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BUGS BUNNY SUPERSTAR (1975)
What was it like to work in Termite Terrace, birthplace of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and a veritable horde of cartoon icons? Get a taste of that crazy and creative fun factory in this loving and droll documentary, hosted by ace animator Bob Clampett. Featuring interviews with fellow Termite Terrace residents Friz Freleng and Tex Avery and narrated by Orson Welles, Bugs Bunny Superstar includes nine complete cartoons that are prime examples of the collaborative efforts of Warner cartoonists, ink-and-painters, effects artists and others. "No idea was too outrageous," Clampett says. Seeing rare home movies of the animators as they act out ideas adds to that sense of unrestrained creativity.
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I highly recommend this for the transfers of the cartoons and for those who want to have the movie on just one disc instead of as a 2 part movie on 2 discs.
It's a feature length anthology-style documentary film about Bugs Bunnys history and creation at Termite Terrace with several good Looney Tune cartoons throughout.
Best of all it's hosted by Bob Clampett! My hero himself, hosting a documentary about Bugs Bunny, in his studio full of cartoon art and memorabilia! It features snippets of interviews with Friz Freleng and Tex Avery and is narrated by Orson Welles of all people! This made for some excellent boxing day viewing, I can tell you.
There's tons of great production drawings and rarely seen footage from the days of Termite Terrace. I was shocked and delighted to see scenes of a young Clampett acting out a scene of Bugs while shooting reference for 'Whats Cooking Doc?'
By the way, this DVD features 'Whats Cooking Doc?', a brilliant Bob Clampett cartoon that hasn't been released on any of the other Warner cartoon sets! Exclusive to this DVD, this cartoon is worth the price of admission alone. The scenes of Bugs Bunny are ingenious, unparallelled.
It also has a scant few bonus features such as Image gallery/Behind-the-scenes photos and an outstanding commentary track by the films director, Larry Jackson, giving an in-depth and wonderfully told back-story about how difficulty the film was the produce. In the 1970's cartoons in general were considered kiddie-fodder and the idea of a wide-release Looney Tunes compilation film for all ages seemed absurd.
This quote really sticks with me: "We weren't geniuses and it wasn't Gone with the Wind but we worked hard. Plugging away at the release of one movie for 18 months. We had good instincts and tried to learn from the mistakes we inevitably made."
A brilliant, understated, classic! A must have for Looney Tunes fans!
I've been aware of this documentary for more than 20 years now. I first saw it on television at some point in the early '90s on TBS or TNT. It had previously been issued on home video and years later it became available on DVD as a bonus feature on Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Vol. 4. It was split in two parts, on two separate discs...much like other documentaries that appear on the other Golden Collection releases. This time it's presented by itself.
The program is narrated by Orson Welles and it begins rather dramatic as he tells of various landmarks throughout the world that have made an impact in some way on mankind. He then, in a rather mystified and questionable tone of voice, submits Termite Terrace among the landmarks worthy of adoration. Welles narrates and introduces all involved...the interview clips often begin with the interview already in progress and we are let in on the conversation. Bob Clampett receives the bulk of the airtime. Within the documentary you will see 9 cartoons in their entirety. As others have mentioned, most documentaries only show bits and pieces of cartoons or stills of characters whereas this one airs 9 cartoons in their entirety. In an audio commentary, a bonus feature, you will discover the story of why the special was put together and why Bob Clampett received much of the focus (even though all of the other famed Looney Tune directors, except Frank Tashlin, were still among the living at the time of filming).
This is a must-have documentary in my opinion. If this will be your first time seeing this documentary, but you've seen the various BEHIND THE TUNES features on the Golden Collection series, then this 1975 SUPERSTAR documentary will perhaps perplex or confuse most of you. Why? It's because of a lot of the information from Clampett in the SUPERSTAR documentary has either been dismissed or shown to be partly true.
Now, of course, armed with a lot more knowledge of the cartoons and the behind the scenes information that we have access to today, it may make watching the SUPERSTAR documentary cringe-worthy to some but if you simply want to see a few of the legendary cartoon directors speak of their cartoons as well as see 9 full length cartoons...in addition to hearing the audio from the film maker, Larry Jackson...plus hear Orson Welles narrate...this DVD will not disappoint!
Although it's been almost 4 decades since this special first aired, it nonetheless aired numerous times on cable TV throughout the 1980's and most of 1990's, usually in overnight and early morning time slots or during times of the day with younger audiences. Given that kind of exposure, a lot of the information in the film continued to be accepted as fact. I, too, blindly accepted a lot of the things I was hearing in this special as fact but it wasn't until the Golden Collection series came along and the increase in animation web-sites (with a lot more credible information) that I was able to see that there was a lot of credit hogging taking place amongst many (especially the creation of Bugs Bunny).
You can look up various websites that offer one side of the story verses another when it comes to character creation and see all the multiple accounts and second hand information, etc. etc. Clampett certainly played a vital role in the studio's success, no doubt about it, and his cartoons are hilariously funny in my opinion. This doesn't mean that I don't love the subtlety of the Chuck Jones cartoons or the razor sharp timing and musical prowess of the Friz Freleng cartoons. I don't have any one director, in particular, that stands above the rest and receives exclusive admiration and adoration...there are cartoons from all of the major directors at the cartoon studio that I like for various reasons. Some people actually believe that if you like Clampett's work then you can't possibly like anything from Chuck Jones, for example. There are those who think that if you gravitate toward Friz Freleng then there's no possible way that you could enjoy something from Robert McKimson or Art Davis.
All of that aside, BUGS BUNNY SUPERSTAR provides a look into the golden age of animation and it continues to remain a must-have in that it includes actual footage of all involved.
There is another documentary that I'd love to see get a DVD release by itself. As of now it's only available on Vol. 1 of the Golden Collection and it's John Canemaker's 'Boys From Termite Terrace'. That documentary along with this 'Bugs Bunny Superstar' DVD are must-have's simply for the video footage of several of the directors speaking in detail about their cartoons.
It's a shame Robert McKimson wasn't as active in either of those documentaries. He died, suddenly, in 1977 at age 66. I love his cartoon parodies of TV shows and the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons he did. I also like how he didn't follow the formula for a lot of the established characters and for humor's sake would place Bugs Bunny, for example, as an overly aggressive character out to prove his worth in "Rebel Rabbit"; then there was "Easter Yeggs", "The Windblown Hare", "Hillbilly Hare", "French Rarebit", "Rabbits Kin", "The Grey Hounded Hare", and many others. His cartoons include their share of catch-phrases and scenes that are just as memorable as the other directors.
He's one that I think was just as great as his peers but his tendency to shy from attention, adoration and publicity in a manner in which his peers didn't caused his work to be greatly under appreciated. You can read about him and his two brothers, Charles and Tom, in a book that Robert McKimson, Jr. wrote titled "I Say, I Say . . . Son!": A Tribute to Legendary Animators Bob, Chuck, and Tom McKimson.
Regarding the history of Termite Terrace, it was really amazing to see the directors and animators having fun creating these cartoons. This type of attitude really shows in the cartoons. But you'll need to watch other documentaries in order to get the whole picture. While the 1940's was indeed a decade in which the Looney Tunes were very popular, it wasn't confined to that era. The history of Looney Tunes spans from 1930 to today.