All the Looney Tunes Films
August 23, 2016
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Looney Tunes are awesome!
(Cut to a clip of What's Opera, Doc?)
NC (vo): While everyone compared Disney to classical music...
(Cut to a clip of Speedy Gonzales, a 1955 short)
NC (vo): ...Looney Tunes were definitely jazz.
(Cut to a shot of Woody Woodpecker)
NC (vo): Some studios had the animation, but not really the writing.
(Cut to a shot of Rocky and Bullwinkle)
NC (vo): Other studios had the writing, but not really the animation.
(Cut to a montage of clips of Looney Tunes cartoons)
NC (vo): Looney Tunes had both; they had memorable characters, hilarious slapstick, and wonderful routines that are still remembered just as much as classic Greek mythology.
(Cut to an image of Bugs Bunny)
NC (vo): Like, the stories of Bugs Bunny could be retold...
(Cut to an image of a sculpture of Hercules)
NC (vo): ...as many times as Hercules.
(Cut to an image of Daffy Duck)
NC (vo): Or the stories of Daffy Duck could be told...
(Cut to an image of a bust of Zeus)
NC (vo): ...as many times as... this guy.
NC: (slapping his hands on the desk) You see?! Even Greek mythology has nothing on these guys! Or maybe...
(Cut to a poster for the Disney version of Hercules)
NC (vo): ...I just need to brush up on better sources.
NC: Bottom line: I love the Looney Tunes! But, something that's not often talked about are the Looney Tunes movies.
(Cut to a montage of clips from the movies in question: first, a variety of clip show films, such as The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie and Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, among others)
NC (vo): Yeah, they're just kinda brushed aside as glorified clip shows, which is understandable in some respects, but it's still a lot of great animators and classic directors taking another stab at the characters they made iconic.
(Cut to footage of two later films: Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back In Action)
NC (vo): And we did get more high-budget movies down the line, too. In my opinion, they're still worth talking about.
NC: So today, we're gonna look at every Looney Tunes movie that has ever graced the silver screen!
NC (vo): The qualifications are, they have to have been released in cinemas, and there has to be some new animation that was created for the project. It can't be a direct-to-video film, and it also can't be just a compilation of anything else.
NC: With that said, let's take a look at the first Looney Tunes film...
(Cut to footage of the first Looney Tunes film...)
NC (vo): ...The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, directed by the legendary Chuck Jones in 1978. Why focus on Bugs Bunny and Road Runner in particular? Well, because those are the ones everyone claimed Chuck Jones did the best. So it makes sense to have them at the center.
NC: Now, keep in mind, VHS was not really around much yet.
NC (vo): So if you wanted to see Looney Tunes, you just had to wait for them to come on TV, and even then, it was just kind of random episodes. This was the first time you could see a specific group of the cartoons all together; specifically, the works of one of the greatest directors. To tie them together, they animated new footage of Bugs Bunny from his Frank Lloyd Wright-style home, introducing each short with a brief narration. He references the animators who created him, a brief history of chase comedy – that only a cartoon character could make up, and even some of the brief themes of why these shorts still hold up. It's kinda nice seeing Bugs more relaxed in between the shorts, like he's lived this whole adventurous life and now he's just reminiscing about it. It levels out, though, with some of the greatest cartoons and timing and energy to ever hit the screen, balancing calm and subdued with wild and insane perfectly. It's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're a Chuck Jones fan.
NC: But another great Bugs Bunny director named Friz Freleng thought his adventures shouldn't be over; they should keep going.
(Cut to footage of the next Looney Tunes film, The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie)
NC (vo): So he took over the next several Looney Tunes films, beginning in 1981 with The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie. While this was also a compilation of classic cartoons, it tried to weave more of a narrative. It weaves kind of like an anthology, this time focusing on Friz Freleng's greatest hits. The first act focuses on Yosemite Sam cartoons. He's trying to bargain his way out of Hell, with the devil saying he'll let him go if he has Bugs take his place. As you'd imagine, a many hating of rabbits ensues. The second act focuses on a parody of The Untouchables. These mostly focused on shorts with Rocky and Mugsy. They're popular gangster characters Bugs always takes down. The final part is an awards show known as the Oswalds, satirizing the Oscars. Kind of like the previous movie, this shows the characters in a more relaxed environment, which, of course, results in them being anything but relaxed, ending in Bugs and Daffy inevitably duking it out in who deserves the award more. Now, the downside some people have pointed out with some of these clip movies is that the narrative changes the structure of the joke.
