Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looney Tunes News!

The New York Times article

I just read this while commuting home from work, and here are my thoughts.

1. Looney Tunes are unpopular now?!
2. A first grader doesn't know who Bugs Bunny is?!
3. A brand new Looney Tunes show on the Cartoon Network this fall, and new 3-d Looney Tunes shorts this summer in theatres? Sufferin' succotash!

I guess that I will start with the first point. Looney Tunes are unpopular now?! When did this come about? The article points out dipping revenue from the franchise starting about 8 years ago. 2002. As I remember, this was when there was that huge anime show craze called Pokemon. Then, for the more intense cartoon fan, Dragonball Z. So what did Looney Tunes have to do? Go anime style and get all robot intense! This show is called Loonatics. Gag me. In addition, there was the Duck Dodgers show for a bit there, the baby looney the way, Muppet Babies sucked so why would anyone like Baby Looney Tunes.

My point is that Warner Brothers has seriously screwed up the Looney Tunes franchise. So it makes sense that they're unpopular. And that brings me to my second point. Why SHOULD a first grader be watching this crap? I may watch too many kid shows or cartoons, but I believe that I have a good radar on good/bad kid shows. I didn't watch this crap that WB has been putting out. Nor should a kid.

When I was younger, my parents had many VHS tapes that had a number of Looney Tune made-for-TV movies that integrated many of the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Then sometime in elementary school, Looney Tunes aired on Nickelodeon after school (I think the revitalization of classic animation from Steven Spielberg like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs helped bring the Looney Tunes back). Needless to say, I fell in love with the cartoons that were popular 50 years ago. The slapstick humor, the perfectly fitting classical music, one man doing almost all the voices, the formula of the gags, the falls, the violence (and no, I did not want to go falling off cliffs and think I'd be fine). Everything was perfect.

My favorite was Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. The most bare-boned, pure chase sequenced, formulaic duo of them all. Those cartoons are almost like comic strips where the same thing happens every time and the punch line's always the same. The question was how were the animators going to take you there! I loved it!

After seeing many reruns over and over, it stopped airing probably at the turn of the millennium. The old cartoons do not appear on TV to this day (unless Boomerang has them, let's say basic cable). So kids today are missing out on what I watched over and over as kid growing up. Instead, they are growing up with anime, more 3-d animation, 50's-60's style animation.

So the third point. They're coming back. The show this fall will have Daffy and Bugs be roommates in a modern day cul-de-sac. Then the rest of the cast are neighbors.....this does not sound good. As much as I want the Looney Tunes to come back, I don't think that the new show will capture the same spirit. When Looney Tunes finally hit its stride come the mid 40's to the late 50's, there were mainly 3 directors that produced all the classics: Frix Freleng, Robert McKimson, and Chuck Jones. Surely, there was Tex Avery and Bob Clampett that got down the outrageous slapstick and are true pioneers to the WB animation department, but it was the great three that took the slapstick and refined it into almost "witty" slapstick. Remember there being a wacky Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny? Just pure slapstick until Chuck Jones took them and gave them those classic gazes and become the dynamic duo they are now. In fact, I would dare say that the Looney Tunes are nothing without Chuck Jones' sensibilities. He virtually perfected the chase sequence and made a number of the characters who they are.

So what can a WB animation department do to perfect something that's already been perfected? It will take a lot of creative talent to redefine who the Looney Tunes are. It can be done I think. Many things like Superman, Batman, and other superhero have undergone many transformations and are always appealing to new generations. I just hope that the Looney Tunes will become a part of that tradition rather than the alternative route....

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