Space Jam: a new legacy, a sequel 25 years later to the 1996 commercial film Space jam, is also the first theatrical feature film to feature the famous Looney Tunes characters in 18 years. (Looney Tunes: back in action, a kind of official Space jam followed, flopped in 2003.) Their prolonged absence from the movies is a cruel irony, because the DNA of the original Warner Bros. cartoon shorts. has become entrenched in the history of American animated films, although the characters have struggled to move beyond a filmography that blends low-rent compilation films with the hagiography of basketball stars. Looney Tunes’ sensibility – burlesque, lopsided characters, and fourth-wall-breaking irreverence – has inspired many big-screen cartoons over the past 50 years, though Bugs and his company weren’t movie stars of renowned during this period. And now that they’re back, they’ve been reshaped by the movies they helped inspire.
The old Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts were produced in a contemporary and competitive fashion with much of the early Disney productions (hence the names, a piece on Disney’s “Silly Symphonies”), so the style Warner wasn’t much of a influence on Disney’s forays into feature film animation. For decades, the explosive slapstick of the Looney Tunes was something that Disney rarely fell into and under limited circumstances, like in the 2000s. The Emperor’s New Routine sharply rotated from post-Lion King epic punch-drunk, self-referential comedy. Or it has become a second-degree homage, like when the 2001 Pixar film Monsters Inc. paid tribute to Chuck Jones’ cartoon “Feed the Kitty”. (Part of what made these turns especially refreshing was their rarity.)
Throughout the 90s, a number of studios tried and most of the time failed to provide alternatives to Disney, including Warner, whose toon pickup Cats don’t dance had a bit of Hollywood zing Merrie Melodies. (Like so many Warner cartoons from this era, it fell apart bluntly.) Instead, the Warner Bros. playful verbal humor and inconsequential brutal violence continued to find an outlet in short animation, particularly the Looney Tunes- adjacent series Little cartoon adventures and Animans.
Eventually, Disney’s competitors found a place on the big screen, starting with DreamWorks Animation, whose first images like Antz and Shrek could claim a vaguely mature and reference-laden lineage that dated back to the Looney Tunes (as well as Rocky & Bullwinkle and The simpsons – or at least, the multitude of post-The Simpsons animated counterfeits). For the past 20 years, some of DreamWorks’ best cartoons have followed this muse into Warner-worthy territory, but not always for the duration of a feature film. The creature-heavy pursuit sequences that open at once Croods the movies, for example, look a bit like Roadrunner / Coyote pieces without any of the sketch-like power outages, just a carefree forward movement. Bee movie was mixed with an ironic curiosity, but the film’s real sensibility – that it seemed driven by the whims of adults, rather than the adoration of children – has some of the chatty, dialogue-rich nonsense of Daffy Duck later.
Bee movie wasn’t a success, but DreamWorks was so successful overall that it re-coded a bunch of Looney Tunes moves into hacking. Old Warner cartoons are often stuffed with then-contemporary references that are interpreted by future generations as charming or inexplicable eccentricities; how many dedicated viewers of The Bugs Bunny and Titi show on Saturday morning or Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon knew Peter Lorre as a real character actor, rather than some generic crazy cartoon scientist weirdo? DreamWorks productions like Shark story or Trolls take this process a step further. Rather than just making the fish characters look like celebrities like Martin Scorsese or Angelina Jolie, they use the authentic items as vocals and hire the real Justin Timberlake to sing caffeinated mixes of popular songs rather than parodies. What is the infamous DreamWorks Poster Face if not a bastardization of Bugs Bunny’s perpetually arched eyebrow?
While some of DreamWorks’ designs have an appealing cartoonish character, especially when they don’t make fun of their poster images, another animation studio’s styling owes Looney Tunes an even greater debt – with less propensity to blow everything up in a grand action movie. (There’s a little bit of it in almost every major animation studio, but DreamWorks is particularly guilty of it). Some productions of Sony Pictures Animation, such as the Cloudy with a chance of meatballs and Hotel Transylvania series, have rounded, often wide-eyed characters who crash and stretch like the inhabitants of the 1930s and 1940s shorts, with insane energy and exaggerated poses that sometimes remind one of the revered animator Bob Clampett. the Hotel Transylvania films are often tied to the suburban eccentricity of Adam Sandler, but in their flights of pure cartoon fantasy, director Genndy Tartakovsky can make them feel like a crazy gag could burst at any moment.
