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Subject: "Reinventing Looney Tunes" (Great Article)

Written By: woops on 04/24/09 at 6:00 pm

A good article about Looney Tunes and how they should be marketed and exposed on television, which Warner Bros. should definately take note. Especially examples 1 & 2. Though no more remakes since nothing comes close to the originals and we had enough in the past few decades  and also many stinkers like "Space Jam", "Looney Toons Back In Action" (except the museum chase scene), "Baby Looney Toons", and "Loonatics".

Reinventing Looney Tunes

Posted on 04.21.09 to TV by Jeff
Reinventing the Looney Tunes

Remember the Looney Tunes? If you’re old enough to remember when MTV aired music videos longer than six hours a day, sodas called Surge and Citra, and ABC actually programming a Saturday morning lineup rather than plucking repeats from their parent company’s established cable networks, then you might remember their original incarnations. You know, the crazy, borderline insane comedic characters from Warner Bros. before they got transformed into babies, sentai warriors, and, as Bugs Bunny himself said in the rarely seen ’90s short Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers, “pale stereotypes” of their former selves. becoming essentially Disney-fied pitchmen selling everything from frozen food and candies to theme parks and phone services. Though to be fair, in the past, they sold everything from useless pieces of plastic, cereals, vitamins, candies,  and fried chicken (I’m still trying to wrap my mind over the fact that Foghorn Leghorn was once a pitchman for Kentucky Fried Chicken), but they were still essentially Looney Tunes characters, and they were still on television.

Believe it or not, for a strange period between 2004 until January 1, 2009 and from January 2, 2009 onward, Looney Tunes, in their original incarnations, were not seen on American television aside from the infrequent showings of the anthology movies of the late 1970s and 80s. One of these days, I’ll find a lady and have a family, and I hope that I could expose him or her to Looney Tunes shorts on television, the medium they weren’t exactly made for, but have been a part of for almost 50 years of their 80 years of existence. Warner Bros., the owners of the characters and shorts, have no idea how to reintroduce the characters to a somewhat fickle populace.

I do.

There are three steps to reintroducing the Looney Tunes cast of characters, which involves showing them, making new ones, marketing them for all of today’s audiences, not just kids. It’s quite simple and could actually work if done right:

1) Market Their “Flaws”:

For much of the decade, Warner Bros. has marketed the characters to be as family-friendly as the Disney characters. In a mind-blowing announcement, I’m going to tell you that they’re NOT. I know. Shocking, right? See, the reason WHY the Looney Tunes characters have maintained their success for almost 80 years is because they aren’t cutesy, charming, or polite. They represent two extremes of the spectrum of humanity, the wise-ass, ill-tempered, arrogant, and manipulative side and the moronic, gullible, naive, and pigeon-like side. They’re not doe-eyed innocents nor happy friends. They’re like us, flawed and human. They mocked society long before Monty Python, SNL, and The Daily Show were even in the glimmer of their creators’ eyes.

Remember when Taz and Tweety were everywhere? That’s because they were two sides of the same extreme. Taz was ill-tempered yet childlike while Tweety was sweet yet manipulative. Instead of homogenizing the characters to the point of blandness as they’ve been doing for much of this decade, Warner Bros. should be showcasing and celebrating the fact that their characters are the anti-Mickeys. They would never be buddy-buddies nor would they be watered down as characters who needed outside help, babies or Technicolor hero-types (by the way, I’d eradicate every film and videotape with the proof of the existence of Space Jam, Baby Looney Tunes and Loonatics Unleashed, but if I can’t, I’ll hide them very well).

They’d be, as Bugs put it, trying to kill each other.

2) Re-establish the brand for ALL generations and SHOW THEM:

Looney Tunes is a cross-generational brand. Many of you readers grew up watching the shorts on broadcast television and cable. Many of the younger readers watched them on cable and DVD. Some even watch them on the poorly advertised (read: not advertised) Kids’ WB! and In2TV web services. It’s a part of nearly every generation except the current younger generation, and it’s about time it is.

