Looney Tunes is a Warner Bros. animated cartoon series. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series and is WB's first animated theatrical series. The regular Warner Bros. animation cast also became known as the "Looney Tunes" (often misspelled, intentionally or not, as "Looney Toons"). The name Looney Tunes is a variation on Silly Symphonies, the name of Walt Disney's concurrent series of music-based cartoon shorts. Looney Tunes originally showcased Warner-owned musical compositions through the adventures of cartoon characters such as Bosko and Honey. Later Looney Tunes shorts featured popular characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny, Melissa Duck, Porky Pig, Penelope Pussycat, Petunia Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester the Cat, Speedy Gonzales, Aoogah Bird, Tweety Bird, Granny, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Taz, She Devil/She Taz/She Tazmanian Davil, Gossamer, Witch Hazel, Michigan J. Frog, Bosko, Buddy, and many others. Originally produced by Harman-Ising Pictures, Looney Tunes were produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1933 to 1944. Schlesinger sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944, and the newly renamed Warner Bros. Cartoons continued production until 1963.
Looney Tunes were outsourced to DePatie-Freleng Enterprises from 1964 to 1967, and Warner Bros. Cartoons re-assumed production for the series' final two years. From 1942 until 1969, Looney Tunes was the most popular short cartoon series in theaters, even exceeding Disney and other popular competitors. Starting in 1960 the cartoons were repackaged into several different TV programs that remained popular for several decades before being purchased by Turner Broadcasting Systems. Turner's Cartoon Network reran cartoons for 12 years, from their start on October 1, 1992 until October 3, 2004. The cartoons were aired on Cartoon Network, then later shifted to sister channel Boomerang, which specializes in "Classic Animation". Gradually, they disappeared from the schedule altogether, including the annual June Bugs showing of all Bugs Bunny shorts in alphabetical order. In November 2009, Cartoon Network brought back reruns of Looney Tunes cartoons, but stopped airing them in early 2010. As of March 14, 2011, Cartoon Network have again started showing the original shorts in the run-up to the new "Looney Tunes Show" that will air on May 3, 2011. Many of the cartoons are available on DVDs marketed by Time Warner.
The term Looney Tunes is often used as a collective reference to all Warner Bros. animation and characters, and is a registered trademark of Warner Bros.
Primary names of the Looney TunesEdit
- Bugs Bunny
- Daffy Duck
- Lola Bunny
- Melissa Duck
- Porky Pig
- Petunia Pig
- Elmer Fudd
- Yosemite Sam
- Sylvester the Cat
- Penelope Pussycat
- Speedy Gonzales
- Tweety Bird
- Pepé Le Pew
- Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner
- Foghorn Leghorn
- Barnyard Dawg
- Marvin the Martian
- Michigan J. Frog
The theatrical era (1930–1969)Edit
In the beginning both Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies drew their storylines from Warner's vast music library (notice the names Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies). Also, from 1934 to 1943 Merrie Melodies were produced in color and Looney Tunes in black and white. After 1943, however, both series were produced in color and became virtually indistinguishable, with the only stylistic difference being in the variation between the opening theme music and titles. Both series also made use of the various Warner Bros. cartoon characters. By 1937, the theme music for Looney Tunes was "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin; the theme music for Merrie Melodies was an adaptation of "Merrily We Roll Along" by Charles Tobias, Murray Mencher and Eddie Cantor.In 1929, Warner Bros. became interested in developing a series of musical animated shorts to promote their music. They had recently acquired the ownership of Brunswick Records along with four music publishers for US $28 million. Consequently, they were eager to start promoting this material to cash in on the sales of sheet music and phonograph records. Warner made a deal with Leon Schlesinger to produce cartoons for Warner Bros. Schlesinger hired Rudolph Ising and Hugh Harman to produce their first series of cartoons. Bosko was Looney Tunes' first major lead character, debuting in the short Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid in 1929. The first Looney Tunes short was Sinkin' in the Bathtub which was released in 1930. When Harman and Ising left Warner Bros. in 1933 over a budget dispute with Schlesinger, they took with them all the rights of the characters and cartoons which they had created.
