One thing I lament a bit is the loss of the shared television experience. And in particular, the thrill of knowing a seasonal favorite was airing on a given night. These things seem to be dying as even Charlie Brown has found himself relegated to PBS. And it’s mostly due to these specials getting gobbled up by streaming platforms. There’s still a few that get seasonal airings, but their numbers are dwindling.
Once upon a time, a seasonal special was a surefire way to get some nice ratings during a holiday. That made them attractive for producers who went out of their way to create a holiday themed cartoon for their popular characters. And when it comes to cartoons, few could argue that the Looney Tunes weren’t near the top of the mountain in terms of popularity, or just sheer greatness. Bugs Bunny is a character that can lay claim to being top dog, or rabbit, in the field of animated characters. Want to argue Donald Duck or Popeye? Sure, they and others can make an argument, but so can Bugs. I’m not concerned with figuring out who is best, but I am reminded that Bugs and the gang once had their own holiday specials you could find on television at the right time of year. Unfortunately, they’re almost all bad. How can this be?! Bugs Bunny is fantastic! Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester – they practically write themselves! It’s an unfortunate reality though, as we saw with Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales, and the rabbit didn’t just get victimized by Christmas.
In 1977, CBS aired Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special. This could have been an annual viewing tradition, and it was for a little while, but fell by the wayside because it’s, well, not great. Come the 70s, Warner’s theatrical shorts division was dead and their vast cast of characters had pivoted to the small screen. The classic Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes were now airing in syndication with little in the way of original animation being created aside from wrap-around segments or commercials. Warner and CBS not surprisingly saw an opening to do a Halloween special because the Looney Tunes have dabbled with the macabre before. They could have, and probably should have, just rounded up some popular, spooky, cartoons and aired them in a block. Maybe they could have done some wrap-arounds too, or brought in a live-action host, and people probably would have tuned in. They did not.
Instead, Warner made the decision to take 8 classic (well, mostly classic) shorts and edit them together. Only they didn’t stitch them together with wrap-arounds, instead they tried to make the transition from one toon to the next seamless with new animation. This feels almost sacrilegious to cut up these cartoons like that. Some are even split in half with entire cartoons shoved in the middle. A-Haunting We Will Go is the first toon, and it gets chopped up to have four different cartoons inserted into it before it concludes. Now, maybe if the original directors were making these calls it wouldn’t be so bad, but none of them worked on this special. Hal Geer is the credited executive producer while David Detiege is the credited director who must have overseen the new animation and layouts. I don’t know if they tried to get Chuck Jones or Friz Freleng to do this thing, but presumably that would have cost money and they probably didn’t want to be a part of this.
If dicing up the cartoons feels bad enough, wait until you see the new animation! Holy Hell is it bad. Now, I don’t want to rag on the animators and artists involved. They probably had a shit budget to work with and Warner animation was a shell of its former self come the late 70s, but they couldn’t even get Bugs Bunny on model. It is immensely distracting to watch the old animation suddenly cut to the new, because Bugs looks about as different as he can. He looks like the bootleg Bugs that adorned VHS covers of public domain cartoons in the 80s. It’s bad. The audio is also noticeably different since Mel Blanc had gotten older. That can’t be helped, but it does just add to that jarring feeling.
If you can get past all of that, is there something to enjoy here? Yes and no. You get snippets of the old shorts in some cases which just isn’t very satisfying if they’re cartoons you’re familiar with. The pacing is off and most will be left feeling frustrated. Which is a shame, because most of these shorts by themselves are plenty enjoyable:
A-Haunting We Will Go
Hyde and Hare
Hyde and Go Tweet
A Witch’s Tangled Hare
Claws for Alarm
Some of these edits will confuse kids. The special goes right from Hyde and Hare to Hyde and Go Tweet which both feature Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but the character models aren’t the same. Claws for Alarm and Scaredy Cat are brutally cut up and quite lousy as a result, even though Scaredy Cat is a terrific toon by itself. And like the new animation issues, you’re also jumping from different eras of Warner shorts which have different production values. It also draws attention to the reuse common in these cartoons like Bugs’ witch costume and walk cycle being the same as Daffy’s nephew. I guess what I’m saying is, this special cuts up the cartoons while also drawing attention to their original flaws. Talk about a swing and a miss.
If you want to spend Halloween with Bugs Bunny and his friends, you can get this special on DVD. You won’t find it airing anywhere, but it is streaming for free in the usual places. It’s mostly an example of what not do do with these shorts. If you want to just experience some spooky tunes, watch the above mentioned shorts by themselves. Or see if you can get the Halloween edition of Toon in With Me that aired this morning. Maybe it’s on demand, but it has some of these cartoons and it’s far more well put together than this. There’s also a block of Looney Tunes airing tomorrow morning on MeTV that may or may not follow a spooky theme. The official Warner YouTube channel even has a bunch of Halloween cartoons on there for free which is way better than this, even if they’re edited. Basically, there are far better options when it comes to enjoying Halloween with Bugs and the gang.
