Looney Tunes

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Cartoons

Looney Tunes is a Warner Brothers animated cartoon series which ran in many movie theatres from 1930 to 1969. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series, and is both Warner Bros. Animation's first animated theatrical series and the second longest continuous animated series in any medium. The regular Warner Bros. animation cast also became known as the "Looney Tunes" (often misspelled, intentionally or not, as "Looney Toons").


In the beginning years, both Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies drew their storylines from Warner's vast music library. However, eventually the three series distinguished themselves by Looney Tunes becoming the umbrella for the studio's various recurring characters, while Merrie Melodies continued with the use of one-shot characters. Also, from 1934 to 1943 Merrie Melodies were produced in colour and Looney Tunes in black and white; after 1943, however, both series were produced in colour; the only real difference between the two series was in the variation between the opening theme music and titles. Both series by this time also made use of the various Warner Bros. cartoon stars. By 1943, the theme music for Looney Tunes was " The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin; the theme music for Merrie Melodies was an adaptation of " Merrily We Roll Along" by Charles Tobias, Murray Mencher and Eddie Cantor. The reason for Looney Tunes' changeover to color was Warner Bros' decision to re-release only the colour Merrie Melodies for their Blue Ribbon Classics series of cartoons, noted by the special "Blue Ribbon" title card.

In 1930, Warner Bros. became interested in developing a series of musical animated shorts in order to promote their music. They had recently acquired the ownership of Brunswick Records along with four music publishers for US $28 million. Consequently, they were eager to start promoting this material in order to cash in on the sales of sheet music and phonograph records. Warners made a deal with Leon Schlesinger to produce cartoons for Warner Bros. Schlesinger hired Rudolph Ising and Hugh Harman to produce their first series of cartoons. Bosko was Looney Tunes first major star, debuting in the short Sinkin' in the Bathtub in 1930. When Harman and Ising left the Warner Bros. in 1933 over a budget dispute with Schlesinger, they took with them all the rights of the characters and cartoons which they had created. Schlesinger had to negotiate with them in order to keep the rights to the name Looney Tunes as well as for the right to use the slogan That's All Folks! at the end of the cartoons.

A bland white-washed version of Bosko called Buddy became the star of the Looney Tunes series for the next few years. With the animators working in the Termite Terrace studio, 1935 saw the debut of the first truly major Looney Tunes star, Porky Pig, who was introduced along with Beans the Cat in the Merrie Melodie cartoon I Haven't Got a Hat directed by Friz Freleng. Beans was the star of the next Porky/Beans cartoon Golddiggers of '49, but it was Porky who emerged as the star instead of Beans. This was followed by the debuts of other memorable Looney Tunes stars such as Daffy Duck (in 1937) and the most famous of the Looney Tunes cast, Bugs Bunny (in 1940). Bugs appeared mostly in the colour Merrie Melodies and formally joined the Looney Tunes crew in his first appearance, A Wild Hare.In the Avery/Clampett Cartoon Crazy Cruise Bugs Bunny made his first cameo in 1942 and at the end of the Frank Tashlin 1943 cartoon Porky Pig's Feat he made another cameo. Schlesinger sold his interest in the cartoon studio in 1944 to Warner Bros.

The Looney Tunes series' popularity was strengthened even more when the shorts began airing on network and syndicated television in the mid-to-late 1950s under various titles and formats. However, since the syndicated shorts' target audience was children and because of concerns over children's television in the 1970s, the Looney Tunes shorts began to be edited to remove scenes featuring innuendos, racial remarks, curse words,ethnic stereotypes and extreme violence.

The original Looney Tunes theatrical series ran from 1930 to 1969 (the last short being Injun Trouble, starring Cool Cat). During part of the 1960s the shorts were produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises after Warner Bros shut down their animation studios. The shorts from this era can be identified by the fact that they open with a different title sequence featuring stylized limited animation and graphics on a black background and a re-arranged version of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," arranged by William Lava. (When Seven Arts Associates merged with Warner Bros. in 1967, the logos were updated, replacing all regular WB elements with the then-new Warner Bros.- Seven Arts logo, as well as new theme music.) Theatrical animated shorts then went dormant until 1987 when new shorts were made to introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation of audiences. New shorts have been produced and released sporadically for theaters since then, usually as promotional tie-ins with various family movies produced by Warner Bros. This lasted until 2004.

