Illustration © edfredned 2011

Illustration © edfredned 2011

Commentary

Save the Wabbit

I’ve been catching up on old Looney Tunes cartoons lately. My 5 ½ year old son has really taken to those old Warner Bros characters so the show got added to our DVR list and his grandmother bought him the Golden Collection Part 1. While I’ve never thought of myself as a connoisseur of the cartoons, I thought I’d seen a majority of the output between my pre-adolescent TV days and my current life. Okay, so I was mistaken; there are many, many more episodes of silliness, hilarity, sarcasm and fun. Many have been disappointed that the Looney Tunes characters haven’t been translated well into the 21st century. The sad attempts at live action/cartoon movies did nothing to move the characters into the must-have category for most of the public. And Mel Blanc’s son just couldn’t pull off the voices like his dad. But the latest Looney oversight might be the most egregious yet.

Cue The Looney Tunes Show (Premiered May 3, 2011 in the US) on Cartoon Network. It’s a show in a new format (for Looney Tunes) wherein we don’t get 7 minute bits, rather a 22 minute sitcom plus a sleek Road Runner short or a music video. The characters are more grounded in reality: Bugs and Daffy are housemates in the suburbs. Speedy owns a pizza place, Pizzarriba. Elmer is a newsman. Gossamer, formerly a scary red monster is now a little kid who lives next door to Bugs and Daffy with his mother, Witch Lezah (a flipped around Witch Hazel).

What’s good about the show is that the characters are no longer in overly-contrived settings to bring them together, which results in some solid storytelling. But I’m not here to tell you about what’s working. No. What’s not working is Bugs’ personality. He used to be clever, cunning and infallible (except in What’s opera Doc?). I used to watch his cartoons with anticipation, just waiting for his ingenuity to kick in. Here’s how it would go with the old Bugs:

Bugs is busy minding his own business

Somebody comes along and disturbs Bugs

Bugs makes the choice to mess with that character

He wins

We laugh

We wish we could do the same to people who bother us but (let’s face it), put me in a wig and lipstick and I’m not suddenly a swoon-worthy chick

In the episode That’s My Baby, there’s the revelation that Porky is a bummer and Daffy is a jerk (but what a likable jerk). So, what’s Bugs? Is he supposed to be the straight man? Why is there no more sarcastic carrot chomping?

I’m no purist. When Spider-man got his black costume I was enthralled. Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks and I poured myself a bowl.

I sit next to my son and watch the characters interact on the Looney Tunes Show and slowly I’m beginning to make the switch from rabbit to duck. Daffy’s a fun character and even though he’s a jerk, he’s an incredibly entertaining one! Voiced by Jeff Bergman (who incidentally also does Bugs), Daffy has a real presence as he pisses people off and makes an ass of himself. And his lines are delivered beautifully (thanks in equal part to Bergman and the animators). Bugs doesn’t even seem to try to be funny.

I’m just left to wonder why the new show does not include the personality for which Bugs is so beloved. This show promo is a good example showing multiple clips with no carrots or character in sight. Hmm- Perhaps that’s it! Perhaps Bugs’ charisma is housed inside the carrots he’s always chomping on the old show! Perhaps they are his anti-kryptonite! To this I say:

BRING BACK THE CARROTS and all will be well. In the meantime, I’ll keep watching but only to see what Daffy Duck does next.


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