News: Yet Another Looney Tunes Movie

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.

About Morgan R. Lewis

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10 Responses to News: Yet Another Looney Tunes Movie

  1. Jaina says:

    There’s been some surprise success in the CG/live-action department recently though, hasn’t there. What with Smurfs and the Chipmunk films. Both featuring characters from my childhood used horribly on the current big screen. I reckon that’s a big source for why those people want to make this happen.

    I was a fan of Space Jam. Silly, but eh, I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t mind seeing Looney Tunes back on the big screen, but in their original incarnations…

    • Yeah, a few cartoons have been successfully adapted into CGI-live hybrid movies, at least as far as being successful with kids. I’m pretty leery about the Looney Tunes gang, though, since they weren’t ever meant to be just-for-kids, and I can easily see WB’s current crew treating them that way.

    • I enjoyed Space Jam, too. It’s one of those films that you watch as a kid, and then it burrows into your heart for years to come.

      “Back in Action”, not so much. 😛

      I also liked the Smurfs film, but I didn’t watch the cartoon much as a child. Also, I adore Neil Patrick Harris. He is a god. 😉

      • I didn’t like Space Jam much… maybe because I wasn’t a kid when it came out (I was just short of graduating high school at the time). It had its amusing moments, but on the whole… not what I would want out of a Looney Tunes picture.

  2. Bad idea, I think. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  3. I hated Space Jam… and I mean *hated*… but it was far from poorly received. Kids from that era LOVE that movie. But as much as I wish deep down in my heart that as soon as a voice actor retires/passes on that their characters would be retired from making new material, I know that Space Jam worked on the level it was supposed to. It was a Looney Tunes sports movie, that generated interest in the brand.

    Now… I’ll go to my grave knowing (while arguing with my much younger brother) that the movie should never have been made, and is a blight on all things Warner. But many of his generation (not him specifically, but most of his friends) wouldn’t have bothered to try watching the BB&T show in reruns if it weren’t for Space Jam. I’ve had his pimply faced friends tell me this specifically. Some of them had parents, like I would have been (and currently am), that would have pulled the VHS out of the VCR spouting “Son, I say, son, y’doin’ it all wrong, see… that ain’t Looney Tunes, I’ll shows ya some Looney Tunes.” But mostly, so they said, they searched it out on their own.

    I guess the moral of the story is that this movie clearly won’t be for *us*, Morgan. That’s a shame, because all things Looney should be for all kinds of folk. But since the old cartoons really are the gold standard, anything that helps get people interested in watching those is good to some degree. So long as this thing isn’t *worse* than Back in Action, I’ll try to reign in my hatred to moderate levels. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll even be as good as “The Muppets” supposedly was. I won’t end up watching either of them, until Charlotte someday asks me to, or some friend/relative that doesn’t quite know me very well gives us a DVD as a gift.

    Jebas, maybe I should’ve written a blog post rather than a comment. TLDR version: Everything new sucks, REALLY sucks, but it creates a buzz that introduces new fans to the gold.

    PS. I miss Mel, Jim, Richard and recently Jerry (and Frank’s work), like they were family members, and hearing other people do their voices guts me, every time.

    • You might be right… I didn’t know anybody who was a kid at the time Space Jam came out, so all I saw was the negative reception from people our age and older, the critical thrashing, the low audience scores on RT and IMDb… but I’m already getting comments from people who say they loved it. So it might well be the case that people who were kids at the time enjoyed it.

      In that case, well, I guess I can grudgingly forgive a new movie if it really does introduce younger generations to the classics. Though that does seem like it reinforces the “Saturday morning” theory I floated; what do you think?

  4. S says:

    While I was amused with Space Jam, I could see how actors mixed with cartoons could be a questionable premise this time. SJ did offer something new in it’s story I think. It doesn’t sound like this new LT cartoon does with either characters or story; no mon-stars there. Most likely this will be a sad rehash of beloved characters.

    • It’s hard to say about the story, since nothing has really been said about it, but yes… I would expect it to just be a poor rehash. That seems to be par for the course for these live-action/animated hybrids.

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