Conventions SDCC Television

HBO Max and Warner Bros. Animation: Looney Tunes Cartoons SDCC 2021 Panel Recap

There are some images that just resonate. A sign in the middle of the woods fluctuates between Rabbit Season and Duck Season. A vulture singing about bumblebees. Shotgun barrels flippantly tied into a bow. A duck and a pig in spacesuits. Just writing this, the catchphrases and jingles echo around the room. As do the giggles.

Those are the shoes that the team behind Looney Tunes Cartoons has to fill. The shadow of the great animators and timeless icons looms over them and they’ve met the challenge enthusiastically. HBO Max will run the second season of brand new gags starring classic Looney Tunes animated in that old style. At this year’s SDCC, Eric Bauza ( who voices Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian, Daffy Duck, and a host of other Looney Tunes staples sat down with executive producer Pete Browngardt, art director Aaron Spurgeon, storyboard artist Caroline Director, supervising producer Alex Kirwan, and assistant art director Keiko Yamaguchi to talk about the challenges of producing and creating the new season.

Screenshot from my phone, where I watched this panel on truly the house’s best seat, my living room chaise. Photo by Aaron Heil.

Part of their discussion centered around fan reaction. Fans have kept Looney Tunes alive for almost a hundred years. Everyone has a Looney Tunes memory that always brings a smile up out of the back corners of childhood. Personally, my favorite gag is Duck Amuck because it seems I have simple tastes and don’t need too many obscure characters. However, my fingers are crossed for some Foghorn Leghorn hijinks. The core cast of Looney Tunes characters have stuck around as long as they have because they somehow relate to everyone, and not merely in a Hero with a Thousand Faces sense. Looney Tunes’ absurd humor stems from the collision of different parts of the same brain that every person shares, whether it’s our brash impulsive sides like Daffy or Sylvester, or the reactive pranksters like Bugs and Lola. 

But, who am I kidding? I can’t even plumb the well of characters who make up the Looney Tunes universe. Fortunately, the Looney Tunes Cartoons team has. The team discussed how much they love it when fans recognize the callbacks to the long-forgotten gems of the silver screen. The current team has developed a long list of Petunia Pig story arcs, for example, and Petunia has become as dominant a character as Porky Pig. 

This doesn’t mean they’ve done away with the classics, though. In fact, this panel opens with Eric Bauza doing a Marvin the Martian/Bugs Bunny skit that sounds like Mel Blanc himself came back from the grave. And he does it in one take! Bauza has a wide range and perfects that sense of timing needed not only for a one-man comedy show but especially for Looney Tunes.

Also, pitch-perfect is the animation itself. The drawings and quality of the cartoons are beautiful. They appear modern, but not in the futuristic vein of Loonatics Unleashed. Instead, it calls to mind a recreation of a classic car or faux-vintage clothing. In an era where it’s somehow both cheaper and trendier to use a computer to draw what teams of artisans used to, they have learned on the job to create an impressive show. These cartoons could easily come from the 1940s, except that they have the resolution of a modern show, the Looney Tunes Cartoons team manages to faithfully recreate so much of the atmosphere of the Looney Tunes everyone knows and loves.

Looney Tunes Cartoons can be watched on HBO Max, for you to binge not just in one sitting, but hopefully, numerous times, just like you did with The Rabbit of Seville as a kid. Or at least as much as I did.

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