Because Somebody Had To Do It: The Larry Doyle Looney Tunes

28 Jan

Duck Dodgers argues with alien in Attack Of The Drones

Duck Dodgers is back (again?) in "Attack Of The Drones" (yes, that's a Klingon behind him)

by Rachel Newstead

My ol’ southern granddaddy had a saying: expect the worst. Then, when it doesn’t happen, you’re pleasantly surprised….

So when I took on the unenviable task of reviewing the reviled, unreleased 2003 Larry Doyle Looney Tunes, my expectations couldn’t be much lower. Steeling myself for exposure to the alleged blood-congealing, stomach-liquefying animated plague produced by Mr. Doyle, I was not only surprised, but almost disappointed to find that most of them were at least watchable. [Note:  “Almost disappointed” because I revel in true, Ed Wood-level badness. It’s practically a Zen experience.–R.] Some, dare I say, even approached “good”. (I can almost see the lynch mobs forming as I write this–just try defending these within 500 miles of the nearest Looney Tunes geek. You’ll really need Obama’s health plan).

I admit my obsession with these “Unseen Six”, as I’ve come to call the cartoons, might seem a little strange to most of you, but it shouldn’t be surprising to those who know me. Of all the creative endeavors ever conceived, nothing intrigues me as much as those that might have been. I like the Larry Doyle Looney Tunes for the same reason I’m fascinated with Scott Joplin’s lost musical scores, Walt Disney’s aborted feature projects, and the first two pilots for “All In The Family.” They’re a glimpse into what might have happened had the creative process taken a slight detour, producing an “alternate-universe” version of the movies, TV shows and music we know.

Bugs plays blackjack as Sam deals

Sam learns never to gamble with someone with two rabbit's feet in "Hare and Loathing In Las Vegas"

Imagine Matt Groening’s “Life In Hell” kicking off Fox’s “Animation Domination” instead of the characters he gave them instead, “The Simpsons.” Or if Warner Bros. had decided to enter the animation field with the comic-strip character “Joe Jinks” as they originally planned, back in 1929. We’d no doubt be eviscerating Doyle today for his aborted “Joe Jinks” revival.

And imagine a revived “Termite Terrace,” with Larry Doyle as a latter-day Leon Schlesinger. It almost happened….

Tweety pulling a hilarious "disgusted" face in "Museum Scream"

Tweety seems to be expressing his opinion of the cartoon he's in: from "Museum Scream"...

On the basis of his resumé alone, Doyle appeared to be a better than average choice to revive the Looney Tunes shorts. An unquestionably diverse writer, he’d written for comic  strips (a revived version of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”, with artist Neal Sternecky) animation (as writer and producer on “The Simpsons” from 1998-2001) and magazines (his short stories and essays appeared in The New Yorker and Esquire, and he would contribute material to the now-defunct Spy magazine). The project that truly brought him recognition, however (or infamy, depending on your point of view) was the movie Looney Tunes: Back In Action, for which he wrote the screenplay.

THe movie was only the beginning–or at least that was the plan. In its wake, eight brand-new Looney Tunes shorts were to be released initially, with some fifteen more planned. (Though those fifteen were tentative at best). Doyle spoke glowingly of attempting to create “another Termite Terrace”, a place where cartoon insanity would reign once more–a place the ghosts of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Bob McKimson might look upon with pride.

Porky in punk get-up

Porky goes punk in "My Generation G-G-Gap."

But it was not to be. The dream died almost as soon as it began, the moment the Warner’s executives started taking a good look at what had been put on film. [Note: I might have misstated here. It’s more likely that the failure of “Back In Action” put the brakes on the shorts project.–R. ] Of the initial eight, only six were completed–and promptly shelved. They eventually saw release as a special feature in the Australian version of the Looney Tunes: Back In Action DVD set, burned off much like an unsold TV pilot might have been, not that long ago. (Note: I stand corrected. At least one of the cartoons, The Whizzard of Ow, was an extra on the American release.)

Foghorn points his finger at the new rooster in the yard

Genetic engineering meets old-fashioned sneakiness in "Cock-A-Doodle Duel..."

Starting tomorrow,  my Jim Phelps-like mission will be to review each of these cartoons one by one, to see just where Doyle went wrong–and what, if anything, he did right. He deserves at least that much.

{Edited to correct misstatements, 1/29/10].


3 Responses to “Because Somebody Had To Do It: The Larry Doyle Looney Tunes”

  1. looney-man March 12, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Museum Scream (2003,Tweety & Sylvester,101 MB):

    Father Of The Bird (1997,Sylvester,86 MB):

  2. daffy duck April 30, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Duck Dodgers In Attack of The Drones (2003:

    Museum Scream (2003):

    Cock-A-Doodle-Duel (2004):


  1. It’s All About Him: Duck Dodgers In ATTACK OF THE DRONES « Dig This Crazy Test Pattern! - January 31, 2010

    […] will admit there’s one thing it’s not quite as guilty of as my faulty memory originally believed: the rampant “cameo-itis” that unfortunately infects too many […]

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