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Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection

Blu-Ray Review by Jon Cooke

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Own it now on Blu-Ray
Own it now on DVD

Possibly the most exciting Looney Tunes release of the year stars some of Chuck Jones' smallest stars. Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection gathers together a total of 19 beautifully restored classic cartoons, most of them new to DVD/Blu-Ray, comprising the entire filmographies of Sniffles the Mouse and Hubie and Bertie. Yes, it's really an entire collection devoted to relatively minor players in the Warner Bros. cartoon roster. Folks looking for Bugs or Daffy may be disappointed, but collectors will love this release.

Sniffles, a sweet and talkative mouse, was one of director Chuck Jones' earliest creations. Although now somewhat obscure, the character appeared in a total of twelve cartoons between 1939 and 1946. Those cartoons continued to be reissued to theaters through the 1950s (as "Blue Ribbon" Merrie Melodies, missing their original titles --- but more on that later) and Sniffles had a regular feature in the Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies comic books at the time. Presented in chronological order, as you watch the cartoons on Disc 1 you can also watch the evolution of Chuck Jones' directing style. The early Sniffles cartoons a bit slow-moving and were heavily influenced by the Disney Silly Symphony cartoons of the day. The pace picks up as the years go by and near the end of Sniffles' run, Jones had turned the sweet-and-innocent Sniffles into almost a parody of his former self in three purely comedy-driven cartoons ("The Unbearable Bear", "Lost and Foundling" and "Hush My Mouse").

Disc 1 includes:

    "Naughty But Mice" (1939)
    "Little Brother Rat" (1939)
    "Sniffles and the Bookworm" (1939)
    "Sniffles Takes a Trip" (1940)
    "The Egg Collector" (1940)
    "Bedtime for Sniffles" (1940)
    "Sniffles Bells the Cat" (1941)
    "Toy Trouble" (1941)
    "The Brave Little Bat" (1941)
    "The Unbearable Bear" (1943)
    "Lost and Foundling" (1944)
    "Hush My Mouse" (1946)

The only bonus feature on the first disc is a new audio commentary track by Jerry Beck for 1939's "Naughty But Mice".

The most exciting thing for longtime Warner cartoon buffs and collectors is the amazing uncut and restored versions of these cartoons. The restorations are eye-opening and look amazing. The use of colors and the lush backgrounds in the early Sniffles cartoons easily rival anything Disney was doing at the time. Some perfect examples would be "The Brave Little Bat" and "Sniffles Takes a Trip". "The Unbearable Bear" is another stand-out, taking place mostly at night, the colors really set the mood, which you couldn't really appreciate in the faded versions we've seen on television for decades.

Like I mentioned earlier, Warner Bros. had a practice during the 1940s and 1950s of reissuing their older cartoons as "Blue Ribbon" Merrie Melodies. In many cases, this resulted in older shorts getting a newer opening and closing title sequence, so theatergoers would get the impression that they were watching a "newer" cartoon. Sadly, this meant that the original title sequences would be chopped off and replaced with a generic "Blue Ribbon" title card. After a cartoon was reissued, often those original title elements would just be discarded (after all, what value would they have? Who in the 1940s could have predicted that these shorts would still be popular seventy years later?). It is always an exciting treat for us hardcore fans to see these original titles restored. I am happy to report that a total of four cartoons have their titles restored and are seen here for the first time since they were issued to theaters! The titles are "Little Brother Rat" and "Hush My Mouse" on Disc 1 and "Trap Happy Porky" and "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat" on Disc 2. The others are either still sporting their Blue Ribbon titles or are ones that have always retained their original titles (due to never being reissued). You have to commend the folks in charge who went the extra mile for this release.

We switch gears on Disc 2 to the type of hilarious Chuck Jones cartoons we all know and love. Hubie and Bertie were a duo of trickster mice (Hubie being the smart one and Bertie being his dimwitted companion) who took glee in tormenting rather hapless cats (their favorite target often being Claude Cat). Every cartoon on this disc is a gem from Jones at his peak.

Disc 2 includes:

    "The Aristo-cat" (1943)
    "Trap Happy Porky" (1945)
    "Roughly Squeaking" (1946)
    "House Hunting Mice" (1947)
    "Mouse Wreckers" (1949)
    "The Hypo-Chondri-Cat" (1950)
    "Cheese Chasers" (1951)

Collectors may notice some repeats from past Golden Collections, but it's hard to find fault in the "double-dips" here since they make sense in the presentation of the complete Hubie and Bertie filmography.

Due to the fewer cartoons on Disc 2, this is the disc holding the bulk of this set's bonus features. Audio commentaries and a storyboard reel are carried over from past Golden Collections. A new featurette, narrated by Maurice ("The Brain") LaMarche, titled "Of Mice and Pen" takes a look at the many WB cartoon mice. The main focus is on Sniffles, Hubie and Bertie, and Speedy Gonzales, but everyone from Hippety Hopper to Merlin Mouse to Pinky and the Brain get a little attention. One oddity is that during the Hubie and Bertie portion, they credit the voices to writers Tedd Pierce and Michael Maltese and there was no mention of Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg who are more associated with the characters.

There is also a selection of eleven mice-themed bonus shorts. Since these are billed as bonus features, they are NOT restored and are presented in standard definition on Blu-Ray. It's a fun variety that showcases mice from all eras of Warner animation, starting with early musical 1930s Merrie Melodies through the limited animated shorts from the studio's final days (with the likes of Daffy Duck/Speedy Gonzales and Merlin the Magic Mouse). There are some great gems in here that will hopefully get the royal treatment in a restored format someday (such as Chuck Jones' "Mouse Warming" and Friz Freleng's "Mouse Mazurka").

Disc 2 bonus shorts are as follows:

    "The Country Mouse" (1935, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "The Lyin' Mouse" (1937, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "The Mice Will Play" (1938, directed by Tex Avery)
    "Little Blabbermouse" (1940, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "Shop, Look and Listen" (1940, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "Mouse Mazurka" (1949, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "Mouse Warming" (1952, directed by Chuck Jones)
    "Mouse-Taken Identity" (1957, directed by Bob McKimson)
    "Mice Follies" (1960, directed by Bob McKimson)
    "It's Nice to Have a Mouse Around the House" (1965, directed by Friz Freleng)
    "Merlin the Magic Mouse" (1967, directed by Alex Lovy)

I was a little disappointed there was no "Play All" option for the bonus shorts, so you have to start each cartoon individually. My only other complaint is that contents are listed nowhere either outside OR inside the case! That is why I made a point of listing all the information here. I hope people will find it helpful.

If you are a Looney Tunes collector or fan, this set comes Highly Recommended!

Click here to order LOONEY TUNES MOUSE CHRONICLES (Blu-Ray edition)
Click here to order LOONEY TUNES MOUSE CHRONICLES (DVD edition)

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Textual content © 2012 by Jon Cooke.
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