bugstazphonics bugstazphonics

Looney Tunes teach Phonics

The scene above obviously isn’t from the new Looney Tunes Show on Cartoon Network. It’s actually from a new set of Looney Tunes shorts being created for series of online Phonics lessons: Looney Tunes ClickN READ Phonics.

I can’t vouch for the lessons, but the cartoon segments are surprisingly good (they are actually making ten six-minute cartoons, in which excerpts are spread throughout the lessons). Considering that they are produced in Flash by a handful of people they are remarkable. True, there is no room for Clampett-style exaggerated action here, but they are as faithful as one can be to the originals considering the limitations.

The director of these is Rob Fendler, whose most recent credit was directing the MTV flash-animated series Popzilla. Looney Tunes comic book scribe Bill Matheny is writing the series, Joe Alaskey is providing the voices for all the characters, and the music – which I thought was needle-drop reuse of Carl Stalling – is actually newly composed by Hollywood orchestrator Milton Nelson.

The phonics lessons are given by a new character, a robot named Professor Wizbot, “created as the teacher character so that Phonics could be properly taught without an accent or speech impediment.” Check out the ClickNKIDS website to try a sample lesson and to see how the animation integrates with the educational content. Here’s a few scenes from the cartoons:

  • I’m glad Looney Tunes is getting some exposure to children, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the Flash animation here.

    Oh well.

    • Ron

      I actually animated the Looney Tunes characters in flash a few years ago for an internal WB site. I also directed another animator on the project and we used the exact same pre-approved illustrator files from the site that this production used. Having not been a fan of flash before that project, I was pleasantly surprised how much we could get out of those files in terms of squash and stretch and expressiveness. A good animator (like the one I had working for me) can get a good performance out of almost anything. My point is, I know for a fact that these characters can be animated well in flash. It just depends on who’s doing the animating.
      On that note, I’m honestly surprised that the new “Looney Tunes Show” is NOT animated in flash. Jessica Borutski’s designs look like they were made for flash.

      • Ryoku78

        The voiceworks good, though as with almost all flash animation theres an inherit “puppet” feel to the movement, however this is still better then a majority of the other flash animation I see. If you pause this you can’t even tell its flash as the designs aren’t steam-rolled.

        I’m just glad they’re keeping the old designs around, and that these Phonics have antics that’re actually looney.
        Certainly more entertaining then Bugs crabbing at people like he does on the CN show.

      • Jorge Garrido

        Ron, it’s astounding to me Jess’s short films are better made and better and more appropriately animated for that geometric style of design she has than the animated series being funded by the biggest corporation conglomerate in the world.

        And at a FRACTION of a budget. I really hope Jess got a gigantic pay day for that job, she deserves every penny from these corporate money burners.

      • The Gee

        Okay, Jorge, will you acknowledge that the very concept of the TV show, an animated, chatty sit-com that rarely tries to explore comedic possibilities because of what it is, contributes more to the show NOT being animated even remotely close to what you think it should?
        Jessica’s most recent shorts needed to be animated as much as possible. Plus, she had the time for it versus trying to meet a schedule for however many shows CN ordered x 22 minutes.

        Could and should there be more to the show? Everyone can only hope. Right now, I’m sure the goal is to get through season one and have a second go round. But, the premise handcuffs the production from being remotely wild.

  • SJ

    The flash is ok but at least the slapstick here is more entertaining than the sitcom drivel of the new LT Show. Good post!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It’s more like saying, where was this while I was going to school 30 years ago? I certainly wouldn’t have mind learning from Bugs and the gang in this manner.

  • uncle wayne

    Verrrrrrrrry impressive. And espesh when they maintina the Stalling-ness of it all, too!! (Even if this was a SLIDE show….the modern-day technology keeps them fresh….and still 900 times better than those early 60s “Kool-Aid” cmcls!!)

  • Valentin Moretto

    I’m still waiting for Elmer Fudd, Porky and Sylvester to teach phonics.

  • Mac

    Ugh! Learn phonics with Looney Tunes?! Heaven forbid these characters do anything fun any more.

    • 2011 Adult

      Are you even reading all the comments saying how they’re all IMPRESSED with the animation?

  • Knowing what a pain Flash can be, I am impressed with the animation.

  • Thanks for sharing! I think this is a great idea for kids as they can relate to Looney Tunes better than a teacher.