In 1976, the Looney Tunes characters made their way into the amusement business when they became the mascots for the two Marriott's Great America theme parks (Gurnee, Santa Clara). After the Gurnee park was sold to Six Flags, they also claimed the rights to use the characters at the other Six Flags parks, and continue to do so to this day.

In 1988, a number of Looney Tunes characters appeared in numerous cameo roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit; the more notable cameos featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester, and Tweetie. This is notable because this is the only time in which any Looney Tunes characters have shared any screen time with their rivals at Disney - particularly in the scenes where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are skydiving, and when Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are performing their now-famous "Duelling Pianos" sequence.

In 1988, Nickelodeon aired all the unaired cartoons in a show called Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon until 1999, when it was removed off the network for Cartoon Network. To date, Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon is the longest-airing animated series on the network that was not a Nicktoon.

In 1996, Space Jam, a feature film mixing animation and live-action, was released starring Bugs Bunny and basketball player Michael Jordan. The movie was somewhat successful despite its odd plot, and it introduced a new character named Lola Bunny.

In 2003, another feature film was released in an attempt to recapture the spirit of the original shorts, the live-action/ animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The film was a box-office disappointment, putting the theatrical future of Bugs and company in limbo.

In 2006, Warner Home Video released a new, Christmas-themed Looney Tunes direct-to-video movie called Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas featuring a wide array of characters working in a mega-store under the Scrooge-esque Daffy Duck. The movie parodies the famous book by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Looney Tunes characters have been featured in numerous video games, such as a same-titled one that came out on Game Boy in 1992. It was later remade for the Game Boy Colour in 1999; it was not a best seller and received bad reviews.

The Looney Tunes characters have had more success in the area of television, with appearances in several originally produced series, including 1991's Taz-Mania (starring The Tasmanian Devil), 1995's The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (starring Sylvester the cat, Tweety Bird and Granny), 2002's Baby Looney Tunes (which had a similar premise to Muppet Babies), and 2003's Duck Dodgers (starring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig). The Looney Tunes characters also made frequent cameos in the 1990 series Tiny Toon Adventures, where they played teachers and mentors to a younger generation of cartoon characters, plus occasional cameos in the later shows Animaniacs and Histeria! Most recently, Loonatics Unleashed, a futuristic version of the characters, is currently airing on Kids' WB! It has a large fanbase, although the show was greeted with negative criticism from audiences familiar with the original versions of the characters.

Although the cartoons are now seldom seen on mainstream TV, thanks to revival theatrical screenings, and the Golden Collection DVD box sets, the Looney Tunes and its characters have remained a part of Western animation heritage.


The stereotypes

A handful of Looney Tunes shorts from the World War II era are no longer aired on American television nor are available for sale by Warner Bros. due to the racial stereotypes of African-Americans, Jews (especially in the earlier cartoons), Japanese, Chinese people, and Germans (especially during WWII) included in some of the cartoons. Eleven cartoons were withdrawn from distribution in 1968 and are known as the Censored Eleven. This has caused dismay among some animation enthusiasts, who feel that they should have access to these shorts. There has been some success in returning these cartoons to the public; in 1999 all Speedy Gonzales cartoons were made unavailable because of their alleged stereotyping of Mexicans, but because the level of stereotyping was minor compared to the World War II era cartoons mentioned above as well as the protests of many Hispanics who said they were not offended and fondly remembered Speedy cartoons from their youth, these shorts were made available for broadcast again in 2002.

In addition to these most notorious cartoons, many Warner cartoons contain fleeting or sometimes extended gags that reference then-common racial or ethnic stereotypes. The release of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 includes a disclaimer at the beginning of each DVD in the volume given by Whoopi Goldberg which explains that the cartoons are products of their time and contain racial and ethnic stereotypes that these days would be considered offensive, but the cartoons are going to be presented on the DVD uncut and uncensored because editing them out and therefore denying that the stereotypes existed is almost as bad as actually showing them.

