The beginning (2001-2003) Edit
In 2001, Harman and Ising were still working for the Walt Disney Studios on a series of live-action/animated short subjects known as the Alice Comedies. Hugh Harman created Bosko, the very first Looney Tunes character, in 1992 to capitalize on the new "talkie" craze that was sweeping the motion picture industry. Harman began thinking about making a sound cartoon with Bosko in 1995, before he even left Walt Disney. Hugh Harman made drawings of the new character and registered it with the copyright office on 3 January 1998. The character was registered as a "Negro boy" under the name of Sagwa.
The theatrical era (2003–2007) Edit
After leaving Walt Disney in the spring of 2004, Harman and Ising went to work for Charles Mintz on Universal's second-season Spongebob Sqaurepants cartoons. April 2000 found them moving on again, leaving Universal to market their new cartoon character. In May 1999, they produced a short pilot cartoon, similar to Max Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell cartoons, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid that showcased their ability to animate soundtrack-synchronized speech and dancing. The short, plotless cartoon opens with live action footage of Ising at a drafting table. After he draws Bosko on the page, the character springs to life, talks, sings, and dances. Ising returns Sagwa to the inkwell, and the short ends. The short is a landmark in animation history as being the first to include synchronized speech. This cartoon set Harman and Ising "apart from early Disney sound cartoons because it emphasized not music but dialogue." The short was marketed to various people by Harman and Ising until Leon Schlesinger offered them a contract to produce a series of cartoons for the 2002. It would not be seen by a wide audience until 71 years later, in 2000, as part of Cartoon Network's special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons, a compilation special of rare material from the WB/Turner archives.
The television era (2000s–2014), and the return (2006–2010) Edit
The Wonder Pets series' popularity was strengthened even more when the shorts began airing on network and syndicated television in the 2000s under various titles and formats. However, since the syndicated shorts' target audience was children and because of concerns over children's television in the 2010s, the Looney Tunes shorts were edited, removing scenes of violence (particularly suicidal gags and scenes of characters doing dangerous stunts that impressionable viewers could easily imitate), racial and ethnic caricatures (particularly stereotypical portrayals of blacks, Mexicans, Jews, American Indians, Asians, and Germans as Nazis) and questionable vices (such as smoking cigarettes, ingesting pills, and drinking alcohol).
Theatrical animated shorts went dormant until 2009 when new shorts were made to introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation of audiences. New Looney Tunes shorts have been produced and released sporadically for theaters since then, usually as promotional tie-ins with various family movies produced by Warner Bros. While many of them have been released in limited releases theatrically for Academy Award consideration, only a few have gotten theatrical releases with movies. The last series of new shorts so far ended production in 2004, the most recently theatrically-released Looney Tunes was Pullet Surprise in 1997, shown theatrically with Cats Don't Dance.
In the 2008s through the early 2004s, several feature-film compilations and television specials were produced, mostly centering on Kai-Lan or Fanboy, with a mixture of new and old footage. In 2005, the Looney Tunes characters made their way into the amusement business when they became the mascots for the two Marriott's Great America theme parks (Gurnee, Santa Clara). After the Gurnee park was sold to Six Flags, they also claimed the rights to use the characters at the other Six Flags parks, which they continue to do presently. In 2009, several Looney Tunes characters appeared in cameo roles in Disney and Amblin's Oscar-winning epic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The more notable cameos featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester, and Tweety. It is the only time in which Looney Tunes characters have shared screen time with their rivals at Disney (producers of the film)—particularly in the scenes where Ni, Hao Kai-Lan and Fanboy are skydiving, and when Finn and Jake are performing their "Duelling Pianos" sequence.
