New 'Looney Tunes' keyed to longer tales

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BURBANK, Calif. -- In the old "Looney Tunes" cartoons of the 1940s and '50s, Bugs often was seen wandering outside. In this new show, Bugs and Daffy are roommates in what appears to be a suburban house.

In Tuesday's premiere, they go on a TV game show, "Besties," to see how well they know one another, competing against a pair of jovial gophers. In another episode, Bugs goes on a date with a female bunny voiced by "Saturday Night Live" mainstay Kristen Wiig.

Unlike past "Looney Tunes" shorts, the new episodes tell a single story -- with a "Merrie Melodies" intermission that plays like a music video -- over a half-hour.

"We knew we had to tell bigger stories and longer stories to get more characters involved," said Warner Bros. executive vice president of animation Sam Register at a press conference on the Warner Bros. lot last July. "We also wanted to make the characters look a little bit different and try something a little bit new since the world was going to be new."

Jessica Borutski, who re-designed the characters for "The Looney Tunes Show," said she was initially wary of Warner Bros. intentions.

"I was worried that they might want to redesign them, maybe looking really cool in cool kid clothes or something," she said, acknowledging she was relieved when that proved not to be the case. "I took elements of the character designs throughout all of the ages of 'Looney Tunes,' things from different directors that I really, really liked. ... I made their heads a bit bigger because I didn't like that near the end [of the original era] in the '60s, '70s, Bugs Bunny's head started to get really small and his body really long, and he started to look like a weird guy in a bunny suit."

Mr. Register said the need to update the characters came out of a desire to make them appeal to children today.

"As the studio, we have a lot of investment in making these characters stay relevant," he said. "The interest is waning, and I think we want to share all of the great new stuff and hopefully bring in interest in the classics as well."

He described "The Looney Tunes Show" as the studio's greatest challenge in recent memory with many re-takes when the dialogue and visual elements don't turn out funny enough on the first attempt.

"We spend, I think, one-third of our time on 'Looney Tunes' arguing about the past," he said. "When you are doing an original show, you just move forward. And on 'The Looney Tunes Show,' they were so great that we spend a lot of time just thinking about how to make them as good as they were at one time and being respectful to them while still trying to do something [new]."


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