Hi, the name’s Nexonius. You might’ve heard of me when I did a guest article concerning The Hall of Game Awards back in February. Now, you’re gonna hear a lot more from me. Now, on to the subject.

Image for A Wild Hare

This is Tex Avery’s Daffy Duck & Bugs Bunny, whose debuts were on April 17, 1937 & July 27, 1940, respectively.

Merrie Melodies (1936-1964)

The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies opening logos, circa 1959.

Looney Tunes are one of the greatest (if not the greatest) cartoon shorts in animation history. Since April 1930, it serves as a backbone for every single cartoon made after the shorts ended from yesterday and today. Porky Pig. Daffy Duck. Elmer Fudd. Bugs Bunny. Tweety. Sylvester. Yosemite Sam. Marvin the Martian. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Granny. Speedy Gonzales. Tasmanian Devil. These are the well known characters that make up the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

The history of Looney Tunes trails back to 1929, when Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising created a Live-Action pilot called Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid, which would feature the first Looney Tunes character created, Bosko. Leon Schlesinger made a deal with Harman and Ising to begin producing shorts with the characters. The iconic name was in place: Looney Tunes.

Years later into the LT deep rooted history, many other big characters were created, ranging from Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Pepe Le Pew, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin The Martian, Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner, Granny, Speedy Gonzales, and Tasmanian Devil…or Taz. These characters were the bread and butter of animated comedy, and it inarguably showed. Many of the characters had different personalities created by established geniuses, (such as Freleng, McKimson, Jones, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, and Arthur Davis), along with the masterful writers that puts the Looney in Tunes (Michael Maltese, Tedd Pierce, and Warren Foster). But even with the directors and writers, there was one voice who put the hilarity and enthusiasm into almost every single character: Mel Blanc. Blanc was one of the greatest voice artists of all time, and he made sure by putting the blood, sweat, and tears into every script he was involved in. There were other vocal artists, from Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd), June Foray (Granny and Witch Hazel), Bea Benaderet (who played Granny and Witch Hazel before Foray), Stan Freberg (Pete Puma, 1/2 of the Goofy Gophers), to name a few. In every cartoon, the designs, atmosphere, and voicing of the characters were never the same, even if the same director and the same animators were on board.

With more than memorable orchestrated music from the brilliant minds of Carl W. Stalling and Milt Franklyn, the gags seen would bring more laughs, just by the suspense of the music.  Though, it admittedly went down in both writing, personality, and quality during the late 50s to 1964 (along with the Depatie-Freleng and Warner Bros.-Seven Arts cartoons that came afterward after the original studio closed down in Spring 1963), audiences still went to see their favorite characters grace along the screen. Though the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies’ main bread and butter were comedy, it dabbled into shorts that weren’t meant to be funny in anyway (Tom Thumb in Trouble and Old Glory for example).

For Better Or For Worse

In the early 1950s, Warner Bros. sold their Black & White Looney Tunes and Black & White Merrie Melodies after the Harman/Ising years to Sunset Productions, while in 1956, Associated Artists Productions acquired the B&W Harman/Ising Merrie Melodies (starting with the second cartoon produced), and the pre-1948 color Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons. In 1958, United Artists acquired the pre-1948 color cartoons, which were then folded into it’s Television subsidary. In 1967, Seven Arts Productions (who acquired Sunset) bought Warner Bros. out, giving them the rights to some of the first cartoons. In 1981, MGM bought UA to become MGM/UA, and 5 years later, Ted Turner acuired the library, along with the B&W Merrie Melodies and pre-1948 Looney Tunes color cartoons. The shorts were then showcased on TBS and TNT from 1988 to 1998. For the B&W Looney Tunes and post-1948 cartoons, Nickelodeon was the main place to see them from 1988 to 1999. On October 1st, 1992, Turner created the first cartoon channel, called Cartoon Network, which showed Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears and MGM cartoons. Interestingly enough, 1946’s Rhapsody Rabbit was the first cartoon ever aired. In 1996, Time Warner acquired Turner, which brought all of the Looney Tunes cartoons full circle. Eventually, the shorts slowly faded away from Nickelodeon (in 1999), and The WB, and ABC (both in 2000) in favor of Cartoon Network, which more or less had a bad impact on not only Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting, but the relevance of the Looney Tunes characters fading away from the new generation.

 Before we get to the next paragraph, here’s a great quote some LT fans should understand:

“The Looney Tunes’ rich history allows them to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a starkly different incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the characters roots than the quick-witted protagonist dealing with typical wabbit twouble”. – Jeff Harris, 3/30/11.

