Drawn That Way:
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie
By Daniel Pellegrino
May 27, 2010

Which came first, the bacon or the egg?

Disney is the Donnie of animation; Warner Bros. is the Marie. One is a little bit country; the other is a little bit rock and roll. While there hasn’t been much success from Warner Bros. animation for quite some time, the characters they created years ago are iconic. It was recently announced that Cartoon Central is working on a new incarnation of the classic Looney Tunes characters from Warner Bros. animation. Many purists balked at the premise, which “takes Bugs and Daffy out of the woods and puts them into the suburbs with 'colorful neighbors' including Yosemite Sam, Granny, Tweety and Sylvester,” while casual viewers are excited to see the iconic figures back on-screen. This week, I took a look at the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, a compilation of classic Warner Bros. animation shorts with bridging sequences between the previously animated sets. It was released in 1979, directed by the legendary Chuck Jones, and contains some of the best animation to ever be produced.

Most animation fans are familiar with the classic Looney Tunes shorts. I don’t know many people who haven’t seen "What’s Opera, Doc?", or been introduced to Marvin the Martian via Daffy Duck. Even if you don’t remember the details, you would certainly recognize the image of Bugs Bunny in his opera outfit. It’s easy to forget how brilliant the storytelling is in these classics because they’ve been so heavily saturated in American minds. Sit a child in front of any of the pieces found in the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, and they will certainly have a good time. Sit any adult in front, and they will be enjoying it just as much. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed since they were created, the storytelling, humor and characters stand the test of time. Try watching Shrek Forever After in ten years (or now, for that matter) and see how well it ages.

I mentioned how memorable the Looney Tunes arsenal of characters is. Almost every one of them is unique and interesting. Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, and Michigan J. Frog are all brilliant and clearly secondary characters. In the forefront, you have Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. These two rivals are so brilliantly animated and written, if current animators can capture half of their appeal in the new incarnation of the series, then there is no doubt that a new generation of kids and adults will fall in love.

Back to the movie at hand, let’s talk about the actual visuals. They won’t take your breath away. Most of the animation was created decades ago, and with Pixar and DreamWorks blowing our minds with Toy Story 3 and Dragons, it’s unlikely anyone will be impressed with the old Looney Tunes shorts. That said the animation is perfectly suited for the material. There is a great pleasure in seeing the coyote getting blown up from the top of the cliff. Animators were aware that it would be more fun to see the smoke from 100 feet away, rather than catching a close-up of the action. When the camera zooms in on the coyote's reaction shot, the audience is tickled with glee.

Let’s talk about the vocals. Perfect. It’s bizarre to hear the original Bugs or Daffy speak because the most recent versions of the characters have a different vocal styling (and complimented with Brendan Fraser or Jenna Elfman - epic fail). With that said, the originals are fantastic. There is an energy that is unparalleled in current animation. When these cartoons were made, the characters were the stars, not the voice actors. No one was attempting to animate Debra Messing. The creatures were the stars and the voices were serving them. I think DreamWorks is finally starting to take note, and hopefully they will stop putting A-listers in their animation in favor of trained voice artists. However, it’s easier for Cameron Diaz to make an appearance on Ellen than Frank Oz. Frank might be able to book The Bonnie Hunt Show, but she’s cancelled, right? I digress. Who knows what the future holds for voice actors?

There isn’t much else to say about the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie. You’ve seen the content before. You might be surprised how well it holds up. There are bridging sequences created in the 1980s that play in between the older animation. Some of the graphics and credits can feel dated, but once you get into the shorts, you can’t help but fall in love again. I hope Comedy Central treats these characters right and realize how great they are. I’m confident they can make a similar comeback to the early 1990s with Tiny Toon Adventures. That show took the character archetypes and reinvented them in a fresh way. I guess we’ll see if they can capture the magic without the great Chuck Jones to guide them.