The Quarantine Stream: The Classic 'Looney Tunes' Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Looney Tunes
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: Looney Tunes has one of the most memorable and beloved rosters of animated characters of all time. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Pepe Le Pew, The Tazmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzalez, and more star in the shorts that shaped animated comedy, creating many of the cartoon tropes that are still prevalent in the medium today. This is timeless comedy at its best, and the whole family can enjoy them.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Every single animated project you’ve ever seen has been influenced by the classic Looney Tunes (and Merrie Melodies) shorts in one way or another. Even though Mickey Mouse may be the face of one of the most successful media giants in the history of entertainment, Disney’s roster of classic animated characters has nothing on these characters from Warner Bros., many of them voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc. Yes, you can give Disney credit all day since they took cues from Walt Disney’s musical series Silly Symphonies, but for my money, Looney Tunes does it better.
On top of the creative producers like Leon Schlesinger, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Eddie Selzer, John Burton, David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng and William L. Hendricks, much of the credit for what makes Looney Tunes great goes to famed animation directors like Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin and Bob Clampett, as well as Harman, Ising and Freleng taking the helm here and there too. All of these talents are responsible for the evolution of the cartoon characters we love today, and they have an undeniable influence on generations of animators. While Disney might be responsible for the rise of feature film animation, Warner Bros. was at the top of their game with these animated shorts that originated in theaters.
The original Looney Tunes shorts gave us classic slapstick animated humor that would inform cartoons for decades and gave us the kind of physical comedy that live-action couldn’t pull off back then. There are also humorous riffs on popular classic movies and TV shows, an incredible use of orchestrated music for lively comedic effect (shout out to composer Carl W. Stalling for writing roughly one score each week for 22 years), and some truly gorgeous animation that still looks outstanding.
It’s rather impressive that Looney Tunes is still funny today, especially since so much comedy from the era when these shorts played in theaters hasn’t aged nearly as well. But physical comedy almost never goes out of style, and since so much of Looney Tunes is based on slapstick humor and sight gags, these shorts have stood the test of time decade after decade. They’re so brilliant in their simplicity, and that makes it even more impressive that the new Looney Tunes Cartoons on HBO Max even come close to these classic predecessors.
So flashback to simpler times and feel like a kid again by watching Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck fight over who Elmer Fudd is going to hunt in “Rabbit Seasoning.” Watch Daffy Duck and Porky Pig traverse space in “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century.” See Bugs Bunny give a musical haircut in “Rabbit of Seville.” Feel the pain of defeat in the brilliant “One Froggy Evening.” Or just enjoy any cartoon where Wile E. Coyote is in pursuit of Road Runner or Sylvester the Cat chases Tweety Bird. There are dozens of classic Looney Tunes shorts available right now over at HBO Max, and more should be on the way soon. Just sit back, pour yourself (and maybe your kids) a bowl of sugary cereal, and enjoy some cartoons. You deserve it.
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