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Before a packed house of fans at Annecy’s Bonlieu Theater, Warner Bros. Animation premiered nearly a dozen new episodes of its upcoming Looney Tunes Cartoons, which will be broadcast on TV and online sometime later this year.
Rebooting the beloved animated shorts that have been a cornerstone of Warner Bros. since the 1930s, series executive producer Peter Browngardt (creator of Uncle Grandpa), supervising producer Alex Kirwan and WB Animation vice president Audrey Diehl were on hand to take viewers through the creation process and to offer the first-ever public screening of what will ultimately be around 200 original cartoons.
“We wanted to go back to how they were in the ’30s and ’40s,” Browngardt told the audience, stressing how much the work of early Looney Tunes innovators Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett were an influence on this ambitious new reboot.
Shorts screened included “Dynamite Dance,” “Sick as a Hare,” “TNT Trouble,” “Mummy Dummy” (which also preceded Annecy’s opening night film, Playmobil: The Movie), “Pain in the Ice” and “Basket Bugs,” among several others.
Each episode lasted between one and five minutes, and was packed with nonstop gags, slapstick violence, double entendres and other trademarks of the franchise. Characters included many Looney Tunes stalwarts: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Wylie Coyote, the Road Runner and Sylvester the Cat.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the characters’ personalities or dynamics,” Browngardt explained between the roars of laughter certain episodes solicited. “We simply focused on the wild, zany, incredible energy of the original cartoons.”
Working with character designer Jim Soper, who Browngardt mentioned was hired because of the drawings on his Instagram account, a team of 10 storyboard artists crafted each cartoon from visual pitches that were then refined into full cartoons.
“We didn’t use scripts, we used drawings,” the executive producer said, walking the audience through his studio’s meticulous sketch-to-screen production process. Behind-the-scenes footage also highlighted the work of voice actors like Eric Bauza, Jeff Bergman and Bob Bergen, who will be picking up the reins from the legendary Mel Blanc, and composers Carl Johnson and Joshua Moshier, whose scoring takes its cues from the groundbreaking orchestrations of Carl Stalling.
If many aspects of the Looney Tunes Cartoons echo the style of the early works, the gross-out gags (heavy on the gore in some episodes) and updated dialogue (“I only eat organic, doc!” “Are you body-shaming me, doc?”) clearly place the new series into our epoch, somewhere between the Warner Bros. originals and the more brazen comedy of Adult Swim.
“We looked at the 40s as our guiding star,” producer Kirwan said, all the while trying to add a modern flavor to the originals. Browngardt concluded by underlining how much he wanted to make “something worthy to the legacy” of the first Looney Tunes creations, focusing on three main essentials: “great animation, great voices and great music.”
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