(Cut briefly to the previous movie)
NC (vo): With the first one, Bugs introduces a cartoon untouched.
(Cut back to the second movie)
NC (vo): But here, there's extra endings and intros that alter the original cartoons' intent. A gimmick that really dies hard (a shot of the poster for Batman: The Killing Joke is briefly displayed) in Warner Bros. animation. But to this one's credit, sometimes the jokes are made a little funnier. In the original cartoon Golden Yeggs, it ends with Daffy having to fill up several cartons with a surprising new gift of laying golden eggs. In the original, it just kinda stops here, but in the movie, you actually see him do it! And the reaction is pretty funny!
Bugs: Is there anything we can get for you, old chap?
Daffy: (gasping for breath) Yes! Get me a p-p-proctologist! Right away!
NC (vo): On top of that, we still have the originals we can watch, and it's nice to see these characters' stories kind of grouped together, particularly characters who aren't as big as names as Rocky and Mugsy.
NC: The film did so well that they quickly rushed out another one the very next year with...
NC (vo): ...1001 Rabbit Tales. This is the first one to have only one narrative throughout the entire film. But, given that they still have to squeeze in the shorts, it's pretty disjointed as you'd expect. Bugs and Daffy are now book salesmen, who are trying to compete for who can sell the most. They each go their separate ways and the rest is all the wacky adventures/stock footage that they come across. It jumps around a lot until Bugs enters the palace of Yosemite Sam and his bratty kid, who want him to read stories, or he'll chop his block off. While still creative in many ways, it does break a few unspoken rules. First off, it cuts off some of the classic punchlines. Like, in One Froggy Evening, the entire ending is scrapped with just him abandoning the green nuisance, leaving arguably the funniest part of the cartoon, as well as kind of the point of its existence, out. The part with the kid goes on a little too long, and I am not just saying that because he looks like a certain someone when he was younger...
(A picture of a young Doug Walker is shown above Prince Abba-Dabba)
NC: (irritated) That haircut was very in!
NC (vo): But, there are still some cool firsts in this movie. Like, not only was this the first one to have cartoons from combined directors, instead of just one, but it's also the first time Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice of Elmer Fudd, actually got credited for playing Elmer Fudd. (picture of) Mel Blanc had a contract that, for lower pay, he would take credit for voicing all of the Looney Tunes, even if he didn't voice them all. He still did the majority, but it wasn't all of them. Over time, though, the right people finally got the credit, and this was Arthur's first. The cartoons themselves are good, but not usually seen as the classic ones, so, in my mind, it's more of a fun little distraction than a compilation of their best work. But, as fun little distractions go, it does its job fine.
NC: That also did well, though, proving that not only are they profitable, but they're fast, cheap and easy to make. You only have to animate half the movie.
NC (vo): So the next year came Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island. This was obviously done at the height of popularity of the TV show (a shot of...) Fantasy Island, which, nowadays, for many people, would make about as much sense as doing a film on... (the poster for Wild Wild West is shown) Yeah. But, luckily, you can still follow it, even if you had never seen an original show. Daffy and Speedy Gonzales are trapped on an island, but come across a wishing well that can make their wishes come true. So they use one of their wishes to turn the well into a tourist trap to make tons of money. The majority of the film is just watching different characters come in, make a wish, and then show an already existing short, showing us how the wish went. It's probably the most rushed out of all of them. Not only in the animation and the story, but, half the time, it doesn't even make sense. Like Granny will wish to be a nurse, so she's suddenly in a hospital in the city, but then she's back on the island again like the cartoon just happened. It doesn't add up. The only thing that's both new and funny is that they have this opportunity to get off the island by simply making a wish, but they become so consumed with greed that everything goes wrong, and they end up exactly back where they started. It's a clever idea with enough funny shorts that it might be worth a glance, but it's nothing worth rushing out to see.
