Update from Ireland: The Looney Tunes are Alive and Well!

Just a quick update from Ireland.

I have found plenty to write about in regards to animation. It’s actually quite interesting to see the differences between how animation is perceived on this side of the pond,

Anyhoo, the picture above was snapped in the Castlecourt Shopping Centre in Belfast, where it appears that the Looney Tunes are still giving kids a bit of excitement.

A Brilliant Entertainment Museum That’s Right on My Doorstep

I admit I kinda forgot about it as I hadn’t been in a while, but some time ago, we went to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum right in downtown Baltimore. It’s right by the baseball stadium and I was thoroughly surprised by how full it was of all kinds of memorabilia from the entertainment industry over the years (as well as all the comic books).

There was plenty of old (and new) stuff to be seen. So here is just a few of the more interesting things I came across during our visit.

The Looney Tunes in: Mixed Nutz

Via: Cartoonatics (Tom Ruegger)

Right now, yes, right now, Tom Ruegger is posting, on his blog, tons of concept and development stuff from a pitch he made to Warner Bros. a few years ago tentatively titled “Mixed Nutz”.

The premise was that the Looney Tune gang would combine with the stars of various Hanna-Barbera cartoons resulting in hilarious and totally improbable situations, such as Yosemite Sam trying to date Wilma Flintstone.

Sadly, it got passed up, but not before Tom did some preliminary show development. He’s currently posting tons of story ideas over on his blog. The posts would be well worth checking out anyway, but even more so in light of the Looney Tunes reboot that Warners went ahead with.

There’s a Good Chance You Weren’t Aware of This Documentary on Animation.

There’s no picture for the simple reason that I couldn’t find any! So instead, here’s the theme tune, courtesy of the composer, Mark Pringle.

[audio:http://animationanomaly.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/tv_stay_tooned_theme.mp3|titles=BBC Stay Tooned Theme]

It was called Tooned In and I watched this series when it was originally broadcast way back in the day on the BBC. It was a good thing I did because it would seem that with all the usual copyright nonsense that seems to lie around these kind of shows like a pair of concrete shoes, the series will never see the light of day again. It hasn’t been re-run at any point and even the internet is turning up a blank. It would appear that ripping a VHS tape takes a bit more work than a DVD.

Which is a tremendous shame because I certainly remember, as do others on the internet, that it was a fantastic little retrospective show that was broadcast on Saturday evenings. I particularly remember the Hanna-Barbera episode but there were others on Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery, Betty Boop and of course, the Looney Tunes.

If you think about it, the fact that the show even exists is spectacular. Now, granted, it was produced by a public broadcaster with a remit and all that, but I cannot imagine one of the major TV networks or even one of the cable networks over here in the States deciding to produce a documentary series on animation, and broadcast it during primetime on a Saturday evening!

Sadly, extremely little info seems to exist out there so it is a shame that I cannot share more with you on this apparently great show.

 

It’s Valentines Day, Which Can Mean A Post About Only One Character

Via: HotForWords.com

Yes, HIM! Some people despise him, others love him. However, there can be no doubt about it that Pepé Le Pew has been one of the more consistent Looney Tunes characters over the course of the years.

His plots are almost always the same and that poor cat has been chased around so many times, it’s a miracle she hasn’t had a heart attack by now!

For some reason though, Pepé remains the skunk that most people love to hate. He’s a very flat character, only interested in one thing (love) and being very determined in his pursuit of the same. What sets him apart from other, more, um, upfront characters, is that he does have a certain charm and his escapades are almost always funny.

As such, he is forever linked with Valentines Day and although there are countless other cartoon characters out there who are romantically inclined none are as famous or as divisive as Pepé Le Pew.

Anomaly Appraisal: The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes

Via: The Cartoon Cave

We got some snow here in Baltimore last night, so today I get to work from home! Without having to engage in the usual race against time that I normally do to write a post, I became rather distracted by some Looney Tunes on YouTube. Having grown up with all of them, it was very hard not to watch just a few as they finally give me the impetus I needed to post my review of The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes.

Edited by Jerry Beck (whom you all should know as one half of Cartoon Brew and the guy who knows more about classic animation than anyone else), it does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. However, this is no mere directory of shorts, but a carefully curated collection of the ones that stand out, that are worth mentioning and, as Jerry notes in his introduction, are worthy of being ranked among the classics of American cinema from the same era.