  • Joe

    Even with the limited animation of Flash, I find this much more enjoyable then The Looney Tunes Show!!! They are at least trying to keep the characters true to the originals. Thank you for that.

    No more RE-INVENTING characters to make a buck. Either keep them true to what they used to be or invent new ones. God forbid the Studios actually getting a fresh and original idea instead of ruining tried and true characters.

    It can be done Warner Bros. You actually did it at one time: Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Batman Beyond, and Freakazoid to name a very few.

  • I’m not impressed
    Why persistent insisting on translation in flash when he’s beter for frame by frame animation.

    Imagine what old garniture of animators could do with him

    • Chris Sobieniak

      We’ll never understand, still I kinda thought this worked after trying one of the lessons. Usually educational stuff doesn’t have to be all flashy and fully-animated (especially when I was learning from stuff made in the 70’s out of “Scanimate” and cut-outs).

  • Wow, the voices are better than the new show, that’s for sure.

  • Paul N

    The Flash work is very good, and it’s obvious that the model packs are pretty comprehensive.

  • This is a cute and helpful idea for kids! I tried one of the free lessons and I liked it!=) You can learn quick and easy, and if you got everything right you go on to the next scenes of the cartoon!:) I wish they would have something like this with learning different languages!:)

  • 2011 Adult

    I see. They’re hooking onto major franchises now instead of using their own characters to guarantee a paycheck. ISeeWhatTheyDidThere.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Yeah, they’re really just bridging sequences to the main section of the lessons (which is Prof. Whizzbot drolling out phonics one-on-one). There’s not really any character interaction as I had hoped but I guess they did their best despite the disconnection (though the thought of either Bugs, Tweety or Wile E. standing there telling you what a good job you did does some a little out of character there maybe .

  • When I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street to learn phonics. I watched Bugs Bunny to learn how to shoot a dog in the face.

  • Jesse Pindus

    Wow. Kinda sad, but this wins over the Looney Tunes Show by miles in pretty much every department – animation, voices, music, humor, stories, characterization, etc. I wonder how the Phonics lessons fit in with what I’ve seen though.

    • 2011 Adult

      I always thought Joe Aleskey does the best job of the characters than anyone today.

      • Disagree…I think the best replacement for Blanc was Jeff Bergman, immediately after Blanc died. Just think how good he’d be now if he had gotten to do them consistently all this time.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        If only WB hadn’t thought to having it’s way with how the voices would be cast from production to production like they did.

      • Artie

        Bergman was actually asked to change-up the voices to suit the style of the new CN show. Check out this article: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11121/1142918-67.stm

  • Dave

    “there is no room for Clampett-style exaggerated action here”

    There you have it.

    No disrespect to the Flash animators involved with this piece (honorable digital craftsman all, just doing the job) , but that phrase — “there is no room for Clampett-style exaggerated action here” — is the most apt indictment I’ve read of most modern animation of the Looney Tunes characters. No joie de vivre , no pizazz , so why bother ? Yeah, I guess it’s pretty good … “for Flash” … but who cares? Make up some new characters better suited for limited Flash animation.

    • Paul N

      Clampett wasn’t the only LT director. Freleng, McKimson, and Jones all did terrific LT/MM shorts that didn’t have extreme takes but still work terrifically.

      • Dave

        Paul: Absolutely . I didn’t expand my comment to include the other Looney Tunes directors (which would also include Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Art Davis) because Jerry’s original comment ““there is no room for Clampett-style exaggerated action here”” mentioned Clampett by name and in that sense “Clampett” was a stand-in for all of them in lamenting the lack of real full-blooded cartooning in modern-day animation. Jerry’s remark and my follow-up on his remark was not intended to leave out the other great ones.

  • I tried one of the lessons. Gotta disagree with Steffi-Alien: if I’d been a kid, I’d be disappointed and confused.

    The lessons are boring, unnecessarily pedantic, and don’t use the actual Looney Tunes characters, even as illustrations for words or as supporting players to the robot. As a kid, I’d be frustrated not to see more of them.

    The quizzes have a major tech flaw: the robot asks readers to spell out a sound (say, long E), then shows a list of possible spellings. Often this list will include two legitimate spellings (“ee” and “ea”), but the game treats only one as correct. I’ve worked in educational media; this is inexcusable.

    “[Professor Wizbot was] created as the teacher character so that Phonics could be properly taught without an accent or speech impediment.”

