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Kevin Krock, editor
Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, A Life in Animation
(2000)
| Approx. 85 minutes | NR | Reviewed by Al Lutz
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
ADVANCED HOME THEATER - They missed the mark big time

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The Movie

If you're buying this disc to learn more about Chuck Jones and what he did for animation, you're going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're a fan of his work, and enjoy seeing the best clips from some of his classic cartoons with an appreciative commentary, for the very low price this disc goes for you can't go wrong. (In an ideal world this program would be the supplemental section for a Looney Tunes DVD set.)

Unlike the also just released Walt: The Man Behind the Myth (the Disney family official bio film) there is no great analysis of Jones' work here, nor do we really get much of his family history. What we do get are some useful observations from crack experts in the same field (such as John "Toy Story" Lassiter and Matt "Simpsons" Groening), and many rather useless comments from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Lorne "Saturday Night Live" Michaels and Steven Spielberg who were obviously picked for their name value. In-between all of this you also get a few of the last clips of Jones himself chatting about his work.

Promo art © Warner Bros. Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

Originally created for and broadcast on PBS' Great Performances, there is so much missed here that could have made this lightweight retrospective a lot more informative.

For example did you know that when Jones was working on really big expensive and time consuming shorts such as "What's Opera Doc?" he would quickly dash off a few Road Runners in a few days at much lower budgets to help hide the longer times and more money the big productions would require? This clever workaround would enable him to beat the studio budget system which insisted on a set cost per cartoon. He was always focused on doing the best job he could, even if he had to trick his employers to accomplish it.

Promo art © Warner Bros. Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The Goodies

The goodies are a bit sparse - but a few of them are choice.

"A Chuck Jones Tutorial" consists of people like Ron Howard (who is obviously here to plug his Grinch remake) going over the basic cartoon rules of thumb. It's utterly expendable. There are also two "pencil tests" - one for "Mississippi" Hare and what appears to be more of a promotional film for the Grinch TV special. (Since Warner Brothers destroyed so much of their animation legacy in the past, this is about all you're going to get of Jones as a work in progress.) There is also a text overview of Jones career. All of this is "watch once" stuff.

The choice items are two complete cartoons, "Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1/2 Century," and (my personal favorite) "Feed the Kitty." Both look and sound great - they appear to be cleaned up, yet they still retain that handmade patina, happily they just didn't paintbox them all up. Until they finally finish restoring the Looney Tunes for DVD release (hopefully next year sometime) this is about it for WB animation on the format at this time.

Promo art © Warner Bros. Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The Video, Audio and Interface

The shot on video portions of the presentation are flawless, the film clips are all over the map in quality. (See below for a widescreen transfer problem.)

Audio could be mono for all it matters, I didn't really notice a stereo mix. Menus are static, but get you where you need to go - at least you don't have to guess to get to things.

The Advanced Home Theater

Like the Walt: The Man Behind the Myth DVD which also is reviewed today, this release suffers from what appears to be a mistake in the transfer process. Shot and broadcast on PBS in High Definition, they neglected to complete the process on the DVD transfer to make it work on 16x9 widscreen anamorphic sets. 

As a result of this mistake, on your state of the art set you get a giant black frame (essentially letterbox bars top, bottom and on the sides) and a tiny picture.  (On my set the picture size went from 50 to 40 inches - even smaller for the 4x3 cartoon clips.)  And while some DVD players and/or widescreen sets will allow you to zoom into the shot to fill in the screen - what you get then are blown-up artifacts.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The Final Evaluation

While the transfer is incorrect, this is about the only way to pick up any of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons until they finish restoring the Looney Tunes for DVD release.

Thankfully the low price (around ten dollars at most retailers) makes up for a lot here, the clips are choice, and you get as a bonus two of Jones' best shorts.


Al Lutz may be e-mailed at al@mouseplanet.com - Keep in mind the volume of e-mail he receives may not allow for a personal response.

ALSO PUBLISHED TODAY:

Kevin Krock takes a look at new DVDs including Walt: The Man Behind the Myth

Kevin Krock fills you in on upcoming DVD releases

DVD FEATURES

Details:

  • Region 1 encoding (US & Canada only)
  • Animated, Color, Closed-captioned
  • Single-sided
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Letterboxed, 1.85:1
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

LEGENDARY LOONEY TUNES AND HOLLYWOOD HEAVYWEIGHTS TIP THEIR HATS TO ANIMATION SENSATION CHUCK JONES, AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME ON DVD

CHUCK JONES: EXTREMES AND IN-BETWEENS, A LIFE IN ANIMATION

BURBANK, CA – Fans of the beloved Looney Tunes characters have quite a bit to be thankful for as Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, A Life in Animation becomes available for the first time on DVD from Warner Home Video (WHV). This celebration of legendary animator Chuck Jones showcases such Warner Bros. favorites as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote and includes appearances by a host of Hollywood heavyweights.

The most famous animated characters – and the stars who love them – unite to pay tribute to Chuck Jones, the living legend of animation. Whoopi Goldberg, Matt Groening, Ron Howard, John Lasseter, Leonard Maltin, Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams join a stellar celebrity line-up in this entertaining retrospective spotlighting the extraordinarily engaging personality and creative mind of a true animation pioneer.

Featuring never- before- seen artwork and original pencil sketches from Chuck Jones’ personal archive, Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens includes clips from such classic works as Rabbit of Seville, What’s Opera, Doc?, One Froggy Evening, Duck Amuck, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Academy Award winner The Dot and the Line.

Insights and anecdotes from this legendary animator, his colleagues and some of today’s foremost animators provide an entertaining look at Chuck Jones’ work and make clear that these timeless characters will keep audiences laughing for years to come.

The all-new DVD edition of Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, includes the following:

Two classic Looney Tunes shorts directed by Chuck Jones: "Feed the Kitty" and "Duck Dodgers and the 24 1/2th Century."

Historic milestones from the life of the legend.

"Warner Home Video is delighted to remember one of the true pioneers of animation with the first-time DVD release of this retrospective celebration," said Ewa Martinoff, WHV Vice President, Family Entertainment Marketing. "Timeless Looney Tunes characters coupled with an exciting line-up of celebrities are sure to make this entertaining program a must-have for families everywhere."

Produced and directed by Emmy Award and Peabody Award winner Margaret Selby, this 90-minute retrospective is a co-production of CAMI Spectrum, Thirteen/WNET New York and RM Associates in association with Fireworks Entertainment.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by MARGARET SELBY | Co-produced by GREG FORD | Written by GREG FORD and MARGARET SELBY | Director of Photography MEAD HUNT | Edited by STEVEN WECHSLER | Executive Producers MATTHEW RINGEL and JOHN SCHULMAN

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