Looney Tunes Hall of Fame
1991 Directed by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert Mckimson.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Nov. 1, 1991
The Duck, a creature of great imagined dignity, begins his performance. It is a costume drama. He is, as always, a terrible ham. Suddenly the scenery is changed around him, then his costume, then the plot, then the very basic rules of filmmaking itself. A deconstructionist masterpiece disguised as a commercial theatrical American cartoon produced in 1953, Duck Amuck -- in 7 1/2 minutes the duck and the rabbit cover more theoretical cinematic ground than I experienced in 3 1/2 years of film graduate school. Slowly but steadily over the years, Warner Bros. cartoons have garnered the aesthetic credentials they long ago earned. During the heyday of the American studio system (roughly 1930-1955) when as many as 90 million Americans each week went to the movies, the cartoon earned a permanent spot on the bill. In one of those surprising accidents of art as commerce, the cartoons could get away with almost anything if they were finished on schedule and on budget. Because of the enormous audience at the time, cartoons were designed for the whole family, silly animals for the children and rich innuendo for the adults. When TV came about, Saturday morning wound up targeted toward children and getting heavily programmed with cartoons, but they never were just for kids. The best of them dazzle with a real cinematic energy, their makers obviously determined to push the limits, cramming the cartoons with puns, absurdities and visual play. The Warners cartoons could be especially brutal, with Bugs and Daffy contributing to kamikaze ballets. Here's the perfect opportunity to see a number of the finest on the big screen as they were intended to be shown. Included in the program are three of director Chuck Jones greatest cartoons: One Froggy Evening is a fable for our times, of the frog that could sing but wouldn't; Duck Amuck in which the story literally is the deconstruction of the text; and finally Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century, with the Duck as science fiction superhero. The rest of the bill is also terrific including Friz Freleng's Hare Do, Robert McKimson's Leghorn Swoggled and five other Chuck Jones cartoons. Oddly, the collection centers on Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, leaving out any work by two of the greatest Warners directors, the completely wacked Tex Avery (who admittedly left early) and the even more wacked, surrealistic master Bob Clampitt (who ended up piloting the Beany and Cecil show). One final caveat: cartoons were designed to be seen in a clump of one to three before a movie, watching 14 in a row can be a little humbling. I myself, have watched cartoons for 12 hours in a row and enjoyed a healthy percentage of it, but that's another story. There is a unified sensibility in Warners cartoons, one celebrating chaos, revolution and fun, and it's appealing because it's so uncompromising.