    I translate that as “we didn’t want the robot to have a specific ethnicity.” Is that why he’s played as a college-age white guy with a chalk-white face?

    The robot doesn’t even fit the Looney Tunes design style. All he shares with Sylvester and Tweety is Seth MacFarlane-style raised lower eyelids, which nobody had before FAMILY GUY anyway.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Heh, I try not to notice small things like those raised lower eyelids, but it certainly is contagious. Still, this isn’t anything like the way I learned reading back then (Dick & Jane anyone?) but it certainly could’ve been different.

  • david

    I think frame by frame traditional 2d animation is almost obsolete.

  • Steven M.

    Quite crappy, but at least it’s more Looney-Tunes-ish than the Cartoon Network show.

  • Kristjan

    O boy now we got the real deal when its comes to new matterial? Not sure but lest it is less creepy design wise than that New Looney Tunes show. But I do wonder if we see anyting new offical on DVD/blu-ray with the old cartoons from the 1930’s through 1960’s.

  • victoria

    Isn’t anyone just sick of the Looney Tunes period?

    • Dave

      Sick of fake, wannabe Looney Tunes, that’s for sure. Who wouldn’t be ? That’s my beef with fake animation that has to be qualified to death as “pretty good …
      for Flash” . Why do it ? Who enjoys watching that stuff ?

  • The cartoon segments are okay… for Flash. Note that – for Flash. Ideally, these characters should always be handdrawn (or possibly CGI-animated as well as Wile E. and the Roadrunner were in those new theatrical shorts)… but I’ve seen far worse Flash animation of them earlier. (Yes, Looneytunes.com, I’m talking to you here!)

    The lecture part of the clip I tried must be one of the most idiotic and annoying things I’ve ever seen.

  • Why couldn´t “The Looney Tunes Show” be something more like this?

  • A.C.

    Wonderful score; was pleasantly surprised to hear “Old Folks at Home” in it.

  • The music production and scoring sounds way more like proper Looney Tunes than the new Looney Tunes Show.

    The voice work is better, too.


  • Justin Delbert

    I think that because of the Looney Tunes Show and because the classic Looney Tunes are back on TV, we’re slowly transitioning back to having these characters as usable merchandise. This is just one example. Now in the past there were Muppet PC games that were very educational yet fun. I think they were focued on Phonics too. I used to love these as a kid. Ah to be that age again.

  • Spencer

    Hella’ better gags.

  • I can read Bill Matheny’s stories in the comics all day long. I can also listen to Joe Alaskey’s voices all day long. But I don’t want to take a kindergarten lesson just to watch a cartoon, and it sucks to see the amazing talents of these people wasted on such things. If Matheny and Alaskey had been involved in the new Cartoon Network LT show, I’d have watched it past the third episode.

    In short, this is like hiring Vincent Van Gogh to paint gang graffiti on a freight train. And for the record, I LIKED a lot of the 2-minute Flash cartoons done for the WB site a few years ago. At least those allowed the characters to change expression and didn’t make you spell “if” to see the next scene.

    Joe, Bill, I idolize you guys, but you got screwed by this. Please get better agents!

  • tonma

    Sorry but…..
    mmmmmh… to say this is better animation than the Looney Toon Show….. coming from the SAME people always complaining about flash animation against hand drawn… Isn’t that… kind of…mmmh…illogi..no, absu…Aaah forget it.
    All I’m saying is if I was the guy at Warner that took the decision to go ahead and order AND pay for full 2D animation for LTS knowing that’s what people would ask for, and then I happened to read this kind of spiteful comments… Heck I would be learning my lesson and never going for anything beyond cut out flash stuff again, because people just don’t seem to appreciate the difference after all.

  • While I’m slightly on the fence reg; the animation, at least there’s more slapstick in these shorts than in the actual Looney Tunes Sitcom…thing going on.

    Plus, Joe Alaskey – ’nuff said. I believe that this is the first time that he’s voiced Taz as well?

  • Not perfect, but for flash-animated it’s good. Still ten times better and more accurate to the source material than the CN show.

  • Scarabim

    I think the new Looney Tunes show has potential – at least Daffy comes off well – but the writers need to at least TRY to understand the rest of the characters better. And I really HATE what they did to Witch Hazel! She’s got Bubby the Whale’s voice and it’s totally inappropriate!