When it comes to classic cartoons, few would argue against the merits of Warner Bros Studios’ Looney Tunes. Pretty much all of the major studios were invested in cartoon shorts in the 1930s into the 1960s and Warner was a gold mine for hilarious content. The Leon Schlesinger produced Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes churned out characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig like a well-oiled machine. Visionaries such as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and many more helped shape these characters and define cartoon comedy for generations. Everything that followed in animated comedy owes something to the Looney Tunes and the influence of those shorts cannot be overstated.
Despite their popularity, the characters of Looney Tunes have teetered on the brink of obscurity for years now. In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to find these characters and shorts on many networks in various packages. I would watch Nickelodeon’s Looney Tunes almost every night when I was a little kid as it was the last piece of programming on the network before Nick at Nite kicked in. And I loved pretty much all of the characters featured, yes, even Bosko, though I was always partial to the Road Runner shorts. The characters remained in the public eye through other shows and a fairly popular apparel line with the franchise probably peaking with 1996’s Space Jam, a bad movie with some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but one that is definitely a source for millennial nostalgia. Following that, there was a bit of a decline. Networks like Nick and Cartoon Network invested more of their resources into original programming and stopped licensing the shorts from Warner, while that company also sank money into new properties and kind of left Bugs and his pals behind. There was a movie in 2003 titled Looney Tunes: Back in Action and attempts to create new cartoons and rehabilitate old ones, but nothing really made much of an impact or had much staying power.
Now, the Looney Tunes are primed for a resurgence. New shorts are airing as part of HBO Maxx and they at least look good. I have yet to watch any since I’m not a subscriber, and I think that has hurt the property’s growth as I really don’t encounter much chatter online about these new shorts. There’s a new Space Jam film starring LeBron James set for release this year, and that could certainly help catapult these characters into the public conscious as nostalgia seekers who enjoyed the original movie as kids might use it as a vehicle to introduce their own children to these characters.
Perhaps we owe the new Space Jam for the Looney Tunes merchandise that is on the way. We certainly do for the line of Space Jam themed action figures now popping up at retail, but perhaps we also owe Space Jam a thanks for this new line of Minifigures from Lego featuring the Looney Tunes. There definitely is a shortage of Looney Tunes toys in the market. Before 2021, there wasn’t much to speak of at all in both the kid demographic and the collector market. With Disney now getting love from the likes of Super7 and Beast Kingdom, it would be nice to see the Looney Tunes experience the same. For now, we’ll have to take what Lego is providing and be happy that at least someone is making Looney Tunes toys in 2021.
The wave of 12 figures features some heavy hitters, and some not-so-heavy hitters. As far as I know, this wave of figures is the only Looney Tunes product Lego has unveiled, so if you were hoping they arrived with an actual set you may be disappointed. That could partly be due to the fact that there are no obvious locales to spotlight in a set. Bugs Bunny lives in a hole and many cartoons just take place in a forest. The Tweety cartoons take place in a generic house, while Porky is a bit more of an everyman who can be featured everywhere. Maybe Lego will get creative and do something like Duck Amuck! as a set, or the abstract Wacky Land. There are possibilities, for sure, just nothing obvious. Well, aside from Space Jam sets which may or may not be coming.
Like other waves of Minifigures, these all come in blind bags and are sold pretty much anywhere Lego is sold. They’re 5 dollars a bag and you can take a chance and just grab some off the rack or spend some time feeling them out. This set is not particularly hard to discern for those determined not to get doubles as, like the Disney and Simpsons waves, these characters feature unique head-sculpts which goes a long way in determining who is who. The only characters who really have a similar head-shape are Tweety and Porky, but both feature additional pieces that are a dead give-away like Tweety’s circular bricks for building his mallet and Porky’s rectangular sign. Overall, this is a small release though as the last Disney wave contained 18 figures to just 12 here. Some of that 18 may have been due to parts reuse (Huey, Dewey, and Louie were essentially the same figure 3 times), but I was still surprised at how small this wave was. Especially considering the characters left out, but maybe that’s a good sign that Lego is planning more? Or maybe Lego deemed some of the remaining characters too risqué for the company’s liking. Oh well, at least it’s easier on the wallet this way.
