Tuesday, September 02, 2008

DVD Review: Tiny Toon Adventures - Season One, Volume One

Before Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, or Freakazoid!, there was Tiny Toon Adventures. The first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation finally comes to DVD with Tiny Toon Adventures: Season One, Volume One. While it hasn't aged as well as the shows that came after it, Tiny Toon Adventures is still quite a bit of fun.

Premiering back in 1990, Tiny Toon Adventures was meant to be an update of Looney Tunes for a new generation of fans. The show takes place in the fictional Acme Acres, home of the Acme Looniversity where Looney Tunes characters like Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck are professors. The characters on Tiny Toons consider the Looney Tunes mentors and many of them are inspired by them.

The stars of the show are Buster and Babs Bunny (no relation). The two, clearly inspired by Bugs Bunny, are best friends and sometimes a couple. In addition to starring in their own cartoons, they usually act as hosts appearing before and between cartoons.

In addition to Buster and Babs, there is a large cast of supporting characters. Plucky Duck has a big ego and doesn't want to get upstaged while his best friend Hamton J. Pig is quiet and a bit of a neat freak. Shirley The Loon is a New Age waterbird with a Valley Girl accent. Furrball is an unlucky kitten who never speaks while Fowlmouth's speech is profane. Gogo Dodo resides in Wackyland and Fifi La Fume is a skunk whose scent drives away the boys.

The villains of the show are Montana Max and Elmyra Duff. Montana Max is a short-tempered, spoiled rich kid who tries to use money to get whatever he wants. Elmyra Duff is a dimwitted girl who quite literally loves animals to pieces. Elmyra is the only one from this show to spinoff to another show, Pinky, Elmyra, & The Brain.

Just like the shows that would come after it, Tiny Toon Adventures takes a "something for everyone" approach to its humor. There's slapstick in cartoons like "Optical Intrusion" (where a pair of defective 3D glasses sends tons of objects hurtling at Furrball) and "The Anvil Chorus" (which features many, many anvils dropped or almost dropped on Plucky).

There is more dialogue-based humor in a cartoon like "To Bleep Or Not To Bleep" (where Buster tries to help Fowlmouth get rid of his cursing habit) and contemporary references in a cartoon like "Hollywood Plucky" (which features caricatures of various actors including Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, and Michael Keaton).

There are sly nods to the Looney Tunes beyond the occasional appearance of Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd. "Her Wacky Highness" has Babs becoming Queen of Wackyland. The sometimes surreal gags (such as the WB shield chasing after the old Warner Communications logo with a mallet) are inspired by the classic "Porky in Wackyland." A crucial scene towards the end of the cartoon turns a traditional cartoon cliché on its ear. The cartoon "Fields of Honey" essentially introduces the early WB characters of Bosko and Honey to a whole new generation.

Not everything about Tiny Toon Adventures has held up in the 18 years since its debut. Like other shows of its time, many of the episodes try to have some sort of message. While sometimes the message is nicely integrated, there are times where the message is handled in a ham-fisted way. Also, the pop culture references date the show a bit. References to the 1990's and celebrities like Joan Rivers, Roseanne, and Cher only relate to older audiences.

This DVD collection contains the first 35 episodes from the 65-episode first season across four DVDs, three single-sided discs and one flipper. The discs are housed in a space-saving clear DVD case with episode listings printed on the flipside of the cover. The video quality is okay for standard definition connections but looks kind of bad when viewed on a computer.

Apart from trailers for other WB animation releases, the only special feature is a featurette on the making of the show called "From Looney Tunes to Tiny Toons – A Wacky Evolution" on side B of disc four. It features interviews with some of the people who worked on Tiny Toon Adventures along with Ruth Clampett, daughter of legendary Looney Tune director Bob Clampett. It starts with a brief history of the Looney Tunes before going into the origins of the show.

While it may not have gotten as much credit as it deserves, Tiny Toon Adventures is still a good show and quite funny. It's also an important show because it began the resurgence of WB animation. Many talented people who would later work on Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, and Justice League all originally worked on Tiny Toon Adventures. This collection is a great introduction to the show and with more than 12 hours worth of cartoons, it will keep you entertained for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:38 AM

    I noticed that the cartoons on this DVD look worse when played on a computer, too. What's up with that? Maybe it's like a piano roll in that Tiny Toons will only really play on audio/video devices from its time. The Amish would enjoy that, if they believed in orthicon tubes.