A new character called Buddy became the only star of the Looney Tunes series for a couple of years. With the animators working in the Termite Terrace studio, they debuted the first truly major Looney Tunes star, Porky Pig, who was introduced in 1935 along with Beans the Cat in the Merrie Melodie cartoon I Haven't Got a Hat directed by Friz Freleng. Beans was the star of the next Porky/Beans cartoon Golddiggers of '49, but it was Porky who emerged as the star instead of Beans. The ensemble characters of I Haven't Got a Hat, such as Oliver Owl, and twin dogs Ham and Ex, were also given a sampling of shorts, but demand for these characters was far exceeded by Beans and Porky; Beans himself was later phased out due to declining popularity, leaving Porky as the only star of the Schlesinger studio. This was followed by the debuts of other memorable Looney Tunes stars such as Daffy Duck (in 1937) and the most famous of the Looney Tunes cast, Bugs Bunny (in 1940).
Bugs appeared mostly in the color Merrie Melodies and formally joined the Looney Tunes crew with the release of Buckaroo Bugs. Schlesinger began to phase in the production of color Looney Tunes with the 1942 cartoon The Hep Cat. The final black-and-white Looney Tune was Puss n' Booty in 1943 directed by Frank Tashlin. The inspiration for the changeover was Warner's decision to re-release only the color cartoons in the Blue Ribbon Classics series of Merrie Melodies. Bugs Bunny made a cameo appearance in 1942 in the Avery/Clampett cartoon Crazy Cruise and also at the end of the Frank Tashlin 1943 cartoon Porky Pig's Feat which marked Bugs' only appearance in a black-and-white Looney Tunes cartoon. Schlesinger sold his interest in the cartoon studio in 1944 to Warner Bros. and went into retirement. He died five years later.
The original Looney Tunes theatrical series ran from 1930 to 1969 (the last short being Injun Trouble, a Merrie Melodie by Robert McKimson). From 1964 to 1967, the shorts were produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises after Warner Bros. shut down their animation studios. The shorts from this era can be identified by the fact that they open with a different title sequence featuring stylized limited animation and graphics on a black background and a re-arranged (and much more dissonant) version of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," arranged by William Lava. The change in the preceding, introductory title cards was possibly to reflect the switch in the animation style of the featurettes themselves. (When Seven Arts Associates merged with Warner Bros. in 1967, the logos were updated, replacing all regular WB elements with the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts logo, as well as new theme music.) These final shorts were obviously made with a smaller budget, and looked cheap compared to the lush scenery and detailed expressions of the earlier shorts. They resemble shorts produced by Hanna-Barbera (based on the influence of Alex Lovy, who worked for Hanna-Barbera after the Walter Lantz Studio). The WB and HB cartoon studios have a history of borrowing from each other and of associating with each other that dates back to this epoch; incidentally, both studios are now under Time Warner's ownership.
The television era (1955–1986), and the return (1987–1996)Edit
The Looney Tunes series' popularity was strengthened even more when the shorts began airing on network and syndicated television in 1955 under various titles and formats. However, since the syndicated shorts' target audience was children and because of concerns over children's television in the 1970s, the Looney Tunes shorts were edited, removing scenes of violence (particularly suicidal gags and scenes of characters doing dangerous stunts that impressionable viewers could easily imitate), racial and ethnic caricatures (particularly stereotypical portrayals of blacks, Mexicans, American Indians, Asians, and Germans as Nazis) and questionable vices (such as smoking cigarettes, ingesting pills, and drinking alcohol).
Theatrical animated shorts went dormant until 1987 when new shorts were made to introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation of audiences. New Looney Tunes shorts have been produced and released sporadically for theaters since then, usually as promotional tie-ins with various family movies produced by Warner Bros. While many of them have been released in limited releases theatrically for Academy Award consideration, only a few have gotten theatrical releases with movies. The last series of new shorts so far ended production in 2004, the most recently theatrically-released Looney Tunes was Pullet Surprise in 1997, shown theatrically with Cats Don't Dance.In the 1970s through the early 1990s, several feature-film compilations and television specials were produced, mostly centering on Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, with a mixture of new and old footage. In 1976, the Looney Tunes characters made their way into the amusement business when they became the mascots for the two Marriott's Great America theme parks (Gurnee, Santa Clara). After the Gurnee park was sold to Six Flags, they also claimed the rights to use the characters at the other Six Flags parks, which they continue to do presently. In 1988, several Looney Tunes characters appeared in cameo roles in Disney and Amblin's Oscar-winning epic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The more notable cameos featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester, and Tweety. It is the only time in which Looney Tunes characters have shared screen time with their rivals at Disney (producers of the film)—particularly in the scenes where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are skydiving, and when Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are performing their "Duelling Pianos" sequence.
