Die, Bugs Bunny, Die

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Last night the newest reboot of the Looney Tunes, The Looney Tunes Show aired on the Cartoon Network and I didn’t watch it, but there are a bunch of clips floating about such as the above. The show is billed as a new concept for the venerable characters — Bugs and Daffy have moved to the suburbs and are roommates and have wacky neighbors. YOU know…a sitcom. You should probably give this clip it a watch before you read the following, because I wouldn’t want to prejudice anyone.

LT wp bugsdaffy 1024x768 Die, Bugs Bunny, Die

Rebooting the Looney Tunes is one of the most thankless tasks on earth, and the general level of wretchedness of the various efforts over the years testifies to how pointless it is. The original cartoons from the ’30s through the ’50s are one of the great miracles of comedy — a unique blending together of the right people in the right time and place as great directors — Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng – collaborated with great voice actors — Mel Blanc – great designers, great scenarists and a great composer — Carl Stalling – to create a one of a kind body of work that pretty much defines the cartoon short. Sight gags, catchphrases, classic situations — Meep meep! — these cartoons and characters are woven into the fabric of our culture even more than the Disney characters, who have evolved into icons while their cartoon adventures have largely been forgotten.

So, bringing them back? Why not write a new Monty Python sketch and a new Alan Moore SWAMP THING while you’re at it — you’d have as much chance of capturing the magic of the original.

But the characters are still licensing giants, still popular and the brand must be freshened. Thus we’ve had Tiny Toons, which turned them into babies, and the ghastly, horrific Loonatics Unleashed, which re-imagined the characters as futuristic mecha versions. And yeah, SPACE JAM, which introduced a great R. Kelly song to the world. The other day I had the TV on and what turned out to be LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION was on, a live action/cartoon amalgam which starred Brendan Fraser, as required by law, and. oddly, Steve Martin as Crispin Glover. It wasn’t as bad as Loonatics, but it was still fairly painful.

Jaime Weinman has a piece called “Why It’s Hard o Write for Bugs Bunny” which analyzes some of the story problems with the characters:

So the writer of a “traditional” Bugs Bunny cartoon usually has to come up with a strong story where the protagonist’s victory (or even the nature of his victory) is never in doubt, where the protagonist rarely takes the antagonist seriously, and where the story stops moving forward as soon as the protagonist decides he wants to win. There’s not a single aspect of a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon that wouldn’t be thrown out of a screenwriting class, or that would get past an executive giving notes on good story structure. So the classic-style cartoon might be unrevivable, not because there aren’t people who can do it, but because no TV network would accept it in that form.


All true. Plus, the cartoons were just anarchic comedy, impossible to create on demand. Back in the day, I spent a year editing the Looney Tunes comic book for DC, and while I was honored and excited to be working on these classic characters, I didn’t have much hope for the final product, either. My predecessor in the job passed along the concept that these were simple gag comics, full of jokes and sight gags. There were some noble attempts — and some pretty good ones by Dan Slott and Sam Henderson — but nothing I’d put up as a portfolio piece. The real Bugs, Daffy, Yosemitem and Wile E. Coyote are all reactive, chaotic cyphers without internal life or motivation. Telling stories about them that reflect their natures is all but impossible.

But Bugs and Daffy and company live on in the popular imagination. When I heard about the “suburban” concept, I thought it might be okay, but only if they let Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer write it, or they did it like this:

Okay, not very likely.

The Looney Tunes Show clip at the top does not fill my heart with confidence. WHY is Daffy such a dimwit????? WHY is the pacing so glacial? Bugs and Daffy have been reduced to less charismatic versions of Ray Romano and Kevin James — and the result is a life-crushing bore. Can’t we just watch a rerun of Drawn Together instead?

Maybe I should give a whole show a look before I pass judgement but…there may be better things I can do with my time, especially when I read character bios like the following for “Tina,” a love interest for one of the leads:

Tough and street-smart, Tina is Daffy’s girlfriend because she “loves a project.”


Tough and street-smart. Can you throw in some more clichés while you are at it?

BTW, if you want to know my pick for the best sketch comedy of the last decade, I would have to pick Mitchell and Webb. One “Get Me Hennimore” sketch will eliminate the need to watch hours and hours of sitcoms, cartoon or live action:

Comments

  1. Jerry Smith says:

    I was unfortunate enough to see this. You’re right, writing this pap was a thankless task. Daffy wasn’t too awful bad, but instead of being the trickster always totally in control, Bugs was just another smart-alec sitcom character. And instead of having catch phrases and personality quirks, they commented on and talked about their catch phrases and personality quirks. I guess they were trying for meta, but instead it was like comics about comics. Not recommended.

