Bugs Bunny: 80th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Nov 19, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Bugs Bunny: 80th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Tex Avery, Fritz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, Bob Clampett

Release Date(s)

1940-1964 (December 1, 2020)

Studio(s)

Leon Schlesinger Productions/Warner Bros. Cartoons (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: A

Bugs Bunny: 80th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Though comic rabbits first appeared in animated shorts by Leon Schlesinger Productions in 1938 and ’39, it wasn’t until Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare (1940) that Bugs Bunny finally arrived on the big screen in a form that’s close to the character as we know him today. Created as a kind of spin-off of the popular Daffy Duck, Bugs would eventually star in more than 160 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, ultimately becoming one of the most popular animated characters in the history of film. A gray and white wise-cracking hare that nearly always gets the best of his rivals, Bugs (voiced by the incomparable Mel Blanc) has been a staple of childhood in America for eight decades, first entertaining audiences in theaters, then serving his country in patriotic shorts during World War II, and eventually transitioning to television on ABC, initially in prime-time and later on Saturday mornings.

Warner’s new 80th Anniversary Collection celebrates the character’s history by presenting sixty animated shorts from the classic era of Bugs Bunny, extending from 1940 to 1964. These shorts are included in roughly chronological order over a trio of Blu-ray Discs. Among them are twenty that have been released previously on Blu-ray (in the three Looney Tunes: Platinum Collections), but that are considered “essential” classics. The other forty have either never appeared on Blu-ray before, never been released on home video at all (including Racketeer Rabbit (1946), Rabbit Every Monday (1951), Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk (1943), and What’s Cookin’ Doc? (1944) among others), or never been released in their proper Academy aspect ratio.

Here’s the complete list of shorts and the special features included on each disc:

DISC ONE

  • Elmer’s Candid Camera (1940 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • A Wild Hare (1940 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Hold the Lion, Please (1942 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (1942 – with commentary by Michael Barrier and Bob Clampett)
  • Super-Rabbit (1943 – with commentary by Paul Dini)
  • Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk (1943)
  • What’s Cookin’ Doc? (1944 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944 – with commentary by Stan Freberg)
  • Hair Ribbin’ (1944 – with commentary by Constantine Nasr)
  • The Old Grey Hare (1944 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Baseball Bugs (1946 – with commentary by Eric Goldberg)
  • Hair-Raising Hare (1946 – with commentary by Greg Ford, Michael Barrier, and Lloyd Turner)
  • Racketeer Rabbit (1946)
  • Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Haredevil Hare (1948 – with commentary by Michael Barrier and Pete Alvarado)
  • Hot Cross Bunny (1948)
  • Hare Splitter (1948)
  • Knights Must Fall (1949)
  • What’s Up Doc? (1950 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • 8 Ball Bunny (1950 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • Bugs Bunny’s 80th What’s Up Doc-umentary! (HD – 61:04)
  • Hare Ribbin’ Director’s Cut (SD – 8:03)
  • Forever Befuddled (SD – 3:25)
  • Bugs: A Rabbit for All Seasonings (SD – 5:39)
  • Mars Attacks! Life on the Red Planet with My Favorite Martian (HD – 14:49)

DISC TWO

  • The Rabbit of Seville (1950 – with commentary by Eric Goldberg)
  • Rabbit Every Monday (1951 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • The Fair-Haired Hare (1951 – with commentary by Constantine Nasr)
  • Rabbit Fire (1951 – with commentary by Greg Ford and Chuck Jones)
  • His Hair-Raising Tale (1951)
  • Hare Lift (1952)
  • Upswept Hare (1953)
  • Robot Rabbit (1953)
  • Captain Hareblower (1954)
  • No Parking Hare (1954)
  • Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954)
  • Lumber Jack-Rabbit (1953 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • Baby Buggy Bunny (1954 – with commentary by Constantine Nasr)
  • Hare Brush (1955)
  • This Is a Life? (1955)
  • Rabbitson Crusoe (1956)
  • Napoleon Bunny-Part (1956)
  • Half-Fare Hare (1956)
  • Piker’s Peak (1957)
  • What’s Opera, Doc? (1957 – with commentary by Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese, and Maurice Noble, as well as a second commentary by Daniel Goldmark)
  • Alternate Audio Programs – Rabbit Fire: Music-Only Track
  • Alternate Audio Programs – Baby Buggy Bunny: Music-and-Effects Track
  • Alternate Audio Programs – What’s Opera, Doc?: Music-Only Track
  • Alternate Audio Programs – What’s Opera, Doc?: Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan Vocal Track
  • Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes All Star 50th Anniversary (SD – 47:31)
  • A Hunting We Will Go: Chuck Jones’ Wabbit Season Twilogy (SD – 9:30)
  • Bugs Bunny: Ain’t He a Stinker? (SD – 16:41)
  • Wagnerian Wabbit: The Making of What’s Opera, Doc? (SD – 9:31)

