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Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas

Warner Bros. (2006), Warner Home Video (November 14, 2006), single disc, 46 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio?, Dolby Digital 5.1, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98

Storyboard:

Daffy Duck is a Scrooge-like mega-store owner who harasses his employees, until one Christmas Eve when he is visited by a series of ghosts. Sounds familiar…

The Sweatbox Review:

In this Christmas special, which aired this year on Cartoon Network, Daffy Duck is the suit-and-tie-wearing owner and CEO of Lucky Duck, a huge super-store that is gearing up for its final day of Christmas sales. He is portrayed as being extremely selfish and cynical, which naturally made Daffy the obvious casting choice. Here, Daffy suffers no orphans looking for change outside his store, and neither does he tolerate whiny employees. Anything that impedes him from making a dollar is woefully obstructive to him. He jets around on a hovering Segue, doling out criticism and intimidation to all he sees.

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His employees include many of the familiar Looney Tunes gang, such as familiar types like Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, but also less recognizable characters like Pete Puma, Chuck Jones’ Three Bears, and Hubie and Bertie. They all wear blue work vests, with Marvin The Martian looking particularly out of place. Daffy seems fond of none of his employees (coming perhaps closest with the red-haired monster in the tennis shows, which is his security guard), and he offers no compassion when Elmer complains of lack of rest, or when Marvin reports his homesickness. His assistant manager, Porky, also gets no kind words when he tells Daffy of his promise to get his daughter a nice gift, either. These are all simply distractions to Daffy, momentary annoyances that keep him from focusing on making as much profit as possible.

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Of course, there is one customer who can get the best of Daffy. Bugs Bunny comes into the store and gives Daffy a rough time, gleefully turning Daffy’s worst impulses against him as usual. Daffy wants Bugs tossed out of the store, while Bugs warns Daffy of what will happen if he does not begin to show more respect for the holiday. Bugs describes a series of ghosts that will come to visit Daffy, ghosts who will show him the true meaning of Christmas.

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The first ghost is Sylvester, playing the deceased owner of a large company, someone that Daffy once greatly admired. Sylvester warns him to change his ways, lest he end up like him, cursed to carry heavy chains in the afterlife. Daffy remains unimpressed, and continues to treat his employees harshly when they approach him; he even informs them that he now plans to open at 5am on Christmas morning! After the employees dejectedly leave for the night, Daffy finds out that Bugs is still in the store, reportedly trapped inside due to snow blocking the main door. Daffy and Bugs shall have to stay at the store overnight. Although Daffy has a long ways to go before he changes his ways, he is scared at the prospects of more ghosts, and tells Bugs not to let anyone by him who “floats or says boo.”

Unfortunately for him, Daffy is then visited by the next ghost, actually a pair— the Ghosts Of Christmas Past. Granny and Tweety bring Daffy back to his childhood at the orphanage, where he first became disillusioned and gave in to despair. Yosemite Sam is the next ghost, bringing Daffy to see present-day scenes such as Porky at home with his daughter, Priscilla. When Daffy returns, Bugs is still there to tell him of there being one more ghost, who turns out to be The Tasmanian Devil— as the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come. As you can likely guess, there is a graveyard scene that scares the poop out of Daffy, making him ready to head back to the present and begin making amends.

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Nothing says “Christmas” quite like A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens’ perennial classic has been adapted many times for television and film, including humorous takes by Mr. Magoo, Mickey Mouse, the Muppets and even Rich Little. I have seen the story told so many times, in fact, that I really doubted that I would appreciate yet another one. Actually, when I first read about Bah, Humduck!, I rolled my eyes. I’m all for seeing more of Bugs and the gang if done well, but… A Christmas Carol… again?! Doesn’t anyone want to do The Gift Of The Magi?

So that was my feeling going in. Plus, it would be hard for anything to top my favorite “funny” take on the story, A Muppet Christmas Carol, which I think is an underappreciated classic.

And now I have seen it. And what did I think? Well, I found this to be a fairly decent effort, but the characters will never truly work in longer forms like this, because we are so use to seeing them in shorts, in well-defined roles with clear personalities. Most of them are antagonistic to each other normally, so to have them working together in a story just doesn’t quite fly. As the minutes drag on, we start to wonder just why all the other characters work for Daffy, and how did Daffy convince Marvin to wear that vest? Additionally, antics that are hilarious over the course of seven minutes grow thinner as more time passes.