The book is superbly laid out with each short getting a two-page spread with screenshots on one and the commentary opposite. There is the title, a quote, the production details, a short paragraph description and then there is the real gem of the book, the personal responses.

See, there are tons of books out there that detail Looney Tunes shorts and there are plenty of books out there that contain personal tales of people’s favourite ones, but rarely are the two brought together so wonderfully. The commentators includes a who’s who of animation folk, such as Linda Simensky, Michael Sporn, Greg Ford, Eric Goldberg, Mark Mayerson, J. J. Sadelmaier, the list goes on and on.

What makes all these personal responses so great is exactly that, they’re personal! Many remark about how much they learned from watching these shorts, and indeed how often they used to view them, mostly on TV re-runs. While reading through them, I found myself on more than one occasion mentally playing the film in my head, which only added to the enjoyment as I recalled all the gags and indeed, my own viewing experiences.

The Looney Tunes series of shorts are just one series that have had a profound effect on American culture. Their longevity is proof that they have managed to transcend the fickle nature of the entertainment industry, where fads rule and films can date quicker than the Chinese food in the fridge. The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes is a superb companion book that should bring back fond memories of these shorts, and may also inspire you to seek them out again. Highly recommended and can be bought on Amazon.

Looney Tunes: Why Are They Falling in Popularity and What Can Be Done to Stop It?

Word come through from Cartoon Brew about a feature in the New York Times about the new, upcoming Looney Tunes TV to be broadcast on Cartoon Network leter this year. There was plenty of consternation a while back after the upfront where the show was unveiled. The comments on the Brew then as well as now were pretty much about as big a backlash as you could expect from the animation community regarding classic characters such as Bugs and Daffy. (By the way, I know I’ve touched on this topic before, but this is more of a commentary/opinion post and not nearly as sarcastic as the last one).

The NYT piece made light of the fact that kids these days don’t seem to know much if anything about the Looney Tunes. Quote from the article:

Ask a first grader to identify Bugs Bunny and the response more likely than not will be a blank stare. Dora, sure. Mickey, alive and kicking. But Porky who?

Anyone over the age of 15 will give you a wry smile as all the memories come flooding back. the same can’t be said for youger folks, they may even look at you as if you had two head, or began speaking Japanese!

The distinction was made between the Looney Tunes and Winnie the Pooh in that the latter still pulls in close to $5 billion in contrast to the $1 billion for Bugs & Co. Such a comparison isn’t really fair though. Winnie the Pooh isn’t exactly aimed at the same market, skewing much younger. Additionally, Winnie the Pooh has been longer established and has a seperate set of books to his name, all of which continue to bring in merchandise dollars.

Another aspect that is important to mention, Disney continually markets Winnie the Pooh. In contrast, Warner Bros. (or Time-Warner for that matter) has done little over the last 10 years. Let’s examine it together. Long ago, the Looney Tunes/Merrie Medodie shorts reigned supreme. Not only were the extremely popular, they were broadcast almost continuously, either as shorts themselves or as part of a TV show, e.g. The Bugs Bunny Show.

That time seems like the land of milk and honey compared to now. Would you be able to tell me where I could see a Looney Tunes short on TV today, or even this month? There’s no very many places is there? Sure we’ve had the odd marathon on Cartoon Network, usually on holidays when most people are distracted by turkey or what Santa Claus brought them.

Which brings us back to the age-old problem of “if it’s not readily available, no-one’s going to watch”. A fate which has befallen many fine cartoons and TV shows. Only a fool would try to convince you that an entertainment product can maintain its popoularity without advertising. Now when I say advertising, I don’t mean actual commercials, I mean the shows themselves! If a Looney Tunes short is on TV, that acts like a seven minute commercial that can entice people to watch another short.

The usual plan is to create a “new” TV show, or “update” the characters to the contemporary era, which in itself is a waste of time because within 5 years, the show is outdated. Remeber Lunatics Unleashed? Yeah, yeah I know, it still sucked when it was dubbed into Irish. Well, do you see any shows out there being “anime-fied”, doesn’t that seem so early-2000s? Well that’s basically what happens when you “update” classic cartoon characters, they go stale and end up getting locked in the Warner Vault.

