It's getting easier than ever to program a Saturday-morning laser cartoon show with crisp, beautifully reproduced picture and sound. In fact, you could probably fill up a full year of cartoon mornings from your childhood using recent releases from Warner Home Video, MCA Universal Home Video and MGM/UA Home Video. But you'll probably appreciate them more accessing them selectively in relatively small doses.
Among the best of the batch are post-'48 Looney Tunes adventures with Bugs & Co. from Warner Home Video ($35, one disc each). Unfortunately, Warner hasn't packaged them quite as cleverly as MGM/UA, which has released pre-'48 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies with informative liner notes and brochures that add a lot to the viewing experience. The Warner Tunes are all accessible by chapter stop, but you'll get no detailed information about the individual toons.
Some of the best of the lot are packaged in Warner's "Looney Tunes Curtain Calls," which groups Bugs, Daffy, Porky and the rest of the gang in 14 variations of show biz. A major draw on the disc is "What's Opera, Doc?," which last year found its way into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. Other high points of this volume include "Rabbit of Seville" and "One Froggy Evening."
The other two Warner releases: "Looney Tunes After Dark," which puts Porky and Daffy and Bugs up against ghouls, ghosts and goblins in 15 cartoons; "Looney Tunes Assorted Nuts" with 16 bits in more legendary (the Three Bears, Mark Antony) territory.
MCA Universal serves up its first offering on laser of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Volumes 1 and 2 ($35 apiece, one disc per volume, all CAV) give us that friendly little comic book guy in various silly situations, one chapter stop per cartoon, a dozen on Vol. 1 and another 12 on Vol. 2.
MGM/UA Home Video, which has carved a nice niche for itself with laser releases of pre-1948 Looney Tunes, continues unrolling more with "The Golden Age of Looney Tunes Vol. 3" ($100). Once again, it's a smartly done compilation, with cartoons broken up either by protagonist (Bugs Bunny, Porky and Daffy), creator (Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin/Bob Clampett) or subject matter (sports, the evolution of Egghead and "politically incorrect"). It's clever packaging that brings together a varied mix of 70 toons varying in quality and taste.
MGM/UA also has packaged the off-center animator Tex Avery in his (post-Warner Bros.) MGM days when, most animation fanciers believe, he did his most creative work. The five-disc, 67-cartoon "The Compleat Tex Avery" ($100) swoops chronologically through some of his most imaginative work from 1942 through 1957. The final two cartoons, "Millionaire Droopy" and "Cat & Meow," are letterboxed. It's quite a tour de farce, but one that should be taken in short spurts. A little goes a long way, but what a way.
If that's too much Avery for you, there is a single-disc collection of several of the best MGM Avery works, "All This and Tex Avery Too" ($35).