Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny are forever entwined. His 80th birthday is coming up, and we must start celebrating early! But once again this week, I am unexpectedly and accidentally timely with my subject matter. The premiere of HBO Max on May 27th means the release of their new show Looney Tunes Cartoons coincides with my release of exclusive original Looney Tunes production art. I had no idea!
I had in mind Bugs Bunny’s 80th anniversary, which would be officially o July 27th, since it was back in 1940 in July that the rascally rabbit first made his appearance in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare.
Always wanting to get a jump on all things birthday, I had planned the animation collection release of more recent Looney Tunes original cels a few weeks ago, for this week, with an accompanying blog. My pals who officially wholesale the Warner Brothers cels and I came up with a cool thing where we’d get Eric Bauza to give a signature with the art we sell. Eric is a Canadian voice actor extraordinaire and, as of 2011, he has been a member of the Looney Tunes family, voicing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, and many others. His former work includes shows like Ren and Stimpy, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Lego Star Wars, Steven Universe, SpongeBob Squarepants, and The Loud House, and, as it turns out, he is now voicing Bugs and other classic characters on Looney Tunes Cartoons! According to Warner Brothers,Eric is actually their official voice of Bugs, Daffy and Tweety.
Oddly, I hadn’t been on the marketing radar for the folks promoting their new animated series, I mean, at least sometimes my two lives of film journalist, and animation historian and art gallery owner converge, and you’d think this would be one of them. Then my editor at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Jennifer Merin, asked me to review Looney Tunes Cartoons for that site (which you can find HERE.) Conflict of interest alert, I thought! Upon reconsideration, I figured if the show was no good, since the cels in this collection are from earlier shows, it wouldn’t really matter, and if the show was great, all the better. Then I watched the new series and not only breathed a sigh of relief, I was thrilled for all involved, especially the fans of these classic characters. Looney Tunes Cartoons is, in a word, spectacular. (Here is a link to my review on the Alliance of Women Film Journalists)
You, however, may groan at the idea of once again bringing Looney Tunes characters to life, thinking the WB folks (who, by the way, own HBO) are going to try to “update” and “reboot” the classic characters and cartoons that you love.
As we all know, they don’t need updating, they’re perfect.
Gratefully, the producers and creators involved with this new iteration clearly love the 40s and 50s originals, and they bring that love to every moment of these new shorts. Geniuses like Bob Clampett, Bob McKimson, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery may no longer be with us, but their influence is in evidence. Classic Looney Tunes music, like Carl Stalling’s ‘What’s Up Doc”, gets a modern adaptation by composers Joshua Moshier and Carl Johnson, which just adds to the immersive feeling fans will get as they watch.
Take a look at this short example of Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner. Notice the animators of Looney Tunes Cartoons keep Chuck Jones’s traditional look for the characters, while giving them little touches, like his protruding fang:
Just for fun, here’s a vintage clip from Chuck Jones for comparison. When you watch them side by side, you can see the loving attention to detail for each character and the loyal throwbacks to the original the team for this new show considered. Here’s a teeny bit of Chuck’s first Wile E and Roadrunner cartoon, 1949’s The Fast and the Furry-ous.
Says creator Peter Browngardt of the Looney Tunes Cartoons designs, “Our characters are more rounded, more squat. We gave Bugs yellow gloves, and Daffy has the longer, thinner bill. Porky is Clampett’s version, with the bigger eyes and head. We definitely did a lot of homework!”
“The people who made the original shorts invented this art form. They took the baton and ran with it.”
Here’s another Looney Tunes Cartoons short called Pest Coaster, featuring 80th birthday boy, Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam. Eric Bauza’s voice gets some getting used to, but only because he stands on the shoulders of Mel Blanc, a giant. The inklines are designed to be very thin, which is a callback to the way they were inked in the very early days. There are a few subtle differences like the gloves, but Bugs’s head is exactly the way it was drawn in the early 40s at the beginning of his ‘career’.
