I've seen a lot of reaction to this story about a new and "improved" version of Bugs Bunny. Pete and Laurence are up in arms, while The Talent Show makes an interesting observation about WB's motives and Mark Evanier says to wait and see what it looks like before getting too bent out of shape.
Personally, I fall into the don't-get-too-bent-out-of-shape camp. Whatever they do with Bugs Bunny, it won't detract from the reasons why he's a character we love - the "Rabbit Seasoning"s and the "Rabbit of Seville"s and so forth. But there's a question I have to ask after having read this:
Warner Bros. isn't sending the venerable original Looney Tunes cast into retirement, but it is trying to update the characters' appeal among modern kids. The classic characters were wisecrackers who rode their irreverent humor to stardom in the 1940s. The challenge now is to find a fresh way to tap the funny bone of an audience raised on Bart Simpson and SpongeBob SquarePants.
"The new series will have the same classic wit and wisdom, but we have to do it more in line with what kids are talking about today," says Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation. The plots are action-oriented, filled with chases and fights. Each character possesses a special crime-fighting power.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You can't do Bugs and Daffy and Elmer and so on without the voice of Mel Blanc. With all due respect, I disagree. I feel confident that there are quite a few actors out there who could do those voices in a way that's nearly indistinguishable from the originals. And let's not forget that the writers, animators, and directors had a role in making these characters memorable. The voices were vital, but they can be replicated.
In my mind, the smart thing for Warner Brothers to do is to forget about Bugs and Daffy as futuristic crimefighters (though who knows, it could work), find this generation's Jones, McKimson, Freleng, Clampett, and Avery, and turn them loose. I think they'd achieve their goal of making the characters more accessible to modern kids without alienating lifelong fans. Probably make a pile of money, too.
Of course, the absolute best thing to happen would be for these characters to fall into the public domain, as they would have by now under the copyright laws that were in effect at the time. Does anyone here think that there would have been no Bugs/Daffy/Porky/Foghorn/etc cartoons of any merit in the last, oh, fifty years or so had any artist with an idea and a budget been able to do one? I'd go so far as to say that Warner Brothers would still have a pretty nice cash cow on its hands if its characters were working regularly. Ironic, isn't it?
(On a side note, another character who really deserves to get freed of his copyright shackles and become a star again: Mickey Mouse. Does anyone think of him as anything but a corporate logo or a sweaty teenager in a costume any more? Can anyone recall an aspect of Mickey's personality? I have a bunch of Mickey Mouse comics from the 50s and 60s that had been my uncle's. He was often cast as an action/adventure type, what would be considered a fairly romantic lead if one wanted to pursue that angle. Goofy, who was actually a pretty competent sidekick, was his usual costar in these books. I grew up reading those comics (among many others) at my grandmother's house, and I'm thrilled that I'll be able to share them with Olivia some day. What might a modern-day Mickey Mouse be like? Sadly, we'll probably never know.)
Anyway. Some kind of Bugs is better than none, I guess, but I do regret the missed opportunity. Maybe next time they'll ask me first.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 21, 2005 to TV and movies | TrackBack