Also, from September 12, 1988, Nickelodeon aired all the unaired cartoons in a show called Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon until September 11, 1999. To date, Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon is the longest-airing animated series on the network that was not a Nicktoon. In 1996 Space Jam, a feature film mixing animation and live-action, was released starring Bugs Bunny and basketball player Michael Jordan. Despite its odd plot and mixed critical reception, the film was a major box-office success, grossing nearly $100,000,000 in the U.S. alone, almost becoming the first non-Disney animated film to achieve that feat. For a two year period, it was the highest grossing non-Disney animated film ever. and introduced a new character named Lola Bunny.
Present and future (since 1997)Edit
Main article: Looney Tunes history (1997–present)
In 2000, Warner Bros. decided to make the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies library exclusive to fellow Time Warner properties, specifically Cartoon Network. Immediately prior to this decision, Looney Tunes shorts were airing on several networks at once: on Cartoon Network, on Nickelodeon (as Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon), and on ABC (as The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show). The latter two had been particularly long running series, and the Warner Bros. decision forced the two networks to cancel the programs. This is the main reason why Looney Tunes are seldom seen on television today. In 2003, another feature film was released, this time in an attempt to recapture the spirit of the original shorts: the live-action/animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Although it earned relatively positive reviews from critics and has been argued by animation historians and fans as the finest original feature-length appearance for the cartoon characters, the film was a box-office disappointment, putting the theatrical future of the Looney Tunes in limbo until very recently, when were announced one feature film and some shorts. In 2006, Warner Home Video released a new, Christmas-themed Looney Tunes direct-to-video movie called Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas featuring a wide array of characters working in a mega-store under the Scrooge-esque Daffy Duck. The movie parodies the famous book by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
Since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Looney Tunes characters have been featured in numerous video games, such as a same-titled one that came out on Game Boy in 1992. It was later remade for the Game Boy Color in 1999; it was not a best seller and received poor reviews. The Looney Tunes characters have had more success in the area of television, with appearances in several originally produced series, including Taz-Mania (1991, starring The Tasmanian Devil), The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (1995, starring Sylvester the cat, Tweety Bird and Granny), Baby Looney Tunes (2002, which had a similar premise to Muppet Babies), and Duck Dodgers (2003, starring Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian). The gang also made frequent cameos in the 1990 spinoff series Tiny Toon Adventures, from executive producer Steven Spielberg where they played teachers and mentors to a younger generation of cartoon characters (Buster, Babs and the gang), plus occasional cameos in the later Warner shows Animaniacs (also from Spielberg) and Histeria! Most recently, Loonatics Unleashed, a futuristic version of the characters, aired on Kids' WB! It had a large fanbase, although the show was greeted with negative criticism from audiences familiar with the original versions of the characters.
Although the cartoons are seldom seen on mainstream TV, thanks to revival theatrical screenings, and the Golden Collection DVD box sets, the Looney Tunes and its characters have remained a part of Western animation heritage. On October 22, 2007, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons became available for the first time in High Definition via Microsoft's Xbox Live service, including some in Spanish. From February 29 – May 18, 2008, many Looney Tunes artifacts, including original animation cells & concept drawings, were on display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, just off the campus of Youngstown State University. The exhibit had the studio come full circle, as the Warners were natives of the Youngstown area. Looney Tunes can currently be seen on the Kids WB! website. Looney Tunes returned to Cartoon Network on January 1, 2009, as a marathon called the "New Year's Day Looney Toonormous Marathon", but did not air on Cartoon Network or Boomerang again until 11 months later when it returned to Cartoon Network on November 15, 2009. In 2010, Looney Tunes was taken off Cartoon Network for a year after another New Year's Marathon. Cartoon Network started airing Looney Tunes again on March 14, 2011 in the run-up to a new series called "The Looney Tunes Show", which will begin airing on May 2, 2011.
At the Cartoon Network upfronts in April 2010, "The Looney Tunes Show" was announced to premiere later that year. Coming from Warner Bros. Animation and producer Sam Register, the concept revolves around Bugs and Daffy leaving the woods and moving to the suburbs with "colorful neighbors" including Sylvester and Tweety, Granny, and of course Yosemite Sam. The show will have 2-minute music videos titled respectfully "Merrie Melodies", as a tribute to the Looney Tunes sister shorts, which will feature the characters singing original songs. Also, it has been announced that Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner will be making a return to the big screen in a series of 3-D shorts that will precede select Warner Bros. films. There are currently six in the works that began with the first short, "Coyote Falls", that preceded the film Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which was released on July 30, 2010.
