One of the biggest surprises from HBO Max's celebrated debut on the streaming cycle was just how excellent Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes Cartoons update is, in comparison to the classic animated shorts of yesteryear. Even beyond the top-notch quality, the new series has surprised many to become one of HBO Max's most popular post-launch titles. But not everyone was able to notice the rather distinct change that separates this new Looney Tunes series from the Golden Age era: neither Elmer Fudd nor Yosemite Sam uses guns when going after Bugs Bunny.
That's right, the production team behind Looney Tunes Cartoons made the relatively monumental decision to avoid using the kind of gunplay humor that was inherent to the humor of the Bugs vs. Daffy short "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!" and many other toons featuring Elmer Fudd and others hunting wascally wabbits. Here's how executive producer Pete Browngardt put it when talking to the New York Times:
We’re not doing guns. But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.
Pete Browngardt didn't make a big deal out of declaring Looney Tunes Cartoons to be adhering to gun-free storytelling, but it seems clear that the decision was made as a response to real-world concerns over gun laws and advocacy for firearm safety. To be sure, you won't see Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd coming out and saying anything negative about gun ownership; the animated series is far more concerned with giving younger viewers an endless series of hilarious slapstick gags as opposed to getting directly political.
As Pete Browngardt put it, Looney Tunes Cartoons' lack of shotguns, rifles and pistols doesn't mean the HBO Max series has completely eschewed all forms of violence. Fans will still see the franchise's signature rivalries in full display. After all, how could we expect Wile E. Coyote to go after the Road Runner if he doesn't have access to an assortment of highly self-destructive ACME weapons at his disposal? And could Sylvester ever be truly content in life without trying to chow down a stick of dynamite that's painted yellow to look like Tweety?
Of course, not everybody on Earth was automatically going to appreciate Looney Tunes Cartoons for finding ways to de-escalate the violent content by eliminating the use of firearms. One of the show's animators, Michael Ruocco, took to social media this weekend to defend the show's decision and to call out those who spoke out against it.
Understandably, the newer Looney Tunes shorts would have probably needed to bring more high-powered weaponry into the show in order to modernize things, since the classic shorts already covered such a wide variety of gun-centric visual gags. One can only watch Daffy Duck's bill get shotgun-blasted to the other side of his head before it gets a bit tiresome.
Thankfully, removing guns from the equation hasn't stopped Looney Tunes Cartoons from being just as goofy, colorful and weird as fans would expect. And it sounds like the creative team went above and beyond to make the newer series stand out in such ways, to the point where not everything they created has been deemed suitable to roll out as part of the new Looney Tunes lineup. According to Pete Browngardt, fans might see some of the show's more extreme shorts showing up somewhere beyond HBO Max.
Some of them have maybe gone a little too far, so they might come out in a different format. Maybe they’ll come out packaged for an Adult Swim type of thing.
Adult Swim and its parent company Cartoon Network both fall under the Warner Bros. umbrella, so it wouldn't be the biggest leap in entertainment logic for some of the classic Looney Tunes characters to show up for more extreme adventures alongside Rick and Morty and The Shivering Truth. It would definitely be a bizarre leap, to be sure, but not the most convoluted one. Personally, I want to see the already reference-heavy Rick and Morty go to Wackyland to meet up with Yoyo Dodo.
With roughly 200 shorts planned already for Looney Tunes Cartoons' run on HBO Max, streaming audiences can currently catch the first ten episodes streaming now. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more news on Bugs Bunny's return to the big screen for Space Jam 2 and more about what's hitting the small screen this summer.