In the future, the city-planet of Acmetropolis is struck by a meteor and knocked out of its orbit. Somehow, this creates the super-powered beings known as the Loonatics. The Loonatics are anthropomorphic animals who live in some kind of tower and fight super-powered crime at the behest of a woman named Zadavia who delivers their orders via a hologramatic telecommunications device. According to the credits, they (and their powers) are:
Ace Bunny (with laser vision and optical enhancement), Lexi Bunny (sonic hearing and brain blast), Danger Duck (power orb randomizer and quantum quack) Slam Tasmanian (tornado maximizer and thunder mode), Tech E. Coyote (magnetism activated and molecular regeneration), and Rev Runner (sonic speed and global positioning).
Lord, I was dreading this, and my worst fears were confirmed. The news briefs leading up to the premiere episode only ever mentioned that this was an update of the classic Looney Tunes characters. After having seen Loonatics Unleashed, I will no longer have anything bad to say about Space Jam.
I'm about to complain incessantly and won't want to stop, so let me get a couple of positives about the show out of the way. I'd hate to come off as one-sided. Jason Marsden does a good Daffy Duck impression. I can tell it's him, but he doesn't sound wrong. Also, giving the Wile E. Coyote character the power of molecular regeneration is actually a pretty clever way of explaining away his bouncing back from all the abuse he takes.
Those were the only good things about the show; now, on to the poison pen.
For starters, let's strip away the Looney Tunes veneer, as I was willing to reserve judgment until I saw whether this project was just a decent idea with bad use of a property (the Looney Tunes as futuristic superheroes is clearly a terrible idea to anyone who had exposure to the characters other than seeing them on t-shirts). I'm watching the first episode, "Loonatics On Ice" as I write this, and I can honestly say this is making me pine for The Impossibles. The writing is painfully bad, the characterization is non-existent, the dialogue is embarrassing, and... I have nothing bad to say about the animation.
To be frank, this format rang familiar; the first episode played out like the pilot of Defenders of Dynatron City, which, incidentally, was also terrible. However, Defenders was released in 1992, on the heels of the success of Batman Returns and before Batman: The Animated Series (which debuted later the same year) showed the world how superhero cartoons should be done, whereas Loonatics Unleashed is not only running at the same time as the second season of the brilliant Justice League Unlimited, but it's a product of the same animation studio!
So it's a crap show. How about the (mis)use of the Looney Tunes property? In a word: insulting. Warner Bros. dragged its heels for years in releasing the classic shorts, and when they did (Looney Tunes Golden Collection vol. 1 and 2 and, as of Oct. 25, vol. 3) it was worth the wait. In fact, it was so satisfying we fans were even willing to forgive the sub-par Reality Check and Stranger Than Fiction, which collected the disappointing webtoons from the Looney Tunes website (the bright spot of which featured Daffy and Porky hunting the Chupacabra for a paranormal studies-type show). Then, after the aforementioned Space Jam, which misused the characters terribly, we were treated to Looney Tunes: Back In Action which, while not a great movie, demonstrated that there was somebody at Warner Bros. who understood what it was about the Looney Tunes that makes them special (Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs and Daffy through the Louvre's art collection especially felt just like old times). Before all that, we watched Warner's TV animation department re-learn the tricks of old as they brought us Tiny Toon Adventures -- which didn't re-capture the magic of Termite Terrace, but it was close -- and Animaniacs -- which did -- plus a handful of other cartoons that, however briefly, achieved the greatness of "Duck Amok" and "What's Opera, Doc?"
It's this that makes Loonatics Unleashed the travesty it is; if they hadn't spent the better part of the last two and a half decades getting our hopes up, hearing Ace Bunny say "What's Up, Doc?" for the first time wouldn't have us weeping in our hands. We're like Red Sox fans that way; when the Sox lost year after year, the hearts of their fans became colder and harder. When they exceeded all possible expectations last year and actually won the World Series for the first time in nearly a century, the Sox fans regained their ability to feel. If the Sox lose again like they used to, it won't be so easy to take as it once was. We Looney Tunes fans are like that; first Warner shut down Termite Terrace, and the animation department started to suck, and it just got worse and worse to the point that you couldn't even count on Bugs Bunny to make you laugh. Those were the dark years, when Daffy Duck inexplicably chased Speedy Gonzales, and unfunny new characters made their presence known. After thirty years of disuse, the occasional Looney Tunes project was enough to entertain mildly despite the original material not being funny -- The Bugs Bunny Mother's Day Special and Daffy's Fantasy Island, for example. Loonatics Unleashed might even have been welcome in 1995, but in 2005 it's a reminder of far darker days, and possibly (pray to any gods you worship that I am wrong) a harbinger of more to come.
If I weren't in such a funk over Loonatics Unleashed, I'd have made a play on words in the last sentence and called it a "hare-binger." You see what this show has done to me? Don't watch it. Don't let your children watch it. They'll wind up in jail or become gym teachers or something.
- Michael Albright