Somebody needs to give this show the ol’ anvil treatment.
When the “extreme” look of the classic Warner Brothers cartoon characters in their sleek new Loonatics Unleashed design debuted, the entire internet roared louder than Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Fans everywhere railed against this recreation of icons like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as action heroes in a dark, anime style. But, despite online petitions and e-mail campaigns to put a stop to the show, the producers went ahead anyway. Now that all 13 episodes of the first season are on DVD, is it worth watching, or were a bunch of web-surfing dorks right about this one?
It’s the year 2772, just after a mysterious asteroid struck the city of Acmeopolis, giving the descendants of the classic Warner characters amazing super powers. Ace Bunny can fire laser blasts from his eyes, Danger Duck can teleport, Lexi Bunny has sonic powers, Tech E. Coyote is an inventing genius with magnetic and regeneration powers, Rev Roadrunner can (obviously) move at great speed, and Slam Tasmanian has super strength and can create destructive cyclone winds. From their skyscraper headquarters, these six watch over the city, protecting it from evil. This is a full-time job, because apparently the city can’t go five minutes without being attacked by a supervillain or an alien menace. When that happens, the Loonatics save the day with fighting, fighting, and more fighting.
I don’t know whose idea it was to take Bugs and friends and transform them into futuristic mutant butt-kickers, but this really should have gone through a little more brainstorming before it reached the production stage. Here we have Bugs, barely recognizable, drawn with sharp, angular lines and dressed in black body armor. Plus, there’s only a hint of the personality he once had. Even his famous line, “What’s up, Doc?” has been modernized as, “What up, Doc?”
Okay, sure, this isn’t technically Bugs Bunny; it’s his far-future descendant Ace Bunny. That way, for every person who cries out, “What have you done to Bugs?” the creators can reply with, “It’s not really Bugs.” But semantics aside, it’s clear that he’s being shoved into our faces as the new Bugs, and we’d better get used to it. Still, we as viewers can’t help but focus on the reasons why we loved these characters in the first place, and how those traits are mostly absent from this version. Yes, Ace is sarcastic, but his wit lacks Bugs’ confident charm. Danger Duck gets flustered, but never in Daffy’s manic ways. Slam Tasmanian spins around and grunts outrageously, but not as outrageously as Taz ever did. Misters Coyote and Roadrunner are a lot less interesting as teammates, and they’re a lot more talkative then they’ve ever been. And I guess Porky Pig isn’t badass enough for the new millennium, because he’s nowhere to be found.
As hard as it is not to compare these characters to the originals, we must take a look at whether this show can stand on its own. First off, there’s very little background to this world. Saying “they got their powers from a meteor” seems awfully simplistic, even for a kids’ show. Who were the Loonatics before they got their powers? How was it decided they would fight crime? Who is this ghostlike “Zadavia” character who acts as their mentor? To be fair, the two-part season finale answers a few of these questions, but by then, it’s a little too late.
There are even greater crimes this series commits. Firstly, there’s almost no character development. Most episodes begin with a crisis, with our heroes immediately leaping into action and spending the next half hour punching that crisis and shooting laser beams at it. The closest thing we get to character moments are Danger Duck’s constant attempts to be a better hero, usually by imitating the other heroes with disastrous results, followed by his learning a valuable life lesson. I actually just made that sound like a lot more story than it really is. This element of the series maybe takes up one-tenth of any given episode. The rest of the time, it’s all fighting and explosions and anime posing and weak “action-hero” one-liners.
Now, I’m not saying that the writers need to explore the hidden recesses of the characters’ dark, tortured psyches, but just a little bit of character development would have gone a long way. Look at recent action/comedy toons like Ben 10, Teen Titans, or Kim Possible. These don’t have the deepest of scripts, but the characters’ moments and their interactions with each other really do get viewers invested enough so that we care about them once the action kicks in. The Loonatics spend all their time running around fighting, while we viewers wonder why we should give a damn.
Say what you like about this series and the concepts behind it, but there’s no complaining about the picture quality. The colors are bright and vivid, and the characters’ movements are consistently smooth and fluid. The audio, although merely stereo, is obnoxiously loud, so you’ll have no problem hearing the many explosions and stale one-liners. Aside from some trailers, the only extra here is an unbelievably difficult interactive game you play with your remote, in which you use your Loonatic powers to blast falling meteors out of the sky. I played on the “beginner” setting for 30 minutes, and I couldn’t hit a single one of those stupid meteors.
If you’ve ever watched a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon and thought to yourself, “I wish this was more like Blade Runner,” then you’re going to love this show.
Not only does Loonatics Unleashed offer an unnecessary reinvention of classic characters, it’s just an uninteresting cartoon overall. I predict that that this show’s only lasting impact will be in future discussions of “What were they thinking?” alongside notorious titles like Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain, Gilligan’s Planet, and, as always, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo.
A genius writer once wrote, “The Great Stories will always return to their original forms.” You all should keep a hold of your Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection DVDs and pass on Loonatics Unleashed. You won’t miss a thing.