We’ll go in the order Lego displays the figures in on the included checklist, so first up is Lola Bunny. Lola was created for the original Space Jam and she is likely present in this line because of the new movie and because there are so few female characters from Looney Tunes to represent. This version of Lola sports a yellow tank top and purple shorts which really draws attention to the fact that she’s basically just adult Babs from Tiny Toons. She has a scrunchie in her ears which makes them look like a ponytail and it’s those ears you want to be on the look-out for when searching for this character. She also has a basketball, but it’s just an orange sphere with no printing with a hole on one end so that she can actually hold it. She looks fine, though I find it a little odd her mouth is basically just printed and not sculpted at all. I don’t know if anyone collecting this line really wanted Lola, but she turned out all right at least.
Next up is the iconic Bugs Bunny. He has his own unique head sculpt from Lola, though he does feature the same printed on mouth as her. His ears are the dead give-away when looking for him and he comes with a carrot, because he’s Bugs Bunny. This is the standard, licensing art, Bugs most are familiar with. He has white hands and the fur around his mouth is tufted as opposed to smooth. His tail, to my surprise, is just printed on his back. I was expecting a separate piece that went in-between his legs and torso. He looks pretty great though and is basically what one would expect of a Bugs Bunny Lego.
Wile E. Coyote is next up. Since I did so love the Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid I was really looking forward to getting that duo. Wile E. looks terrific. His head features probably the best sculpting in this wave as he has the tall ears, the snout that sticks way out with a slight droop, and the cheeks that puff out. There’s even a little sculpting on his eyebrows. He features a tail add-on that’s a bit odd. It’s a long, bushy, tail that looks like it belongs to a fox or raccoon. In the shorts, Wile E. always featured a rather diminutive tail, but Lego likely recycled this from a past figure. I do prefer it to a printed tail, at least. You can position it in either an up position or a down one. His accessory is an anvil that has to be assembled. It’s a bit odd looking for an anvil, but it gets the job done. Mostly, I just love how the face turned out so I’m happy.
Next up is Road Runner himself. This figure could have turned out really bizarre, but I’m happy to say he actually looks pretty good. The character is basically all legs with a small, but long, body. He’s essentially the opposite of a blocky Lego, but with a little effort they got him looking great. His head features the expression one would expect and it also has separate plumage that pegs into the top. At the waist is a tail piece that was possibly created just for this figure, while the arms are wings likely recycled from last year’s Big Bird. The legs are a bit plain as Lego declined to give him bird feet, but the overall aesthetic works well enough. His accessory is a bowl of bird seed, perfect for the coyote to lay down as a trap that will inevitably backfire in some way.
Tweety is our next figure and he’s a bit of an odd choice. He’s certainly popular enough to be featured in this inaugural wave, he’s just way out of scale with everyone else. Lego used their child legs for Tweety, which are non-articulated, to make him as small as possible, but he still looks pretty ridiculous next to any of the other characters. He might have made more sense as a small, non-articulated, figurine. His paint scheme is simple, so Lego could probably make him look fine. They took that approach with the Simpson pets. They didn’t though, and even though he’s out of scale, he at least looks okay. The head-sculpt is nice and he comes with a big mallet to smash Sylvester with that at least helps to make him look a little smaller. He’s still odd though because the cartoon character is almost all head with a tiny body and huge feet. He also has a printed tail like Bugs and Lola. Definitely not my favorite of the line, but not a total swing and a miss.
If you have Tweety, well then you need Sylvester too. Sylvester might be the most authentic looking of the line. His proportions look pretty good even adapted for this blocky Lego style, and Lego opted to give him a nice tail too. His head-sculpt looks terrific and his included accessory is the always useful baseball bat. Maybe he would have looked better with a frown, but otherwise I have no complaints. His likeness is almost so spot on that it makes him boring.
The always jealous Daffy Duck is another obvious inclusion in this wave of figures. Daffy is based on his later appearances which align with the licensing art for the character as opposed to his rounder, wackier, version. I love his head-sculpt and Lego made sure to attach a small, white, neck to it so he would have his trademarked ringed neck look. He also recycles the “duck butt” that Lego utilized with Donald and Daisy Duck to give him a touch more depth. His accessory is a “Rabbit Season” sign which makes about as much sense as anything for Daffy. Like Sylvester, one could argue it would have been more appropriate to give him an angry expression, but I like what we have here and as someone who loves Daffy Duck I am quite pleased.
Speedy Gonzales is next up, and like Tweety, he suffers from the same scale problems. Unlike Tweety, he doesn’t really make up for it with a nice head-sculpt. Speedy is one of those characters that was rarely shown head-on, and his head just doesn’t translate well to 3D. At least not at this size. His sombrero is molded to his head while Lego tossed in a mouse tail accessory. It’s a bit weird because it’s molded in the same color as his fur so he has a strip of fur between his shorts and shirt. If he was a character with an exposed belly all of the time this would be fine, but he really isn’t such a character. He uses the kid legs again, which is unfortunate because he can’t even be placed in a running pose as a result. His accessories are four cheese wedges, which is fine, though maybe a can-opener to torment Daffy would have been more fun. I think overall, he looks better than the sum of his parts when placed among the others, but he is one of the lesser figures in the wave. He also seems to be short-packed as he was the hardest for me to find when he really should be one of the easiest when feeling out bags because of his unique head shape.