You also may have noticed influences from the design aesthetic of iconic Warner Brothers cartoon background artist Maurice Noble. That just adds to the nostalgic quality of the show.
About stepping into the role of Bugs, Eric Bauza rightfully says, “It’s one of those characters that’s like the holy grail of cartoon voices.” He has some pretty impressive tools in his arsenal of vocal tricks, and I think we’ll all get used to his style, especially since he’s also contributing his talents to Tweety and Daffy cartoons. Eric actually started out in the animation industry as a layout artist. He explains. “I came to the US to study animation. I worked at a couple of studios, not the big ones, but some of the smaller animation houses around town. One of them was 6-point harness, and they actually allowed me to leave in the middle of the day to audition for voice work and then come back and finish what I was doing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. All the artists and creators that I met, knew that I wanted to do voices, and offered me to do voices for their pilots, and I took those opportunities.”
He has great appreciation for the man he calls the ‘Looney Tunes godfather’, and knows his great fortune in picking up the mantle. Eric explains, “When you do a voice-match of a classic character there’s definitely an essence to the character that has to be there for the audience to latch onto. As far as the character, maybe you want to bring them into modern day, if it was from the 30s or 40s. There’s some room to make it your own. In fact, you have to make it your own, because in the originals, the Looney Tunes godfather, Mel Blanc, set the bar so high. I don’t even think anyone was expecting those characters to carry on, but companies like WB have these amazing characters that deserve new audiences. I think the WB cartoons are the best, and I grew up on watching the reruns. I grew up watching the cartoons of the 90s, too, and everybody jokes about them, but I adore them. I grew up watching classics, and remakes, and now in the present day, I get to be a part of that. I think it’s awesome.”
Here he is, talking about voicing characters:
With all that in mind, it’s pretty cool that we just scored some gorgeous original production cels of everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes characters, like Bugs, Elmer, Daffy, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and Tweety and Sylvester.
Cooler still is the fact that for every piece sold, we’re getting a signature from vocal artist Eric Bauza! Some of the pieces in the collection are from before his time as an official Warner Brothers voice, but we figured that fans who love Looney Tunes would like having his signature anyway, so we’re putting them on cards instead of him signing the art. Frame the art with it or without, as you see fit.
I did a lot of research into the shows these Looney Tunes production cels come from, and it was all fascinating work, but my favorite part was learning new things about my favorite Looney Tunes characters. For example, Carrotblanca is one of the only times Tweety plays a villain, or is the character that appears in the end sequence. I also knew nothing about The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, which are actually quite good! I have already had two tuxedo kitties, and both were scaredy cats like Sylvester, so I’m a fan of Sylvester for sure. Here’s a great Sylvester production cel on a pan background from the cartoon:
I’d never seen a lot of the corresponding cartoons, like Box Office Bunny, Blooper Bunny, Quackbusters, and Carrotblanca, which I especially loved. Way to cross pollinate the film and animation properties at Warner Brothers! If you love both Looney Tunes and Casablanca, you’ll find this spoof particularly funny. I loved Tweety taking on the signature qualities of Peter Lorre!
I guess it’s not best to consider the cross-species relationship between Bugs Bunny and Penelope Pussycat. It’s funny, regardless. All’s fair in love and cartoons!
I hope you find something great for your animation art collection with these new images. My favorites, probably because images of these characters are so hard to find, are the Tasmanian Devil, the Tweety cel, the Tweety, Granny, and Sylvester cel, the Foghorn Leghorn cel, and the Daffy Duck drawing and cel of him trapped by hunters. There is also some great Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny art. All classic images!
So let’s end this blog, as I’ve been doing lately, with a COVID Comfort Cartoon. This week, it’s a full episode from the new Looney Tunes Cartoons, which includes a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, so we can properly start celebrating the Bugs Bunny 80th annivesary! Hopefully it will give you and your kids something fresh and new to do together, solidifying their membership in the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies fandom.