According to the Hollywood Reporter Warner Bros. is moving forward with a third feature-length Looney Tunes film. David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith of KatzSmith are set to produce along with David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. Jenny Slate is writing the script, and so far the only known detail is that the film will be a live-action/CGI hybrid.
As might be expected, I’ve got more than a few qualms about this project.
Even at the most superficial level, four producers sounds like an awful lot. Maybe I’m wrong, and that’s the normal number for a feature of this type. Hopefully so, because otherwise a “too many cooks” situation could easily develop. But I also don’t have a lot of confidence in these guys. The KatzSmith pair, who were responsible for the Dark Shadows film and a proposed Beetlejuice sequel, are starting to look like they just do revivals of projects that nobody needs to see revived. Heyman and Clifford at least have some solid work under their belts, with the Harry Potter franchise and Up in the Air, respectively, but I’m still not seeing anything leaping out at me saying these guys should be at the helm of a Looney Tunes film. Hopefully they’ll at least get a good director, but who knows?
Then there’s Jenny Slate, who frankly fills me with the most concern out of everything here. I knew nothing of her before the article, which describes her as a “former Saturday Night Live star”. Looking her up, it seems “star” is stretching the term to its utmost limits, as she bombed out after a single season. Not exactly encouraging. Her sole prior writing credit is on a short film, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. I watched the short, and to put it charitably… it does not convince me she has the chops to write a comedic short, let alone a Looney Tunes film.
Then, of course, there’s the basic premise of the film itself. A live-action/CGI hybrid — because, of course, when we hear “Bugs Bunny” we all think CGI. But even that doesn’t bother me quite as much as the live-action part: that means this will have the same cartoon-human interaction that Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action had, and neither of those were particularly well-received (though in fairness, I have to admit I haven’t seen the latter, but its RT audience score is lower than its predecessor). Look, the live-action/animated hybrid worked in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it was at least partly because Roger wasn’t a pre-existing character who had stood on his own without human interaction for multiple decades. So far they haven’t shown anything to indicate that it would work with Looney Tunes, especially since including any human star means the Looney Tunes characters have to share the spotlight — and popular though they might be, nobody goes to a Looney Tunes feature to see Michael Jordan or Brendan Frasier.
I also wonder just why this is all necessary anyway. Even if it’s justified under the ongoing attempt to keep Looney Tunes fresh and relevant to younger generations, they seem to be having a degree of success with The Looney Tunes Show. Is a feature film really necessary, or even a good idea? Looking at their main competitors from the short-film era, I don’t see Disney putting out live-action/CGI hybrid films about Mickey Mouse. (I going to include MGM, but a quick look on IMDb does reveal a Tom and Jerry film in development. Sigh.) It just seems like a desperation move from a company and a brand that have no reason at all to be desperate. Nobody forgot Looney Tunes during the 30-year span between the last theatrical short and Space Jam, and I have trouble believing people would today. I do kind of wonder if the decline of Saturday morning cartoons is part of it — Looney Tunes had been cable TV-only for a few years before Space Jam — but even so, I can’t imagine that the prestige of the brand is truly so far gone that Warner Brothers needs to keep churning out Looney Tunes films where the Looney Tunes characters aren’t even the only stars.