The Tasmanian Devil is next up and he’s an interesting figure. First of all, he uses these short, stubby, legs like Tweety and Speedy, but his are actually articulated. Why doesn’t Lego just do this for all of their shorter characters? His head is rather massive and fits over much of his torso reminding me of a theme park mascot. It looks great though and helps to preserve the character’s stocky physique. Lego also included a whirling disc for him to stand on, in addition to the usual black stand. It doesn’t really work well as something to spin, but it’s a nice touch. He also has a turkey leg and a pie, since he sure did like to eat in the old shorts. He also features the same tail as Wile E. Coyote, and like that character, I question its suitability here. The Tasmanian Devil always had a stubby tail and I think over the years it’s a tail he’s mostly lost as the character’s design has been tweaked. I suppose if I really am bothered by it I could just remove it.
Marvin the Martian is our most conventional figure in this bunch. That’s because his head is just the usual small, round, peg done-up in black with two large eyes printed on it. For his helmet, Lego actually made it and the brush (?) on top of it all one piece rather than have it peg in. He also has a skirt piece, the only soft goods in the wave, and his little, green, blaster. He looks the part, though I wish they could have given his sneakers a bit more love, but Lego seems to prefer the square aesthetic of the feet. He looks good though and I quite like his little gun.
Petunia is the character in the line many might struggle to remember. She wasn’t featured a lot in the Porky shorts, and may be best-remembered as being one of the included toys in the McDonald’s Super Looney Tunes Happy Meals where she was Wonder Woman. Prior to Lola, Petunia got extra work since she was one of the few female characters featured in Looney Tunes, and she’s probably included here for that reason. Her head is actually different from Porky’s as her braids are part of the sculpt so this isn’t a case where she’s included to save money. I don’t really know if the outfit she’s wearing is what she featured in the old shorts the most. My guess is this is just the licensing art being used as a reference. She comes with a tea kettle and two tea cups so I guess her character is one that enjoys tea? She’s definitely not a character I would have requested so I find it hard to get excited over her figure. It’s fine though.
And rounding out the set is the always last Porky Pig. I don’t deny Porky’s popularity, but he’s never been a favorite of mine. He’s got his licensing art attire here which is what he often sported at the end of shorts: a blue jacket, red bowtie, and white gloves. He looks like Porky though and his accessory is the obvious “That’s all Folks!” sign that most definitely belongs in a Looney Tunes display.
Overall, I do quite like this line of Minifigures from Lego. While I prefer some characters to others, the only one that feels like a “dud” to me is Speedy, and even he’s really not that bad. I actually like him more than Lola and Petunia, but objectively speaking his likeness isn’t as good as theirs. Really, the biggest negative I can come up with is the character selection, and that could have been addressed easily by making the wave 15 or 18 figures instead of 12. My hope is that Lego is just holding back some popular characters for a second wave as Looney Tunes doesn’t feature a cast as deep as Disney, or even The Simpsons. It’s still hard to get over the fact that we have a Bugs though, without an Elmer! He’s definitely the biggest omission. Some may feel the need to point that Lego may not be too keen on giving us an Elmer with a shotgun, but he has other looks too. His more domesticated, bowler derby wearing, version doesn’t need a gun, or they could just go straight to What’s Opera, Doc? Elmer. Yosemite Sam is another one with gun concerns, but Lego has loads of pirate figures with musket-styled revolvers that would work fine for Sam.
Hopefully a wave two is in the works, because there are other characters to include like Foghorn Leghorn, Grannie, and Pepé Le Pew. There are also plenty of opportunities for variants of some of the characters present in this wave and I would not be at all surprised to see Toon Squad versions mixed-in, even if I’m not asking for them. Time will tell what Lego and the toy world has in store for the Looney Tunes, but it’s at least great to see these characters finally getting some more merch and a chance to shine.
If you are a regularly reader at The Nostalgia Spot, then you’re probably familiar with the holiday version that comes every December: The Christmas Spot. Christmas is such a big deal in our society that there is an abundance of Christmas themed media, enough to sustain an annual blog for 25 consecutive days. And people like Christmas, despite how much grumbling surfaces every year about decorations appearing in stores in October or the music filling grocery store aisles for weeks on end. I know people like it, because in all likelihood The Christmas Spot has more regular readers than the rest of the stuff I do. My readership always spikes in December and I assume there are a handful of readers that bookmark the page only to come around for December.
