Loonatics Unleashed

It had “awful” written all over it. Warner Brothers, in an attempt to “update” their classic Looney Tunes characters, was creating a new Saturday morning cartoon featuring futuristic versions of your animated favorites. They would shift from slapstick satire to cool action, heroic crime-fighters with a seemingly endless array of death-dealing devices. The best part was the name change: the sharp and styling Loonatics.

The first installment of Loonatics was “unleashed” on 17 September, and frankly, it was not “awful.” It was atrocious. The best thing one can say about these Teenage Mutant Nonsensical Rat Bastards is that their program airs during those annoying advertising blocks known as “Kids WB.” As a result, instead of 22 minutes of misery, we only have to suffer through about 19.

The premise is as paltry as promised. In the year 2772, on some far away planet-city (huh?) known as Acmetropolis, a meteor crashes. It spins the sphere off kilter and produces a kind of atomic fart. From out of this foul wind springs the Loonatics. Matrix-style revisions of the original Looney Tunes, they consist of two rabbits, a duck, a coyote, a roadrunner, and some manner of monster posing as a Tasmanian Devil. They live in a weird, needle-like building in the center of town and take their cues from a holographic woman known as ynergy. Oops, no. Wait. That was Jem. This character is called Zadavia. Totally different, right? Right.

In response to the intense backlash that resulted from the Loonatics announcement, Warners apparently went back and “tweaked” these freaks, hoping to keep them within the grand tradition of their previous glories. But it’s impossible to see in these angular avatars any semblance of Bugs, Daffy, or Wile E. The new characters have goofy names (Ace, Tech, Slam, Rev)… and that’s as far as the creators have pushed characterization. Oh, and they all have silly super powers as well.

Wile E. Coyote may have been a genius, but his contraptions always crapped out at some point during a short subject. Here the newly dubbed Tech E. Coyote is a faultless fabricator of everything. He can make canon-like guns that morph into handheld talismans, or a mega-weapon battle cruiser complete with missile launchers. Rev Roadrunner is lightning fast, while Ace Bunny uses his laser vision to death-ray his opponents. Yes, it is as dreary as it sounds. This crass combination of Power Rangers and product placement avoids cleverness, usually by piling on the firepower.

During the premiere episode, Loonatics sought a balance between some so-called humor and balls-to-the-wall ass-kicking. An iceberg threatened to freeze Acmetropolis, and with the help of some hyper-technical toys, the Loonatics went frozen-water fighting. Most of the jokes came at the expense of the villains, Danger Duck and some robotic sorts deemed Mutant Space Vikings. The “plot” consisted of typical tricks, lots of lame puns, and more action scenes than in Michael Bay’s wettest dreams.

Taking one too many concepts from the now tween-friendly world of anime, Loonatics doesn’t tell stories so much as it sets up fights. Narratives stop and start, rewind and change direction midway, and just when you think the Loonatics have run out of options, they pull out that shortcut known as the “secret weapon” to save the day. One moment, Slam Tazmawhatchamacallit can melt ice, and in the next, he is helplessly frozen in a mammoth-sized cube. Danger Duck can teleport anywhere he wants to, except inside the Vikings’ starship to disable it. The last time a series had this many plot holes in it, the Bear was checking BJ for nits.

In the end, it’s all in service of big booms and even bigger disappointments. Novices new to the whole Looney Tunes notion may be briefly bedazzled, since bright colors and rapidly moving shapes have been known to stimulate even the most junked juvenile cerebrum. Loonatics sucks, which means it fits well with most other current kid vid.

Though the Loonatics opening credits picture several so-called recurrent antagonists for our hapless heroes (and the press materials pimp the big-named stars who will voice them, including Tim Curry, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Florence Henderson) the truth is that nothing this starved of imagination can last for very long. The classic Looney Tunes were a hoot when they mimicked the heroes of the day — Duck Dodgers, Duck Tracy, Super Rabbit — but the Loonatics don’t craft any new ideas. And that is truly despicable.

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