More Dead Horses and the Beating Thereof, or Further Information On the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes


One thing I should have linked to in my post about Larry Doyle: in 2003, when his series of Looney Tunes was in production, he gave an interview to Toon Zone News about his approach to producing the cartoons. What’s intriguing about the interview, in hindsight, is that almost everything he says is unobjectionable. He says he wants to do cartoons that are “Wise-cracking and fun visuals, not jokey and sitcommy,” that the music will “mix original, classical, standard and contemporary melodies,” and that “neither these shorts nor the new movie [Back in Action] will be as bad as Space Jam, which was ****ing awful.” He sounds like someone who knows the traps a Looney Tunes revival can fall into and is trying to avoid them, and yet in the finished product, he walked right into all of them anyway: sitcommy stories and dialogue, bad music, a smarmy Space Jam attitude to the characters.

I’m not saying that to bash Doyle, by the way (I already bashed him in my other post; once is enough). What the interview demonstrates is something that applies to any creative endaevour: what you know as a fan and what you do as a creator are very different. As a fan of Looney Tunes, Doyle knew — as all fans do, or think they do — what the cartoons needed to be and what they needed to avoid. As a producer, he nevertheless came up with bad cartoons that made even worse mistakes than previous revivals of the franchise.

Something like this happens all the time in TV and film. When we watch a TV show or movie franchise go down the tubes, we are always tempted to think that it’s because the producers don’t understand the franchise and its needs as much as we do. And in some cases, it may be true that outsiders can see things insiders can’t (that’s why the insiders on TV shows keep track of what outsiders are saying, or why movies test in front of audiences). But in many cases, the producers and writers see all the same things we do, know all the “rules” of the characters as well as or better than we do, and still come up with a crappy product because things don’t work out the same in the execution as they do in theory (and because, in trying to sidestep an obvious mistake, you can wind up making the exact same creative mistake in a different way). Seeing a franchise decline is a painful experience because we feel like it could have been saved if the creators only saw what we see. But they probably did see it, and failed anyway.

Okay, enough with being all thoughtful; here’s possibly the worst of all the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes for animation, writing (even though, or perhaps because, it was written by The Simpsons‘ Jon Vitti), painful, mean-spirited gags, and rotten musical scoring (Family Guy‘s Walter Murphy was apparently unaware that Foghorn Leghorn’s theme is “Camptown Ladies” — so there’s one spot where it actually would help the creative person to know as much as the fans do).

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More Dead Horses and the Beating Thereof, or Further Information On the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes

  1. I assume you mean the dance off for where Camptown Ladies should have been used.

    Agree this was pretty bad – the egg gag with the hens was particularly awful.

  2. There's something really off-putting about the "laying eggs in excitement" gag as used here. I know it was used in the classic shorts ("Swooner Crooner," I think) but the execution there was so over-the-top it made it less offensive.

    In fairness to Doyle's Looney Tunes, I think it is worth pointing out that one short – "Attack of the Drones" – is actually a decent stab at what they were after. Written and directed by Futurama people, it just has much better jokes, sharper timing and better animation than any of the others, and I think is amongst the stronger latter-day faux-Looney Tunes I've seen. It would be interesting to see how the new shorts could have progressed if they'd kept making them, and hopefully tried to build on the approaches that worked.

    That said, all the others are almost unwatchable, so maybe we were spared the pain.

  3. I wish Warner Bros. would stop trying to revive these characters, given that the results over the last three decades or so have been pretty consistently dismal.

  4. I seem to remember an interview with Doyle after the cartoons were shelved where he admitted a lot of things went wrong. Outsourcing the animation and having scripts written by sitcom writers were things forced upon him by Warner Bros at the time. (Joe Dante went through a similiar hell on "Back in Action.")

    I've always felt bad for Doyle because I actually think he's a funny writer; "I Love You, Beth Cooper," is a very funny book, and his website is host to a number of amusing things he's written over the years. But he's got some bad luck.