  2. Jerry Smith says:

    I was unfortunate enough to see this. You’re right, writing this pap was a thankless task. Daffy wasn’t too awful bad, but instead of being the trickster always totally in control, Bugs was just another smart-alec sitcom character. And instead of having catch phrases and personality quirks, they commented on and talked about their catch phrases and personality quirks. I guess they were trying for meta, but instead it was like comics about comics. Not recommended.

  3. This sounds AWFUL! Granted, Daffy Duck started dying for me as a character in the late 50’s when he was changed from being a complete and total nutty bastard to a sniveling, “greedy miser.” Daffy’s tormenting other characters and being truly looney is what made him great. When that changed, it was not good.

    Even Bugs originally didn’t always win back in the day. There are several shorts where he loses but it was all good until the late 50’s when even Bugs became less than interesting.

    Now, to think that what I thought was bad enough from the late 50’s on is being taken down even further is just sickening to say the least. Bloody Big Entertainment ruining everything. *_*

  4. This sounds AWFUL! Granted, Daffy Duck started dying for me as a character in the late 50’s when he was changed from being a complete and total nutty bastard to a sniveling, “greedy miser.” Daffy’s tormenting other characters and being truly looney is what made him great. When that changed, it was not good.

    Even Bugs originally didn’t always win back in the day. There are several shorts where he loses but it was all good until the late 50’s when even Bugs became less than interesting.

    Now, to think that what I thought was bad enough from the late 50’s on is being taken down even further is just sickening to say the least. Bloody Big Entertainment ruining everything. *_*

  5. This sounds AWFUL! Granted, Daffy Duck started dying for me as a character in the late 50’s when he was changed from being a complete and total nutty bastard to a sniveling, “greedy miser.” Daffy’s tormenting other characters and being truly looney is what made him great. When that changed, it was not good.

    Even Bugs originally didn’t always win back in the day. There are several shorts where he loses but it was all good until the late 50’s when even Bugs became less than interesting.

    Now, to think that what I thought was bad enough from the late 50’s on is being taken down even further is just sickening to say the least. Bloody Big Entertainment ruining everything. *_*

  6. DanDan says:

    First of all you shouldn’t really judge a whole cartoon or anything else before seeing it and second from the clip i’ve seen it looks like it’s aiming for kids not critical adults which is exactly what the originals did.

  7. DanDan says:

    First of all you shouldn’t really judge a whole cartoon or anything else before seeing it and second from the clip i’ve seen it looks like it’s aiming for kids not critical adults which is exactly what the originals did.

  8. DanDan says:

    First of all you shouldn’t really judge a whole cartoon or anything else before seeing it and second from the clip i’ve seen it looks like it’s aiming for kids not critical adults which is exactly what the originals did.

  9. F*ckin’ lightning in a bottle, how does it work?

  10. F*ckin’ lightning in a bottle, how does it work?

  11. I too had the misfortune to watch this train wreck as well. Not only are they writing Daffy as a moron, I detected a couple lines and actions that were (in my opinion anyway) ripped off from Homer on the Simpsons. (that whole lame bit about Daffy saying the opposite of what he thinks and even the finger snap, are all taken from a Simpsons episode)

    Amazing. The “creators” of this new show have ALL of those classic pieces to use as a blueprint and instead opt for a REALY, REALLY BAD sitcom.

  12. Oh, and to pile on just a little bit more. The whole “idea” of two characters going on a “Best Friends” game show, to win cash, was ALREADY done on an episode of “American Dad”.

  13. Cameron Stewart says:

    @DanDan – actually you’re wrong, the original Looney Tunes shorts were not aimed at children, they were created to run in movie theaters before the main feature (and not limited to run before animated kids’ films as cartoon shorts are now). It’s also why over the years of repeat tv broadcast they were trimmed shorter and shorter to remove all the “adult” content.

    And if the new show is aimed at kids, why does that clip above use a parody of the friggin’ NEWLYWED GAME as its premise, a cultural reference that predates today’s kids by at least 20 or 30 years?

    Another reason why the new versions fail – the original cartoons weren’t “scripted,” by which I mean there was no writer typing up a screenplay to be given to the storyboard team – the artists WERE the writers. When those old cartoons say “directed by Chuck Jones” it means Jones wrote the gags himself as he was drawing it all out and letting his imagination go free. Ren & Stimpy’s John K has historically shown disdain for the practice of using screenwriters for animated comedy, and he’s right, it almost never works.

  14. Not great writing, slow editing and predictable as hell. aimed for kids maybe, but the kids I know are a little hipper.

    The good thing is that if there is interest, the parents can buy the kids the old material.

    Long live Chuck Jones!

