Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Bugs Bunny Show and cartoon packaging

The Bugs Bunny Show (Warner Brothers/ABC-TV 1960)

I love the way they presented cartoons in the 1960s. Cartoons would be bookended by rousing title songs and introduced by bumper animation between the story cartoons. This was a great way to present "old" cartoons but make them seem as if they were new and special.

The bumpers featured Bugs, Daffy and the gang talking directly to the audience. This made us feel like the characters were real and our close pals.

I don't know who came up with this format first but it's a brilliant concept. Was it Mighty Mouse Playhouse?

The other kind of classic cartoon format is the non-formatted "grab-bag" cartoon block. The syndication model. We used to watch "Cartoon Carnival and "Cartoon Party" and a million variations of these local TV packages. They would run classic cartoons, but mix together different studios and eras. The prints were usually pretty crummy too.

The effect of this sloppy packaging cued us in to the fact that these were "the old cartoons" and though many were entertaining, they didn't get the full impact of the packaged cartoon shows that seemed like they were specially-made . Syndicated cartoon shows seemed like they were bargain-basement leftovers. It didn't help that they would mix classic fully animated cartoons with super low-budget made-for-TV cartoons, like the Al Brodax Popeyes, Dodo, Hercules, Lippy The Lion and such.

When I was consulting for the early Cartoon Network, they had whole 3 hour blocks of "used-cartoons" like "Down Wit' Droopy D" and I explained my theory to them.

What I really wanted to do, was repackage the 40s Looney Tunes in a similar way that WB packaged the 50s Bugs and Daffy cartoons into the Bugs Bunny Show.

I wanted to make a new title sequence and bumpers, only in a style that would be a caricature of the Clampett-Avery 40s version of the characters.

The Bugs Bunny Show aired on Saturday afternoons at 5:00 when I grew up (sponsored by The Kraft Teddy Bears), and I always ate my TV Dinners and Salisbury Steaks on my Cartoon TV tray while laughing uproariously to Chuck, Friz and McKimson cartoons.

I wish they would go back and re-attach all the specially made bumpers and the original "This Is It" Theme song intro to the 50s Looney Tunes package and re-air them (and go back to the original un-remastered prints).

This kind of presentation does a lot to make kids think the cartoons are new and not recycled cartoons.

Hanna Barbera and many original TV cartoons also used this fun format.

They restored a few on this set and it's really fun way to watch cartoons.