Relevancy and Remakes

Since the original Looney Tunes series ended in 1969, there have been numerous complication movies and specials in the late 1970s and early 1980s that were produced and directed by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng. While they made great, great efforts, even they couldn’t recapture all of the Golgen Age geniusness that made Looney Tunes, but in all cases, it’s was understandable. During the late 1980s, two guys named Greg Ford and Terry Lennon In 1990, 10 years after the revival of Warner Bros. Animation, a new series based on the Looney Tunes were born: Tiny Toons Adventures. Executive Produced by famed director Steven Spielberg, created and written by many talanted people, like Tom Ruegger, Paul Dini, Sherri Stoner, Tiny Toons had not only set out to be faithful with the originals, but it came to be its own show. Another big hit in the 1990s (made by the exact same core team), called Animaniacs, was digging deeper in a new form of comedy that Tiny Toons had started, while still retaining the use of the Looney Tunes humor and gags. These shows would be critical successes, developing many fans. Other Looney Tunes esque shows such as Freakazoid! and Animaniacs spinoff Pinky and The Brain developed more of the Animaniacs humor, though the former developed some of its own in the 2nd season. The last Looney Tunes esque show Histeria! while educational, but turned to have the same Animaniacs humor. While the esque shows found a big audience, the actual shows based on the Looney Tunes characters, such as Taz Mania and The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, weren’t remembered as much. During that decade, new shorts and a movie with Michael Jordan popped around, starting with Box Office Bunny (1990), which was during Bugs Bunny’s 50th anniversary and a year after Blanc’s passing. After that, 1992’s Invasion Of The Bunny Snatchers, shorts produced by Chuck Jones from 1994 to 1997, and 1995’s Carrotblanca. Space Jam (which starred Michael Jordan, among other basketball stars), while nothing more than an ad to sell sneakers and the debut of Mary Sue esque Lola Bunny, premiered in November 1996. Continuing with new shorts was 1997’s Blooper Bunny, 2000’s Little Go Beep (which had Wile E. Coyote and Road Runners as babies), and 2004’s Daffy Duck For PresidenDuring the 2000s, the days of the esque shows by Warner Bros. Animation were pretty much over, and there was yet another movie featuring the characters with Live-Action stars. The first new Looney Tunes reboot of the decade was Baby Looney Tunes in 2002. Unlike Little Go Beep, the series wasn’t at all reliant on comedy nor followed Little Go Beep. Instead, it was a educational series, whereas it was mostly criticized up and down. Two interesting facts: 1. Tom Minton (producer), Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone (character design, before leaving for Duck Dodgers), and a big handful of the “Silver Age” crew worked on the show. 2. June Foray was the only usual suspect who voiced Granny. In my opinion, this show was a Muppet Babies ripoff, and it flatout crap. This show lasted longer than it should have ran. The second Looney Tunes reboot (and best overall) was Duck Dodgers in 2003. This new series was came from the supervising producers Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, along with the usual suspect producers like Minton and Paul Dini being part of the ride. While this was the same year Turner and Warner Bros. started their disputes, the show turned out to be a decent, using the Chuck Jones models, despite only lasting 39 episodes and 2 short years on Cartoon Network. That same year spawned another movie, this time with Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, and Steve Martin, called Looney Tunes: back In Action. Unlike Space Jam, this was more or less better recieved, with the characters not secluded into advertisement for Nike sneakers.  Unfortunately (later fortunately), the box office reciepts weren’t big at all, which canned new shorts to be produced by Larry Doyle. In case some of you didn’t know, Doyle was a writer and producer for The Simpsons. He had a good heart about trying to make the new shorts like originals, but with shoddy animation by Rough Draft, coupled with horrible writing, and horrible pacing, the new shorts turned out to be a complete dud. If these were online shorts, I’d be impressed by the animation, but then again, it was for theatrical purposes. Here’s an example of how bad the Larry Doyle shorts really are. Oh, and what’s seen can’t be unseen:

http://youtu.be/yWw56ajKIhk

Alright, enough of that. In 2005, while Baby Looney Tunes and Duck Dodgers were airing their final episodes, yet another new Looney Tunes show spawned from the former minds at Warner Bros. Animation: a show about descandents of the characters saving the world in 2772 (don’t ask how I remembered that year). That show was called Loonatics Unleashed. Apparently Tom Ruegger created the name, but for a different purpose. The show was going to be about Bugs and Daffy along with new characters in new situations. Warners passed on the idea, but announced the title “Loonatics”, but the premise was entirely different, which resulted in Ruegger getting a sum on money and the chance to crack a hand in rewriting the first 3 lousy scripts, but they even ditched that and used their own. And the rest is history. During production of the show, the characters had very hideous designs.  Not only Looney Tunes fans complained, but the parents and pretty much everyone else from top to bottom. Wear some sunglasses folks, because again, what you’ll see cannot be unseen….

LOONATICS CHARACTERS

Yes, it was THAT bad. Hilariously bad at that. Wouldve been even more hilarious had the show been called "Mighty Morphin Loonatics".

