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Feature Film

An Update on the Jenny Slate-Penned Looney Tunes CGI Feature

We reported last September that comedian and former Saturday Night Live performer Jenny Slate had been hired to script a new CGI/live-action Looney Tunes reboot. She recently updated Splitsider on her progress:

“I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about it, but I will say that I love writing it and I love the research that I did for it, which is basically watch one million cartoons and categorize all the characters. It’s a really, really fun world to be in. It’s just an instant, really fast, punchy fun world, and the people that I work with at Warner Brothers and at [production companies] Heyday and KatzSmith are so nice to me. I’ve never written a movie before, and there are a lot of questions I have to ask that I feel are very stupid. They actually had to give me the new version of Final Draft, and I had to like buy a new computer. They seem to just put faith in my ideas and because they’ve always been supportive of me as a creative person, writing this has been a real pleasure and I’m proud that they let me do it. I love it, and I like the story that I’ve written a lot. You know, we’ll see. I don’t know. There might be somebody else there writing one that’s better, but I like the one that I’m writing. So, that’s all I can say. What else can I do except for like the shit that I’m doing and try to not be an asshole?”

It’ll be interesting to watch what Slate comes up with and whether the producers (which include Jeffrey Katzenberg’s son David) move forward with her treatment. It’s in her favor that the last two Looney Tunes features—Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action—were comedic duds, and that there hasn’t been a truly funny or memorable version of the Looney Tunes characters since the 1950s. Unlike many other well known properties that are being revived nowadays, there’s no pressure to live up to any contemporary standard for this group of characters because every revival/reboot is seemingly more awful than the last.

Also noteworthy, in the same article Slate says she’s working with her husband, Dean Fleischer-Camp, to develop an independently funded stop motion feature about Marcel the Shell, the character that she co-created with Fleischer-Camp and which became a breakout online hit thanks to the animated short Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.

  • I’m sure I’d hate the computer animation (perhaps categorically, but mostly because I doubt they’d devote the necessary time to make it interesting), but Jenny Slate’s 1 of the 5 most perfect people to write that feature. She has exactly the right balance of sweetness, pop culture awareness, appreciation for physical comedy, and acidic delivery to match the greats’ voices.
    Here’s hoping they make the right decision.

  • Lemanic

    If Jenny reads this, this is the requirements to an at least decent Looney Tunes flick.

    NO FART JOKES! – It’s called “Looney” Tunes, not “Low Brow” Tunes, so leave the toilet humor to something else, please.

    HAVE AN ECLECTIC MUSICAL SENSE – Not every musical scene has to succumb to a bad hiphop tune. This isn’t a The Lonely Island sketch you’re producing. It’s the Looney Tunes, so be more subtle about the music you’re choosing.

    ALLOW DEPTH IN THE CHARACTERS; NO FLANDERIZATION NOR JUMPING THE SHARK – It’s bad that Daffy Duck has been reduced to a Peter Griffin rip-off these days, so let the characters have more colors than black and white, please. Subtlety is your friend.

    POP-CULTURAL REFERENCES NEEDS CONTEXT, NOT RANDOMNESS – Do NOT put in pop-cultural references just for the sake of pop-cultural references. PCR needs purpose other than selling out something (The WALMART thing in LT:BIA, much?).

    • Jeff

      You forgot one…

      Absolutely, positively, under no circumstance, should Brendan Fraser be allowed within 100 miles of anything related to this.

      • Michael Peterson

        But Michael Jordan is welcome anytime.

      • Roberto González

        I can’t say I liked Fraser or his character in BIA but he tried his best. It could have worked too. I think he shows he can be a great actor in Gods and Monsters and he was charismatic in The Mummy. I actually think he was funny in Monkeybone and that script really gave him a lot of embarrasing stuff to do. He was pretty dull in BIA maybe cause his character wasn’t interesting. Steve Martín wasn’t really funny either and he was once a great comedían.

        Even if I hated the fact that Space Jam was constructed like an ode to Michael Jordán and the basketball theme was extremely contrived for the Looney Tunes I must say he was charismatic in the lead role and even had some chemistry with Bugs Bunny. Not a good performance but decent for a basketball player.

        • Barrett

          I preferred seeing a comedic actor like Brendan Fraser interact with the Looney Tunes to Michael Jordan. Space Jam was an over-animated market-driven mess. The funny visual gags and wordplay were overshadowed by the so-bright-they-burned colors and mediocre story. Back in Action was no masterpiece, but I was definitely more entertained.

