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.