A written disclaimer, similar to the words spoken by Goldberg in Volume 3, is shown at the beginning of each DVD in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 4 set:

The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed.

Dubbed versions

WB has also had controversy over Turner Entertainment’s " dubbed version" prints, used on many pre- 1948 cartoons beginning in 1995. These versions were actually new ones derived (hence the "dubbed" moniker) from earlier-generation prints of whatever versions of shorts were available, even if they were the altered "blue ribbon" prints. These "dubbed versions" had many alterations. They have a generic end card (with either orange or red rings), with a disclaiming copyright to Turner (see screenshot), thus replacing the original colored cards (ala Blue Ribbon Merrie Melodies). Many animation fans have believed that changing the end card was a bad move on many of the pre-1948 cartoons, especially The Old Grey Hare, which features the card shaking from an off-screen explosion. Due to the generic end card, this ending gag was obliterated in the dubbed version, though there is also a second dubbed version around which preserves the gag, and has been seen in the United Kingdom. In this version, the original end card shakes, and the Turner disclaimer fades up at the end.

In almost all cases, the original end title music was kept, although sometimes an earlier or later version of the closing theme would be heard on the titles.

These "dubbed versions", which continue to be shown on cable and broadcast television to this day, are not representative of the original theatrical release versions of the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" shorts. Despite Warner Bros./Turner's best efforts to include the best available versions of the shorts possible on DVD, several "dubbed version" cartoons have been released on DVD, either in special 2-disc editions of the WB/Turner classic films or on their Looney Tunes Golden Collection 4-disc DVD sets.


In 1967, the then- Warner Bros.-Seven Arts company reissued all the black-and-white Looney Tunes in a primitive colorization process. The original prints were sent to South Korea where artists re-traced each cartoon frame-by-frame in colour.

These cartoons continued to be seen over the decades, and even some of the hand-colored cartoons ended up on low-budget bargain-bin home video labels (the hand-colored versions were themselves copyrighted, but it has been suggested they too have fallen into the public domain).

Then, in the 1990s, Warner Bros. re-did the classic black-and-white shorts yet again in colour, but this time using a digital colorization process rather than re-coloring them frame-by-frame as in 1967. The digital colour versions have aired on the Turner networks ( Cartoon Network and Boomerang). Incidentally, the 1967 hand-drawn colour versions continue to be seen on the Turner networks to this day.


In 1957, a company then known as Associated Artists Productions acquired for television most of Warner Bros.' pre-1948 library, including all Merrie Melodies (except for " Lady Play Your Mandolin") and colour Looney Tunes shorts. AAP was later sold to United Artists, who merged the company into its television division - United Artists Television. In 1981, UA was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and 5 years later, Ted Turner acquired the MGM library - which also included US rights to the RKO Pictures library, in addition to its own pre-1986 material, the classic Warner Bros. library, and some of UA's own product - in an attempt to take over MGM. Turner's company, Turner Broadcasting System (whose Turner Entertainment division oversaw the film library), merged with Time Warner in 1996, thus the classic library was once again under ownership of WB (although technically they are owned by Turner).

All the while, WB was able to retain the rights to "Lady Play Your Mandolin" and the black-and-white Looney Tunes, even though they all fell into the public domain (WB holds the original film elements)--a majority of these public domain shorts have been released on many low-budget independent home video labels. As of 2006, all WB's animated output (including the post-'48 shorts WB also kept) are under the same Time Warner umbrella of ownership.

UA (under the pre-WB/Turner-merger management of MGM/UA Home Video) officially released numerous compilations of the classic pre-'48 cartoons on VHS and LaserDisc, most of these under the title The Golden Age of Looney Tunes. Today, Warner Home Video holds the video rights to the entire Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies animated output by virtue of WB's ownership of Turner Entertainment--this is why their Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD box sets include cartoons from both the pre-'48 Turner-owned and post-'48 WB owned periods.


One of the Looney Tunes have been selected to the National Film Registry:

  • Porky in Wackyland (1938) selected in 2000

Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Animation):

  • For Scent-imental Reasons (1949)
  • Speedy Gonzales (1955)
  • Knighty Knight Bugs (1958)
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