A handful of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts are no longer aired on American television nor are they available for sale by Warner Bros. because of the racial stereotypes of black people, Native Americans, Asians such as Japanese (especially during WWII, as in Tokio Jokio and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips) and Chinese, and lastly Germans included in some of the cartoons. Eleven cartoons that prominently featured stereotypical black characters (and a few passing jokes about Japanese people, as was the case with Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Jungle Jitters) were withdrawn from distribution in 1968 and are known as the Censored Eleven. There has been some success in returning these cartoons to the public; in 1999 all Speedy Gonzales cartoons were banned because of their alleged stereotyping of Mexicans, but because the level of stereotyping was minor compared to the World War II era cartoons as well as the protests of many Hispanics who said they were not offended and fondly remembered Speedy Gonzales cartoons from their youth, these shorts were made available for broadcast again in 2002.
In addition to these most notorious cartoons, many Warner cartoons contain fleeting or sometimes extended gags that reference then-common racial or ethnic stereotypes. The release of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 includes a disclaimer at the beginning of each DVD in the volume given by Whoopi Goldberg which explains that the cartoons are products of their time and contain racial and ethnic stereotypes that, through modern eyes, would be considered offensive, but the cartoons are going to be presented on the DVD uncut and uncensored because editing them out and therefore denying that the stereotypes existed is almost as bad as condoning them in the first place.
A written disclaimer, similar to the words spoken by Goldberg in Volume 3, is shown at the beginning of each DVD in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4, Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 5, and Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 sets: The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.
WB has also experienced controversy over Turner Entertainment's "dubbed version" prints, used on many pre-1948 cartoons beginning in 1995. These versions were actually new ones derived (hence the "dubbed" moniker) from earlier-generation prints of whatever versions of shorts were available, even if they were the altered "blue ribbon" prints. These "dubbed versions" had many alterations. They have a generic end card (with either orange or red rings, depending on the credited producer), with a disclaiming copyright to Turner, thus replacing the original colored cards (a la Blue Ribbon Merrie Melodies). Many animation fans have believed that changing the end card was a bad move on many of the pre-1948 cartoons, especially "The Old Grey Hare", which features a static version of the end card shaking from an off-screen explosion. Because of the generic end card, this ending gag was obliterated in the dubbed version, though there is also a second dubbed version which preserves the gag. In this version, the original end card shakes, and the Turner disclaimer fades up at the end.
In almost all cases, the original end title music was kept, although sometimes an earlier or later version of the closing theme is heard on the titles (some reissued Looney Tunes had their ending music changed to that of the Merrie Melodies series). In some cases, the character voices were redubbed. These "dubbed versions", which continue to be shown on cable and broadcast television to this day, are not representative of the original theatrical release versions of the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" shorts. Despite Warner Bros./Turner's best efforts to include the best available versions of the shorts possible on DVD, several "dubbed version" cartoons have been released on DVD, either in special 2-disc editions of the WB/Turner classic films or on their Looney Tunes Golden Collection 4-disc DVD sets if no better version does exist or is undiscovered.
In 1967, the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company reissued 78 of the black-and-white Looney Tunes in a primitive colorization process. The original prints were sent to South Korea where artists re-traced each cartoon frame-by-frame in color. The quality dropped considerably with the hand-colored versions, to the point where some animation was not carried over. These cartoons continued to be seen over the decades, and even some of the hand-colored cartoons ended up on low-budget bargain-bin home video labels (the hand-colored versions were copyrighted, but it has been suggested they too have fallen into the public domain).
Then, in 1990, 1992 and 1995, Warner Bros. released the same 78 black-and-white shorts again in color (plus 26 cartoons which were not colorized in 1967), but this time using a digital colorization process rather than re-coloring them frame-by-frame as in 1967. The digital technology allowed for the quality of the original animation to be preserved; thus, these colorized versions could be seen as superior to the 1967 versions (as an aside, the 1990s colorizations looked much like the color Merrie Melodies that were released during the same era as the original B&W Looney Tunes). The digital color versions have aired on the Turner networks (Cartoon Network and Boomerang except on the programming block Late Night Black And White). Incidentally, the 1967 hand-drawn color versions of some cartoons also continue to be seen on the Turner networks.
