As a follow-up to Thursday’s post, here is the full line-up of Loonatics:
I think the line-up is, from left, Wile E. Coyote, The Tasmanian Devil, Bugs, Daffy, Lola Bunny, and The Road Runner. I say “I think” because they have managed to make the characters remarkably indistinguishable. Who thought Wile E. and the Road Runner, in particular, could look so similar?
At the risk of devoting too much time and thought to a show that will quickly flop and be forgotten, Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew followed up Jerry Beck’s post with an interesting take:
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. When you’ve had BABY LOONEY TUNES, DUCK DODGERS, SPACE JAM, LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION, and the new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts that were so atrociously incompetent that Warner Bros. declined to publicly release them, why would audiences suddenly, now of all times, feel an urge to get up in arms over this particular misinterpretation of the Warner stock company. Let’s face it, Warner Bros. cartoons were done and over with forty years ago. Isn’t it about time we rid ourselves of this unhealthy fetish for geriatric cartoon characters? We can enjoy them and appreciate them anytime we want on the Looney Tunes Golden DVD collection and in any number of revival screenings. Shouldn’t that be enough? Chuck, Friz, Tex; they’re all dead and don’t give a rat’s ass about what’s going on. Why should we? It’s pointless to shed tears because Beloved Bugs is now named “Buzz Bunny” (apparently after a popular women’s sex toy) and drawn anime-style by some white boy who’s watched one too many episodes of FLCL.
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.
It’s about time that we set aside our misguided reverence for Bugs Bunny and redirected that into respect for today’s artists and the enormous potential that they hold. I think Clampett, Jones and Avery would be proud to know that their legacy has been to inspire the creation of more great cartoons. Unfortunately, those cartoons aren’t going to happen until audiences stop acknowledging every last-ditch effort by studios to milk their trademarked relics of the past.
My problem with this argument – apart from the fairly gratuitous references to Bugs as “tired,” “geriatric,” etc – is that I don’t buy that a project like this happens instead of some inspired new work by an up-and-coming animator. The last few decades have seen plenty of inspired animation, and it hasn’t been threatened by the presence of the low end of the market: crappy superhero cartoons made for TV. The problem is when you pull the classic characters down to that level and deface them.
That said, I’m actually not that worried or offended about things like Loonatics. It’s more funny than offensive. (I think I would feel differently if it were hard to get hold of the originals, but Disney and Warner Brothers are being pretty good about releasing their classic cartoons uncut on DVD). But I don’t accept Amidi’s take that the characters should be put out to pasture either. What I’d like to see is some quality new work done with Bugs and the rest. After all, in the classic Warner days, the characters were handed from one director to another, with different approaches to them over a couple of decades. Chuck Jones’s Daffy of the fifties was very different from Bob Clampett’s in the thirties. It would be nice if Warners could could continue that tradition by doing quality new Looney Tunes cartoons, and seeing if new artists could spark with them in new and interesting ways.
Good new work with old characters doesn’t stifle opportunity for new artists and new characters: it creates it by fuelling interest in animation across the board. When the legacy of an animation studio is in healthy shape and reaping rewards, it just creates new opportunities for other original work to occur also. What started the 90s animation boom? It was the revival of forties animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the rebirth of the classical Disney tradition with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and the rest. And despite the fact that boom superficially seems to have ended in disaster, those fairly old-fashioned cartoons did indirectly lead the way to all sorts of interesting stuff: the Pixar films, The Simpsons, South Park, Futurama… A healthy nostalgia market for classic animation is, I think, good for the industry as a whole.
And finally, before I sign off on this subject once and for all, you can enjoy the mind-boggling Loonatics promo film here.