Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Looney Tunes return!

Well, it's about time! The New York Times reports that Warner Bros. is launching a serious effort to reintroduce the classic Looney Tunes characters to a generation of kids raised on Dora the Explorer and Yo Gabba Gabba. Not that there is anything wrong with the educational merits of Wonder Pets (What's gonna work? Procrastination! Diego could have saved an entire rain forest in the time it takes the Wonder Pets to save one upside-down turtle). And there is much to enjoy in the epic lust-hate relationship between Dora and Swiper the Fox (my wife is definitively a 'shipper'). But when it comes to animated anarchy, nothing beats the Tunes.

Aside from side-projects (new DVD collections, a Tasmanian Devil video game), the plan is basically two-fold. The big news is a new animated series, The Looney Tunes Show, that will air on Cartoon Network. Basically, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck will star as roommates in a modern-day setting. Yosemite Sam, Tweety Bird, Sylvester, Marvin the Martian and Porky Pig will be their neighbors. In other words, not too dissimilar from my ideas for a Lost spin-off. The other gambit, and the one that most excites me, is the production of brand-new 3D Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote shorts that will air before selected Warner Bros. pictures. Yes, they will be rendered in CGI, but we're getting new Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons! Yes, this means I will now have to pay 3D admission to Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, but we're getting new Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote adventures! For such a thing, I'll gladly pay said admission to Cats & Dogs 2, whether I actually stay for the feature presentation or not.

It seems that Warner is once again attempting to reestablish itself at the forefront of childrens' animated programming. Such a transformation occurred in the early 1990s, and we ended up with Tiny Tunes, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series. Since kids-animation is pretty much dominated by Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and PBS, the market is open for a real competitor, especially one so willing to spend the money when the situation calls for it. Aside from spending lots of money (each animated episode will cost around $750,000), the core appeal is the not-so-revolutionary idea of simply returning these legendary characters to their roots. In other words, the new animated shorts and episodes will star Bugs, Daffy, and Sylvester as they were in the 1940s and 1950s. No anime-redesigns. No hip-teen variations on the classic characters. It would appear that this is a true return to form for the Merry Melodies. Whether or not modern sensitivities will allow for Daffy to remain an egotistical nutcase, for Porky to retain his speech impediment, or for all of the cast to retain their less than admirable personality traits (will Pepe Le Peu be as sexually aggressive?) is yet to be seen, but we'll see...

So welcome back Bugs and Daffy. Best of luck Wile E. We'll forgive you that embarrassing foray into sci-fi super-heroism known as Loonatics Unleashed (the only villains I want these new shows dealing with are Pinky and the Brain). Hell, I rather enjoyed Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Sure, Steve Martin was foolish enough to think he could steal scenes from animated animals, but the rest of the human cast (Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Timothy Dalton) were on-point and every major tune got their moment in the spotlight (and, oh yeah, it was actually funny). In a world where my daughter knows the Disney icons by name but has never even heard of Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, this is just the excuse I need to pull out my Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets and start her formal education. Because no child of mine is going to grow up preferring Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny.

Scott Mendelson

3 comments:

darwin.flucht said...

Scott: Couldn't agree more! Realized my 3 kids had only Sponge Bob and Rugrats as animated heroes, so I immediately bought the Looney Tunes DVD collections. I dole them out a disc at a time, and they laugh like lunatics.

If I didn't already have Cartoon Network, I would subscribe just for these 'toons.

Scott Mendelson said...

Glad to hear the kids of today enjoy the Merrie Melodies. You really never know. God forbid my daughter be bored by Looney Tunes or The Muppets, but it's possible.

darwin.flucht said...

Scott: Couldn't agree more! Realized my 3 kids had only Sponge Bob and Rugrats as animated heroes, so I immediately bought the Looney Tunes DVD collections. I dole them out a disc at a time, and they laugh like lunatics.

If I didn't already have Cartoon Network, I would subscribe just for these 'toons.

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