Ahead of the official launch on May 27th, HBO Max has released the first installment of the new Looney Tunes shorts, a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon called “Boo! Appetweet” and a Daffy Duck short called “Bubble Dum.”
“Boo! Appetweet” finds Sylvester mistakenly believing that he has finally eaten Tweety, but when Tweety comes back, he thinks that he is being haunted by a ghost. I liked this one because Tweety wasn’t provoked or malicious and Sylvester got what was coming to him. It was a simple formula of misunderstanding without meanness (unless you count the part where Sylvester devoured Tweety in the first place, I guess).
“Bubble Dum” is the weaker of the two mostly because it focuses on moments of gross out humor that the original Looney Tunes never engaged in and, so, it basically ruins the illusion that you’re watching an old episode. In this short, Daffy Duck picks up some gum off the street and chews on it (yes, I know) but, when he decides to dispose of it, he finds himself stuck. The humor isn’t nearly as sharp as the Tweety short and, as I said, the reliance on even the mildest gross out humor was unfortunate. What’s more, the gags are telegraphed ahead of time so that the entire affair becomes pedantic and predictable. The only touch of brilliance comes at the end when we learn that Daffy is stuck in a loop because it is just so unexpectedly random and such a throwback to the 40’s era of Looney Tunes, you have to wonder why the entire short wasn’t that weird.
To call these shorts a back to basics approach would be oversimplifying it. Aside from the voices of the beloved characters, as Mel Blanc insists on remaining deceased, these new cartoons feel like they belong in the original pantheon of Looney Tunes. The character designs harkon back to the classic, there’s no shoehorning of modern technology like texting or the internet, and even when pop culture references are made, such as Sylvester dressing up like a Ghostbuster, it’s short, sweet, and bound to go over some heads.
Perhaps that’s what I respected about these shorts more than anything else: They weren’t afraid of going over heads. In a way, they reminded me of Animaniacs or Freakazoid in that they made references to things that were waaaay before my time and, as I got older, I appreciated those jokes as if they were told to me the first time… a lot like the classic Looney Tunes did, only without much of the racism.
Even if the results of the first two shorts were mixed, the promise of this back to basics approach to these characters I quite literally grew up with is exciting enough to insure that I will be tuning in to HBO Max for my Looney Tunes fix when it starts streaming.