‘Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles:
The Chuck Jones Collection'
Lesser-known Warner Bros. animated characters Sniffles, Hubie and Bertie scurry into the spotlight with “Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: The Chuck Jones Collection.”
While the notion of compiling vintage cartoons based on their mousiness might initially seem a bit cheesy, rodents have frequently been featured in American animation, from Jerry and Fievel to Mighty Mouse and Pinky and the Brain. More importantly, the new two-disc set's focus on mice allows it to plainly trace the evolution in Jones' storytelling style and sense of humor.
The first disc is devoted to the 12 animated shorts starring Sniffles, an adorable, childlike mouse Jones introduced with 1939's “Naughty But Mice,” in which the chronically cold-afflicted rodent goes searching for a remedy, gets drunk on 125-proof cough syrup and befriends an electric shaver. The naive, round-cheeked Sniffles is clearly meant to compete with the cute denizens of Disney's “Silly Symphonies” shorts.
A highlight of the Sniffles collection, 1941's “The Brave Little Bat” marks a shift in the character's sweetly innocent nature as the rodent encounters a mouselike bat whose tendency to prattle on leads to trouble. With 1943's “The Unbearable Bear,” Sniffles is reintroduced as a chatterbox who inadvertently causes chaos for a fox attempting to burgle the home of a bear couple.
Jones only took Sniffles on two more outings, and the second disc showcases the escapades of two mice of a different color, Hubie and Bertie, whose uproarious adventures are more in line with the irreverent brand of humor the animation visionary also passed along to Marvin the Martian, Wile E Coyote and Pepé Le Pew.
Although they only appear in seven shorts, Hubie, a sly Brooklyn-accented schemer, and Bertie, his accomplice known for exclaiming “riot,” make an impression with their uncanny knack for psychological warfare, whether they are tormenting a spoiled feline in their 1943 debut “The Aristo-Cat” or convincing a kitty he is a lion in 1946's “Roughly Squeaking.” Their Oscar-nominated 1949 short “Mouse Wreckers,” the set's highlight, introduces the pair's permanent foil, hapless mouser Claude Cat.
While a few of the cartoons have appeared on previous Looney Tunes DVD packages, the new release marks the Blu-ray bow for the 19 shorts. As a bonus, the Blu-ray set also includes 11 mousy bonus cartoons from the WB vault. The added shorts, which are in standard definition, include Jones' romantic tale “Mouse-Warming,” Sylvester's encounter with a baby kangaroo in “Mouse-Taken Identity” and the Daffy Duck-Speedy Gonzales romp “It's Nice to Have a Mouse Around the House.”
Other extras include five audio commentaries, a storyboard reel and a featurette titled “Of Mice and Pen,” about the oddly prominent role the furry rodents have played in animation history.
— Brandy McDonnell