Happy birthday, Bugsy boy! I was quite surprised to see that last year marked Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday, but I was even more pleasantly surprised by this more-than-adequate retrospective of his life thus far. While this collection certainly takes no risks in its content, there are 40 cartoons on this set out of the 60 overall that have either never been released on home media before or that never got a proper home media restoration. Cartoons that were given an improper home media restoration in the past were presented with either a lot of quirks, cut content, or even the wrong aspect ratio. Yes, these cartoons are fully restored to their original glory, in stunning HD, and I was very pleased with the results.
Before diving into this review, let me explain for purposes of context how this collection ended up with its selection of cartoons that ultimately made it on these 3 jam-packed discs. First, it was clear that they had a focus on making sure that the majority of these cartoons were released properly for the first time ever on home media. That appears to have been the ultimate goal. So they broke it down into 2 categories: the first category is 20 “essential” Bugs Bunny cartoons, ones that are so iconic that they couldn’t possibly leave them out of this collection. You know, Baseball Bugs, 8 Ball Bunny, Rabbit of Seville, etc. The second category was the other 40 cartoons which have never properly seen the light of day, or have never even been seen before outside of their theatrical and TV screenings. I think this was a reasonable breakdown, not too much of what we have already seen (especially understandable since this collection would simply not be the same without these specific cartoons) and giving us a lot of “new” stuff.
Several decades later, these cartoons are still timeless and still a joy to watch. Bugs Bunny’s antics with his main foes Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam, and even the odd new antagonist Bugs will consider his bait in each cartoon is something that never gets old, even though the formula, when you break it down, is so similar in each short. And of course we can’t forget the iconic “frenemy” dynamic of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, a duo that seemed to have come out of nowhere in the early 50’s made popular with Rabbit Fire which, yes, is in this collection, as it is 100% an essential Bugs Bunny classic. All of this is epitomized in this collection of masterfully made cartoons that celebrate the legacy of Bugs Bunny.
Some of the standouts out of the “new” cartoons in this collection for me were: Hold the Lion Please, What’s Cookin’ Doc?, Racketeer Rabbit, Robot Rabbit, No Parking Hare, Hare Brush, Half-Fare Hare, Hare-Less Wolf, Backwoods Bunny, Person to Bunny, and The Million Hare. And it’s not like these cartoons are considered the pinnacle of Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes classics, otherwise they’d be on other recent collections as well. But ironically, many of these cartoons are some that I remember the most vividly watching as a kid. Robot Rabbit, No Parking Hare, Half-Fare Hare, Person to Bunny, those cartoons are some of the Looney Tunes that I remember the most clearly. I watched The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show religiously as a kid, and there are of course many cartoons that I vividly remember, but these in particular, not only did I have nostalgia completely unexpectedly hit me over the head like an anvil, but I found myself both pleasantly surprised yet absolutely flabbergasted that these cartoons were never properly restored before. In my mind, they were really well known classics. Having remembered them, I thought they were.
Now, my main criticism with this collection is that it clearly isn’t taking any risks in its subject matter. Of course, many Looney Tunes cartoons have some very dated stereotypes, this collection simply didn’t want to have any of that, which is understandable to an extent. But at the same time, there are some earlier Bugs Bunny cartoons that, despite some of its controversial subject matter, are arguably more deserving of being properly restored for this collection than some of the ones they ended up choosing. For example, Fresh Hare, or some of the other wartime Bugs Bunny cartoons. It’s almost as if they scrubbed Bugs Bunny’s history clean, rather than showing it warts and all. I was surprised to notice that there wasn’t even that typical warning at the beginning that Warner Bros would always add into these kinds of collections. It would have been nice if they just gave us a few of them to say “Yes, this collection is made for the collector, and we are thinking about you,” but unfortunately that is not what they did. But you know what would have been great? If they took out the “clip show” cartoons and put in some of those earlier shorts…
Which leads me to my next complaint, those clip show films. I don’t know why they’re here, I don’t even know why they were made. Probably for the studio to save money with some quick to produce cartoons? They were starting to cut costs in the 50’s, after all. But anyways, they’re here, restored in HD for some reason. There are a total of three clip shows in this collection, one of which feature Bugs’ annoying nephew Clyde (whose golden-era appearances stopped after two shorts for good reason, both shorts featured and restored in this collection). These clip show shorts are His Hare Raising Tale, This is a Life?, and Hare-Abian Nights. So those are three pretty useless cartoons with a little bit of original animation but overall not enough to be given such an immediate restoration treatment for this collection when other Bugs Bunny shorts are far more deserving of it sooner. It was almost as if they were running out of Bugs Bunny cartoons that are just politically correct enough to be put in this collection so they wasted three slots with these “clip-show” style shorts. Maybe they thought that this was a way to put even more of Bugs’ legacy in this collection while still keeping in the 60 cartoon limit? But I really don’t see them as necessary and really kind of a missed opportunity for better shorts to be given the treatment they deserve.
