|Looney Tunes is a Warner Brothers animated cartoon series which ran in many movie theatres from 1930 to 1969. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series, and is both WB's first animated theatrical series and the second longest continuous animated series in any medium. The regular Warner Bros. animation cast also became known as the "Looney Tunes".
The two series were given two separate names because originally, Warner Bros. wanted them to be two separate cartoons series (in the same manner that Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies were separate from the Mickey Mouse series).
In the beginning years, both Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies drew their storylines from Warner's vast music library. However, eventually the two series distinguished themselves by Looney Tunes becoming the umbrella for the studio's various recurring characters, while Merrie Melodies continued with the use of one-shot characters. Also, from 1934 to 1943 Merrie Melodies were produced in color and Looney Tunes in black and white; after 1943, however, both series were produced in color; the only real difference between the two series was in the variation between the opening theme music and titles. Both series by this time also made use of the various Warner Bros. cartoon stars. By 1943, the theme music for Looney Tunes was "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin; the theme music for Merrie Melodies was an adaptation of "Merrily We Roll Along" by Charles Tobias, Murray Mencher and Eddie Cantor. The reason for the Looney Tunes changeover to color was Warner Bros' decision to re-release only the color Merrie Melodies for their Blue Ribbon Classics series of cartoons, noted by the special "Blue Ribbon" title card.
Black and white Looney Tunes opening title from 1943.Bosko was Looney Tunes' first major star, debuting in the short Sinkin' in the Bathtub in 1930. After several years and a move to rival studio MGM in an entirely different incarnation, Buddy took his place as the studio's main star. 1935 saw the debut of the first truly major Looney Tunes star, Porky Pig, after which followed the debuts of other memorable Looney Tunes stars such as Daffy Duck (in 1937) and the most famous of the Looney Tunes cast, Bugs Bunny (in 1940). Bugs appeared originally in the color Merrie Melodies and formally joined the Looney Tunes crew when it switched to color. Bugs' only appearance in a black and white Looney Tune was a gag appearance at the end of the Frank Tashlin 1943 cartoon Porky Pig's Feat.
While the early thirties cartoons never directly catered to a younger audience, the cartoons consisted mostly of musical singing/dancing and generally contained a sense of innocence (mostly as a result of imitating the Disney style). By the late thirties, the series had become edgier, and was more obviously targeted to the adult moviegoers of the time.
The Looney Tunes series' popularity was strengthened even more when the shorts began airing on network and syndicated television in the mid-to-late 1950s under various titles and formats. However, since the syndicated shorts' target audience was children and because of concerns over children's television in the 1970s, the Looney Tunes shorts began to be edited to remove scenes featuring innuendos, ethnic stereotypes and extreme violence.
The original Looney Tunes theatrical series ran from 1930 to 1969 (the last short being Injun Trouble, starring Cool Cat). During part of the 1960s the shorts were produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises after Warner Bros shut down their animation studios. The shorts from this era can be identified by the fact that they open with a different title sequence featuring stylized limited animation and graphics on a black background and a re-arranged version of "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down," performed by William Lava. Theatrical animated shorts then went dormant until 1987 when new shorts were made to introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation of audiences. New shorts have been produced and released sporadically for theaters since then, usually as promotional tie-ins with various family movies produced by Warner Bros. This lasted until 2004.
In 1988, a number of Looney Tunes characters appeared in numerous cameo roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit; the more notable cameos featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester, and Tweetie. This is notable because this is the only time in which any Looney Tunes characters have shared any screen time with their rivals at Disney - particularly in the scenes where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are skydiving, and when Daffy Duck and Donald Duck are performing their now-famous "Duelling Pianos" sequence.
In 1988, Nickelodeon aired all the unaired cartoons in a show called Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon until 1999, when it was removed off the network for Cartoon Network. To date, Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon is the longest-airing animated series on the network that was not a Nicktoon.
Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in Space Jam.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action.In 1996, Space Jam, a feature film mixing animation and live-action, was released starring Bugs Bunny and basketball player Michael Jordan. The movie was somewhat successful despite its odd plot, and it introduced a new character named Lola Bunny.
In 2003, another feature film was released in an attempt to recapture the spirit of the original shorts, the live-action/animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The film was a terrible box-office disappointment, thus putting the theatrical future of Bugs and company in limbo.
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.
The Looney Tunes characters have had more success in the area of television, with appearances in several originally produced series, including 1991's Taz-Mania (starring The Tasmanian Devil), 1995's The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (starring Sylvester the cat, Tweety Bird and Granny), 2002's Baby Looney Tunes (which had a similar premise to Muppet Babies), and 2003's Duck Dodgers (starring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig). The Looney Tunes characters also made frequent cameos in the 1990 series Tiny Toon Adventures, where they played teachers and mentors to a younger generation of cartoon characters. Loonatics Unleashed, a futuristic version of the characters, is currently airing on Kids' WB! It has a large fanbase, but many fans of the classic Looney Tunes do not like this series at all.
Thanks to continued television airings (digital cable only), revival theatrical screenings, and the Golden Collection DVD box sets, the Looney Tunes and its characters have remained a part of Western animation heritage, and an American comedy institution.