When you look at Disney and how they’ve turned their characters into some of the most memorable and the most marketable characters ever made through movies and TV shows to theme parks and tons of merchandising sold all over the world and making the studio billions and billions of dollars.
Which makes you wonder why Warner Bros., the second biggest studio out there and Disney’s closest competitor, has taken their own set of popular and beloved characters in the Looney Tunes and done absolutely nothing with them.
So, why does Warner Bros. hate using the Looney Tunes?
Looney Tunes is an American animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969 during the golden age of American animation, alongside its sister series Merrie Melodies. It was known for introducing such famous characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil and many others. These characters themselves are commonly referred to as the “Looney Tunes”.
Drawing inspiration for its name from Walt Disney’s then-concurrent musical series Silly Symphonies, Looney Tunes initially showcased Warner-owned musical compositions through the adventures of cartoon characters such as Bosko and Buddy. Later, following the animation studio’s addition of directors Tex Avery and Chuck Jones among others, as well as the voice actor Mel Blanc, Looney Tunes rose to greater fame after introducing several of the aforementioned famous cartoon stars. From 1942 to 1964, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were the most popular animated shorts in movie theaters, exceeding the works of Disney and other popular competitors including Fleischer Studios, Walter Lantz Productions, UPA, Terrytoons and MGM.
Since its success during the short-film cartoon era, Looney Tunes has become a worldwide media franchise, spawning several television series, feature films, comic books, music albums, video games and amusement park rides, as well as serving as Warner Bros.’ flagship franchise. Many of the characters have made and continue to make cameo appearances in various other television shows, movies and advertisements. The most popular Looney Tunes character, Bugs Bunny, is regarded as a cultural icon and has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Several Looney Tunes films are regarded as some of the greatest animated cartoons of all time.
In 2013, TV Guide ranked the Warner Bros. Cartoons (ranked as Looney Tunes) the third Greatest Cartoon of All Time (out of 60).
So, why does Warner Bros. keep pushing the Looney Tunes off to the side like they are the retarded stepchildren of the studio?
Well, the trouble for this can be traced all the way back to the 90s. Warner Bros. revived its’ animation department in a big way thanks to the successes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, and Superman: The Animated Series. With all this success on television, they realized that they had to get back into the feature animation department and the first big project they had was Space Jam, which was a massive hit for the studio and that lead to them to create more feature films and you would think would help to reignite the Looney Tunes franchise…it didn’t.
The Looney Tunes were relegated back to television with stuff like The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries and Loonatics Unleashed, both of which we’ve talked about already. They would also appear in MCI commercials with Michael Jordan and there was a direct-to-video feature with Tweety’s High Flying Adventure but other than that and a partnership with Six Flags that has since ended, nothing. A seven year gap between Space Jam and Back In Action and nothing, it’s like Space Jam was a fluke and WB literally had nothing to follow up with these characters.
They went on to make mediocre fare like Cats Don’t Dance and Quest For Camelot and the classic, The Iron Giant, which all three got buried at the box office hard effectively shutting down the feature film division after only 4 years…FOUR YEARS!!! That’s how bad these films were bombing, they lasted only four years before they would only release a film every couple of years. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s when films like Happy Feet and The Polar Express became big successes and then, the bubble burst again in 2010 when Legend Of The Guardians, a damn good movie and the best Zack Snyder directed film, bombed at the box office as did Happy Feet Two and thus, WB finally nabbed a big hit with The Lego Movie, one of my all-time favorite movies and that has now relaunched the animation department with their second film, Storks, coming this Friday.
It also didn’t help that Looney Tunes: Back In Action was coming out in a terrible time for 2D animation, it came out in November 2003 right before the big 2D animation bust when the films were getting way more expensive to produce and they weren’t making back their profits. And Looney Tunes: Back In Action fared the worst of the bunch. It opened in mid November 2003 sandwiched between bigger hits in Elf and, yes, even The Cat In The Hat. Back In Action lost to fucking Cat In The Hat, how depressing is that? Back In Action only made $68.5 million worldwide on an $80 million budget and just $20 million of that was domestic. That’s how bad it got and it’s a shame because the movie was actually decent. It’s also unfair that a good Looney Tunes movie fails to make bank and yet two Scooby Doo movies released in-between 2002 and 2004 made more money.