Other than those gripes, I’m pretty happy with the selection for this collection. I think there are a lot of great cartoons on here, many of which I remember vividly from my childhood, and ended up being very surprised by the fact that they were either never seen on home video before, or never given a proper restoration. I’m glad they finally got that chance. We just need more of the earlier Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes cartoons to be given that same respect.
Each of the cartoons in this collection are meticulously restored in stunning High Definition. While some of them look better than others, they are restored to their original glory, as they would have been seen in the cinemas back in the day. There are some scratches, dust, loose hairs and other scuffs that show up here and there, and quite a bit of film grain, but ultimately this adds to the charm, and it keeps these cartoons faithful to their original sources. In the more recent cartoons, some of this is noticeably missing, perhaps not as much film grain in some of them for example, as the amount of it does tend to fluctuate between each short. But these restorations still remain faithful to the original sources and do not scrub them too cleanly.
This collection, like the Platinum Collections before it, features a 1.0 Mono soundtrack. I’m not the kind of person to be begging for 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound for 60-80 year old cartoons, so this works just fine to me. The simplicity of the tracks, again, adds to the charm. And they are still restored faithfully to how we were supposed to hear them. Any buzzes, scratches, or other weird noises that are common in older prints are nowhere to be heard. While at some points the audio tends to show its age, these are Bugs Bunny cartoons the way they were made to be heard for the most part, minus some inconsistent volume at times which is really the main issue I have here, but this is ultimately a very common occurrence in these restorations of older cartoons. Voices are clear, even though they may be too quiet sometimes, sound effects are also clear, though they may be too loud sometimes. My issues with the audio are very minimal and really just an inevitability given the age of the source materials.
The bonus features in this collection are pretty good. And I leave it at “pretty good” because it basically consists of one amazing, all new documentary for Bugs Bunny’s 80th, featuring what appears to be some newly found archival footage of the great directors and animators who brought Bugs Bunny to life, and features many contemporary animators, filmmakers and historians. It’s an incredible documentary. There are also some new Audio Commentary tracks which are really cool. But… the rest of the bonus features are ones we’ve all seen before. If you already own the entirety of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and Platinum Collection sets, you have seen all the other bonus features in this set. They just carry over older materials the rest of the time. A couple new Behind the Tunes featurettes or something would have been great! Oh, and there is a small selection of new Looney Tunes cartoons, which aired on HBO Max just last year as part of a reboot of the Looney Tunes franchise which pays homage to the golden era of these cartoons. The ones in this set are fine, they’re not my favourites out of the ones I’ve seen, but it’s a fine little selection, if not just a cheap marketing tactic to advertise these new cartoons that they’re clearly trying to replace the old ones with (with 1,000 minutes of new Looney Tunes ordered, this is pretty obvious, but I digress).
And, I’ll count this as a bonus feature. It’s not an addition I particularly like but it’s here in this set. A little Bugs Bunny Funko Pop comes in this box set. Was it needed? Absolutely not. But Warner wanted to appeal to the masses by adding this silly little toy in and charged extra for it, which means this is really just something for me to sell on eBay. But the box set also comes with this nice letter written by animation historian Jerry Beck congratulating Bugs Bunny on his 80th which is a cool addition.
Overall, I highly recommend this collection. You will see cartoons on here that you haven’t seen in years, if at all, along with 20 essential Bugs Bunny shorts that you have most likely seen. It’s a great collection, I’m happy with the films that were selected minus the clip shows and the episodes with Clyde Bunny. You may want to wait until they release the Blu-Ray standalone if you don’t want the Funk Pop, which appears to be somewhat inevitable, albeit not confirmed, but definitely pick this up. And let’s hope this sells well so we can maybe see more additions to the Platinum Collection in the future!
Blu-Ray Grade: 4/5