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Singing A New 'Toon'

July 03, 1994|N.F. MENDOZA

Steven Spielberg thought it was time for Warner Bros. Animation to start making cartoons again.

More than 20 years had gone by since the studio produced an animated short series and Spielberg knew exactly what the new toon should be about.

"Steven had this idea of doing this new generation of characters in the style of the classic Warner Bros. animation," recalls Tom Ruegger, "Tiny Toon" senior producer. "We came up with the location, Acme Acres, and decided the school should be Acme Looniversity, where the 'Looney Tunes' characters would serve as professors and teachers to a younger generation."

For the new toons, he says, "We wanted brand-new characters, with new personalities, and yet we wanted to make an appropriate homage to the original characters."

Voila! "Tiny Toon Adventures," which debuted in January, 1989.

The production team came up with characters that included a boy rabbit, Buster Bunny, whose mentor is Bugs; Plucky Duck, who's a bit Daffy; Hamton the Pig, who overeats like Porky; Dizzy Devil, who whirls in Tazmanian Devil fashion, and Elmyra, who like Elmer Fudd, is a human who hunts bunnies, but she smothers them with love, instead of hunting them with guns.

The first "Tiny Toon" to stand out was Babs Bunny (no relation to Buster, or Bugs, for that matter). "She was the only one who didn't have a counterpart in the old series," Ruegger points out. "She became a strong character, since there was no one for her to pay tribute to."

Yet the biggest difference between the two series, Ruegger says, is that the new show was designed to be about kids--or kid toons-- for kids, while maintaining a flavor of the old "Looney Tunes." "Bugs and Daffy and that crew were faced with sort of a never-ending problem of survival in the face of Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam," he says. "Buster, Plucky and gang are trying to face the trials and tribulations of growing up. Right off the bat, we're trying to connect with the kid audience in a very basic way."

And five seasons later, they're still connecting. Something their counterparts have done for six decades-plus.

"Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toons" airs Monday through Friday on the Fox Children's Network, at 2:30 p.m. on XETV, and 3:30 p.m. on KTTV. It also airs Saturday at 9 a.m. on Fox.

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