NC: And, I guess a lot of people thought the same, because it would take five years to get the final clip movie out, Daffy Duck's Quackbusters.
NC (vo): Yep, not inspired by any other (the Ghostbusters poster is shown) films here at all. This was the first one not to be directed by any of the classic animators, but it was also the first one to show some newer shorts that were running on TV, ones that didn't get quite as much playing time as some of the other cartoons. The premise is Daffy has inherited a bunch of money, but the ghost of the person who gave it to him haunts Daffy until he agrees to use the money for some good. Finding out that ghosts can exist, he sets up a team calling themselves "Paranormalists At Large", hoping this will calm the angry spirit before he makes all his money disappear. The connecting point of these cartoons is certainly the more dark and spooky, paranormal ones, which again, is nice to see in a collection in such a creative way. There are a lot of downsides to it, though. First of all, this was the late '80s, and compilation films just weren't making sense anymore, especially with everyone having access to a ton of Looney Tunes shorts on video. Some of them even organized by director and theme. Second, this was Mel Blanc's final appearance as the Looney Tunes before his death, and... it really shows. They all sound like they live their lives inhaling a Marlboro factory. They can no longer sync the old material with the new material. Just tell me if you can spot, simply by the voice, where the new footage stops and the old footage begins.
Daffy: (sounding slightly hoarse) Oh, and, uh, one more thing: anyone that works with me should never get me riled.
Porky Pig: Why not?
Daffy: (suddenly speaking in a voice from The Prize Pest (1951)) Because I'm a split personality!
NC: (startled) Dahh! Who took Daffy away?!
NC (vo): Out of all them, though, this was probably the... strangest of them. Which, in an odd way, I kinda got to admire. It's still imaginative and pretty out there, and anyone that liked watching the more Halloween-related episodes, now have them in a nice collection with a few additional laughs thrown in. If you can get through the obvious syncing problems and have a soft spot for these kind of clip movies, I'd say it's worth a glance. And thus, it'd be a whopping eleven years* before we ever got any new films from the Looney Tunes.
- NOTE: Space Jam came out in 1996, while Daffy Duck's Quackbusters came out in 1988, so it's really eight years.
NC: The good news is, they gave us phenomenal animation without any of the old clips being used! The bad news is, it's a Space Jam.
(The title screen is shown, before showing clips from the movie and NC's review of it while the YouTube Audio Library track "Find My Way Home" by Otis McDonald plays)
NC (vo): Yeah, if you watch one of my earliest reviews, you'll know I'm not exactly the biggest fan of it. It was based on a series of Nike commercials starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. Seeing how they were such a big hit, they decided to give them a movie that pretty much had the plot of a Nike's commercial. Aliens want a new attraction for their theme park, so they try to kidnap the Looney Tunes. But they challenge the aliens to a game of basketball, because... why not? And they call upon the help of Michael Jordan to help them out. Okay, my review goes into more detail about why this film doesn't work and why... you know it doesn't work, too. But, looking back years later, does anything stand out as particularly salvageable?
NC: Well... I will give it this. (beat) It is such a product of the times that's actually kind of fascinating.
NC (vo): This is when, literally, a commercial could be a movie, not unlike the Ernest films. It's when hand-drawn animation and live-action were amazingly blended, not unlike Roger Rabbit. It's when writers, who could barely write for an all-boy cast, suddenly had to shoehorn in a token girl whose only characteristic is not being objectified, while she... does nothing but try to be objectified. Even Bill Murray, who said the script for Ghostbusters 3 was never good enough, but said this script was good enough, as well as all of these...
(Posters for Larger Than Life, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Charlie's Angels (2000) and Osmosis Jones are shown)
NC (vo): Yeah, it is kind of funny looking back in hindsight.