So hear me out. Why not broadcast some of the classic shorts? Instead of, say, starting a TV show on the hour, why not show a short first? Your audience is already there, why not give them something new, or rather not really seen before? They’re still going to stick around for the show they got comfy for, right? The proof is in the pudding, Looney Tunes receipts are higher abroad then in the US. I know myself that RTÉ 2 in Ireland still broadcasts shorts during prime-time children’s programming. Guess how many Irish kids a re growing up with Bugs Bunny in their lives?

In addition, according to the NYT piece, there may be some new theatrical shorts on the way, not unlike “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater”, released in 2007. Well, that’s one thing, but why not plant the seed with some old favourites? Once you’ve guilt up a wee bit of an audience, you can then start throwing on some fertilizer in the form of new stuff. People are likely to be much more receptive to something fresh if they are more familiar with the old classics. Look at Tiny Toons, there was a TV show that gained a following all of it’s own. The classic crowd were mixed with newcomers, who eventually became popular in their own right, giving you a whole new property to exploit.

Personally, I think shorts should be filmed before every major feature film, not only does it increase my theatrical experience, I feel like I’m getting better value for money. That’s never a bad thing, eh?

While a new show is undoubtedly necessary to bring Bugs and Daffy in from the cold, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. Disney is the gold standard in this regard, Mickey Mouse is still as popular and well known as he has ever been, having said that, he as never exactly been out of the public’s attention either. Warner Bros. needs to do the same, starting with creeping the gang back onto screens slowly building their way up to the big stuff, i.e. films.

C’mon guys, Warner Brothers Animation is so much more than Detective Comics direct to DVD movies you still have plenty of fans out here.

Reviving Old Cartoons


Word comes through via ToonZone and others about the new Looney Tunes show announced today at the Cartoon Network upfront, the antiquated annual hooplah by a network where advertisers are coerced into buying space during shows that barely even exist yet. Fun times.

So once again, we see the Looney Tunes gang getting pulled out of the closet for new adventures. The last time they did this, we ended up Loonatics Unleashed. A show that many Warner fans would rather forget, but in the end, all it needed was some extra love and attention that would never be forthcoming.

The press summary describes it as follows:

The Looney Tunes Show: A new half-hour animated comedy series starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. No longer confined to 7-minute shorts, Bugs and Daffy are out of the woods and living in the suburbs among such colorful neighbors as Yosemite Sam, Granny, Tweety and Sylvester. In addition to each episode’s main story, The Looney Tunes Show also features “cartoons within a cartoon.” The Tasmanian Devil, Speedy Gonzales, Marvin the Martian and other classic characters sing original songs in two-minute music videos called Merrie Melodies and the Road Runner and Coyote are featured in 2-1/2 minute CG shorts. This all new series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Sam Register (Teen Titans, Ben 10, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is the executive producer. Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone (both Duck Dodgers, Back at the Barnyard, Space Jam) are the supervising producers.

Oh…goody.

If the fact that the characters live in the suburbs isn’t enough, the new show apparently helps the characters break out of the classic 7-minute acts that made them who they are today.

Since I have not seen the show, I will reserve judgement on it for now. Suffice to say I’m not immediately impressed and don’t have high hopes either. This despite the fact that Sam Register is running the whole thing.

Reveiving old cartoons characters is fairly old. Sure Disney has been at it for years, Mickey Mouse continues to pop up in new adventures from time to time. Tom & Jerry have had more lives than I care to remember, from Chuck Jones shorts to Saturday morning cartoons to Tom & Jerry Kids!

What have all these things taught us? For one, nothing is rarely, if ever as good as the original. Even Family Guy isn’t the same since it came back, which in turn has me worried about the new series of Futurama.

Granted the FOX shows had a much shorter hiatus than the Looney Tunes. Still though, they won’t be the same. I think the closest we have gotten to the classic WB shorts in recent (!) years has been either Ren & Stimpy or Cow & Chicken. Today’s cartoons really do lack the hard edge and sly humour that have made old cartoons stand the test of time.

I will of course see the new show when it launches, but people rarely get ahead by digging in the past.