Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes pals have survived "Baby Looney Tunes," "Space Jam," and "Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue." But can they survive "Loonatics Unleashed?"
The series, which debuted on the Kids WB! network in September 2005, is Warner Brothers' lamest attempt yet to update the classic Looney Tunes characters, this time by giving them "extreme" makeovers. The dopey action hero upgrade was loudly ridiculed by fans when it was first announced, and for good reason; the whole thing smacks of the kind of obnoxious corporate tinkering best mocked in the "Poochy" episode of "The Simpsons." Despite the promise of total embarrassment for the franchise, Warner Bros. went ahead anyway, and for some reason, the series has already lasted two full seasons.
The premise: it's the year 2772 on the city-planet of Acmetropolis. When a meteor crashed, it "unleashed" the Loonatics - a group of superheroes descended from the Looney Tunes characters of our time. Ace Bunny, Lexi Bunny, Danger Duck, Slam Tasmanian, Tech E. Coyote, and Rev Runner have teamed up under the leadership of the mysterious Zodavia to save Acmetropolis from various villainy.
I now take a moment to sigh deeply, perhaps silently weeping over the mere existence of the above paragraph. I invite you to do the same.It's not the idea of tampering with classic characters that earns my disapproval; after all, some characters demand a bit of evolution in their history, while others benefit from some studio experimentation. Heck, without tampering, we'd have no "Tiny Toons," which seemed like a horrible idea until it wound up being one of the smartest, funniest cartoons of the 1990s (alongside its companion series, "Animaniacs"). And while "Space Jam" landed with a thud, another attempt at modernizing Bugs and Daffy, "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," turned out to be a pretty darn funny tribute to the whole gang.
But "Loonatics Unleashed," well, this is just plain terrible. Even on its own terms - kiddie action/comedy - it's downright awful. (Which is a surprise, because Warner Bros. is responsible for much of the genre's best work these days. Even their lesser shows, such as "Legion of Super Heroes," are pretty decent stuff.) It's a miserable collection of everything that springs to mind when one thinks of lame kids' TV: loud, bombastic storytelling; mostly useless plotting; cheap comedy asides; irritating ADD-fueled presentation. The bar for kid-friendly action has been raised by shows like "Teen Titans" and "Avatar;" "Loonatics Unleashed," which wants to bring the Looney Tunes into the extreme action realm, doesn't even come close to that level. This is bottom-rung "Justice League" adventure junk, with uninteresting heroes fighting generic villains.
Of course, it really comes down to the characters. Lexi Bunny? Rev Runner? Really? That anybody would find this to be an idea worth developing is rather depressing. In fact, the characters play out as a bizarre parody of corporate "extreme" re-tinkering than as a legitimate deal. (Example: Ace Bunny shoots lasers from his eyes.) It's the sort of thing that makes a fan pause, doubting the seriousness of the project.
However, there's no sly commentary on modern marketing laziness, no coy satire on the greasy contempt for the audience that pervades much of Hollywood. Underneath it all, "Loonatics Unleashed" is the same queasy, pathetic corporate-driven disaster that it is on the surface. That's dithpicable.
Warner Bros. has collected the show's first thirteen episodes on a two-disc collection titled "Loonatics Unleashed: The Complete First Season." The set comes in a single-wide keep case with a hinged tray holding the second disc.
Each disc offers a "play all" feature. There are no chapter stops within the individual episodes.
The episodes featured in this collection are:
Disc One: "Loonatics on Ice," "Attack of the Fuzz Balls," "The Cloak of Black Velvet," "Weathering Heights," "Going Underground," "The Comet Cometh," and "The World Is My Circus."
Disc Two: "Stop the World I Want to Get Off," "Sypher," "The Menace of Mastermind," "Time After Time," "Acmegeddon: Part One," and "Acmegeddon: Part Two."
Video & Audio
"Loonatics Unleashed" matches other modern Warner Bros. cartooning: crisp, bright, nicely detailed. The presentation here makes the best out of the animation, especially in terms of the neon colors used throughout. Presented in the series' original 1.33:1 broadcast format.
The Dolby stereo soundtrack is equally solid, as is expected with a series this new. No alternate tracks are provided, nor are any subtitles. (The disc is closed-captioned, however.)
"Loonatics Unleashed: Villain Invasion" is an interactive game in which you use your remote to move a target across the screen; shoot down meteors before they fall onto the city. As with most games of this sort, it's clunky and tiresome, even for kids.
Also included is a set of previews for other Warner Bros. releases. Previews also play as the second disc loads; you can skip past them.
You deserve better. Your kids deserve better. We all deserve better. "Loonatics Unleashed" is a horrible idea poorly executed. Skip It, ignore it, avoid it, pretend it never happened.
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