          As for Brendan Fraser, he’s actually busted on a lot more than he deserves, he was good in the Mummy movies and great in the remake of Bedazzled. I also liked him in a lot of the more small-time flicks I’ve seen him in like Blast From The Past and Encino Man. I wish people wouldn’t lump him in with the hacks and has-beens.

          • Steven Bowser

            It almost sounded like you were un-biased there for a second. ;)

    • Ronnie

      …The Wal-mart thing was an actually funny prod at the ubiquitous product placement of a studio feature today- by making it as spelled-out as it could possibly be.

      • Lemanic

        I thought that ACME was already a funny prod at the ubiquitous product placement of a studio feature today, but that’s maybe too subtle for you.

    • Great list. Any chance you can send this to her, Amid?

  • Roberto Severino

    I’m a bit skeptical of Jenny’s lack of experience writing movies, but at least she’s actually watched the damn cartoons first before writing anything about them. I doubt a lot of the writers and directors who have worked with these characters before (except guys like Greg Ford, Earl Kress, Paul Dini and probably a few others) even bothered to watch the original cartoons at all. That has to count for something.

    Jenny actually has some kind of background and experience with comedy, so I’m hoping she’ll be able to do a decent job on this. The credits for Parks and Rec and SNL really caught me eye right there. I’m not really against live action writers working with cartoons as long as they have some type of understanding of what animation can do, how good comedy and story structure work, and what the medium’s limitations are. Not all cartoonists can necessarily write great cartoons and some cartoonists are better at writing than others, IMHO.

    • Pat Lewis

      I’ll admit my first thought was “why would they let someone who never wrote a movie handle the Looney Tunes?” then I realized that might actually be a strength. They aren’t really characters built to carry a feature, so previous attempts to shoehorn them into a typical 3-act plot arc haven’t worked so well. Maybe a newcomer to the format will come up with something more “out of the box” and more suited to these particular characters.

      • Chrispy

        “Pulp Fiction” style – 4 or 5 loosely connected shorts that all tie together at the end? (Did I just say that a Looney Tunes movie should be like Pulp Fiction? Guess I did)

        • Roberto González

          Maybe not that exact structure but it would be cool to see some experimental format like that in a Looney Tunes movie but I’m afraid family films are not very open to experiments these days.

  • Thad Komorowski

    If someone really wanted to do a tribute to the Warner cartoons, they’d make sure no one ever did another Looney Tunes anything again.

    • Roberto Severino

      Well, Thad. The damage has already been done and it’s been going on for decades sadly. I think releasing the rest of the Warner cartoons on DVD for all to see and making the original shorts more accessible to people would be the best way to honor the legacy of the folks who worked on Looney Tunes.

      I think if this turns out to be actually good, it will introduce a whole new generation to these characters and possibly get them interested in seeing the originals.

  • tredlow

    Love Slate, hate the idea of CGI Looney Tunes. Then again, it may still surprise me.

  • Roberto González

    I’m from Spain and I don’t Know anything about this girl so I can’t really tell if she’s a good choice or not. At least I’m happy she watched hundred of cartoons for research. However there was talent involved in Space Jam and Back in Action , people like Bob Camp, Joe Dante, who was a personal friend of Chuck Jones, Eric Goldberg and even Larry Doyle who was a half decent writer in The Simpsons. If they didn’t suceed (though BIA had Its moments) was probably because of WB executives. I recall Joe Dante once wrote in these comments that Bob Camp proposed tons of great gags that the executives didn’t approve.

    That, and then, the visuals. It’s already bad that they don’t have the confidence to make a fully animated movie with the Looney Tunes without human actors, but turning Bugs and Co into CGI characters will probably be a disaster.

    So I wish Jenny the best but this is probably doomed even if she does a good job.

    • Roberto Severino

      I couldn’t have said it any better myself. It’s really going to depend on how much funny, creative material makes it to the screen and isn’t just thrown out because an executive didn’t like it enough.

  • mick

    ‘I had to like buy a new computer.’
    Is anyone immune from like punctuating their every thought with like, like?

  • That 90’s kid

    Space Jam was the bees knees!

