July 22, 2011
I know I’m old because I say modern music and pop culture sucks. Then again, pop culture and music sucked when I was younger too.
On the other hand, I have fond memories of a few things. The late 90’s introduced me to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I thought The Matrix, plot holes and all, was a pretty cool movie. I even thought Cowboy Bebop was a great addition to my home library.
And Looney Tunes has always been there for me. Bugs, Daffy, Porky, and the rest of the gang are there to remind me of simpler times, so when I was looking for short cartoons to use for writing class assignments, I obviously looked to my old friends.
And in the process discovered that Warner Brothers had castrated my beloved Looney Tunes.
The new Looney Tunes Show is a pale, safe beige version of the old classics. And even my students, who had not really seen the old cartoons, agree. Let me explain.
Pop Goes the Duck
One of the greatest things about the old shows was the aptly named cartoon violence. Daffy Duck could get shot by a shotgun (or was it a rifle?) more than a dozen times and come out no worse for wear. He was a duck of steel. Explosions and weapons rarely did more damage than some burns and concussion. Characters were made of rubber. It was the kind of physical comedy the Three Stooges wish they could have accomplished.
The new stuff?
Well, the main conflict in one episode features Bugs and Daffy going on a game show and having fish thrown at them. Another has a flashback to Granny’s days as a spy during World War II and Nazis fire on her with machine guns.
Machine guns that could kill her!
Not only does the humor now require almost no physical comedy, but the little real danger is TOO real. There is no sense of disbelief. It’s become an animated equivalent to an action comedy.
The Thousand Lives of Porky Pig
Where does Bugs Bunny live? When does he live? Looney Tunes had the advantage of being set in multiple time periods and locations. One short, Daffy and Porky live in the time of Robin Hood. The next, they’re flying through space and trying to reach Planet X. This let the writers and animators go from full-blown fantasy to science fiction, modern settings, and a combination of the three.
The new show is quite blatantly set in the present. Bugs and Daffy live together. For all intents and purposes, it’s Jersey Shore: Looney Tunes. The characters have real problems and face social situations that would never come up in the old shows.
Worse yet, the writers wrote themselves into a corner by not making the characters what amounted to contract actors in the old shorts. They have to remain in the present. The anachronism stew from the old shorts is gone.
Bugs Bunny Has Balls?
In virtually every incarnation of 1950’s and 60’s cartoons, Bugs Bunny is fairly asexual. He is a trickster, but only when provoked. He is closer to a force of nature, a paragon of controlled chaos.
In the new show, he gets roped into going on a date with Lola Bunny, who in this incarnation is about as sharp as a basketball. He has to get pushed to the breaking point when Daffy tries to prove his friendship before he can act. And all of these situations get resolved… by talking or waiting them out.
Where’s the Bugs that solved his problems with DYNAMITE?! Where’s the Bugs that, when pushed, broke out the drag show and dropped people from five hundred feet in the air?
I want MY Bugs back.
Yeah, I’m old. Hollywood, stop taking your dirty little fingers and diddling my childhood. I don’t appreciate it. It makes me feel funny.