Hoping to breathe new life into its animated Looney Tunes franchise and prop up the WB television network’s slumping Kids’ WB line-up, Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. is planning to launch a new cartoon series this fall based on “re-imagined” versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Lola Bunny, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
Warner Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking versions of the classic Looney Tunes characters for its new series, dubbed “Loonatics” and set in the year 2772. Names for the new characters haven’t been finalized, but they are likely to be derived from the originals: Buzz Bunny, for example. Each new character retains personality quirks of the original. The new Bugs, for example, will be the natural leader of the Loonatics’ spaceship; the new Daffy will remain confident that he is the one who should be in charge.
Brace yourselves for the picture everybody….
This reaction from Cartoon Brew pretty much says it all :
A friend last night made this perceptive comment about the new Looney Tunes-inspired TV series LOONATICS: “Warners has already desecrated these characters so many times, why the hell would anybody care at this point?” That pretty succinctly sums up how I feel about the new series.
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That having been said, I’m still pissed about this project. But for a wholly different reason. Pissed, because for every misguided show like LOONATICS, we lose out (and Warner Bros. loses out) on discovering the next Chuck Jones, the next Bob Clampett, the next Tex Avery, the next individual who could be creating the Bugs Bunny’s and Daffy Duck’s of our generation. There are countless modern creators out there who have ideas…who have something to say…and it’s a slap in the face of every talented artist working in this business whenever a major animation studio chickens out like this. Shoving a tired rabbit down America’s throat for the umpteenth time will never reap WB the rewards of giving America a great new cartoon star, an honestly-created cartoon that speaks to our time and place. But why take risks, especially when you can be successful by playing it safe: successful like BABY LOONEY TUNES and its sweet ranking of 104th in children’s programming or LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION and that delectable $20.9 mil it accrued in North American box office receipts.
To display anger over LOONATICS means that Warner Bros. has won yet again. The executives love hearing affirmation that people still care about these characters; when somebody likes the cartoons enough to voice concern, they know their job is safe. It’s not like they’ve created any cartoon characters of their own that audiences actually give a fuck about. These classic characters are their lifeline to a weekly paycheck. So let me be the first to say to Warner Bros.: take Bugs and fuck him however many ways you want – make him anime, give him pants and a spongy complexion, pair him up with Snoop Dogg and produce a Broadway rap-musical…I just don’t care.
Somewhat along those same lines, my good friend Josh had this interesting question to those who are offended by X-treme Looney Tunes :
Not that I think that Loonaticz-X is a good idea or should be done, but when does a character gain folklore status? When is it okay to start reimagining, interpreting, adapting or whatever they want to call it.
Dracula was created in 1897 and has had many adaptations over the years and I think most everyone on this list is pretty keen on several of those interpretations.
Batman is even younger and I like both Frank Miller’s reimagining, as well as some of the countless other offshoots and adapations. With any of these characters there have been misses and hits.
My immediate thoughts are that Batman, Dracula, and (my favorite) Superman are more archetypes than characters at this point. Unlike Bugs Bunny, the characters above don’t really have much of a personality. For that reason, Adam West’s campy Batman, Bob Kane’s Shadow-inspired original, Frank Miller’s postmodern antihero, Tim Burton’s movies, and the Timm/Dini animated series can all exist side-by-side. Bugs Bunny, thanks to the brilliant voice-work of Mel Blanc, has a strong enough comic persona that the character should be held in the same regard as Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, or Groucho Marx.
Then again, Josh brings up an interesting point. At what point do characters graduate into the realm of folklore? When everyone who cared about the original dies or stops caring? Or does it just depend on the originality of the reinvented version?