    • Joel

      Although I’m not fond of “Space Jam” myself, your username juxtaposed with your comment made me like it. C:

  • Shazbot

    Well, here’s my message to Jenny:

    For god’s sake, give Sylvester something to do besides chase that bird around. Same with Wile E. Coyote. The best gags for those gigs have already been written, so why try to repeat the past and fail? Both those characters have “layers”. Explore them in a funny way. As for Daffy, man, I HATED what was done with him in “Back in Action”. Brutalizing the duck every minute was a turn-off. And as for the rabbit, relieve him of the smugness that has disfigured him since the 1950’s. Since you say you’ve been watching the old toons, pay special attention to the shorts “What’s Up, Doc?” and “Frigid Hare”. Both those shorts show Bugs at a disadvantage, yet don’t rob him of his smarts and dignity as that awful short with the Gremlin does. Allow Bugs to display frustration (“OOOOHhhh, I’m DYIN’!”) and be FUNNY again.

    As for the New Looney Tunes show, I admire the producers for doing something a little different. But I always felt a disconnect when watching it. Why make Bugs and Daffy practically human, while Sylvester is still a pet? And the Tasmanian Devil is a dog???? Plus Daffy was indeed too much of a jerk, as others have noted. I think I would have enjoyed the show a lot more if Bugs and Daffy and company had acknowledged that they are toon stars, if semi-retired ones, and were living in Hollywood resting on their laurels while also looking for new work. That would have been interesting and made a whole lot more sense than the actual show did.

    And don’t get me started on what that show did to Witch Hazel…

    • Roberto González

      I actually think ‘that awful short with the Gremlin’ is a masterpiece. I’m ok with Bugs not being the hero once in a while. Also, while I agree that simply injuring Daffy is an easy way to get laughs out of him I can’t say the original shorts were really free of that. He has always been kind of a looser that gets most of the punchs, even in his crazy off-the-wall incarnation in Bob Clampett’s/Tashlin’s cartoons. I’d give “Back In Action” some credit for the final act too, there Daffy actually becomes the hero by saving Bugs at the end. Yes, he doesn’t get a lot of recognition for that, but that’s his character in Chuck Jones’ cartoons. I’d also like to see him in more roles, but at least they got one of the versions right. I totally agree about Sylvester, though, the original shorts show he can display different roles instead of just chasing Tweety. He was great in The Scarlett Pumpernickel.

    • FigmentJedi

      Technically, the Witch in The Looney Tunes show is Witch Lezah, presumably in an effort to disconnect the Bubby-voiced character from the original one.

  • Dirty Laundry Day

    WHY CG? with today’s tech they can make a pheonominal 2D/live-action film..why do they keep shying away from these golden opportunities to make history?

    • Matt Norcross

      Because modern Hollywood is corrupt, and they believe 2D animation is dead and doesn’t make a profit (all except Disney, who think 2D and CGI should co-exist), therefore everything has to be CG or a live-action/CGI hybrd so it can be “realistic”. You can thank empty suits Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner for giving Hollywood that analogy.

  • Good Luck with that.

    After reading her masterfully crafted paragraph, and finding out that the Katzenberg legacy of Genius is attached, I’m sure this Looney Tunes movie will be magical.

  • Why can’t they do a fully animated Looney Tunes movie? Why do you need live actors in it? CG could be OK if it’s cartoony but please no realistic fur/feather textures (those were just creepy in the recent CG shorts).

  • Ju-osh

    You know how we’re always complaining about movies being ruined because of studio execs giving too many unasked-for ‘notes’? It appears we have A LOT of future studio execs in this comments section.

  • CG_Animator

    One of the major problems with the last two Looney Tunes movies was simply too much of Michael Jordan, Brendan Fraser and too little of Bugs and Daffy. I honestly didn’t give two craps about the live action characters in those movies. Space Jam felt like an hour long Michael Jordan ad and Back in Action had it’s moments but was overal kind of “bleh”.

    If they can find an interesting way for the live actors and animated characters to interact, I’m all for it. It’s been done before. Bob Hoskins gave an incredible performance in Roger Rabbit. Eddie Valient was just an interesting character who was just as entertaining and funny as the ‘toons.

    I honestly don’t care if it’s CG or hand-drawn either. The Looney Tunes work fine in CG as proven in the Reel FX shorts.

    A good story and strong characters are the key to making something like this work.

    • Roberto González

      I’ll correct myself. I thought the CGI in those new shorts was Ok-ish, though there was an over-reliance on 3D shots and maybe too much texture. My fear is that they would make them moré realistic in order to interact with the human actors. Hence my “disaster” predictions. The perfect way to translate them to CG would be something simmilar to Cloudy or Hotel Transylvania.

