Release by: Warner Bros.
A nnounced for september 2005
the new Looney Tunes characters generation in the adventures
of the Loonatics.
descendents of the original Looney Tunes crew will
gain superpowers in Loonatics, a new franchise property
coming to Kids WB this fall, the network announced
today. The series is one of three new and four returning
series that Kids WB announced for its 2005-06 season.
Set in the year 2772, Loonatics will be an "over-the-top,
high-octane action-comedy" featuring revised
versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner,
Lola Bunny, Tasmanian Devil and Wile E. Coyote.
Using special abilities and an irreverent sense
of humor, the six will battle the evils of Acmetropolis.
The series will air on Saturdays at 9:00am (ET/PT).
This morning's print edition of The Wall Street
Journal quotes Warner Bros. Animation president
Sander Schwartz as saying that reaction in test
groups to the series has been "phenomenal."
WB seeks revitalized
cartoon franchise with new look for Bugs Bunny and
Thursday, February 17, 2005
By Brooks Barnes, The Wall Street Journal
Talk about extreme makeovers. Take a look at what's
happening to Daffy and Bugs.
Hoping to breathe new life into its animated Looney
Tunes franchise and prop up the WB television network's
slumping Kids' WB line-up, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner
Bros. is planning to launch a new cartoon series
this fall based on "re-imagined" versions
of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Lola
Bunny, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
Warner Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking
versions of the classic Looney Tunes characters
for its new series, dubbed "Loonatics"
and set in the year 2772. Names for the new characters
haven't been finalized, but they are likely to be
derived from the originals: Buzz Bunny, for example.
Each new character retains personality quirks of
the original. The new Bugs, for example, will be
the natural leader of the Loonatics' spaceship;
the new Daffy will remain confident that he is the
one who should be in charge.
Warner Bros. isn't sending the venerable original
Looney Tunes cast into retirement. But it is trying
to update the characters' appeal among modern kids.
The classic characters were wisecrackers who rode
their irreverent humor to stardom in the 1940s.
The challenge now for Warner Bros. is to find a
fresh way to tap the funny bone of an audience raised
on Bart Simpson and SpongeBob SquarePants.
"The new series will have the same classic
wit and wisdom, but we have to do it more in line
with what kids are talking about today," says
Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation.
The plots are action-oriented, filled with chases
and fights. Each character possesses a special crime-fighting
Sounds familiar? The format echoes a successful
show Warner Bros. launched in 2003 on its WB network
and Cartoon Network called "Teen Titans,"
about five teenage superheroes. The series, featuring
dark, futuristic characters, based on such DC Comics
personalities as Robin the Boy Wonder, quickly became
a hit. It ranked No. 26 among kids programs for
the fourth quarter last year.
With "Loonatics," Warner Bros. thinks
it may have TV's next blockbuster cartoon on its
hands. "The reaction by kids in test groups
has been phenomenal," says Mr. Schwartz.
Given Warner's mixed track record over the past
two decades with the Looney Tunes franchise, advertisers
may be wary. Steven Spielberg sparked things up
in the early 1990s with "Tiny Toons,"
a series in which new characters interacted with
the originals. But a 2002 effort, "Baby Looney
Tunes," has been a dud for the Cartoon Network,
where it ended the fourth quarter ranked No. 104
among kids programs.
Efforts to juice up Looney Tunes on the big screen
haven't fared much better. "Space Jam,"
starring Michael Jordan, turned a profit back in
1996. But "Looney Tunes: Back in Action"
bombed last year: The movie, which cost $80 million
to make, grossed just $21 million in the U.S., according
to box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.
(It grossed an additional $48 million outside the
U.S., Warner Bros. says.)
It's a risky time to launch an expensive Saturday-morning
cartoon. Kraft Foods Inc., which spent about $90
million on children's advertising in 2004, said
in January it would stop advertising junk food to
kids under 12. The company's decision, coming as
the food industry generally is shifting kids advertising
dollars to the Internet and videogames, is expected
to result in softer ad sales. The kids "upfront"
market, when $700 million to $800 million in national
kids-TV advertising is sold to deep-pocketed marketers,
kicks off today.
"It doesn't take a genius to look at the trouble
in the toy business and what's going on in the food
business to see that the overall kids market is
particularly weak," says Jon Mandel, co-chief
executive of Grey Global Group Inc.'s MediaCom.
It's not as if the Kids' WB has much of a choice
about whether to be so aggressive. At a time when
the behemoths of kids TV -- cable TV's Nickelodeon,
Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel -- are gaining
or stable, ratings on broadcast TV's Kids' WB have
So far this season, the network's Saturday-morning
viewership is down 26 percent compared with a year
ago among children from two to 11 years old, says
Nielsen Media Research. Lisa Quan, an analyst for
ad-buying firm Magna Global, a unit of Interpublic
Group of Cos., says the network's average audience
has shrunk about 40 percent compared with its peak
two years ago, when cartoons such as "Pokemon"
and "Yu-Gi-Oh" were white hot. "The
WB has had a long, hard tumble from grace,"
Ms. Quan says.
David Janollari, president of entertainment for
the WB, says he has no illusions about how much
work the kids division has ahead of it. "We
simply need a new crop of big hits," he says.
"This audience is finicky and quickly gets
itchy for something new." At the same time,
however, the WB notes that it remains a strong No.
1 on Saturday morning among Saturday morning broadcasters
-- Walt Disney Co.'s ABC is in second place -- and
that ratings have improved recently.
Warner Bros. has been criticized for standing still
during the late '80s and early '90s at a time when
Disney was reaping huge profits from its cast of
animated characters. But Warner has shown in recent
years that it can launch new cartoons that rain
profits: Warner released three "Pokemon"
movies following the WB's successful 1999 launch
of the cartoon series, along with an avalanche of
toys and other licensed products.
"Loonatics" is part of a wider effort
by Warner Bros. to boost classic franchises: A new
Batman movie and a remake of "Superman"
also are in the works. The potential revenue is
massive: If "Loonatics" is a hit on Saturday
morning, for example, it is likely to ripple through
the company's merchandising, home-video and movie
divisions. "That's the ultimate goal of all
kids programming," says Mr. Janollari. "If
we score, it's a gold mine."