So, because of that, the mid 2000s was a dark turn for Looney Tunes, quite literally, with the failure that was Loonatics Unleashed, again something I’ve talked about already. There was a 2006 direct-to-DVD Christmas feature, Bah Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, which I will admit is actually pretty good but other than that, the late 2000s was like the Looney Tunes didn’t matter. They had a video game that came out in 2007 called Acme Arsenal, in which an evil mad scientist named Dr. Frankenbeans has created a time machine and is bent on destroying the Looney Tunes world by traveling back in time and erasing their ancestors with an army of evil robots. The players takes control of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tazmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian and Gossamer in order to keep the mad scientist from erasing them from existence. The players will travel to Camelot, Ancient Egypt, Mars and the Wild West to name a few to fight off the mad scientist countless robot soldiers.
Does any of that sounds like Looney Tunes at all? There was even a game called Space Race in the early 2000s that was actually fun to play because that game at least knew how to bring Looney Tunes style humor to its’ game, Acme Arsenal, I don’t know what the hell they were thinking.
In 2010, Warner Bros. premiered The Looney Tunes Show, which returned the characters to their original format mixed in with a television sitcom and it was a really solid show…but it only lasted two seasons just like another great WB animation show, Scooby Doo! Mystery Incoroporated, both shows were cancelled ahead of their times and once again, WB let their most beloved properties be pushed off to the side.
But let’s be honest, it’s not the characters’ fault, we still love these characters, we still watch the classic cartoons and still laugh at them today, we’ve been begging for these characters to make a big return and become as popular as Mickey Mouse and the Disney character crew but we all know what the problem is, Warner Bros. doesn’t want to use these characters because they are trying to turn successes with other properties, mainly DC’s cinematic universe.
Warner Bros. has spent so much time trying to make DC’s cinematic universe a high priority and that’s the problem, they are failing at it, both Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad may have been big hits for the studio but they were both critically panned with the general public wanted WB to quit trolling us with your good marketing for the films that end up being terrible and actually give us good movies.
But it’s not just DC, Warner Bros. has had a horrible track record with these films they’ve tried to make blockbusters over the last few years. They’ve had not just underperformers but big flops since 2014, movies like Into The Storm, Dolphin Tale 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Jupiter Ascending, Run All Night, Hot Pursuit, Entourage, Max, Magic Mike XXL, The Gallows, Vacation, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., We Are Your Friends, Black Mass, Pan, Our Brand Is Crisis, The 33, In The Heart Of The Sea, Point Break, Keanu, all of these were massive failures financially and a lot of these films had massive budgets, Point Break literally cost $105 million to make, only brought in $28.8 million domestically, In The Heart Of The Sea, $100 million budget, $25 million domestic gross.
They spend way too much money on these films thinking they’ve got the next big hit on their hands and it always fails financially at the box office because the studio is so desperate to have a franchise with every film that comes out, they are like a bigger version of Lionsgate, Lionsgate is doing the same shit this year too, trying to create new lucrative franchises and failing miserably on all counts.
Warner Bros. has got to bring the Looney Tunes characters back into the spotlight and actually using them to good use and not just wasting them on merchandising and that’s it. I have a suggestion, remember when Disney bought the Muppets franchise back in 2004 and helped them to gain broader exposure to the public building up to the two Muppets reboot films in 2011 and 2014 that were not only successful but great brilliantly made movies as well as the criminally underrated The Muppets TV series ABC had last season. Why not do the same with the Looney Tunes?
Do a Muppets style feature film in which the Looney Tunes characters haven’t been in the spotlight for a long time and bring them back into an adventure to get the band back together. That’s what you need to revive these characters and bring them back into the spotlight, not a Space Jam 2 with Lebron James, that is just going to bring back the circle again and they’ll waste these characters again once the film is released.
Warner Bros. has to bring these characters back in a way that people can actually get excited for the return of the Looney Tunes and could lead to long term usage in the future, you can’t revive characters by giving us a sequel to a product-of-its’-time film like Space Jam in a time when we’re so sick and goddamn tired of pointless sequels not meeting our demands.
For god sake, let the Looney Tunes characters back into a bigger spotlight, quit wasting them on TV shows that barely get any attention and merchandise you have to go to specific places in order to find them. It’s time that the Looney Tunes be brought back into the spotlight and not pushed off to the side like they don’t matter because they do matter and the heads at WB need to realize that.
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