When it comes to television, no holiday compares with Christmas and the only one that comes close is Halloween. When I was a kid though, the holiday tier list when like this: Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving, any holiday that resulted in a day off from school, and then the rest. Christmas was number one because it was the big one: the toy holiday. I loved toys as a kid, and I still do, so it was a clear number one. Halloween came at number two because it was a unique experience, and it came with lots and lots of candy. Easter was like the compromise holiday. I had Catholic parents, but the religious aspect of the holiday was never enforced in my house so it was just a day that Santa-Light, aka The Easter Bunny, entered my home at night and hid a basket of goodies somewhere for me to find in the morning. That basket contained assorted Easter candies, all of which were awesome: Reese’s Eggs, pastel M&M’s, Peeps, Cadbury Eggs, and so on. Usually there was one central, big, piece of candy be it a chocolate bunny or one of those giant candy bars that went beyond a king size. In my house, the Easter Bunny also always brought a toy of some kind. Usually it was a modest thing. At most I seemed to get a couple of action figures or a small toy vehicle playset like a TMNT motorcycle thing or something. And that’s why Easter felt like a compromised merger of Christmas and Halloween in my house. There were toys, but way fewer than what Santa would bring, but also a good amount of candy, but not as much as I’d come away with on Halloween.
The combination of toys and candy, plus the fun of hunting for an Easter basket or Easter eggs, made Easter an important day in my house. And I carry forward that tradition now for my kids and I look forward to watching them experience the holiday each year. And in my house, holidays are marked by indulging in moves and television based around that holiday theme. For Easter, I’ve had to put in some work to find stuff. There’s an assortment of biblical videos and such that are just terrible. I mean, if you’re into that component of Easter and get enjoyment from them then more power to you, but they’re not for me. I look for the fun stuff that centers around rabbits and junk. Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve put together a solid collection of Easter specials for my kids and I to take in this year and I thought I’d share that with you all. It might seem a little late in the game with Easter so close, but we’re not talking a massive volume here. And most are suitable for all audiences, so that’s a plus, though I did include one that would probably best be reserved for adults only, or at least teens and adults. And I should stress, I’m not saying these are all necessarily good or essential, there’s definitely some crap here, but it’s crap that at least has nostalgic appeal. And when you’re talking one, annual, viewing there’s a considerable tolerance level in place. Let’s get this going and we’ll go in chronological order of release starting with…
I can hear this image.
Easter Yeggs (1947)
The classic Easter themed Bugs Bunny short directed by Robert McKimson is probably best remembered for the annoying little kid that just says “I want an Easter egg!” over and over. He, like everyone else in the short, is voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc. In this cartoon, Bugs Bunny agrees to help out the Easter Bunny whom he stumbles upon early in the short who appears to be pretty stressed out over this whole Easter thing. Turns out he’s actually just lazy, but Bugs is game and finds out that being the Easter Bunny is no fun. He eventually encounters Elmer Fudd who has designs on consuming the Easter Bunny (what a killjoy) leading to a fairly traditional Bugs and Elmer cartoon. Which is just fine because Bugs Bunny cartoons are pretty wonderful and I need to write about them more. If you want to watch this one, it’s available as part of The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 and I can’t recommend the entire Golden Collection enough. It’s also available in HD on the Platinum Collection Volume 3. If you’re strapped for cash though, it can easily be found online for free.
He’s just so cute!
Happy Go Ducky (1958)
I completely forgot about this cartoon until this year when I just happened to stumble upon it. This is a Tom and Jerry short from the tandem of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who are better known for producing some of the worst cartoons you’ve ever seen. Back in the 40s and 50s though, they were the Tom and Jerry guys churning out award-winning cartoons to rival what Warner and Disney were doing. This little short features an appearance by Quackers, a seldom-used duckling character voiced by Red Coffee doing his best “duck” voice a-la Donald Duck. Quackers is just adorable, as he’s left as a gift for Tom and Jerry by the Easter Bunny, but proceeds to drive them nuts as he floods the home in search of an adequate swimming pool to meet his needs. The sweet thing is that he eventually overwhelms and wins over the duo with his cuteness. Watch this one with young kids and you’ll be hearing them imitate Quackers, as best they can, and his frequent line, “Happy Easter!” This short is available as part of the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Volume 3 which is still easy to find and cheap to acquire (especially if you opt for a used copy). It can also be found online, but many places feature a cropped version that probably aired on television years ago as this cartoon was originally done in Cinemascope. Interestingly, there’s an edited version on YouTube just titled “Happy Easter” that isn’t cropped, but is missing several scenes as nearly 2 minutes were shaved off of the running time. This might be my favorite of this list.
Snoopy helping Linus avoid more embarrassment. He’s a good boy.
