In the early 1930s, a group of animators (including, among others, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Robert McKimson) voluntarily left Disney Animation. Why? They had been lured away by Leon Schlesinger, a producer who had just taken over Warner Bros. Animation. Schlesinger lured away these animators by dangling the ultimate carrot under their noses: as long as the animated shorts the department produced did well in theaters, Schlesinger would give the animators complete creative freedom. This siren call proved to be too much for these animators; they moved over to Warner Bros. Animation, met Chuck Jones, and, together, they created a body of work that was just as great as the animation Disney was producing. This work went under the banner of Looney Tunes.
The Warner animators took the creative freedom Schlesinger offered and used it to create something truly special. They created characters with personalities that hadn’t been seen in animation up until then, including ones with anger-management issues (Daffy Duck), slashing wit (Bugs Bunny), and who played out violent slapstick (Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner), just to name a few qualities. The animators took those characters and stuck them in every situation imaginable, parodying, among other things, swashbucklers, opera, westerns, science fiction, fairy tales, horror movies, and even the animation process itself.
By pushing the envelope in so many ways, Avery, Jones, McKimson, and company created work that hasn’t dated at all. I can only speak for myself, of course, but whenever I see a Looney Tunes cartoon, the humor feels modern, the stories are clever, the animation still looks fantastic, and I find it hard to believe that the shorts were made 50-plus years ago.
This brings us to the million-dollar question: since the classic Looney Tunes shorts are so timeless, do we really need the upcoming movie reboot? There are strong arguments for and against the movie. In the interest of fairness, let’s look at both sides.
For the Reboot
The picture you see above is from The Bugs Bunny Show, which used to run in primetime TV in the 1970s and during Saturday morning cartoons in the 1990s. For those of us who grew up in the 1990s, The Bugs Bunny Show was just one of many places where we could get our Looney Tunes fix. Nickelodeon ran hour-long blocks of the shorts, as did Cartoon Network. Now, the Looney Tunes have disappeared from Saturday mornings, Nickelodeon, and, finally, the Cartoon Network (now that the not-so-good The Looney Tunes Show has left the air).
It’s vitally important that these classic shorts are kept alive, since they are such a huge part of animation history. A reboot would be a great way to re-introduce the original shorts to a new audience of animation fans.
Against the Reboot
There’s really two reasons (as far as I can see) why the reboot shouldn’t happen. Reason number one: all the original animators have passed away. The thing that made Looney Tunes so different from its competitors was the unique personalities of the animators. Under Leon Schlesinger’s “hands-off” management technique, the original team of Warner Bros. animators were able to give every short their own crazy, chaotic touch, making Looney Tunes into something special. Unfortunately, the current animators behind Looney Tunes don’t seem to have that same unique flair, as evidenced by The Looney Tunes Show. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I’d rather have no Looney Tunes movie at all than have one with the same tone as The Looney Tunes Show.
This brings us to the second issue, and the reason for the picture above. As you can see, the book Wile E. Coyote is reading is the Acme Mail-Order Catalog. Acme is the company that produced all the defective weapons that the Coyote bought, and it’s also the planned focus of the Looney Tunes reboot. We don’t know much about the plot of the upcoming film, but The Hollywood Reporter tells us that the movie’s story will be focused on the Acme Warehouse and won’t feature any of the classic Looney Tunes characters at all. What kind of Looney Tunes reboot doesn’t feature Bugs Bunny?
The Final Verdict
Again, we come back to the biggest question of all: do we really need a Looney Tunes reboot? I would say definitely not; we don’t need the planned Acme-centric one, anyway. A reboot for Bugs, Daffy, and the gang sounds fine in idea form, but a reboot without any of the original characters wouldn’t perform the main purpose any reboot should: to introduce the franchise to a new audience. In the end, if we really want to re-introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation, maybe we should just buy the original shorts on DVD.