From Warner Bros. Animation, "Loonatics Unleashed," an all-new action packed, comedy-adventure series set seven hundred years in the future, stars an ensemble cast of six superheroes who are descendants of the Looney Tunes. Series will debut on Kids' WB! in fall 2005.(L to R):  Lexi Bunny, Rev Runner, Tech E. Coyote, Ace Bunny, Danger Duck, Spaz B. Wilde (Photo: Business Wire)

Was there ANY difference whatsoever? Ehhh, I dont think so, doc!

The series was critically panned by almost everyone. Anime style drawings, horrible animation, pretty much everything was horrible. It wasn’t one of those sickening shows where you could saw it was so bad that it was good, it was just plain pathetic. Though notoriously hated, the series lasted for 2 seasons, from 2005 to 2007 on the late Kids’ WB! block on The CW. Now let’s never talk about that horrible series ever again.

After that, one final Looney Tunes project of the 2000s  commenced: Bah, Humduck!: A Looney Tunes Christmas,  a DTV which came out in 2006. Very fun special. After that, along with Warner Bros. Animation almost as a whole, there weren’t anymore Looney Tunes related projects. It was almost apparent that this was it for the Looney Tunes. Cue the “Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-That’s All Folks!” script ending:

And so we end this article with a goodbye to the beloved characters with the retirement papers-wait a minute, I forgot something. Oh yeah…

“THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS!”

For those not lost in space and still reading my long and daunting article, I’ve already stated that the Turner Broadcasting and Warner Bros. rift in 2003, which resulted the shorts to be gone from Cartoon Network in the United States (and eventually Boomerang followed suit with their pre-1948 package they still own in 2007). But on New Years Day 2009, Turner and WB briefly worked together to showcase an all day Looney Tunes Marathon, just to see if the new generation would watch (5 years off of a well known cable channel is infact a BIG deal), and it turned out to be successful, almost as if they haven’t left. In fact, the marathon’s success spawned numerous projects for the Looney Tunes, including new CG shorts starring Wile E. Coyote and Runner, comics, merchandise, DVDs and of course, another Looney Tunes reboot.

Now folks, we finally enter into my own thoughts on the upcoming The Looney Tunes Show, premiering on May 3rd at 8:00PM, right after the new “season” of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Cartoon Network (yep they still make, acquire, and air cartoons…for most of the time, anyway).
Well, this show has been through all sorts of rocky roads. When it was announced in 2009, it was supposed to be sketch show, headed by different units, including Spumco big shot Jim Smith. They were also supposed to be younger, which rubbed Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone (supervising producers) the wrong way. The character designs kept ranging from Chuck Jones, Darrel Van Critters, Friz Freleng, and other designs, meaning that it got nowhere, though there was finished animation. Apparently the executives hated the designs because it looked like they were made from UPA. So, production stopped abruptdly in November 2009, and a skeleton crew had stayed on board.
Meanwhile around that month, a young talented artist named Jessica Borutski was given the chance of a lifetime to redesign the characters. Of course, this was more than a hard task, and Looney Tunes fans would immediately complain if something was wrong with how they look (hell, just ask the folks that made Loonatics Unleashed). At first seeing storyboards, I wasn’t impressed with the designs, though the dialouge was kinda funny. I remained very harsh on the new series, slightly fearing that it’ll be some extreme version and once again turning out to be a bad show. In February of last year, I heard about the show being more of a sitcom rather than a gag filled series. To be honest, I didn’t feel so great about that, but I urged to see some footage to get a sense of what the show was going to be about.

In April, Cartoon Network officially announced a brand new Looney Tunes series written by Groundlings alumni, like Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, and other Silver Age programs. Many were happy by the outcome, many were skeptical, and many panned the idea simply because of it being some sad plot to “ruin the originals”. Apparently at Cartoon Brew, many adult’s “sacred childhoods” were “ruined” when they saw the new redesigned Bugs and Daffy, which I’ll show you:

Ruined SO MANY childhoods, no?