It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)
You can always count on The Peanuts gang for a holiday special. These kids even have an Arbor Day special, for crying out loud. Charlie Brown and his friends seem to have a problem with everything, including Easter. For Peppermint Patty, it’s teaching her friend Marcy how to color eggs. For Sally, it’s finding the right pair of shoes for the holiday. And for Linus, it’s people mocking him for his belief in an Easter Beagle. As was the case with Halloween, Linus appears to have picked the wrong holiday mascot to back. What’s rewarding is the other kids remind him of his Halloween foolishness, but he’s somewhat vindicated in this one. And then there’s Lucy, getting victimized by Snoopy once again. Despite the title, Charlie Brown plays a very small role in this one though he still gets reminded that he is indeed Charlie Brown come Easter. This cartoon gets bonus points for making a good Christmas joke when the kids go to the mall and find it already decorated for that holiday. See people, it’s not a new thing to complain about Christmas arriving early in stores as this thing was made in 1974. Strangely, it doesn’t look any network is airing this special this week (I may have missed an earlier airing this month), but it is available to stream on Amazon. Or you could be like me and just buy a DVD to watch at your leisure each season. Charlie Brown holiday DVDs and Blu Rays are often really easy to find at a cheap price during the offseason. And as a bonus, you’ll get that Arbor Day special!
This one just might cause you to miss the old shorts.
Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-citement! (1980)
After the era of the cartoon short ended, but before the explosion of cable providing for a landing spot for old cartoons, Warner Bros. put their now meager staff to work making television specials starring the Looney Tunes characters. Many of them featured Bugs Bunny and some included old shorts with some new wrap-around animation connecting them, but many also featured all new toons. The catch for these though was that the quality was abysmal. If you thought the Warner shorts of the 50s looked poor then you better make sure you sit down before watching anything made in the 70s or 80s. Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-citment is no except as it looks downright terrible in some places. There’s a shot of Daffy and Sylvester both digging for food out of the trash that is so garish and bright it makes me feel ill. This TV special contains three new shorts: The Yolks on You, The Chocolate Chase, and Daffy Flies North. In between the shorts, Daffy is present to argue with the animator as he did in the classic short Duck Amuck only it’s far less amusing this time around. None of these shorts are particularly good and all recycle old gags and concepts from past toons. Some even recycle assets from other cartoons. Of the three, I suppose Daffy Flies North is my favorite, but it’s also the least festive. Mel Blanc is at least on hand to do the voices, though he’s obviously a little old at this point. It was also an odd choice to pair Daffy with Sylvester in The Yolks on You since both characters sound so similar. This TV special isn’t a very good Looney Tunes production, but a not very good Looney Tunes production is still better than a lot of other stuff. Plus it’s a lot shorter than The Ten Commandments! If you want to watch this, it’s included on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6 as well as The Essential Daffy Duck. It’s also received a stand-alone release. Warner isn’t particularly protective of it, so you can also find it online without too much issue.
This really happened.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “The Turtles and the Hare” (1991)
The Fred Wolf produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that dominated the late 80s and early 90s did not feature a Christmas episode, but it did find time for an Easter one. In it, the Turtles are preparing for Easter when they have a chance encounter with Hokum Hare who actually isn’t the Easter Bunny, but is actually the hare from the fable The Tortoise and the Hare, hence the episode’s title. He sure looks the part through as he’s a big, white, bunny in purple overalls. He’s also pretty annoying. The Turtles end up in his world, Fableland, in pursuit of some crystal and the story turns into mostly nonsense as many episodes of this show do. It all ends with Hokum serving as the Easter Bunny for some Channel 6 Easter Egg Hunt. Most of the episodes of this show are terrible and this really isn’t an exception. It’s amusing for how absurd a concept it is to basically have the Turtles meet a pseudo Easter Bunny, and as terrible as the show is it usually never fails to produce a smile or two from me just because I once loved it so. For nostalgia lovers only. You can find this episode as part of Season 4 of the old cartoon which is available on DVD. If you’re feeling really retro it received a stand-alone VHS release back in the day too. It’s also not particularly hard to find online as well.
Cartman is relegated to one scene in this episode, but it just might be my favorite one.
South Park – “Fantastic Easter Special” (2007)
South Park has had a pretty nice run of holiday specials, and it saved one of its best shots for Easter. A parody of The Da Vinci Code takes on the form of an Easter special in which Stan questions all of the bizarre traditions surrounding Easter and tries to square them up with the whole Jesus thing. They don’t make sense, and he soon uncovers an underground Easter Bunny cult of sorts that his father belongs to which seeks to protect the true meaning of Easter, as well as the true pope of the Catholic faith. It’s bonkers, and it never lets up as it finds a way to just keep escalating the crazy as the episode continues ultimately building to a pretty satisfying conclusion. This one being South Park, it’s not for the kids nor is it for those who take the holiday seriously. It’s pretty hilarious though, and it came around when the show really hit its peak. If you want to indulge in this one, you’ll be able to see it for certain on Comedy Central (as well as the other, lesser, Easter special) tonight at 5 EST and it’s available in various formats as part of Season 11 of the show.