  15. Shawn Kane says:

    I will admit that I liked the Duck Dodgers cartoon but the live action stuff, the Loonatics, and now this show make me very happy to have six volumes of Looney Tunes Golden Collection.

  16. James Van Hise says:

    Don’t understand why the characters had to be changed so much. Granted, I don’t expect them to do things like they did in the 1960s Bugs Bunny Show (“Overture! Curtain lights!”) where in one new bit Daffy Duck killed himself with explosives in order to outdo Bugs and Daffy’s ghost explains “But I can only do it once!”, but there can be a happy medium in making something kid friendly that was originally more edgy. Changing something so radically like this never ends well. Does anyone even remember the recent short-lived Fantastic Four cartoon in which Reed Richards was a hen-pecked husband?

  17. What really makes this new Looney Tunes cartoon such a colossal failure (IMO) is, it’s not like Cartoon Network doesn’t have the ability to produce funny animated shows that can be enjoyed by kids and adults. Look at “Adventure Time” or “Regular Show”. They’re two examples of clever, funny shows that can be viewed and enjoyed by everyone.

  18. “Tiny Toons, which turned them into babies”

    Tiny Toons didn’t turn the turn the Looney Tunes into babies, it starred all new (though sometimes similar) school-aged characters, with the original Looney Tunes as teachers at that school in very minor supporting roles. I loved Tiny Toons precisely because Plucky Duck was as awesomely twisted as Daffy, but in his own unique ways.

  19. Old One says:

    In the 90s I realized that for the first time a whole generation had grown up knowing the Looney Tunes characters solely by the “In the Hood” versions depicted on T-shirts sold at K-Mart.

    They couldn’t fathom how anyone could have ever thought they were funny.

    The current creators are probably from this same generation, so the bar is likely pretty low.

  20. Wow, that clip was stone cold DOA. WB might as well give up already, as Looney Tunes will always be a product of its time. There just isn’t the right kind of cultural atmosphere anymore for a new Termite Terrace, and its legendary caliber of talent just can’t be duplicated.

  21. Shawn Kane says:

    I can’t believe I forgot about Tiny Toons, I loved them. Baby Loony Tunes not so much.

  22. Yeah, don’t lump Tiny Toon Adventures in with Baby Looney Tunes and Loonatics Unleashed. It came out of the Stephen Spielberg/WB cartoon alliance that also gave us Animaniacs (and the Pinky & the Brain spin-off) and Freakazoid. It wasn’t always perfect, but it was good more often than not.

  23. I just can’t understand why every good show with a following on CN (like the epic and wholly original Sym-Bionic Titan) get’s canceled, yet they insist on pushing stuff like this on us. Stag-na-tion. Sorry, this hit a sore spot.

  24. I’ll give the show a chance … but, come on … let’s be realistic … the old warner Bros. cartoons are classic … but they aren’t examples of good writing. A friend went to a cinema screening of these classic shorts, and he said the violence was mind-numbing. After you watch six in a row, you realize that the shorts are all about people falling, getting blown up, or getting struck by something. How long would something like that actually sustain a series?

  25. Synsidar says:

    How long would something like that actually sustain a series?

    You might have a point — but if the characters are fantastically funny in the classic cartoons, viewed individually, and not so funny when several cartoons are seen in a session, then the cartoons probably weren’t intended to be seen in bunches. The same thing happens with short-short prose stories that rely on certain effects for their impact. Read one, and you’re impressed with the surprise ending, the style, etc. Read several, and the stories repeat themselves.

    Bugs and the rest of the gang were never intended to be full-fledged characters in stories.

    SRS

  26. Saipaman says:

    How could anyone out do ‘Animaniacs’?

  27. Why can’t they have it both ways? Have a cleaned up version of Bugs for the kids and a violent all out grown up version on Adult Swim?
    DC does it all the time. Dr. Light is on the Teen Titans cartoon or Tiny Titans comic being a goof and then in Identity Crisis he’s all rapey in the satellite.

  28. Alistair says:

    I was inclined to give this show a miss….now it’s definite. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Just let the classics stand.

  29. spotter says:
  30. Tai Koma says:

    Others have already address this, but to DanDan: Just because a show is ‘for kids’ doesn’t mean it has to be BAD or brain-numbingly water down to the point of stupidity. Kids are smarter than advertising execs and media writers give them credit for. They can see a bad show coming as well as an adult, although kids go have a different idea of what constitutes ‘bad’ than adults do.

    Just look at what they were able to do with Gargoyles or Darkwing Duck or Animaniacs or even, heck, My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic if you need a newer example. You don’t need to make something completely brainless to make it ‘appeal to the kiddies.’

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