HBO Max’s Looney Tunes: Behind the Scenes with Bugs and Porky Image

So much animation is digital nowadays. Nothing against computer animation, but there’s a certain warmth to this hand-drawn, cartoonist approach to storytelling. It also arguably ages much better than computer animation. Was it a deliberate choice to hark back to the good ol’ days, and what are your thoughts about it?  

BB: I wasn’t involved in that decision, but what I can probably tell you is yes, I think Pete [Browngardt], our showrunner, probably said, “I want to do classic Looney Tunes.” From the gags to the designs to the music – and I’ve been playing this character for thirty years through various incarnations – this is the closest thing that we’ve done to what feels like the Looney Tunes from the 1940s.

EB: Before voiceover, I was editing animatics, sound effects, and music. I was never a storyboard artist, I was never a background changer, but I did do character layout, which is kind of a position that doesn’t exist anymore, because of shrinking budgets in television and animation. Now they have the storyboard artist really draw the episodes. Most storyboard artists in the present day are practically animating these characters. It’s kind of amazing, as a voiceover artist, to go into the sound booth. The storyboard artist and director are taking me through the story visually, and I’m looking at it, and there are so many drawings, they’re practically animating it – which leaves zero room for error on the animator’s side. It’s nice, you know? You spend a little bit upfront with the drawings – and time with the storytelling – and the animator has to follow exactly what the blueprint is. Some of it definitely looks hand-drawn, and you can tell in some areas where they were trying to save a little bit of money. But that harkens back to even the original run, where you could see the shorts that were definitely handled with care, and there were some shorts that were kind of like, “Eh, okay,” you know? [In Daffy’s voice] “As they say, variety is the spice of life!

“…some of the things that I am trying to do in the performances of these characters go as far back as the 1930s/early 1940s style.”

What are some of the challenges you faced when voicing your characters?

BB: For this particular series, I’m not feeling much of a challenge… For me, [it’s] playing the character in situations that the character had never done. Over the years, I can remember doing something where Porky Pig was on a computer, or on a cellphone, or just relating to pop culture today, or doing music from today. We’re all used to watching the classic Looney Tunes from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. To put those characters into today’s pop culture can sometimes be a challenge. Sometimes, the writers aren’t able to marry the integrity of the character with today’s pop references. This particular series of shorts that we’re doing – it’s like we stepped back in time. It’s the perfect marriage of the classic Looney Tunes with the occasional pop culture reference. It doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything that feels like 2020. It feels like we’re doing a classic short from mid-century.

EB: Knowing that people like me are such freaks about the original. I’m such a die-hard fan of the original. I understand when I read a review or a comment on Twitter about how like, “Oh, it was almost there!” or like, “It’s just not quite Mel.” And it will never be quite like the original, but some of the things that I am trying to do in the performances of these characters go as far back as the 1930s/early 1940s style. I have to do the same with the acting. So this is long before Daffy Duck [in Daffy’s voice] “became greedy with money, you know? I’m doing the more crazy Daffy, woo-hoo!” [Switches to Bugs] “And same goes for Bugs. Bugs is kind of like the cool, sarcastic kind of character” that was done more in the later area of the original run, but I’m going back to the more high-energy, more wise-cracking, more troublemaking rabbit. I really do hope that people recognize that. It is such a specific taste when it comes to this, only because in the original run, it went through its own revolution. It started out one way, but it ended up another way, so the Bugs that you fell in love with first depends on how old you were when you saw these cartoons. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, like me, and you watch every single one.

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  1. helen says:

    Great interview! 5⭐️!

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