Teen Titans Go! – “Easter Creeps” (2017)
The Teen Titans Go! series has become a reliable source of holiday entertainment. Often times, they find a way to work Santa into the mix too as they did in the first Easter special and in the “Halloween vs Christmas” episode. “Easter Creeps” is amusing to me because the show envisions the Easter Bunny as a humanoid rabbit. He basically looks like The Noid only he’s pink and wears a vest. He lays eggs, which grosses every one out, and he’s overall just kind of creepy as the episode title implies. And because of that, he’s declared the worst thing about this otherwise wonderful holiday. This episode is a bit like the “Halloween vs Christmas” one as it’s going to pit the Easter Bunny vs the Tooth Fairy. It’s a silly experience that’s funny enough without overstaying its welcome. Cartoon Network airs this show all the time and tonight is no exception. A block of Easter programming is premiering at 7 EST tonight that will feature a new Easter special from the show. I can only assume this episode will be featured as well since it’s a full hour of programming.
That’s my list for 2020. If you think I missed any worthwhile Easter entertainment feel free to let me know. I’m always on the look-out for more holiday specials. Happy Easter!
Normally, I don’t like doubling-up on posts in a single day on this blog, and ever since last fall Friday has belonged to Batman. Well, I’m breaking my own self-imposed rule today, but it’s for a very good reason. Today is the 30th anniversary of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. On this day in 1988, the then most expensive movie in film history was released to the general public with a lot of buzz and a lot of trepidation. It was a collaborative effort between some of Hollywood’s hottest names; Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Walt Disney Studios. Adapted from the Gary Wolf novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, there was a lot of fear that the movie would be too “out there” for a general audience. So uncertain about how the film was to be received, actress Kathleen Turner, who voiced Jessica Rabbit, declined to be credited for her role in the film. There was some fear this thing would be received about as well as Howard the Duck, a notorious flop at the time, but it ended up being so much more.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the story of a rabbit named Roger (voiced by Charlie Fleischer) who is framed for a murder he did not commit. Aside from the fact that he’s a rabbit, the plot sounds rather pedestrian at face value. What sets the film apart is its world and the world it shares with the “real world.” Roger Rabbit is a toon. He is a literal cartoon character. In the world created by this work of fiction, cartoons are just as real as you and me. They go to work, make cartoons, and go home. The toons behave like golden era cartoons – they’re wacky, prone to accidents, and always on the lookout for a laugh. At one point in the film, Roger is handcuffed and needs to get himself out. He ends up simply removing his hand from the cuff at one point, then putting it back. When his partner, Eddie, notices and gets furious with him for not just doing that to begin with, Roger explains he could only remove his hand when it was funny.
Bob Hoskins stars alongside Robert as private eye Eddie Valiant.
Roger works for R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) and is a star of Maroon Cartoons. Set in 1947, the film basically takes place during the waning days of the animated cartoon short. He is married to the impossibly attractive Jessica Rabbit, a buxom, hourglass figured toon who more or less resembles a human. The film starts out with Roger stressed out because there are rumors that Jessica has been up to no good with another man. Maroon wants private investigator Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to do some digging to help his star out. The problem is, Eddie hates toons, but he loves money more. Eddie takes the job, and finds out that Jessica has actually been playing pat-a-cake with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), the owner of Toon Town. When shown the images of his wife playing such a lurid game with another man, Roger goes off the deep end and is plunged into a depression (pat-a-cake is serious business to a toon, apparently). Then things take a dark turn when Marvin Acme turns up dead, and Roger is suspect number 1. Roger proclaims his innocence to Eddie, and Eddie is forced to decide if he wants to help out the incredibly annoying, but likely innocent, Roger or just walk away from the whole thing.
Even humans are drawn to Jessica Rabbit.
The story unfolds like a classic mystery. You have the gruff detective, the innocent victim, and the femme fatale. Of course, nothing is ever truly what it seems. Shadowing the protagonists is the villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) who too seems to have a hatred for toons. Eddie and Roger are going to have to do some sleuthing, and even take a trip to Toon Town where all of the toons reside, in order to solve this case.
Roger’s co-star, Baby Herman, is used sparingly, but he’s a scene-stealer.
