Porky Pig 101 (DVD)

I’ve seen so many hours of Looney Tunes that it’s obscene. My mom bought my brother and I about five or six Looney Tunes compilations on VHS when we were kids and I saw them at least eighty times a week. When I got cable television, I watched looney tunes almost obsessively. From the “Bugs & Tweety Show” Saturday mornings, to various hour blocks on Cartoon Network like “Toonheads” and “Acme Hour,” to twenty two day blocks of Bugs Bunny called “June Bugs” my appetite was insatiable. One of the big things you learn being a Looney Tunes fanatic is that Bugs Bunny was not the OG of the Warner animated gallery, it was in fact Porky Pig.

Sure, Bugs is often cited as the mascot of the studio, but one of the earliest Looney Tunes were Porky Pig. I was never personally a fan as Porky’s adventures were more about him getting in to trouble more than outwitting some nasty, or dumb bad guy. Only later in life did he finally find his groove working along side other better characters. That said, for Looney Tunes and Warner cartoon collectors, Warner Archive offers a five disc, 101 cartoon release that follows his life and evolution on the animated medium. After holding them back after being discovered by Warner, the set chronicles every bit of Porky’s early career from his debut in 1935’s “I Haven’t Got a Hat” until 1943’s “Porky’s Pig Feat.”

The cartoons are presented chronologically and map every single step of Porky’s progression, and his somewhat uneven array of shorts that range from slapstick to nothing but musical numbers a la Vaudeville. While most of the shorts feel dated (take context heavily in to consideration), and they’re hit or miss ultimately, they’re mostly for collectors and for folks that want to see where and how Porky started. You also get to see Termite Terrace try out a lot of their timeless comedy formulas that they kept alive through the nineties. Porky was Warner’s first big star, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s depicted in most of his shorts. You figure there’d be some kind of consistency, but he’s almost in the vein of Elmer Fudd. One short finds him as tall and huge, another sees him short and chunky, while another may find him drawn in the style we know him as today.

Despite being there first and making his mark, he was eventually reduced to a third tier player to more popular characters like edgy protagonists Bugs and Daffy, and troublesome foes like Sylvester. It’s a remarkable record of a very important forefather of the animated Looney Tunes gallery, and it’s highly suggested for animation buffs alike.

Along with restorations, Warner includes commentaries for “I Haven’t Got A Hat,” “You Ought To Be In Pictures,” and “Old Glory” by animation historian Jerry Beck. Martha Segall and Beck comment on “Old Glory,” while “Porky’s Poultry Pant” and “Porky In Wackyland” have commentaries by Michael Barrier. ‘Poultry’ also has an audio interview. There are wonderful commentaries on “Porky In The North Woods,” “The Case of the Stuttering Pig,” “The Daffy Doc,” and “Porky’s Romance” by Mark Kausler, and commentaries on “Porky At The Crocadero” and “Wholly Smoke” by Daniel Goldmark. There’s a commentary by John Kricfalusi and Eddie Fitzgerald on “Porky’s Party,” while there are fun storyboards for “Porky’s Party” and “Porky’s Poor Fish,” and “Porky’s Breakdowns.” Finally there’s a by Greg Ford on “Porky’s Preview,” and a great commentary on “Porky Pig’s Feat” by Joe Dante.