That said, Looney Tunes could be catered for different audiences in different ways. The powers that be at the Watertower can easily create three separate showcases for the characters for the core demographics they want to reach:

- The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show (families and K6-12/9-14, rated TV-G): The original broadcast showcase that lasted from 1960 to 2000 could easily return in its 1960s incarnation with the “This Is It” theme and shorts without their opening and closing icons and easily bridged with new animated segments ala the original series that could reintroduce the characters to the current generation of viewers. It could be a daily show in a half-hour or hour-long format without the bridges and a weekly hour-long series with them.

- The Looney Bin (T14-18/Adults 18-40, rated TV-PG):  Remember how Cartoon Network presented Looney Tunes before political and puritanical correctness got the better of them? Well, The Looney Bin is crazy enough to present the classic shorts uncut, uncensored, and uncooked. It could be a weeknightly cornerstone for Adult Swim as well as set as the perfect middleground between Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

- Termite Terrace: (Adults 18-40/Baby boomers, rated TV-PG): A weekly, uncut showcase of the finest Looney Tunes shorts from all eras, including the Bosko years, the wartime shorts, and the postwar shorts bridged by Toon Heads/Popeye Show/Cartoon Alley-like segments talking about the history and stories behind the shorts. It could fit in on channels like Turner Classic Movies or outlets aimed towards older audiences.

Three diverse brands for three different audiences. That would work wonders in reestablishing the Looney Tunes characters in the public eye.

3) Bring together familiar and new creators:

While it would be nice to get the old gang back together, the masters are no longer amongst the land of the living. We don’t have the technology to reanimate or clone them (yet). But that doesn’t mean we can’t recapture the magic they created. There are numerous creators and animators that would love to put their own spin on the Looney Tunes characters.

As they should.

See, here’s the thing I never understood about modern day Looney Tunes adaptations. They’re all this sole, homogeneous entity, especially compared to what they were back in the Golden Age. While in essence they were the same characters, each animation director put his own spin on them. Bob Clampett’s Daffy Duck was manic and wild while Chuck Jones’ Daffy was greedy and vindictive. Tex Avery’s Bugs Bunny was a trickster with a little bit of silliness while Bob McKimson’s Bugs was a little more reserved yet comedically brilliant. Perhaps the reason why newer Looney Tunes productions don’t work is because they’re all working under the same script and guidelines.

And that’s the problem.

All the shorts look the same because they’re largely under the direction of one guy. Instead of depending on just one overseer, perhaps they could create separate units guided by different talents. Folks familiar with the characters, particularly writers and artists who worked on the recent Looney Tunes comics, as well as writers and artists like David Alverez, with the same kind of comedic tendencies as the original shorts could be brought on board as supervising directors. I wouldn’t mind seeing animation creators familiar with the characters like Tom Mitton (Tom and Jerry Tales, probably the best post-golden age adaptations of the characters ever), Sherri Stoner, Mike Milo, Tony Cervone, and others as well as those unfamiliar with them like Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch), Stephen Hillenburg (Spongebob Squarepants), John Dilworth (Courage the Cowardly Dog),  C.H. Greenblatt (Chowder), and Maxwell Atoms (The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) put their spin on the classic characters. Seriously, a Sanders-made Taz short and a Dilworth-made Porky and Sylvester horror short would rule and you know it! In fact, I would enjoy it if Greg Ford was the supervisor of all these shorts.

Who’s Greg Ford, you may ask? He’s the guy behind the aforementioned  Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers, Night of the Living Duck, The Duxocist, and (Blooper) Bunny as well as directed the only good Looney Tunes anthology movie, Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters. What’s unique about all of these productions?  They were all GOOD post-golden age projects featuring the characters and kept them just as the creators intended them to be: edgy, comedic, and not entirely for kids (but they can enjoy them too).

So, there you go. Three steps towards modernizing and reintroducing the classic Looney Tunes characters back to the mainstream. Is it a good plan? Probably. Could it work? In the right hands, yes. But it is a plan. One, I might add, that exists unlike what’s out there right now from the property owners. Of course, Warner Bros., I’d love to be proven wrong.

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