Can a Looney Tunes Movie Not Bomb? Part 2

As Jason already mentioned in part 1, a new Looney Tunes movie has recently been announced. Now, understandably, people are more reluctant than enthusiastic about this news, especially in the wake of Looney Tunes: Back in Action. But I personally didn’t think that LT: BiA was all that terrible a film. Not a great movie, but not the abomination that so many thought it was. I liked Back in Action; the problem is I didn’t love it. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’d like to love a Looney Tunes project again.

It’s wishful thinking, but I’d like for this movie to do for the Looney Tunes what Joss Whedon’s The Avengers did for superhero movies. The Avengers was awesome. It was well-done, impeccably handled from Iron Man all the way up to the big team-up film at the end, the cast and crew worked their collective asses off to make that film work, and it paid off. That’s what I’d like to see happen in the next Looney Tunes project. I’m not saying that this Jenny Slate is the one who can deliver the goods, but hopefully there will be enough people behind the scenes who actually care about the characters and aren’t just interested in making a quick buck.

Here’s all that’s known about it right now:

  1. The film is being written by Jenny Slate, a former Saturday Night Live cast member and co-writer of the web short Marcel, the Shell with Shoes On.
  2. The film will be a CGI/live-action hybrid.
Among the more memorable comments I’ve read upon hearing this news was this statement in regards to the latter:
“For that reason alone, I hope it bombs as bad as LT:BiA. “

For the life of me, I’ll never understand all of this hate for CGI. I understand if one just prefers hand-drawn animation over CGI, but wanting a new project to fail just because it’s CG? That I don’t understand at all.

It’s sad how some folks allow themselves to get so butt-hurt over the prominence of CG animated movies that quality doesn’t matter to them. You should want the movie to be good. Simply being traditional hand drawn animation doesn’t instantly make the movie good and just being CG animated doesn’t instantly make the movie bad. Refusing to watch a movie or hoping it bombs just because of how it’s made is a really closed-minded thing to do. It’s one thing to be disappointed by the lack of traditional animated movies and another thing to refuse to watch or hope for the failure of potentially good movies because they’re not made the way you want them to be. Wishing for a movie to crash and burn will not bring traditional animation back.

I wouldn’t mind seeing more traditional hand-drawn animated movies myself but films like Meet the Robinsons, Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph were still good movies. They showed that the type of animation doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it. CGI doesn’t automatically mean something’s bad and animated movies shouldn’t be shunned or ignored for that reason alone. This mindset annoys me to no end. Quality is what matters, not how something is made. Quality.

Is CG overdone in American animated films? Yes, a little. But who’s fault is that? If one wants to blame someone for the overabundance of CGI over hand-drawn animation in American animated movies, don’t blame the film producers or the movie studios, blame the American movie-going public, because by and large they aren’t going to see hand-drawn animated movies. Studio bigwigs don’t care about how “more artistic” or “more authentic” hand-drawn animation is, they care about profit, and regardless of whether it was the fault of bad writing, poor scheduling, faulty marketing strategies or what-have-you, the fact remains that Shrek and Tangled performed better in the BO than The Princess and the Frog and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and the Powers That Be take that to mean that CG movies put more butts into seats than hand-drawn features, and that’s why 9 out of 10 animated movies are in CG now. Anyone who wants to see more hand-drawn animated features in the future should show greater support for the few that come out in the present. It would only take 1 hand-drawn feature to rake in Toy Story or Shrek-sized box office numbers for other studios to get dollar signs in their eyes and follow the trend and then we’d see a second coming of hand-drawn animated movies.
Another unique statement I read in response to the news that this film would be CG was this:
“I don’t (like the idea of CGI Looney Tunes) since I believe Looney Tunes is funnier in 2D because of their expressions they made in the originals. CG characters in my opinion don’t have that many funny expressions.”
OK, first, not all CGI is 3D. 3D is a visual perspective, not an animation style, and 3D existed long before the creation of CGI. Regarding the “evils” of CG: CG can’t do expressions properly, CG doesn’t look genuine, etc., I have 2 counterpoints to that argument: 1 of them is the Hulk in The Avengers. (Yeah, I guess you can tell I enjoyed The Avengers.) As far as live-action goes, Hulk was made for CGI. There’s no way that the filmmakers could’ve accomplished half of what they did with Hulk if they had just sprayed some dude with green makeup. You need only look at how lame the Thing came off in the Fantastic Four films to see how the producers of those movies should’ve stuck with their first choice and made Thing a CGI effect. If The Avengers’ producers can do what they did with a ‘realistic’ comic book character, then I don’t see how doing the same thing with ‘funny cartoon’ characters would be too much of a stretch.
The other counterpoint I’d like to cite is Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. The trailers for that movie look amazing. The marriage between the various art styles looks incredible. So CG can do great things if handled professionally by people who care about the product.
 Personally, I honestly don’t care how an animated movie is rendered as long as the end product is good. I don’t see CGI as this great Satan that so many others do; it’s just another way of presenting a story to me, and like all animation styles, I’ve seen good and bad examples of each.  As long as the movie doesn’t look cheap and the characters act like themselves and don’t just spout out buzzwords and fart jokes, and as long as the script is a decent one, I’m all for a new Looney Tunes project, CGI or not.

Take a look at these 3 recent short clips and tell me how “awful” and “expressionless” CGI is:

There. Were those really so bad? If WB made a movie or a TV show like these shorts, I’d watch the heck out of it.

The other (well, one of the other) major complaints I’ve read regarding this movie is the fact that it’s part live-action; in fact, some have questioned why a Looney Tunes movie needs any live-action elements at all? Surely, we could get a Looney Tunes movie with just the Looney Tunes alone, all animated?

Regarding that,  it’s likely that present day Hollywood doesn’t think that the Looney Tunes are capable of carrying an entire movie on their own (especially given their less-than-impressive track record with features as of late), unless said movie were just going to be a compilation of old shorts with original linking material, and there’s no need for another one of those with the majority of the shorts being available for viewing in other other outlets, nor would I personally want see another film like that, as that formula’s been done to death. If Warner Brothers wants to keep the Looney Tunes relevant, they can’t just keep recycling their old material, they have to periodically update themselves and present us with something new which we haven’t seen a hundred times already.

The current mode of thinking in Hollywood is that most established older cartoons need to appear alongside big-name live actors in order to get more people into the box office. Familiarity and big-name stars have always been an easy way to increase box office numbers; folks are generally more inclined to go see a new movie if so-and-so from such-and-such is in it. But if this movie is intended to feature all or most of the core Looney Tunes characters as a group, then this technique can prove to be problematic, as the original shorts directors very seldom, if ever, used the characters all together for a singular story, especially not a feature-length story, save for those aforementioned compilation hodgepodge movies and TV specials, which again consisted of re-airings of the shorts with new linking material. Toss in live actors on top of that and some storyline involving how and why the cartoons and the live humans are together and having to create some sort of conflict for the characters to resolve and you’ve got a huge writing task on your hands, especially considering that you’re working with a set of characters who were never designed to carry out a feature-length plot in the first place.

This is why I think new LT shorts are a better idea than a new feature. Short subjects are what the LT characters were created for, and that’s where they shine. I really don’t think there’s some magic formula that Hollywood has yet to hit on to make a Looney Tunes feature film work; I don’t think the Looney Tunes are suited for feature films at all. A Looney Tunes movie has always been a bad idea and it always will be a bad idea. I could be proven wrong about that (and believe me, I’d like to be), but I’m not betting danger money on it.


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