DISC THREE

  • Bugsy and Mugsy (1957)
  • Show Biz Bugs (1957 – with commentary by Greg Ford and Pre-Score Music)
  • Hare-Less Wolf (1958)
  • Now Hare This (1958)
  • Knighty Knight Bugs (1958 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • Hare-Arabian Nights (1959)
  • Backwoods Bunny (1959)
  • Wild and Woolly Hare (1959)
  • Bonanza Bunny (1959)
  • People Are Bunny (1959)
  • Person to Bunny (1960)
  • Rabbit’s Feat (1960 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • From Hare to Heir (1960 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Compressed Hare (1961)
  • Prince Violent (1961)
  • Shishkabugs (1962)
  • The Million Hare (1963)
  • The Unmentionables (1963)
  • False Hare (1964 – with commentary by Jerry Beck)
  • (Blooper) Bunny: Bugs Bunny’s 51st and a 1/2 Anniversary Spectacular (1991 – with commentary by Greg Ford)
  • Hard Luck Duck (SD – 3:41)
  • Short Fuse Shootout: The Small Tale of Yosemite Sam (SD – 3:03)
  • 50 Years of Bugs Bunny in 3½ Minutes (SD – 3:52)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Harm Wrestling (2020 – HD – 4:32)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Pest Coaster (2020 – HD – 5:57)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Siberian Sam (2020 – HD – 7:02)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Big League Beast (2020 – HD – 7:02)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Buzzard School (2020 – HD – 7:27)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Pool Bunny (2020 – HD – 6:57)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Grilled Rabbit (2020 – HD – 5:32)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Vincent Van Fudd (2020 – HD – 5:12)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Cartoon: Hare Restoration (2020 – HD – 5:42)
  • Bonus Looney Tunes Interstitials: Plunger/Fishing Pole/Bees/Mini Elmer (2020 – HD – 2:45)

So that’s everything you’ll find on the discs. The next question is, how do these vintage shorts look and sound?

Well, obviously all of them were drawn and painted by hand, then photographed on a stand in a traditional animation process for theatrical exhibition in the 1.33:1 Academy aspect ratio. For this release, it appears that Warner Bros. has scanned the original 35mm camera negatives to capture all of the detail present in the original artwork. The image was then digitally restored and remastered to insure that no age-related damage remains and that colors are as they should be. The good news is, not only does the HD image look fantastic, it looks like film. Light photochemical grain remains, along with the occasional bit of dust on the glass, or hair trapped in the gate. But other than very rare shots that are optically soft as photographed, overall detail is lovely. All of the detail in the backgrounds is visible. You can even see the odd pencil mark or paint brush stroke on the cels. Colors are accurate and well saturated. As always, it’s extraordinary to see these shorts with this kind of vibrant color after decades of viewing them on older B&W and color analog TVs. If you’ve got any of the previous Looney Tunes Platinum Collections (or the recent Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 1 Blu-ray—reviewed here), you’ll know exactly what to expect.

In terms of audio, each short includes its primary sound in English 2.0 mono in Dolby Digital format. Certainly, these aren’t sonic dazzlers, but the tracks do preserve the original theatrical sonic experience well. Dialogue, music, and foley effects are mostly clear and clean, limited only by the recording technology of the time. Audio is also available in French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (for the shorts only), as are optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Dutch, and Portuguese (for the shorts and some of the extras).

Of the special features listed above, Bugs Bunny’s 80th What’s Up Doc-umentary! is by far the best of the bunch. Narrated by Billy Crystal, it’s a new hour-long retrospective that tracks the entire history of the Bugs Bunny character, from his inception, through the classic era, and on to today’s Looney Tunes Cartoons revival on HBO Max. But rest assured, the majority of the doc’s running time is devoted to the vintage shorts you know and love. Restored HD footage and rare photographs and artwork are intercut with new and archival interview material, featuring virtually everyone you’d wish to hear from, including original animators like Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng, Mel Blanc, and Tex Avery, surviving members of the production team that worked on the shorts, and animation experts like Jerry Beck, Eric Goldberg, Don Hann, June Foray, Stan Freberg, and Leonard Maltin. It’s really a treat, whether you’re a cinephile or just a huge fan of Looney Tunes, and worth every minute of your time.