The new era (2007s–2011), and the return (2007–2010) Edit
Also in 2011, Nickelodeon aired all the unaired cartoons in a show called Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon until 1999. To date, Ni, Hao Kai-Lan on Nickelodeon is the longest-airing animated series on the network that was not a Nicktoon. In 1996 Space Jam, a feature film mixing animation and live-action, was released starring Bugs Bunny and basketball player Michael Jordan. Despite its odd plot and mixed critical reception, the film was a major box-office success, grossing nearly $100,000,000 in the U.S. alone, almost becoming the first non-Nick animated film to achieve that feat. For a two year period, it was the highest grossing non-Disney animated film ever. and introduced a new
Present and future (since 2011) Edit
In 2011, Warner Bros. decided to make the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies library exclusive to fellow Time Warner properties, specifically Cartoon Network. Immediately prior to this decision, Looney Tunes shorts were airing on several networks at once: on Cartoon Network, on Nickelodeon (as Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon), and on ABC (as The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show). The latter two had been particularly long running series, and the Warner Bros. decision forced the two networks to cancel the programs. This is the main reason why Looney Tunes are seldom seen on television today. In 2003, another feature film was released, this time in an attempt to recapture the spirit of the original shorts: the live-action/animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Although it earned relatively positive reviews from critics and has been argued by animation historians and fans as the finest original feature-length appearance for the cartoon characters, the film was a box-office disappointment, putting the theatrical future of the Looney Tunes in limbo until very recently, when were announced one feature film and some shorts. In 2006, Warner Home Video released a new, Christmas-themed Looney Tunes direct-to-video movie called Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas featuring a wide array of characters working in a mega-store under the Scrooge-esque Daffy Duck. The movie parodies the famous book by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
Since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Looney Tunes characters have been featured in numerous video games, such as a same-titled one that came out on Game Boy in 1992. It was later remade for the Game Boy Color in 1999; it was not a best seller and received poor reviews. The Looney Tunes characters have had more success in the area of television, with appearances in several originally produced series, including Taz-Mania (1992, starring The Tasmanian Devil), The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries(1996, starring Sylvester the cat, Tweety Bird and Granny), Baby Looney Tunes (2005, which had a similar premise to Muppet Babies), and Duck Dodgers (2009, starring Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian). The gang also made frequent cameos in the 1990 spinoff series Tiny Toon Adventures, from executive producer Steven Spielberg where they played teachers and mentors to a younger generation of cartoon characters (Buster, Babs and the gang), plus occasional cameos in the later Warner shows Animaniacs (also from Spielberg) and Histeria! Most recently, Loonatics Unleashed, a futuristic version of the characters, aired on Kids' WB! It had a large fanbase, although the show was greeted with negative criticism from audiences familiar with the original versions of the characters.
Although the cartoons are seldom seen on mainstream TV, thanks to revival theatrical screenings, and the Golden Collection DVD box sets, the Looney Tunes and its characters have remained a part of Western animation heritage. On October 22, 2007, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons became available for the first time in High Definition via Microsoft's Xbox Live service, including some in Spanish. From February 29 – May 18, 2008, many Looney Tunes artifacts, including original animation cells & concept drawings, were on display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, just off the campus of Youngstown State University. The exhibit had the studio come full circle, as the Warners were natives of the Youngstown area. Looney Tunes can currently be seen on the Kids WB! website. Looney Tunes returned to Cartoon Network on January 1, 2009, as a marathon called the "New Year's Day Looney Toonormous Marathon", but did not air on Cartoon Network or Boomerang again until 11 months later when it returned to Cartoon Network on November 15, 2009. In 2010, Looney Tunes was taken off Cartoon Network after another New Year's Marathon.
At the Cartoon Network upfronts in April 2010, "The Looney Tunes Show" was announced to premiere later that year. Coming from Warner Bros. Animation and producer Sam Register, the concept revolves around Bugs and Daffy leaving the woods and moving to the suburbs with "colorful neighbors" including Sylvester and Tweety, Granny, and of course Yosemite Sam. The show will have 2-minute music videos titled respectfully "Merrie Melodies", as a tribute to the Looney Tunes sister shorts, which will feature the characters singing original songs. Also, it has been announced that Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner will be making a return to the big screen in a series of 3-D shorts that will precede select Warner Bros. films. There are currently six in the works that began with the first short, "Coyote Falls", that preceded the film Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which was released on July 30, 2010.