Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Looney Tunes Show

I had been ranting and raving about the new Looney Tunes show for a long time now. As a lifelong fan of Looney Tunes ( my grandpa burned us a video tape of ten hours of classic cartoons, before people knew that was illegal) I found the show insulting and demeaning to the characters I knew and loved.

However, after seriously sitting down and watching it with a friend (who wasn't the Looney Tunes fanatic I was) I found myself coming to an unexpected conclusion. The show actually works. Sort of.

Its a decent yet typical sitcom series. A scenario gets set up. Bugs and Daffy get mad at each other while mildly wacky hijinks ensue, fight, then make up. Occasionally, another character with a mild quirk will come in and Bugs and Daffy will help them with their problem, like helping Gossamer, that red hair monster, make friends at school. The plot lines could easily come out of an show like Full House, or Saved by the Bell. It also will randomly go into short out of place segments, such as the Merrie Melody segments, which can be so bad, its painful. The Grilled Cheese song is on my list of worst moments in animation, and not going away anytime soon. There are short CG Wil E. Coyote segments, which are mostly just boring, unfunny, and lame, like the segment where Wil E Coyote and the Roadrunner have a ninja duel.

The problem everyone has with the show, and rightly so, is that the characters don't make any sense. None of the characters act like how they did in the original shorts. Bugs and Daffy are roommates, and best friends. Elmer Fudd is a popular newscaster. Foghorn Leghorn is filthy stinking rich. Porky Pig was THE HIGH SCHOOL JOCK!!!! Its like the characters are given occupations randomly pulled out of a hat. As one reviewer put it, it's like they've been put in a witness protection program. Maybe they finally pissed off someone they can't handle. It seems as though the creators thought the characters were popular due to their image, vocal tics or catchphrases, but that absolutely not true. They were fun because they were sick twisted individuals constantly trying to kill each other. Turning them into sitcom characters with mild personalities takes away what made them fun. Admittingly, modern censorship laws probably had a lot to do with this shift in personalities, since you can't exactly get away with Elmer Fudd's iconic gun anymore.

As a cartoon, it's also important to point out that the animation is very lackluster. For all the "progress" we've made in animation, one would think that the newer animation would be more technically advanced than the original shorts, but in this case, the animation is superior by far in the 1940s-60s. The animation in the original is more fluid and energetic, while the animation in this series is uninspired and static. It's just never very visually interesting, and the lack of hilarious reaction shots or break downs the original was known for is disappointing. The static nature of the animation likely comes from the fact that there are never any action sequences. It is not impossible to have tension and energy in a slice of life series. A good example of this is My Ordinary Life, a slice of life anime that began March 2011. Although the series exists in an utterly absurd world, it ignores the bizarre and cranks up the stakes for scenes such as dropping food on the ground or forgetting your homework to 150 percent, as if the world would spontaneously combust if the characters are unsuccessful. This is funnier, and fits perfectly into the Looney Tunes style of humor, so its disappointing that they can't find a way to at least give the same energy as the original, when its apparent that you can do it without constant violence. 

If one can ignore their nerd rage and take off their nostalgia lens for one moment, you can see that it's actually not that bad. The real problem is that these characters are honestly original characters. If the names and character designs are changed, absolutely nobody would know they were supposed to be a Looney Tunes character. And to be honest, as original characters, they're actually good. Bugs and Daffy's outrageously homoerotic relationship is really touching and amazingly funny. I love the part in the first episode where they have a fight and Daffy ends up spending the night in the car. That moment literally defines their relationship. It doesn't make sense for Daffy and Bugs, but it makes sense for these two characters. Despite the fact that Daffy is still kind of a selfish dick, Bugs obviously cares, and even dotes on Daffy, letting him live with him for five years while he works and pays the bills. The dynamic is like that of an extremely closeted career man, and the also somewhat less closeted annoying homeless guy he lets live with him and no one knows why. Its a very interesting and unique relationship. Even the utterly stupid plot twist in the high school reunion episode would make so much more sense with original characters. In the episode, Daffy says he was the popular kid in high school, and bullied Porky Pig,when in reality it was the other way around. While its extremely typical of Daffy to do something like that, I couldn't see it with Porky. But as an original character, he becomes a former jock who grows up into a pitiful and pathetic loser, and it suddenly all makes sense.

Not only that, but some of the rewritten personalities are actually better than the original ones. I first realized this when Lola's character was introduced. Lola was not introduced into the Looney Tunes until Space Jam, and I abhored her. She was a Mary Sue fanfic character, who didn't fit into the universe of Looney Tunes at all. She had no place there. In this series however, she is freaking hilarious. Everytime she comes up on screen, I start cracking up. She's messed up beyond reason; needy, bipolar, a mass of exaggerated stereotypes, and so annoying she brings misery to everyone who comes in contact with her. In other words, it was the first time she felt a Looney Tunes character.

It's a real shame that they chose to attach these original characters to the image of some of the most beloved icons in animation history. This show would get a lot less flak if Looney Tunes wasn't attached to it. It wouldn't be the next break hit of the century, or go down in animation history. It probably won't even be remembered ten or so years from now. But it would probably be a mild-mannered original sitcom, with such an interesting character dynamic that it makes up for the lack-luster plot lines, bland art, and even the wretched Merrie Melodies. Its a decent series, if you can condition yourself to ignore that its supposed to be Looney Tunes, so it's worth a shot, maybe even a closer look

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