February 21, 2005
Bugs Bunny reimagined

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.

What's wrong with simply taking the characters as they exist and letting a new batch of animators do what they want with them? We already know that Bugs is easily adapted to other times and places - think "Rabbit Hood" and "A Connecticut Rabbit In King Arthur's Court", for example - so why couldn't he be fresh and interesting in 21st century America? What might a person like Mike Judge make of him? Wouldn't you like to find out? I would.

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

Wabbit Season!

Posted by: TP on February 21, 2005 5:29 PM

I look at this and think: New Coke!

Acutally, they already have done "Looney Tunes: The Next Generation" in the form of "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs", but nothing beats a classic like "What's Opera, Doc?" for sheer genius.

By the way, Warner Brothers and Chuck Jones did a highly underrated cartoon in the same year as "What's Opera, Doc?" called "The Three Little Bops". It's the Three Little Pigs story done be-bop style, and it really works.

In conclusion: Duck Season!

Posted by: William Hughes on February 21, 2005 7:33 PM

I have to make a correction on the animator of "The Three Little Bops". It was Friz Freleng.

Also: Elmer Season!

"Be vewy, vewy qwiet, we're hunting Elmers! Heh heh heh heh". :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on February 21, 2005 7:43 PM

Personally, I fall into the don't-get-too-bent-out-of-shape camp.

You sure about that?

Posted by: Pete on February 21, 2005 10:58 PM

Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse comic strip was a pretty terrific action-adventure strip. It's likely that those were reprinted in the Mickey Mouse comics you mentioned. There's a long sequence reprinted in the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (a must-have in any library).

Like Donald Duck, he's a character whose best stories were far removed from the animation medium in which he debuted.

Posted by: Greg Morrow on February 22, 2005 9:28 AM

... 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.

They want to turn Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck into superheroes? SUPERHEROES?????

Blasphemy, I tell you! BLASPHEMY!!!

The only connection this cast should have with the superhero crimefighting genre is as a spoof. Think "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century."

Now I have no objection to the superhero genre per se. I even liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (partly because they didn't take the show too seriously - that show was almost a spoof itself).

But this idea that kids today won't watch a cartoon unless it has "plots ... filled with chases and fights" is a load of horse hockey. Sander Schwartz needs to pull his head out.

Posted by: Mathwiz on February 22, 2005 11:38 AM

Why are they destroying our favourite Looney Tunes? I love the old looney tunes. And Loonatics is a disgrace to the our favourite Looney tunes.

Sander Schwartz, Director of Warner Bros Animation is destroying the good cartoons. He only wants to get profit. That's all. And All of the blames goes to him.

Stop this nonsense at once. Otherwise our excellent cartoon culture is doomed.

Posted by: Sony on July 8, 2005 7:55 AM

how can i find a copy of the three little pigs bop

Posted by: kim on July 14, 2006 11:25 AM