DVD REVIEW: Looney Tunes Super Stars "Marsupial Mayhem"

Reviews
by Thad Komorowski
April 23, 2013 3:00 PM
10 Comments
  • |
Hey, it's the Looney Tunes DVD that doubles as a drinking game! Take a shot every time you hear the phrase "giant mouse!"

Yes, the latest Looney Tunes Super Stars release, Sylvester & Hippety Hopper: Marsupial Mayhem is just that: every single one of the cartoons Bob McKimson directed featuring either Hippety Hopper or Sylvester Junior. (Along with the one he didn't direct, Friz Freleng's Goldimouse and the Three Cats.) Most of these are centered around the concept of Sylvester and son mistaking the loose baby kangaroo for a giant mouse, a delightfully absurd premise created by writer Warren Foster that called for a lot of creative leeway (for one, joeys don't have round ears). Things play out in such a similar fashion in each cartoon that it's hard to single out any individual one for praise, beyond, "the earliest ones are best." 

Having two hours of these in one place does sound a little horrifying, but no more so than last year's Pepè Le Pew single or the Speedy Gonzales disc from seven years ago. Suffice to say, no series was meant to be seen in this kind of bulk, but it does make it far easier to locate those cartoons in your collection (or avoid them).

Though it's incredibly unfair to any director to judge his work by viewing a constant stream of cartoons featuring a single set of characters, it does give you a fair idea of how Bob McKimson deteriorated over a seventeen year period and how to classify the different eras of his work. These are talking points that have been emphasized repeatedly over the years, so I won't go into too much detail here.

The first cartoons (Hop, Look and Listen, Hippety Hopper, Pop 'im Pop) made in the '40s and written by Foster are things of pure joy in their 'over-animated' action and truly funny non-sequiturs. Then Friz Freleng did some political maneuvering to get Foster for himself (he felt Foster was the only storyman who could actually write stories) and McKimson got Tedd Pierce, often (and unfairly) acknowledged as the weakest of the Warner writing mainstays. Then most of the former 'zany' Frank Tashlin and Bob Clampett animators began leaving due to McKimson's stifling direction, leaving only the studio's greatest animator Rod Scribner to flounder. Scribner had returned to the studio in 1948 a weakened man and out of place, no longer able to instill his insanity into the characters as he did with Clampett. In McKimson cartoons like Cats A-Weigh! and Bell Hoppy, the excitement is purely visual, seeing how many ways Scribner can distort and pull Sylvester to pieces.


The visual element slid permanently, once and for all, when the entire McKimson unit was laid off in a studio downsizing shortly before a temporary six-month shutdown in 1953. McKimson's animators were gone before him, and he was left to animate his remaining cartoons singlehandedly (with Keith Darling), the last of which was Too Hop To Handle. The animation is polished, but dull, literal, and lacking punch. He wanted his own drawings and acting down to the minutest detail and he got it with a vengeance. When the studio fully reopened, Chuck Jones and Freleng were able to piece together their former units. McKimson was not, and he worked with mostly lesser lights that were either incapable or unwilling to enhance what their director handed them. The tired gags, stories, and voices eventually affected the entire Warner studio, but only McKimson's were so clearly and rapidly the work of a tired man. A shot could also be taken every time Sylvester does a nervous Peter Lorre laugh or an Art Carney "sheesh!"

The restorations on this disc, as they've been for the past year or two of Warner cartoon releases, are a mixed bag. True, they are clearer than any previous home video or television incarnations, but for the most part are a bit dark and grungy, looking as though they could've used a little more time in the studio facilities. The time and money that created the Golden Collection sets of 2003-08 are now nonexistent, so any reasonable facsimile to these cartoons' original IB Technicolor glory is coincidental. One only needs to look at the collection's single double-dip, Goldimouse and the Three Cats (restored for the fifth Golden Collection in 2007), to see the difference. So long as they are uncensored and free of the abhorrent DVNR process (which mistakes animation lines and movement for dirt and literally erases them), though, they get a free pass from me, even if it is disappointing to have to classify the Warner discs by 'A' and 'B' restorations.

So wait, is this still worth buying? Well, of course. Anyone reading this is probably a Warner completist like myself and will buy any unreleased cartoons without hesitation. There are still many genuinely funny moments, and any viewer will get a kick out of Junior's prissy manner and snide comments to his father. They're also a painful example of how high the level of skill was in the era of classic Warner animation. If these cartoons are weak by those standards, what exactly does that say about today's animation?

Contents:

Hop, Look and Listen
Hippety Hopper
Pop 'im Pop
Who's Kitten Who?
Hoppy-Go-Lucky
Cats A-Weigh!
Bell Hoppy
Lighthouse Mouse
Too Hop to Handle
Slap-Hoppy Mouse
Mouse-Taken Identity
Hoppy Daze
Freudy Cat
Cat's Paw
Fish and Slips
Birds of a Father
Claws in the Lease
Goldimouse and the Three Cats


Thad Komorowski is the author of Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy and blogs regularly at What About Thad?.
Reviews
  • |
You might also like:

10 Comments

  • fanatico | June 8, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    Any info about the next "Looney Tunes-Super Stars" DVD?
    Daffy Duck 2, maybe??

  • Willie | April 23, 2013 8:13 PMReply

    I wonder what cartoons on this release have the original opening titles or rings remastered back to the cartoons. Because back then, Turner Entertainment did show "Hop, Look, and Listen" (1948) with its original titles in 1995 and I heard on the internet that a copy of "Bell Hoppy" (1954) has the original opening rings intact.

  • Anthony DiPaola | April 23, 2013 11:10 PM

    I have the DVD and can confirm that Hippety Hopper, Pop 'Im Pop, and Bell Hoppy have the original rings restored!

    And for those wondering, yes Hop, Look, and Listen does have it's original titles.

  • Nic Kramer | April 23, 2013 7:07 PMReply

    >Whoops, that last comment was for the other Nic.

  • Hotdogface | April 23, 2013 5:48 PMReply

    Great, even-handed review that puts the shorts into context within the studio's history.

  • Nic Kramer | April 23, 2013 5:30 PMReply

    No offence, but I rather read Thad's old GAC colleagues' review of this DVD as their reviews are more enjoyable to read.

  • Nick | April 23, 2013 5:49 PM

    Not offence, but I'd rather read comments that have an actual point to make.

  • Ken Martinez | April 23, 2013 4:27 PMReply

    That's a shame. Not only is WB restoring fewer cartoons a year, but the restorations themselves aren't as good as they used to be.

    ...unless the darker colors are a result of cartoon "experts" having conniptions over the bright colors of the Golden Collections.

  • William | April 23, 2013 7:25 PM

    A shame indeed. We knew we weren't getting any more Golden Collections, but I was under the assumption any new-to-DVD films would get the full restoration. Wasn't that after all a chief reason for not continuing with the same output each year? If Warner Home Video somehow picks up with collector sets again, will we be expected to settle for these transfers?

  • Nic Kramer | April 23, 2013 7:05 PM

    That's an ironic post you made there.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Follow Animation Scoop

Email Updates

Popular Cartoon Posts

  • TEASER: Blue Sky's 3D CG "Peanuts"M ...
  • Indian Animation - Weekly Update (# ...
  • Indian Animation - Weekly Update (# ...
  • David Silverman developing a Live Action/CG ...
  • DreamWorks' New Project Is "Almost" ...