While most fans loved the Daffy design, some of the hardcore fans (Cartoon Brew, for starters) were enraged that Bugs was no longer grey, put purple. For anyone who’ll go deep into the history of Bugs Bunny, his color wasn’t always grey. In some of the shorts, Bugs was colored in blue, purple, and pink, while still staying close to his actual color, thus wasn’t in anyway new. With this, I give kudos to Ms. Borutski doing what the directors did. Then there were complaints about the characters going to the suburbs, almost automatically killing people’s interests. Again, if anybody studied their Looney Tunes history, many shorts had most of the characters in surburban atmospheres. Now I admit, I wasn’t impressed by the scene (which showed that it wasn’t a actual scene, they’ve taken Daffy out of the first episode of the new series, titled “Best Friends”, when he was trying to guess Bugs’ birthday). See for yourself and pause at :21 seconds :
The promotional scene with Bugs and the background is the same, though. On the right side will be a tired Daffy in a robe holding coffee for a different episode.
I eventually saw some more designs featuring the characters, which surprised me in a great way, escpecially with the redesigns of Pete Puma, Yosemite Sam, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn, and Speedy Gonzales, to name a few. The characters looked like a mix of Borutski’s own work and the original directors (namely Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones). I was digging the designs so much, that my interest went up for the series as a whole.
Last year, I asked Jessica (the designer) if the animation was going to be similar to the other shows, and said it was very fluid. I took her words as the truth, and when I saw the Comic-Con video, she was 100% right. I saw how the designs looked in motion, and I surprised on how fluid it was, something I haven’t seen on any TV show in years (with the exception of Avatar: The Last Airbender). I saw the CGI Coyote/Road Runner segments for TV by Crew 972, and I wasn’t impressed as I was with the theaterical CG cartoons by Reel FX. Months later, I saw more clips, and I was delightfully surprised by how funny it was. While some of the fans hated that the humor wasn’t as close to the originals, I (and a few others) came to like it. The writing and atmosphere reminds me of Regular Show, with the characters being themselves.
Though Cartoon Brew were pretty much all over the series, providing clips that were the least funny to bring in the rapid comments (and people being in a outrage over Yosemite Sam rapping), I came to my own opinion that it would be as funny as Duck Dodgers, or at least will become the best Looney Tunes reboot (of the 21st century). While people were pissed at Yosemite Sam rapping and Marvin The Maritan going techno, I’d like to clarify some stuff:
1. It’s called Merrie Melodies for a reason. There are many genres in music today, with many more being created. This isn’t the 1950s with only a few genres.
2. Yosemite Sam rapping: Was he wearing his hat backwards? Was he wearing gold teeth or diamond grills? Was he making gang signs? Was he talking about money, girls, and drugs? Did he have a mohawk or have dreads? Were his pants sagging? Did he have any tatoos? Was he running from the police? Did he wear Kanye West glasses? Nope. He was only being himself, a short cowboy who’s pissed at every little thing. This song is very appropriate for the varmit hating cowboy.
3. Marvin going techno. We’re humans for goodness sakes, we don’t know what martians want to hear.
 Some fans complained that it didn’t have the exact feel from the originals, and that the music wasn’t always there. I feel with the new series, while following the same pattern along with the other current Cartoon Network comedies, it developed a new brand of humor.
While some of the clips weren’t that fluid, the animation studios for the new series is done by Toon City Animation (see the fluid Besties clip I shown you), Rough Draft Korea (the Reunion clips), and Yearim Animation (the Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam clips). The CG Coyote/Road Runner segments are done by Crew 972 and Reel FX.
The voices were IMO, good, ecspecially with the usual WB suspects like June Foray, Bob Bergen, Stan Freberg, Jess Harnell, Joe Alaskey, Maurice LaMarche, Grey Delisle, and Rob Paulsen, to name a few. Jeff Bergman, (who first voiced Bugs and Daffy in Box Office Bunny in 1990, and was fired three years later), returned to voice the main characters once again. Yeah, Bergman’s performance of the characters, namely Bugs were low par, but I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it later in the show. The only thing that bothered be for a bit was Roz Ryan playing Witch Hazel, which has been renamed to “Witch “Lezah”. Though Foray’s part of the series as Granny, it would take some time getting used to Ryan being The Witch.
For the character’s personalities were pretty much unchanged, with Daffy no longer being just a jealous mallard. The writers made him exciting again, mixing his screwball persona, and his Duck Dodgers persona, all into one. Bugs turned into a straight man, almost like what he was in the originals, whenever paired with onlyDaffy. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be in the act bringing hilarity. Yosemite Sam is the same short, angry guy everyone knew. Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner (while in CG) are still the same. Sylvester and Tweety are still the same. Speedy is still the fastest mouse of all of Mexico. Foghorn Leghorn is the same bigmouth character that would comment on anyone with no apologies. Lola, while I admittedly cringed at the fact the was on the show, was turned into an actual Looney Tunes character who was actually funny, which pleased me. Now, I can safely label her as an actual LT character.  Taz is still the crazy Tasmanian Devil. The Goofy Gophers (Mac and Tosh) are still…..polite as ever. Nothing really changed, though the writers are seemingly making Daffy as the breakout star he ever so rightfully deserves, just like Duck Dodgers.
All in all, I think it’s going to turn out well, especially with the new generation. Will it be as good as the originals? The hell it won’t (and Tony Cervone already stated that the show isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel), but again, this show is in its own lane comedy, while still retaining some of the old LT humor. And for the folks still moping over why it was greenlit in the first place (and still saying their childhoods were ruined), watch the Golden Collections and grow the hell up.
Just sayin’.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s