      Still I much prefer seeing them in 2d even If they changed the designs like The Looney Tunes show. To me that’s less of a problem since Chuck Jones’ Bugs also looked different to McKimson’s.

  • Tim

    Well, Marcel the Shell might be my favorite thing in the whole world, so I am looking forward to whatever Jenny is doing. And thanks for the heads up about the Marcel feature!

  • Roberto González

    Groucho Marx didn’t grow in his movies and he still had lots of personality. That said I don’t totally dislike the idea of giving some continuity or even a bit of a backtory at least for one series, but The Looney Tunes Show doesn’ t do it very well. I think it would work better if they were portrayed as retired actors or something like that. And it’s not that they grow a lot either. Daffy insists on being a jerk in everything new episode no matter how bad his previous plan backfires on him.

  • Jen Hurler

    Well…this will either go really well or really terribly. But hey, I loved Space Jam. I thought it was memorable and a huge hit. Granted I was in the 2nd grade at the time…

  • Christian Z.

    The thing that makes this tricky is that the Looney Tunes characters were made for short films so ANY attempt to put them into a feature film setting will seem out of character and a little awkward. We don’t hear about something like Space Jam and wonder “if it’s going to be like the old Looney Tunes,” because it was never like the Looney Tunes characters to begin with to be interacting with human characters in a feature-length film.

    Having said that, the animated parts of Space Jam and BIA to me were worth watching and I hope this new project turns out well.

    • Henry Cohn

      You could say (warning: smart ass comment) that Who Framed Roger Rabbit was putting Looney Tunes characters in a feature, and no one has complained about that feeling out of character or a little awkward

      • Christian Z.

        Great. Maybe this next Looney Tunes outing can come off as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I wasn’t even against Space Jam and Back in Action. I’m not even saying one format is good and another is bad. But when you have a group of characters going for several decades in one format and then they kind of go dormant and then come back in a different format you have to know something’s going to be different.

    • Roberto González

      I honestly never ever got that idea of LT-or any other classic cartoon character- can’t sustain a feature film. If Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn’t make it for you, actually, you have the perfect example right there in your avatar! The Three Caballeros proved that Donald Duck could entertain us during a whole feature without emotional scenes or arcs! Of course you can’t have a whole feature with Wile E.Coyote chasing Road Runner or Sylvester after Tweety but something like 8-Ball Bunny, The Scarlett Pumpernickel or Duck Dodgers could be expanded to feature-length.

      These cartoon characters are funnier and have more personality than half of Dreamworks or even most Pixar main characters, why can’t they be the main characters in a feature? Also, didn’t The Marx Brothers or something like MP’s Life Of Brian proves that you don’t need ’emotional arcs’ to make an hilarious comedy? Or something like Ghostbusters.

      The guys change from charlatans to heroes but you don’t have an emotional scene to punctuate that, it’s just one gag after another. And animated movies like Rango, Kung Fu Panda or The Pirates! are also close to the Looney Tunes spirit, even though they include a bit of an emotional arc.

      • Christian Z.

        I haven’t said that they *can’t* sustain a feature film. Only that if we are used to them in six-minute fully animated shorts then if it gets announced that they are going to be in an animation/live-action hybrid we should know from the outset that it is going to be different. We shouldn’t be surprised that “Space Jam” is different from “One Froggy Evening.” I think awkwardness comes when changing the format the characters are typically seen in but I don’t think the awkwardness can’t be overcome. I am not engaging in polemic against feature length animation/live-action hybrids.

        Given what they were I was okay with the two prior animation/live-action hybrid movies and hope this next one does well.

        • Roberto González

          Ok. But still I have explained why it doesn’t have to be so awkward. In fact “One Froggy Evening” has the handicap of the reiterative situation but other than that the scope of the story is more ‘cinematic’ and ambitious than ‘Space Jam’.

          ‘OFE’ tells a story about fame and failure while ‘SJ’ just shows the character playing basketball against the bad guys, and that’s the whole plot! ‘SJ’ really doesn’t have a lot more ‘plot’ than “Baseball Bugs”, just a couple of contrived ideas to include Jordan and the other basketball players in it.

          Another movie with a plot that could have easily been the story of a Chuck Jones short: “Ratatouille”.

  • Joshua Marchant

    I’m still extremely weary of this project.

    They seem to be off to a bad start already, hiring an SNL performer who by the sounds of her statement isn’t overly familiar with Looney Tunes to begin with. Maybe that’s the idea but knowing Warner Brothers today it’ll fall flat.

