Animation Wednesday: The Looney Tunes Show
This post is part of the Animation Wednesday series, a weekly column which looks at animated TV series and movies of the past, present and future.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: two roommates, one friendly and outgoing if a little goofy, the other self-centered and buffoonish, share a suburban house. Every week, they deal with a number of problems, from crazy girlfriends to freeloading neighbors to high school reunions. But this isn’t a midseason replacement on ABC. The roommates are Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and the show, The Looney Tunes Show, is running its first season on Cartoon Network.
The show is part of an effort by Warner Brothers to update their Looney Tunes franchise and keep it relatable and engaging to new viewers. (Disney is working on a similar campaign with Mickey Mouse, starting with the Epic Mickey video game.) The most recent attempt was Loonatics Unleashed, a cartoon which reimagined the characters as edgy superheroes fighting monsters in the future. It bombed, and a couple of years later, we have this new show.
Designwise, TLTS stays pretty close to older Looney Tunes, with some streamlining. Daffy in particular looks closer to earlier cartoons, while Bugs has been rounded down around the edges. Secondary characters are mostly the same story, with Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner being the main exceptions (and I’ll get to them later). Some have been adapted quite a bit to the new setting, and while it’s a little jarring to see Elmer Fudd as a news reporter in a shirt and tie, so far the more dramatic leaps have paid off.
Unlike Looney Tunes classic, The Looney Tunes Show episodes are mainly one long story about Bugs and Daffy, and the hijinks they get into living in a suburban neighborhood and generally being somewhat productive members of society. There’s still plenty of slapstick and visual gags, but the humor skews slightly more adult, or at least more interaction-based. Plots include Bugs and Daffy playing a Newlyweds-style game show (and losing), and Daffy lying about how well he’s done at his high school reunion. Other characters get a chance to shine, including Yosemite Sam, who overstays his welcome at Bugs and Daffy’s during a power outage, or Lola Bunny (best known for being Bugs’ love interest in Space Jam), who’s been reimagined as a motormouthed, unstable crazy girlfriend-type. A lot of it is reminiscent of Tiny Toon Adventures from the 90s, but with fewer pop culture caricatures and references (which, as a side note, seem to have been inherited almost exclusively by Family Guy and other Seth MacFarlane works).
Each episode includes a Merrie Melodies music video of a song being performed by one of the characters, usually one who hasn’t appeared yet in the main plots. These songs are kind of hit or miss, but even the worst of them only run for a minute or two. Also, if you’ve ever wanted to watch Elmer Fudd sing a slow jam to a grilled cheese sandwich, this show has you covered.
A couple of episodes also feature a Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner short near the end. These shorts are computer-animated, so the title characters has been redesigned a bit. These shorts actually have the most in common with older cartoons, since they follow silent protagonist Wile E. on his ill-fated attempts to catch and eat the Road Runner. Apparently these shorts are also planned to run prior to 3D animated features in theaters, and it kind of shows. The blocking and cinematography of them seems designed to pop out of the screen, and it leaves a little bit to be desired on a home television. Still, they’re quick and amusing, and simple enough that they don’t require much attention.
The Looney Tunes Show is a clever way of fitting characters from the 1930s and 40s into modern pop culture. Longtime fans of the characters will enjoy watching them in a new setting, and it’s accessible to new viewers, even those who aren’t hardcore fans of the Looney Tunes or animation in general. It airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM on Cartoon Network.