Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2

After eight discs and 120 shorts, not only is the Looney Tunes collection not scraping the bottom of the barrel, they're still skimming cream off the top. Following in the footsteps of last year's first Golden Collection come four more DVDs organised by character, director and theme: a full disc of more Bugs, and ones dedicated to Roadrunner and Coyote, Sylvester and Tweety, and the most fascinating, a final disc dedicated to "show business." What's most remarkable about these collections is their balance between shorts that remain familiar from endless television rotation since the 1960s (most were created from the late '40s onwards) and the studio's history in earlier animation and black and white shorts. And for cartoons that seemingly recycle characters and situations endlessly, it's amazing how much diversity one can glean from: Elmer chases Bugs, Coyote chases Road Runner, Sylvester chases Tweety, and Daffy Duck is jealous, incompetent and sometimes a jerk. The delight then comes in the vision of each individual creator and animator: the early fantastical surrealism of Bob Clampett, the musical sensibilities of Friz Freleng and the elegant style of Chuck Jones. Jones — one of the later generation of animators and also one the most famous — directs two of the truly groundbreaking shorts missing from the first Golden Collection: "What's Opera Doc" and "One Froggy Evening." The first, in which Elmer Fudd and Bugs enact an epic Wagnerian opera, is an incredibly ambitious piece of storytelling well executed by these two characters. The second, an animated one-off (meaning the characters don't appear again), is the famous story of a Tin Pan Alley singing frog who will only sing for the person who found him, not for profit in front of audiences. Both appear on the fourth disc of "show business"-oriented shorts, which highlight not only the animators' fascination with opera and classical music (like Volume 1's "Rabbit of Seville") but also with the dominant swing and bebop that was the hip sound of the day. And several of them parody Disney's classically-scored Fantasia, outlining exactly what's different about the staid, artful Disney compared to Warner's whacked out, well, lunacy. In terms of special features, some of the featurettes are a trifle irritating (like the "All-Star 50th Anniversary," where celebrities "dish" on various characters' private lives), but most are fascinating, particularly the commentaries that highlight era-specific nuances and references lost to all but the serious pop-culture geeks some 50 years later. All this and they haven't yet touched Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam or that crazy French Canadian guy who tries to build a dam. I love that guy. Plus: interviews, "making of," audio-only tracks, more. (Warner)