Change is scary. So it’s not surprising to see people scared, confused and downright rassafrassin’ angry over the prospect of Warner Bros. applying a reboot to the ass of venerable cartoon series Looney Tunes. “The Looney Tunes Show” attempts to rebrand Bugs Bunny and pals for a new generation—by putting them in a standard TV sitcom format. It sounds downright sacrilegious. (“Rape my childhood, will you ?!?” as one online pundit put it.) But it’s probably not as bad as you’re imagining. In fact, it may be the best thing to happen to these characters in a generation.
Looney Tunes cartoons date all the way back to the early ’30s. Characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety have been part of the pop cultural lexicon for decades. Pretty much everybody on the planet grew up with them. The cartoons are classics. But even the most ardent fans must admit they’re a bit dated. How are today’s kids supposed to interpret jokes about War Bonds, outhouses, Jimmy Durante and party-line telephones? Hell, when’s the last time you saw an actual anvil—let alone one that was falling on someone’s head?
So updating the anarchic Looney Tunes spirit to include riffs on laptop computers, cell phones and texting makes some sort of sense. Still, it may take a lot of effort for us old-timers to get used to the idea of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in a sitcom format. The setup is simple enough. Couch-surfing Daffy ends up at Bugs’ house in the suburbs. There, surrounded by neighbors culled from assorted other Looney Tunes, they do the “Odd Couple” thing. Several of the characters have been remodeled a bit. Speedy Gonzales owns a pizza delivery shop called Pizzarriba. (Funny.) Marvin the Martian is some kind of “foreign exchange student.” (I get it.) And Foghorn Leghorn is a Richard Branson-style billionaire adventurer. (OK, that one’s mystifying.)
It’s strange seeing these characters hanging out in their living rooms, delivering punch lines and wryly observing modern living like an animated version of “Seinfeld.” But it’s also ... well, funny.
Surrounding Bugs and Daffy’s suburban hijinks are updated Merrie Melodies. These short music videos feature oddball song stylings like Elmer Fudd’s pimpadelic R & B ode to “gwilled cheese,” a rage-filled rap song from Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian laying out Parliament-inspired dance-floor grooves. WB also throws in some stand-alone, CGI-animated Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. The animation is solid on these, but we’re reminded that these antagonistic toons were always one-joke efforts anyway.
Overall, the animation is squatter and more geometric. Bugs Bunny, with his huge head and feet, looks like he’s been redesigned by John K. (“The Ren & Stimpy Show”). That takes major getting used to as well. But those who complain about the tinkering done to these beloved characters would do well to remember 2002’s “Baby Looney Tunes.” If Bugs and Co. could survive diapers, they can survive a sitcom.