The Steven Spielberg-presented Tiny Toons Looniversity brings out familiar iconic WB Animation, mixing it with the filmmaker’s Amblin touch and outrageous modern cartoon comedy.
The series, now streaming on Max, is a fun send-up of the skit-based original ‘90s Tiny Toon Adventures that makes good on its premise to follow the young Looney Tunes on their Acme University journey. Babs (Ashleigh Crystal Hairston), Buster (Eric Bauza), Sweetie (Tessa Netting), and Plucky and Hamton (both voiced by David Errigo Jr.) learn from the greats while navigating friendships and mayhem-filled adventures but never losing that classic animation feel.
Co-showrunner Nate Cash shared with io9, “When I was digging in, going [through] really old Looney Tunes, like the original black and white Porky Pig cartoons, [I realized they] were so [much] like Ub Iwerks’ style—like Fleischer Popeye cartoony.” You can see it in one of this season’s best episodes, “General HOGspital.” It explores what happens when some of the gang loses their Toon DNA immunity that helps them bounce back from dangerous stunts—thanks to one Wile E. Coyote, who can’t shrug off his need to capture the Road Runner, who poisons the water supply with a poison that renders toons vulnerable. It really feels like a mash-up of early era animation, the ‘90s (with some Roger Rabbit thrown in), and internet culture funnies.
Cash continued, “That was exciting for me not just looking back to the Wile E. Coyote era of cartoon, but going even further back, to where it was extra retro and bouncy and fun, which is what we kind of did with the animation style on the show.”
The big close-up extreme shots really worked for me, with their bulging expressions that speak to the characters’ inner anxieties. Mentioning how shots like that quickly become part of the meme-culture zeitgeist, from Looney Tunes to SpongeBob, we discussed the juice that taps into the timeless id energy cartoons activate in fans. “SpongeBob is another good example of something that kind of harkens back to old classic cartoony-ness. When it came out, there wasn’t too much cartoony cartoons being made that really like latched onto that,” Cash said. “But I think just being inventive and bringing the surrealism back to cartoons, like again to go back to old black and white cartoons like Felix the Cat [with] things that happened or that can’t happen in the real world, in a fun way that feels natural and imaginative in a way that’s not forced.”
Particularly it all comes together in “General HOGspital,” with the toons losing their immunity. It makes their world fall into the sort of chaos seen in old school cartoons when they encounted a Judge Doom-esque Wile E. Coyote. It’s shocking and hilarious to see the characters in real danger; we see Hamton rise to the occasion with the help with of Witch Hazel (voiced by the dynamo Candi Milo), giving two underrated favorites moments to shine. Cash agreed, noting, “That was super fun episode. And just to lean into the premise of the show, that they’re learning how to be toons, [and] sort of take that toony-ness away from them and enter life-threatening situations. David’s version of Hamton is so sweet and awesome, and having [co-showrunner] Erin’s version of Hamton where he is maybe has stage fright and is more reserved and wants to be a doctor, it was such an interesting field to explore.”
Check out the episode below!
Watch Tiny Toons Looniversity on Max and Cartoon Network.
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