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September 2, 2015

'The Looney Tunes Show' Producers Tease Bugs and Daffy's Modern Makeover

by Laura Prudom, posted May 2nd 2011 4:00PM
Bugs Bunny and Daffy DuckFew cartoon characters can boast the name recognition or audience appeal of that infamous wascally wabbit Bugs Bunny, but it's been a long road for the folks at Warner Bros. Animation to get him and the rest of the 'Looney Tunes' gang back on our screens. We've seen them in baby form, variety shows, basketball movies and computer games, but at 8PM ET on May 3, we'll see Bugs and Daffy as we've never seen them before: in a suburban sitcom on Cartoon Network.

Last month, AOL TV was invited to a preview of 'The Looney Tunes Show' at Warner Bros. Animation in Burbank, and we had the opportunity to sit down with the series' writers, Hugh Davidson and Rachel Ramras, producers Tony Cervone and Spike Brandt, and character designer Jessica Borutski to find out how they approached the task of updating such iconic characters for a new generation.

In the past -- aside from their feature-length adventures -- the 'Looney Tunes' characters have generally been confined to seven-minute skits as part of a larger sketch show, each within their own niche, without the opportunity to interact with the wider cast of quirky characters.

Before, Bugs Bunny would often come into contact with Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and Daffy Duck, but you weren't likely to see him hanging out with Speedy Gonzales, nor would you witness Foghorn Leghorn giving Daffy career advice.

Pepe Le PewUnder the conceit of 'The Looney Tunes Show,' our beloved characters live in a cul-de-sac (eat your heart out, 'Cougar Town') where Yosemite Sam is Bugs and Daffy's curmudgeonly neighbor and Pepe Le Pew is the resident divorcé. Kind-hearted Granny lives across the street with her mischievous pets, Sylvester and Tweety, and Marvin the Martian is a former foreign-exchange student from Mars who went to Daffy's high school. It's safe to say we've never seen the 'Looney Tunes' characters quite like this.

The show's writers are all too cognizant that they're walking a fine line between updating these characters and alienating loyal fans who are used to the shorter format: "If you said to somebody, 'Oh, we put these great characters that can do anything into a house in the suburbs,' it sounds like you've neutered them," Hugh Davidson conceded, when explaining the concept to reporters. "But in the half-hour format, you kind of need a grounding world for their characters to really have the same anarchic spirit that they used to have in the shorts. They can be just as crazy now in the grocery store as they ever were like jumping around in time like in King Arthur's Court."

His co-writer, Rachel Ramras, agreed. "It can go even farther; you're not limited by just a few minutes. Now we really get to delve into their characters even deeper and tell an entire story and have them relate to characters that they weren't always able to relate to."

Although the writers started out with a sketch format reminiscent of 'The Muppet Show,' Davidson and Ramras found themselves wondering why it was necessary to switch the characters' roles every few minutes to create a compelling story. "These characters are so rich, [as] who they are, Bugs being Bugs, Daffy being Daffy. Why then have Daffy be a character other than himself? It seemed like it was doing a disservice to the characters and not really capturing what is so wonderful about them," Ramras pointed out.

Another concern was the predominantly male 'Looney Tunes' cast, which the producers circumvented by adding Lola (a reimagining of the character first introduced in the 1996 movie 'Space Jam') and Tina (an entirely new character for the series) as Bugs and Daffy's respective girlfriends. Lola will be voiced by 'Saturday Night Live' mainstay Kristen Wiig, while Jennifer Esposito plays Tina.

Tina and Daffy"What's great about Rachel being here is that we didn't write female characters that are 'female characters,'" Davidson said of his fellow writer. "They have to be funny; they're not there to teach lessons. And then they'll end up being someone, I think, that girls can identify with. Because Kristen is just funny, so it doesn't really matter whether she's ditzy or those kinds of descriptions of her character, which she is. But she's also genuinely funny, she has a great charisma."

In terms of updating the look of the characters for a new audience, designer Jessica Borutski had a daunting task ahead of her, but seems to have succeeded. "I grew up watching all the classics, so I wanted to keep them exactly the same," she admitted. "But my mission was to make them look fresh and new for a new generation of kids -- I wanted to keep all the things that I loved about the characters but they have to look different; I just streamlined all of the shapes about Bugs Bunny that I liked and changed some proportions a bit."

If the thought of a sitcom setting is threatening to raise the ire of your inner 'Looney Tune' purist, rest assured that the creators aren't doing away with the skits entirely; each half-hour episode will also feature a CGI Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote short or an all-new Merrie Melodies segment with a beloved 'Looney Tunes' character singing an original song (and in some cases, both).

"We think of Merrie Melodies and the Road Runner cartoons as bonus material, like on a DVD," producer Spike Brandt explained. "They're not related to anything; it's just extra. Because this job wasn't hard enough, we decided, let's make three different shows and smush them all together."

Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite SamIn choosing CGI over traditional animation, Brandt reasoned, "CGI works really well for them because we can create one environment, this desert environment, and basically just shoot different cartoons in it. They're silent characters so we don't have to worry about lip sync. Also, by their nature, they're all about speed and height, so we could do a lot of cool stuff with the camera."

Similarly, because the main plot is very verbal and based on the banter between Bugs, Daffy and their friends, the producers were eager to add another flavor into the mix. "It's kind of cool to have this Road Runner/Coyote section, which is completely nonverbal; it's all based on pantomime, so it's kind of nice," Brandt pointed out.

Since all three segments will stand alone, the producers saw Merrie Melodies as a good excuse to include characters who might not fit into the more traditional sitcom setting of the Bugs and Daffy plot; producer Tony Cervone cited Elmer Fudd as an example, and fans can look forward to seeing him in the first Merrie Melodies short, titled 'Grilled Cheese.'

Cervone and Brandt were emphatic that, despite appearances, 'The Looney Tunes Show' is not an attempt to reset the classic characters that we all know and love -- quite the contrary.

"I don't think we want to reset the tone at all, that's what we want to maintain," Cervone insisted. "But it's important because we did reset the tone a bunch of times [with earlier shows], that's what was always rubbing us the wrong way, 'this isn't who they are -- let's find a format, let's find a container that just shows off who they are.'"

'The Looney Tunes Show' premieres on Cartoon Network at 8PM ET on May 3.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA

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bring back these cartoons take off the 1s they have no they r stupid

May 05 2011 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

10 classic cartoons? Where's the list. If it's embedded in the video clip, you lost me. What about a written copy of the list. Certainly doesn't look like there's a list in the article. Just a lot of yak about the new show.

May 04 2011 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you for this heads up! I grew up on Looney Tunes and hadn't heard of this.

May 02 2011 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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