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Despite this, the writing on this show is reasonably sharp if not razor-sharp. There are a few funny lines, but most of the time I was more amused than hysterical. The show held my interest for those 46 minutes, but I was not left clamoring for more when it was done. However, the other thing to consider is whether or not this is simply a good Christmas special. Hm. Well, again it is likely not going to be ever considered a classic, but it is warm and fuzzy enough. I believed Daffy’s transformation at the end, especially since we still could see a bit of the old Daffy peeking through.

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This is mainly Daffy’s story, so do not expect the many cameo-making characters to get much of the spotlight. Bugs and the ghosts get to do their thing, but most of the employees are just extras, or acting out of character. (Seeing Elmer and Marvin being subservient to Daffy is odd.) It was fun to pause the story in order to check out the cameos, but they added up to little more than cute stunts. That’s fine, though; I liked the cameos for what they were.

One of my main issues with this special, though, is that Bugs Bunny has so little to do. He is in quite a bit of it, but his role is largely unnecessary. He simply seems to be there to tell Daffy what will happen… then it happens. This is particularly obvious when Bugs warns Daffy that he will be visited by ghosts, then Sylvester, playing the Jacob Marley role, does the same thing. What was the point of this redundancy? This continues the rest of the way through the story. I can understand that they had no suitable role for Bugs out of the Christmas Carol story— you couldn’t have Bugs be a subordinate of Daffy’s or a ghost, it just wouldn’t work— but they needed to find a stronger role for him than they did.

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The animation is primarily traditionally drawn, but there are some CGI elements. (The constant snow falling outside is digital, as is Daffy’s vehicle that nearly runs over Bugs at the beginning of the show.) This is really a very professional-looking special, with very energetic, squashy-stretchy animation. No complaints in that department.

Old-time Looney Tunes who feel like the old days cannot be revisited will find this as overly modern as they expected, but those who simply enjoy seeing the characters in whatever they appear in can enjoy this tale, even if it is by now overly familiar.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

If the idea of this movie has you sitting on the fence, the bonus features probably aren’t going to convince to buy it.

The disc has Trailers that play before the Main Menu, including Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas: 50th Birthday Deluxe Edition, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CGI movie, and Unaccompanied Minors. A pile more are available in the Special Features Menu.

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Bah, Humduck!: The Lucky Duck Dilemma is a game where the player steers Daffy on his Segue, going around obstacles in the store. There are then eight Deleted Scenes (4:42) that are fully animated and colored, and offers some nice bits of extra material that continue to focus on Daffy. Lastly, we see a little of the band in action in God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen By Gordon Goodwin And His Phat Band, basically a music video that is mainly clips from Bah, Humduck!, but also has a few snippets of the band playing.

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Case Study:

The standard keepcase holds only the disc plus an insert advertising Bah, Humduck’s soundtrack CD.

Ink And Paint:

This is one fine-looking DVD. Even pausing the disc, I could not find fault in how it had been encoded or compressed. The whole picture is sharp and bright, with no defects at all. My only concern is with whether the 4:3 transfer is in the original aspect ratio, given shots like this:

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Usually the framing appears OK, but looking at this shot (this was not part of a pan at this instant), one has to wonder if a wider aspect ratio was not used in production.

Scratch Tracks:

Now this was a nice surprise. The soundtrack was done in full Dolby Digital 5.1. (What, no DTS?) Although the sound is mostly kept in front, there is plenty going on there, especially in regards to the music but also the sound effects.

The music by Gordon Goodwin And His Big Phat Band is peppy and fun. They give the show a jazzy, Christmas carol-filled sound that neither is a slave to the scoring style of the classic shorts, nor seems totally out of place either. Goodwin never shies away from making the music a star in its own right, but at the same time it supports the action well.

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Long-time WB’er Andrea Romano is on board here as the casting director, and she brought along a number of the usual suspects. Billy West, who has done Bugs before in Space Jam and other venues, does the honors here as well. He’s not quite Mel Blanc, but he does at least as good a job as anyone else has been able to manage since Blanc died. The same goes for Joe Alaskey as Daffy and the rest of the crew. June Foray returns as Granny, decades after she first voiced her.

Final Cut:

There’s nothing like classic Looney Tunes. Of course, that isn’t what this is. This is, however, a retread of an already-familiar Christmas story. Fortunately, they wisely kept from making this too literal a telling, and generally kept things fresh. Not all of the characters are in character, but Daffy is certainly properly cast (at least in the “Chuck Jones” sense of the character). The decent writing and sharp animation, as well as the strong sound and video on the disc, keep it a notch above mediocre. With all the other versions of A Christmas Carol available, all the classic Looney Tunes cartoons to watch, and all the great Christmas specials one already has to choose from, this one seems a little superfluous. Nevertheless, if you watch it you will likely enjoy it.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
SOUND TRACK
OVERALL DVD

 

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