Sony Animation does not guarantee madness. The label includes images of talking animals that blend real shots and CGI from special effects companies, such as Peter Rabbit; more ambitious style experiments like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. the Machines; and downright garbage like The Emoji movie. Besides, even the Hotel Transylvania movies can seem more frenetic than funny, more bullshit than witty. This is where the DreamWorks cartoons often resemble and then stray from the Looney Tunes aesthetic as well. While many of them went without dialogue, some characters and series – Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, anything between Bugs and Daffy – revel in torrents of verbal eccentricities. Much of contemporary American animation does not trust its imagery to convey its stories and ideas, but these films mostly don’t trust dialogue to do anything other than accentuate and punctuate the action with verbal filler. The result is a barrage of empty sentences with the cadence of jokes: “It was awkward.” “I’m fine!” “The who in the what now?” “I have it, I have it… I don’t have it.”
Both forms of mistrust are everywhere Space Jam: a new legacy, which arrived in a very different animation landscape than its 1996 predecessor. The first film, mixing traditional 2D animation with Michael Jordan and other assorted celebrities, was essentially a less inspired expansion from the 1988s. Who wants the skin of Roger Rabbit. A new legacy also ape the vast multi-character IP boon of this Robert Zemeckis classic, as well as more recent variations like Ralph breaks the internet and Loan Player One. But far from Roger rabbitthe double act of Bugs Bunny / Mickey Mouse or the Daffy / Donald confrontations, the Looney Tunes in Jam space 2 feeling more lost and watered down than ever. Their new film feeds their features through a contemporary content machine, and they emerge as the worst DreamWorks trends they helped inspire. The influence of the Looney Tunes has been so heavily distorted that it is somehow capable of influencing the new Looney Tunes – and making them worse.
Even when New inheritance indulges in the chaos of cartoons, it’s not really “pulled” like classic Looney Tunes shorts, with their clear action shots, often in front of a fixed background. Instead, the virtual camera rolls and wobbles like one of the expensive sequences of The Boss Baby: family business. Part of that just changes styles and more sophisticated technology, of course, but it’s worth noting that these sequences aren’t particularly funny, even on their chosen level of chaos. It is chaos for itself, and the dialogue has been emptied of all playful words. Daffy Duck says “You are despicable” because that’s what he said in classic cartoons, but the rest of the time he recites meaningless fake jokes like “So this happened. “Bugs Bunny barely has time for pithy remarks or playful shots in front of the camera; he’s too busy trying to fit the designation” Looney “into a slogan. (As in” If We Go Out , we’re releasing Looney! ”)
A new legacy is an eerie, sometimes bittersweet reminder that Looney Tunes style, whether pure or watered down, hasn’t really belonged to Looney Tunes in a long time, at least not on the big screen where it started. It’s still blooming on TV, where a slew of new Looney Tunes shorts, many of which are pretty good, have been stocked up and are available on HBO Max. He sometimes escapes on the big screen, sometimes even via Warner. Joe Dante, including Looney Tunes: back in action is much closer to the spirit of the original cartoons than either Space jam film, has made a career out of this influence, translating it into live-action with the likes of Warner Gremlins 2: the new bundle. (Like so many WB characters, the Gremlins are reduced to a meaningless cameo in Jam space 2.)
And few American animated films have been as lawless and character-based as Teen Titans GO! At the movie theater, a featured version of Cartoon Network’s long-running superhero comedy, which typically airs in short 12-minute bursts. As a half-promotion, half-parody, the series recently released a feature film where rowdy heroes watch, admire, and heckle the original. Space jam. It’s a cross-promotion opportunity, sure, but it’s the one that finds the Titans where Looney Tunes used to hang out: commenting on pop culture and following their eccentric personalities. Their new film makes it clear that Warner’s idea of a “New Legacy” involves them scrambling for attention amid the minions, Boss Babies, and Shreks they helped spawn.