NC: Years later, it is kind of fun to see these clichés that are so distinctly '90s.
NC (vo): I can't say that makes it good, but it does make it kind of enjoyable in a He-Man, Power Rangers, Saved By the Bell kind of way. It's a product of the times, and it's kind of charming in how dated it is. Again, not good, but an interesting time capsule.
NC: Which leads us to a final film in 2003, Looney Tunes: Back in Action.
(The title screen and the clips from the movie are shown as NC speaks)
NC (vo): Directed by Joe Dante, who you could argue already directed a Looney Tunes film... (a screenshot from Gremlins is shown) This one tries less to sell products and does take it back to its traditional looney ways. With mad scientists, spaceships, secret agents, ray guns, explosions, the whole kabam.
NC: And... By God, it tried.
NC (vo): The film centers around Bugs and Daffy making cartoons at Warner Bros., but Daffy goes AWOL, resulting in a security guard, played by Brendan Fraser, and the studio executive, played by Jenna Elfman, to go after him along with Bugs. But the president of the Acme Corporation wants to turn everybody into monkeys... And they have to stop that, too. Yeah. Even the movie acknowledges the plot is purposefully bullshit, which, I'll admit, is strangely kind of reassuring. It's good to know this is really just an excuse for jokes and funny animation and slapstick. The downside is, every time it feels like the animation portions get going, it suddenly feels like it comes to a whole whenever the live-action portions are on. Which is the majority of the movie! I don't care about these people, I don't care how much they try to act like Looney Tunes or be the straight man, or the love interest, or whatever... I want to see the Looney Tunes! Throughout most of the film, even when they're not on screen, you can see them trying so hard to get back on camera. Like even they know they should be in more of it!
(The segments NC describes are shown. Some clips from Space Jam are shown at one point as well)
NC (vo): The best scenes, though, are the ones that go totally animated. There's a space chase with Marvin the Martian, and a phenomenal scene where they go inside classic works of art and take on whatever style there is. Stuff like this and some really clever jokes show it has a better understanding of Looney Tunes than Space Jam, where all they do is just say some catchphrases. But, to Space Jam's credit, they knew to keep them in the animated world. That's where they're allowed to shine. Charile Chaplin once said about the Looney Tunes, "How can we compete? These guys don't have to stop to take a breath!" And that's what it feels like. Even when they do have legitimately funny performances like Timothy Dalton or Joan Cusack, it always feels slower when the Looney Tunes have to be in their real world, and not the other way around like in Space Jam. There, Michael Jordan is the straight man in this world of insanity. Here, it's just a bit of insanity in the real world. Which, with Looney Tunes, isn't nearly as much fun. Even Roger Rabbit kinda made up for it by having great characters and great story. But in this one, the story and characters admit they're just there to tell jokes. And when half the jokes can't be animated to their full potential, you can quickly see what the problem would be. But still, maybe for a Looney Tunes fan like I am, there's still a lot of inventive scenes and good jokes. You just gotta scrape through a lot of bad jokes and uninventive scenes to get to it.
NC: So, what does the future of Looney Tunes movies hold? It's hard to say.
NC (vo): They've ranged from being gigantic hits to gigantic bombs. It stopped taking what was originally meant to be just ten-minute shorts and stretched them out in an hour-and-a-half motion pictures. But the characters are still timeless and left us with hours of hilarity... (a scene from Space Jam where Bugs kisses Michael Jordan on the lips is shown briefly) And if something that's good can last this long, chances are we're gonna see a lot more of them in the future.
(The ending scene from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, where Bugs watches at the final caption "That's Not Quite All, Folks!", is shown)
NC: Especially if you can replace (a fan-made Space Jam 2 poster is shown) Michael Jordan with LeBron James, you can replace a body pillow with Kristen Wiig? (Lola Bunny from The Looney Tunes Show appears on the poster) Maybe? Maybe?! I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to!
(He gets up and leaves. After five seconds of showing us the empty chair, he runs back)
(The credits roll)