    As for this, it’s okay, considering it’s “educational” (will the overhyped influence of Sesame Street never wane?) but they made Bugs too smug again.

    • Sesame Street eats Professor Wizbot for breakfast. (Literally… I just saw Cookie Monster walking down the street spitting out stray bolts.)

    • snip2354

      It’s been happening since 1996. Bugs is smug now. Deal.

  • John A

    I’m waiting to see Duffy Duck: Pronoun Trouble, where Elmer blasts off his beak every time he gives a wrong answer.

  • This is kinda dull and the character designs are the same boring model sheets they’ve used for years, but why are the voices on this better than the voices on the Looney Tunes Show?

    I watched Hot Cross Bunny the other day (on Cartoon Network strangely enough). Watch the careful animation and beautiful design of Bugs in that cartoon, and then watch this or the Looney Tunes Show. And then feel a little bit sad.

  • Ryoku78

    Shoot, forgot the extra 000s in my e-mail.

  • The Gee


    Let me sort this out….

    this is an education based production which WB is selling to parents of kids who can not read and who can use help to properly pronounce words.

    It is trying to get past regional dialects in allowing kids, from any background even ones learning English as a second language, to know the best ways to pronounce words and to understand what makes up words.

    It uses characters who are there to break up the monotony by easing kids in and out of lessons. Those characters are providing basic comic relief.
    nothing fancy. nothing hifalutin. certainly not high comedy or even the lowest of low brow yucks.

    And some of you, a bunch of people whom I presume can read and write, are complaining about what? Are you complaining about how you don’t like it because it isn’t for you? Are you complaining about how your former self wouldn’t like it, as if that matters now?

    Perspective, folks. Consider using it on things like this.

    I don’t think anyone expects discussion along the merits of debating learning theories or user-friendly design or anything. But, this is Flash animation, being presented in the Flash format for online or digital interaction. It isn’t something that will get a boxed set DVD/Blue Ray release as a collector’s edition. And, it was likely never intended to be released like that.

    • purpose is not excuse for ugliness.

      result must be nice.for any purpose.educational or entertainment.

      • The Gee

        Ah yes.

        It is at this point in the play that The Budget steps in from Stage Left.

        Don’t think that these were likely well-funded. It was made for digital distribution, and not as something for video.

        I didn’t look into it but it would not surprise me to find out if it is a small animation crew, jobbed out to another small studio (s) or the sheer amount of work needed to produce the project just doesn’t afford fine touches and panache.

        Does it excuse “ugliness”? To your eyes, not likely. Nor is will it ever. But, I doubt they are going for accolades on this production, just money from parents/educators. Educational animation is a big business but not exactly one that has rich animators.

        Yes, The Budget may not utter the word “panache” at all. Let’s sit back and see what it might say….

  • I doubt Seth McFarlane invented the raised lower eyebrow. I’m pretty certain I have seen that in Ren and Stimpy and maybe older cartoons. And it can be a cool expression when well drawn.

    And about this…the robot mascot is horribly crappy. The Looney Tunes parts are just meh.

    • Of course MacFarlane didn’t invent it—but he invented it in the form currently used, where the raised eyelid is only visible within the unchanging oval of the eye.
      Pre-MacFarlane, raised eyelids on cartoon characters required a cheek rising, too, and the outline of the eye changing naturally (which looked good). Post-MacFarlane, the eye shape remains static, while the lower lid rises the same way an upper lid falls—something the lower lid can’t really do.

      It feels silly to talk at such length about something so minor, but here the results are unappealing and the obvious ripoff embarrassing.

      • The Gee

        I wholeheartedly agree that the lower eyelid cheat is a really bad influence.

        And, I agree that cheeks should push up over the eye and the shape of the eye should change and the brow and the eyebrows should reflect that change that raised cheek brings about.

        But, if it ain’t there, that is just a bad choice, poorly done. Unfortanately, it is common to not even consider those mechanics. That’s one of the worst influences that Family Guy has had on a lot of new cartoon properties, mainly the ones online….
        ….at least ones I’ve seen that didn’t seem to think character design matters that much or secondary animation matters at all, Flash or otherwise ( those little flourishes can add be done easily and effectively if the choice is made and the animator does it.)

        It is worth pointing out that if this production is being done using Flash symbols, it should be something where those extras could be considered earlier or later. But, shh…I have no idea what The Budget’s role in this is….

  • snip2354