At San Diego Comic-Con 2022, io9 sat down with the creative teams shepherding Warner Bros.’ classic Looney Tunes characters into new and reimagined cartoons. In a push led by Looney Tunes Cartoons’ Alex Kirwan—who spearheads the franchise’s current slate of shorts on HBO Max—the beloved animation icons will soon expand into even more content. There’s the upcoming Tiny Toons Loooniversity revival, a Halloween special, Cartoonito’s Bugs Bunny Builders for kids, and two feature-length animated movies on the way—and we have a feeling that’s not all, folks!
The concept art shown blew the Comic-Con audience away with the confirmation that every character would be returning to Amblin and Warner Bros. Animation’s Tiny Toons Looniversity. According to Erin Gibson, showrunner and co-executive producer, “We brought back everybody, down to Arnold the Pitbull. And we do go to space, too.”
Nate Cash, the show’s co-executive producer, chimed in on what made it all happen with the blessing of one Steven Spielberg. “We’re all big fans of the original show and hired crew that are big fans too. So everybody is coming back,” he said, referring to his team with pride. On the panel before our sit-down they mentioned executive producer Spielberg called the anticipated project “the best iteration of Tiny Toons” he’d ever seen, and they also introduced the new voice of Babs Bunny: Ashleigh Crystal Hairston.
“I grew up in the ‘90s and I was a huge fan of Tiny Toons, Looney Tunes, but I like all of it,” Hairston said, before explaining how she found the voice. “Just to be playing Babs Bunny is wild to me. It feels very natural, it feels like she was in me all along. I got the audition and I was like ‘I don’t know what to prepare for this.’ So I started watching Tiny Toons. And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, no. I want to bring myself to it. I want to make this Babs my own.’”
And she will be for this iteration, which changes a few things from the original. Gibson confirmed the change to Babs and Buster’s relationship to io9: “They’re fraternal twins, which was not an original plot point. I wanted to dive into a brother/sister relationship that looked really symbiotic and collaborative and supportive, not antagonistic. Seeing two people who are really on the same page, and then how do people who are so close make make new friends? You know, find out who they are by these new relationships—these new college experiences while still having fun and doing the dumbest stuff you’ll ever see on TV, but having story and plot points and character development.”
Cash added, “And they look up to the faculty, they’re established Tunes who are like their gods, but then they’re like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What’s my voice?’—which is a cool place to develop them as their own characters and not just mini versions of their counterparts.”
We’ll find out more when Tiny Toons Looniversity on Cartoon Network and HBO Max.
For Cartoonito, WB Animation’s learning-geared programming, Bugs Bunny Builders aims to bring the Tunes to younger kids while still keeping them true to the spirit of the original characters. Series showrunner Abe Audish elaborated: “When we first started Bugs Bunny Builders, we wanted to make sure, like the voices for the preschool, it’s more about clarity. So it was never really taking anything away,” he said of keeping the characterization true to who they are in every incarnation. “Even though we scaled a little bit younger, it was more about clarity for the audience. You know, Bugs in other iterations can get really fast and Daffy has a lot of spitting. Let’s go back a little bit again, for our audience, we want to make sure there’s clarity.”
Eric Bauza, the current voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy, and Tweety on Looney Tunes Cartoons and Bugs Bunny Builders, discussed the range of playing these roles in the Cartoonito project, “They’ve definitely been pitched up in tone mechanically, but as far as how at least I perform something versus Lola—who I’d say is a modern classic and now even with Babs, who’s another modern classic, that doesn’t necessarily have to sound like whoever performed it last. Whereas with at least Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, or Marvin for that matter, you kind of have to have hints, definitely. But if they are actually even younger in appearance in the show, they should sound like who they are but at least act younger. You know, it’s all about the acting, not necessarily about the sound. And more coffee in the morning.”
New to the Looney Tunes family as Lola is Chandni Parekh, who also plays Harley Quinn in the upcoming DC animated film Batwheels. The voice actress told us a bit more about getting the role, “As soon as I got the audition, I connected with the character so much. Of course I knew her from Space Jam, so I knew she had this fierce, confident spirit with her,” she said of finding her own take on the character. “And then knowing it was also geared for preschool, which is just so much fun, I got to play up her playfulness; she’s just so nice and she has her tablet. She drives a bulldozer and is the co-leader along with Bugs Bunny in this show. So, yeah, she comes in hot right along with Daffy, Porky, and the gang.”