Next up are nearly thirty audio commentary tracks (many newly-recorded) by animation historians, among them Beck, Greg Ford, Eric Goldberg, and Constantine Nasr. There’s even one by Paul Dini (of Batman: The Animated Series fame) on Super-Rabbit (1943), which is a parody of the Fleischer Studios’ Superman shorts. The commentaries are brief, obviously, but together they offer lots of interesting production insights and historical trivia. You get a series of archival featurettes too, most in SD, carried over from previously DVD releases. There is a new featurette in HD though, which is pretty good: Mars Attacks! Life on the Red Planet with My Favorite Martian. You also get the original cut of Hare Ribbin’, several alternate audio tracks, the 50th Anniversary special, and even ten of the aforementioned Looney Tunes Cartoons shorts that feature Bugs Bunny in HD. On top of all this, the package comes with an exclusive “glitter” Funko Pop figure of Bugs, a letter from Jerry Beck, and a Digital code. The set is offered in a numbered edition (of 30,000 units).

Warner’s Bugs Bunny: 80th Anniversary Collection is a great Blu-ray release and a welcome addition to the previous Looney Tunes: Platinum Collections on the format. I do wish the studio would find a way to release all of the classic Looney Tunes shorts in a more comprehensive way on Blu-ray, or at least make sure that the as-yet-unreleased shorts find their way to the format eventually (more on that below). But you do get enough new material here, not to mention the terrific documentary, to make this 80th Anniversary Collection hard to pass up on. It’s a little pricey, so get it on sale if you must. But if you’re a fan of Bugs or classic animation in general, this set is certainly recommended.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

Additional Notes

SO WHAT’S LEFT? (71 SHORTS)

For those of you who might be wondering what Bugs Bunny animated shorts remain unreleased on Blu-ray if you purchase this set (in addition to the three previous Looney Tunes: Platinum Collections), here’s a list of them—71 animated shorts in all. With luck, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will find a way to release them all on Blu-ray in the near future:

  • Elmer’s Pet Rabbit (1941)
  • The Heckling Hare (1941)
  • All This and Rabbit Stew (1941)
  • The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (1942)
  • The Wacky Wabbit (1942)
  • Fresh Hare (1942)
  • The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (1942)
  • Case of the Missing Hare (1942)
  • Wackiki Wabbit (1943)
  • Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (1944)
  • Hare Force (1944)
  • Stage Door Cartoon (1944)
  • Herr Meets Hare (1945)
  • The Unruly Hare (1945)
  • Hare Trigger (1945)
  • Hare Conditioned (1945)
  • Hare Remover (1946)
  • Rhapsody Rabbit (1946)
  • A Feather in His Hare (1948)
  • Rabbit Punch (1948)
  • A-Lad-In His Lamp (1948)
  • My Bunny Lies Over the Sea (1948)
  • Hare Do (1949)
  • Mississippi Hare (1949)
  • Rebel Rabbit (1949)
  • Bowery Bugs (1949)
  • The Grey Hounded Hare (1949)
  • The Windblown Hare (1949)
  • Frigid Hare (1949)
  • Which Is Witch (1949)
  • Hurdy-Gurdy Hare (1950)
  • Mutiny on the Bunny (1950)
  • Homeless Hare (1950)
  • Big House Bunny (1950)
  • Bunker Hill Bunny (1950)
  • Bushy Hare (1950)
  • Hare We Go (1951)
  • French Rarebit (1951)
  • Ballot Box Bunny (1951)
  • Big Top Bunny (1951)
  • Foxy by Proxy (1952)
  • 14 Carrot Rabbit (1952)
  • Water, Water Every Hare (1952)
  • Oily Hare (1952)
  • Rabbit’s Kin (1952)
  • Forward March Hare (1953)
  • Southern Fried Rabbit (1953)
  • Hare Trimmed (1953)
  • Beanstalk Bunny (1955)
  • Sahara Hare (1955)
  • Rabbit Rampage (1955)
  • Hyde and Hare (1955)
  • Knight-mare Hare (1955)
  • Roman Legion-Hare (1955)
  • Bugs’ Bonnets (1956)
  • A Star Is Bored (1956)
  • Wideo Wabbit (1956)
  • To Hare Is Human (1956)
  • Rabbit Romeo (1957)
  • Pre-Hysterical Hare (1958)
  • Baton Bunny (1959)
  • Apes of Wrath (1959)
  • Horse Hare (1960)
  • Lighter Than Hare (1960)
  • The Abominable Snow Rabbit (1961)
  • Wet Hare (1962)
  • Devil’s Feud Cake (1963)
  • Hare-Breadth Hurry (1963)
  • Transylvania 6-5000 (1963)
  • Dumb Patrol (1964)
  • The Iceman Ducketh (1964)

 

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