The story is admittedly fairly simple. The character of Jessica Rabbit is the most intriguing, and not because of her figure, but because she is a femme fatale done well. She possesses an air of mystery and uncertainty, the fact that she is apparently the most attractive toon and is attached to the rather goofy Roger helps to play this up. What truly sets Who Framed Roger Rabbit apart is the presentation. Live actors mix with cartoon ones in truly spectacular ways. We’ve seen this before from Walt Disney with the likes of Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but not on this level. Those films merely feature a few sequences of cartoons and actors co-mingling, where as Who Framed Roger Rabbit is built around that dynamic, and it looks spectacular! When Eddie rides along in the toon cab, Benny, he looks like he’s really riding in it. When he wields a toon gun, it’s convincing. And the world of Toon Town is especially marvelous to look at with its impossible architecture and lavish color scheme. The movie is so visually stimulating that you could watch it in mute and still enjoy it.
Christopher Lloyd is appropriately sinister as Judge Doom.
Even with the flashy presentation, the film still needed true chemistry between its real-life lead Eddie, and it’s toon co-lead Roger. Hoskins is fantastic at playing the straight-man Eddie. He takes everything seriously and has explosive reactions to all of the nonsense around him, but not in such a manner that would break the film. Helping to make sure he was able to form good chemistry with Roger, voice actor Charlie Fleischer dressed up as the character and would voice it off-camera. Seth McFarlane utilized a similar method when filming the more recent Ted to similar effect. I suppose it’s impossible to say if this truly worked or did not, but the results speak for themselves.
Eddie and Roger go for a ride in Benny the Cab.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a unique looking film that was impossible to ignore when it was released, but it was still relying on a lead that had never been seen before in Roger. That’s why to help spruce up the film, Spielberg and Zemeckis wanted to make sure that Roger’s world was inhabited by recognizable cartoon characters. That ended up being the film’s strongest selling point as it promised, for the first time ever, that characters from both Disney and Warner Bros. would share scenes together. This leads to the wild team-up between Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo, with some archivable Clarence Nash) and Daffy Duck (Mel Blanc, in one of his last performances) who have a dueling pianos scene where the more outlandish Daffy seems to get on Donald’s nerves more and more as the scene goes on. Mickey Mouse (Wayne Allwine) and Bugs Bunny (Blanc) also get to share a brief scene, which contains an easter egg of Bugs flipping Mickey the bird (apparently, Disney was a bit of a pain to work with concerning how the characters could be portrayed and this was one way for the animators to have a little fun at their expense). Those represent the biggest cameos, but there are many, many more throughout the film from both companies, both major and minor. Part of the fun of watching the film is looking out for them and there’s always a chance that on re-watch you’ll see another you may have missed.
Toon Town is a rather chaotic place.
There are so many things to pick out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit that it’s way too much for me to cover here. Suffice to say, if you’ve never seen this baby then you owe it to yourself to check it out. Much of the effects still stand up today, and much of the credit is owed to animation director Richard Williams. The toons are two-dimensional, but a lot of effort is made to make sure they look like they’re really inhabiting this world in the manner in which lighting is utilized and how often the camera moves. Working on this film must have been exhausting, but oh so rewarding in the end. Due to the nature of the license rights, the complexity of it shots, and incredible of expense of animating over live-action, a sequel has never truly got off the ground. Author Gary West has returned to the character for his novels, and Disney and Spielberg would probably both love to cash-in on the brand, but there are just too many hurdles to clear. Zemeckis has campaigned for a sequel on multiple occasions, but he’s been less vocal about it in recent years. Additional Maroon Cartoon shorts of Roger Rabbit were produced after the film, but even that was a touchy subject as Spielberg wanted to run them alongside his films while Disney wanted them for theirs. And supposedly Disney wanted to create a television show starring Roger Rabbit for their Disney Afternoon block, but Spielberg who was working on televised cartoons of his own (Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, etc) wouldn’t allow Roger to be utilized forcing Disney to create the character Bonkers the Bobcat. Roger has at least been allowed to live on in Disneyland’s Toon Town where he still has a dark ride to this day. Given that Disney has been replacing a lot of older dark rides to make way for more current franchises, one has to wonder if Roger’s days there could be numbered.
One of the more character-packed shots in the whole film.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is likely one of the most popular and successful films to never get a sequel. It took in around $330M in 1988 dollars, a pretty substantial haul, which more than covered its estimated $50M cost. Its story and presentation are both timeless and also proof that Tex Avery styled humor and gags may never truly go out of style. The rather manic Roger Rabbit can appear off-putting to some, especially younger folks who may not have grown up on Looney Tunes, but apprehensions tend to fade away once the movie really gets going. I’ve introduced this film to a few people that weren’t enthusiastic about giving it a shot, only to see them won over in short order. It’s really one of the best things the Walt Disney Company has ever produced, even if it was released on their Touchstone label. I know it’s a Friday, but if you don’t have plans tonight, you could do a lot worse than settling in on the couch with your favorite snack and beverage for a showing of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.