In the early 1950s, Warner Bros. sold its black-and-white Looney Tunes (plus the first Merrie Melody, Lady, Play Your Mandolin!, and the B&W Merrie Melodies made after Harman and Ising left) to Sunset Productions. Warner insisted that the opening and closing titles be changed to remove all references to Warner Bros. The cartoons were distributed by Guild Films until it was sold to Motion Pictures for Television. In the 1960s, Seven Arts Productions bought that company. In 1967, Seven Arts merged with Warner Bros. to create Warner Bros.-Seven Arts thus putting those films back in Warner's ownership. In 1957, Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.) acquired for television most of Warner Bros.' pre-1950 library, including all Merrie Melodies (except for those sold to Sunset) and color Looney Tunes shorts that were released prior to August 1948. Unlike the sale to Sunset Productions, a.a.p. was allowed to keep the Warner titles intact and simply inserted an "Associated Artists Productions presents" title at the head of each reel so each Merrie Melodie cartoon had the song "Merrily We Roll Along" playing twice (while each Looney Tune had both opening songs each playing once). a.a.p. was later sold to United Artists, who merged the company into its television division—United Artists Television.
In 1981, UA was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and five years later, Ted Turner acquired the MGM library—which also included U.S. rights to the RKO Pictures library, in addition to its own pre-1986 material, the classic Warner Bros. library, and some of UA's own product, in an attempt to take over MGM. Turner's company, Turner Broadcasting System (whose Turner Entertainment division oversaw the film library), merged with Time Warner in 1996, thus the classic library was once again under ownership of WB (although technically they are owned by Turner, with WB handling sales and distribution).
All the while, starting in 1967 WB was able to retain the rights to "Lady Play Your Mandolin" and the black-and-white Looney Tunes, even though a number of them fell into the public domain (WB holds the original film elements)—a majority of these public domain shorts have been released on many low-budget independent home video labels. As of 2006, all WB's animated output (including the post-'48 shorts WB also kept) are under the same Time Warner umbrella of ownership. UA (under the pre-WB/Turner-merger management of MGM/UA Home Video) officially released numerous compilations of the classic pre-8/48 cartoons on VHS and LaserDisc, most of these under the title The Golden Age of Looney Tunes. Today, Warner Home Video holds the video rights to the entire Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies animated output by virtue of WB's ownership of Turner Entertainment—this is why their Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD box sets include cartoons from both the pre-8/48 Turner-owned and post-7/48 WB owned periods.
Quality of prints used for television and videoEdit
When the Looney Tunes were shown on TV, WB and a.a.p. prepared 16 mm "dupes" of the original prints for the syndication market; these prints faded over time, causing them to look "inferior" to what was being shown on the networks. Meanwhile, prints with better material especially for the networks that showed post-7/48 cartoons were created periodically to continue appearing fresh. a.a.p. and its successor companies never had any access to the original negatives of the cartoons a.a.p. bought. As a result, when the cartoons ended local syndication, there would be considerable difference in quality of the WB-owned and a.a.p./UA/MGM/Turner-owned shorts. The former package had new prints prepared (usually) from the original negatives for the cable networks that aired them, whereas the latter package, when shown on the Turner networks, looked dull and faded, even after 2 separate remasters in 1987 and 1995. This was a problem even on the official video releases in the VHS era prior to 1999: WB's compilations used the original negatives, while MGM was limited to 16 mm "dupes".
The LTGC sets are all derived from the original negatives, restored to pristine condition, ideally creating an experience similar to when the shorts were first shown in theaters (or, in some cases, better than they were when first shown in theaters). However, there have been complaints by cartoon viewers about how many of the shorts have been oversaturated or otherwise damaged by excessive digital video noise reduction (or DVNR), and sometimes the colors have been entirely changed.
Four of the Looney Tunes have been selected to the National Film Registry:
- What's Opera, Doc? (1957) selected in 1992
- Duck Amuck (1953) selected in 1999
- Porky in Wackyland (1938) selected in 2000
- One Froggy Evening (1955) selected in 2003
Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Animation):
- Tweetie Pie (1947)
- For Scent-imental Reasons (1949)
- Speedy Gonzales (1955)
- Birds Anonymous (1957)
- Knighty Knight Bugs (1958)
Academy Award nominations:
- It's Got Me Again! (1932)
- Detouring America (1939)
- A Wild Hare (1940)
- Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt (1941)
- Rhapsody in Rivets (1941)
- Pigs in a Polka (1943)
- Greetings Bait (1943)
- Swooner Crooner (1944)
- Life with Feathers (1945)
- Walky Talky Hawky (1946)
- Rhapsody Rabbit (1946)
- Mouse Wreckers (1949)
- From A to Z-Z-Z-Z (1953)
- Sandy Claws (1954)
- Tabasco Road (1957)
- Mexicali Shmoes (1959)
- Mouse and Garden (1960)
- High Note (1960)
- Beep Prepared (1961)
- Nelly's Folly (1962)
- Now Hear This (1963)