And that’s definitely not every Tune the show will include. Audish also talked about who else we can expect to see, “We’re looking into using other characters. But as you saw in the episode that got dropped, you saw Pussyfoot already in there, we saw Sylvester—better believe they’ll be making more appearances,” he said. “We have Charlie Dog in there and Mayor Foghorn Leghorn. Warner Brothers have been really, great with us, kind of letting us use the whole library. There have to be these characters that live there and that hire them. It is more about building things, but we are building a world in Looneyberg. Taz is coming and of course he’s built for destruction.”
Bugs Bunny Builders will debut on Cartoonito and HBO Max July 25 and 26, respectively.
The batches of the latest Looney Tunes cartoon installments on HBO Max that started in 2020 continue to add shorts, and will debut a Halloween special in the vein of the Christmas one with a seasonal medley this fall. Alex Kirwan debuted one of the shorts that features Witch Hazel (voiced by Candi Milo) in her first stand-alone story. Kirwan teased what to expect for the Halloween special: “Like all the shorts, there’s going to be some fantastical use of classical music. I think we have some Edvard Grieg in it. We’ve got a really wonderful classic old-timey skeletons in the graveyard cartoon with Porky and Daffy. And we have a really cool, I think the first team -p we’ve done with Porky and Sylvester, just the two of them, which is kind of in the vein of Claws for Alarm and some classic Chuck Jones shorts like that.” Check out the preview below.
As for the future of the shorts, Kirwan a revealed clip that reintroduced a deep-cut character to the new Looney Tunes roster. “Ralph Phillips is not one of the better known characters. He’s in just a couple of classic shorts. He’s this little boy who’s always daydreaming. And in the classic Chuck Jones shorts, he’s sort of daydreaming about genres that were popular at the time. So, you know, there’s a jet fighting sort of thing and a jungle adventure,” he said. “And so when we were going to tackle him, we were like, ‘Oh, what the heck, let’s do sort of modern movie.’ Because, you know, we wanted to do things with the characters that hadn’t been done yet. So as we teased in the clip, we have him as Batman and we also do sort of a Mad Max riff. That became really fun, to pull that stuff off his style.”
There’s also going to be two feature length films on the way. Bye Bye Bunny, a musical about Bugs announcing his retirement, and The Day the Earth Blew Up. So we had to ask: WHO DOES THE BLOWING UP?
“I cannot reveal that at this time—you will have to tune in to see,” Kirwan said cryptically. “Yes, it’s definitely a sci-fi movie. As we were trying to figure out what our approach to what is a Looney Tunes movie—they work so well as these little seven-minute shorts and trying to figure out what our interpretation of a long form is going to be? We just thought it would be so much fun to take a classic movie genre, a sci-fi ‘50s Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of thing, that has Porky and Daffy and drops our idiots in the middle of it.”
Daffy and sci-fi brings to mind one Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century, so we had to inquire: is Duck Dodgers a Daffy alter-ego or is Duck Dodgers a Daffy variant in an alternate timeline? Bauza, who voices Daffy and hosted the Looney Tunes panel, chimed in. “Well, now with all this discussion of multiverses, I mean he could very well be a variant, right? Because you don’t really see him in or out of that costume. He’s just in it, right?”
Kirwan asserts there’s no set in stone continuity per se in the Daffy and Duck Dodgers debate. “He’s not fantasizing about it. What’s neat about the classic shorts and what we tried to do in the Looney Tunes cartoons is every single short is born anew. Every cartoon sort of resets—like in most of the classic Looney Tunes shorts, the characters are meeting each other for the first time. It’s the first time Bugs Bunny has ever encountered Elmer Fudd and or Yosemite Sam or whatever it is. And that’s the fun. You’re reintroducing your audience to the characters in every cartoon. And so we tried to do the same. We’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to change the genre.’ ‘We’re going to make the characters play different roles in this cartoon’ and kind of nobody questions it. ‘Okay, he’s a space adventurer in this cartoon. Why not?’ I have settled it once and for all.”
You can stream Looney Tunes cartoons on HBO Max.
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