  • James Ian Sims

    Cartoons should be written by cartoonists. Not non-cartoonists like Jenny Slate. (No offense, Jenny) The original Looney Tunes directed by Clampett, Freleng, Jones, Avery, and McKimson were written by cartoonists such as Mike Maltese, Warren Foster and Tedd Pierce. Having a scriptwriter write the stories might kill the franchise. John K. explains very well on his blog why cartoons should be written by cartoonists.

    • Joseph

      Sorry but those were shorts not feature length films. Who knows what would have happened if you asked those guys to write a feature.

      • James Ian Sims

        Uh…that link I shared included Lady and the Tramp, (a feature length animated film obviously).

  • Henry Cohn

    VVhenever I hear that something is being made in CG I always sink back in my seat with disappointment. But right after doing so this time, I instantly remembered how impressed I had been watching the recent CG roadrunner shorts on YouTube. So, speaking as someone who always gives CG the cold shoulder, I can assure everyone that the style I predict will be used is cartoonily stylized and animated, and although it doesn’t look like the hand drawn, it is one of the only times I have been pleased with change

  • Roberto González

    Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy look a bit more cartoony than that IMO. Though I’m ok with this short. I just noticed a trend in these ones. The first had pretty funny gags, but the subsequent shorts, including the Tweety and Sylvester and Daffy and Elmer ones seem to have more of an obsession on 3D shots and characters being next to cammera than actually focusing on the gags. Yeah, Rod Scribner also draw Daffy close to cammera in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery but it wasn’t as random as it is there.

    I actually think the best animated segments of The Looney Tunes Show are more pleasing to look at than these CGI shorts. Examples: Queso Bandito, We’re In Love or this one:

    If I went to a theater and I watched this Merrie Melody as the previous short I’d probably enjoyed it more than Daffy’s Rapshody. The characters just look better in 2D and it’s more creative and funnier than Daffy’s Rapshody, which is just putting images to a funny Mel Blanc song, but doesn’t have a lot of new ideas in it. This one shows Daffy talking about love with his weird logic, which is more unexpected than a regular chase scene with Elmer and Daffy.

    • Henry Cohn

      I definitely agree. Looney Tunes is best when done traditionally. What I don’t like about the look of The Looney Tunes Show is the limited animation and what I think is a tacky Flash look. I prefer the CGI to it, although I see that the show is suitable for TV. I would also prefer if the animation was hand drawn, but if the CG will draw in audiences and make Looney Tunes popular again, then it’s only a slight preference.

      • Roberto González

        I can see how some of the animation in The Looney Tunes Show may feel tacky or flash/like but I think it had some really good moments here and there. The Merrie Melodies I mentioned had pretty good animation and sometimes the designs don’t even look that different to the regular ones. I think Porky and Daffy look pretty simmilar to their regular designs in that Giant Robot Love clip, they are a little bit moré angular and Porky is slightly thinner but that’s all.

        And We Are In Love show Bugs and Lola’s angular and different designs, yet the actual animation (=movements) was extremely well done, the colors, backgrounds and facial gestures are very appealing to me.

        And I agree the sitcom parts, especially in the second season, often look like crap.

        To me the problem was not the designs but the fact that some episodes or clips were much better drawn and animated than others , that looked terrible.

        The new Mickey Mouse shorts work mostly cause they use funny faces in the animation, the designs themselves are a bit ugly/odd but they are funny in motion and they keep the same Style from one short to another.

  • Jorge Garrido

    There is no way this isn’t going to terrible.

  • Don’t get me wrong. I love 2D animation but I really wanna see these characters in CGI. I think they’re gonna use the same models as the one in the shorts (hopefully). And I think the writer knows what she’s handling so I’m looking forward to this.

  • Animator606432

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted.”]

  • mick

    young hipster kids say a lot of things. growth in these characters is pointless. you want characters who will get older and go through conflict then invent some other characters rather than impose such nonsense on characters never made for it.

    ‘I wanna see a submarine that can knit’…. unsuited to task, you must be thinking of a knitting machine

  • James Ian Sims

    Cartoons should be written by cartoonists. Not non-cartoonists like Jenny Slate. (No offense, Jenny) The original Looney Tunes directed by Clampett, Freleng, Jones, Avery, and McKimson were written by cartoonists such as Mike Maltese, Warren Foster and Tedd Pierce. Having a scriptwriter write the stories might kill the franchise. John K. explains very well on his blog why cartoons should be written by cartoonists.