TV on DVD: Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1, Volume 2 (4-Disc Set)

They're Tiny, They're Toony
And Invading DVD--

With the April 21st Release:
Season 1, Volume 2
Is Now Available to Own

Get Caught Up With Volume 1

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It's funny how the sounds of youth come springing back whether it's in the form of a jingle you couldn't get out of your head or a theme song that played over and over and over again on a beloved TV show and in this case, Tiny Toon Adventures is no exception.

All you have to prompt someone of my age group with is, "they're tiny, they're toony," and sure enough the rest of that fast-paced Merry Melodies like ditty goes rushing through your head that quickly introduced the rest of the wacky cast of junior versions of the famous characters from the Golden Age of Warner Brothers animation.

Although they note that they're "all a little looney," one of the major criticisms of the show produced in collaboration via Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment company was that the colorful, kid-friendly characters were much more than a "little" influenced by the Looney Tunes characters that came before them such as the Bugs Bunny styled pink and blue hosts Babs and Buster Bunny, Porky Pig's new incarnation Hamton, Daffy's green replacement Plucky Duck, Tasmanian Devil's pint-sized send-up Dizzy Devil and more.

Despite this, the Emmy Award winning and extremely ambitious show that kicked off its evolution following the dormant decade of the animation department at WB when it was reinstated in 1980 aimed for greatness in all regards.

Working with a full orchestra as Spielberg dreamed-- an idea that was literally unheard of due to the frightening cost involved for a children's series-- and shooting for an outrageously lofty goal of 65 episodes for its inaugural season (that resulted in the employment and involvement of studios and individuals around the globe), the look of the show blew away its primary competition by boasting an animation "cel count that was more than double that of most television animation."

Averaging roughly 15,000 additional cels per episode above "the standard 10,000" to ensure the characters on Tiny Toon Adventures "moved more fluidly," animators additionally utilized double the amount of panels for each individual scene (i.e. 6-8 as opposed to 3-4) to give the sequences "a lot more key expressions and attitude poses."

Therefore upon further research, it comes as little surprise that the uniquely visual and stylishly innovative near cinematic emphasis found the premise initially developed to become a feature length work until the irresistible idea of launching a children's series to "reach a broader audience" as producer Jean MacCurdy noted in late 1988 seemed too compelling to ignore.

While I do lament that the shows weren't re-mastered or punched up color-wise a bit for their DVD transfer in which the full-screen aspect ratio is preserved but the remaining 30 episodes in this collectible, beautifully packaged 4-disc set seem a bit washed out, tweaking with the color-scheme via my HDTV and up-convert Blu-ray player managed to sharpen up the fuzzy edges considerably.

Further utilizing its roots in cinema and trying to move beyond the-- then popular-- approach of making kid-friendly spin-offs of older cartoons a la Muppet Babies, The Flintstone Kids, A Pup Named Scooby Doo and others-- the overwhelmingly fast paced (and at times annoyingly so) work drew endless plot and joke inspirations from films, television show, and pop culture via several spoofs, in-jokes, and humor that flew right over the head of its young target audience.

Despite this, the bright visuals and traditional WB emphasis on action and some violent gags made it an instant favorite as in fact, early on, it overtook the rival Disney Afternoon competition as far as ratings went once for a brief time following its three season run and long-life in syndication.

And while it was an early '90s favorite for me although one in which I felt it gained intelligence in its multiple spin-offs such as the superlative Animaniacs and the amusing Pinky and the Brain and I can't even begin to tell you how many times I viewed the straight-to-video Tiny Toons feature film (which was incorporated into a multiple-episode storyline arc in a later season), Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation-- revisiting it today, I must say I was a bit underwhelmed.

Of course, the concept of the characters who reside in Acme Acres and attend Acme Looniversity where they're versed in the history of WB's Looney Tunes animation and their animated character predecessors is cute indeed.

Yet despite the fact that some characters and story-lines annoy much more than they entertain with a tendency towards hyper, sarcastic spoof humor (that feels like it's beneath the writers to constantly fish from the past for re-imaginations of pop culture), with the inclusion of a whopping 30 shows, there are some truly standout episodes throughout from this Emmy award-winning season including "Whales Tales" which was the recipient of an Environmental Media Award for Children's Animated Series in calling attention to the way that whales are used cruelly by the cosmetics industry.

However, these few cases aside, more often than not, it feels like a slightly stale xerox of the late great, original Looney Tunes shorts and while it's always fun to revisit your youth spent singing along with the theme song, the great benefit of the series is it should have you nostalgically hunting down some of the truly groundbreaking and Oscar winning shorts and cartoons invented by the studio in its Golden Age.