followed by Bugs in the bullring, with no connection among any of the segments except that apparently Bugs is shooting a number of different short subjects at the same time. The filmmakers don't even attempt to use much or any old Easter elements in the newly stitched-together movie.
Still, there is much to enjoy among the disparate fragments. For instance, when Sylvester joins the picture, we get excerpts of him on the high-wire trying to catch Tweety, one of the funniest bits in the film. Then, his "Birds Anonymous" episode is a laugh. After Sylvester's turn in the sun, Granny tries to enlist Pepe La Pew to play the Easter Bunny, and we get to see one of Pepe's movies full length.
The one part of the TV special that stands out for me, though, is Bugs's and Elmer's antics in a production of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" ("The Rabbit of Seville"): wonderful music, wonderful humor. Lastly, we get Foghorn Leghorn taking a shot at being the Bunny, a sequence featuring Daffy and Porky in Sherwood Forest, and Bugs and Sam in the desert. They are worth the wait.
I don't know; it's always fun to see the work of Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Robert McKimson and hear the voice talents of Mel Blanc and June Foray, but as I watched this crazy quilt of extracts I kept wishing WB had simply issued another collection of favorite Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons in their entirety. The snippets were sometimes frustrating, only whetting my appetite for the real thing.
And who does, finally, get to play the Easter Bunny? I'm not telling.
Don't expect these standard-definition cartoons to look as good as WB's "Golden Collections." The studio didn't do much to improve the appearance of the old 1977 TV broadcast or the excerpts within it, giving us, instead, a picture quality that looks sometimes fuzzy, grainy, and noisy. Colors are vibrant enough, but signs of age are everywhere in evidence, with flecks, specks, and scratches throughout. Fortunately, the defects are never so bad that they're distracting, and they vary in degree from film clip to film clip.
There's not much one can say about the Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural sound except that it does what it needs to do. While it's a little forward and bright, with limited dynamic and frequency ranges, it does convey dialogue and occasional loud noises pretty cleanly and clearly. Who's to complain?
The main bonus item is a classic, 1950 cartoon, "His Hare-Raising Tale," with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. What a pleasure to watch something complete. In addition, we get several interactive Looney Tunes puzzle games; a trailer for two "Peanuts" animated TV specials; no scene selections but chapter stops via the remote; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
I love Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, and the gang, but I really wish Warners had just issued a new collection of complete cartoons rather than recycle this old television stuff with classic excerpts woven in bits and pieces throughout. The classic cartoons stand the test of time pretty well on their own without the need of upgrading or truncating them. Nevertheless, I suppose it's important for the studio to repackage this material for new audiences and new occasions from time to time. In this case it's Easter, even if the Easter connection in the film is tenuous at best.