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Television Review

Bugs, Daffy Get Bland Tweet-ment

September 16, 2002|CHARLES SOLOMON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Baby Looney Tunes," premiering this morning on the Cartoon Network, plays like a cross between "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Muppet Babies," without the better features of either of its predecessors.

"Tiny Toons" (1990) featured what were essentially adolescent versions of the classic Warner Bros. characters: Buster Bunny was Bugs, Plucky Duck was Daffy, etc. As the title suggests, "Baby Looney Tunes" turns Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester et al. into infants, under the care of Granny. Although their mini-adventures are supposed to evoke the classic Warner Bros. shorts, all the laughs have been drained out.

The designs for the babies are distinctly unappealing. The Tasmanian Devil is little more than a large head with arms and stubby legs. Bugs also has an outsized head, a pudgy little body and feet so small he looks like he's about to tip over.

The stories embody the sanitized "fun" that's supposed to amuse small children. In "A Secret Tweet," for example, Tweety feels left out because the other characters are keeping something from him: plans for a surprise birthday party. There's no mayhem--and no laughs. When a house of blocks goes flying, nobody gets beaned. Accidentally bumping into each other is about as physical as this bunch gets.

The original Warners Bros. shorts are regarded as classics because of their razor-sharp timing and hilarious blending of physical and verbal humor. Ignored by the studio pooh-bahs, the Warners artists made brilliant short films that were designed to amuse themselves. Their characters were aggressive and aggressively funny. Even Granny, who looks like such a sweet old lady, regularly beat the Friskies out of Sylvester with her umbrella.

The new infant versions are so tame, they make the Teletubbies look brash.

At the end of "A Secret Tweet," Tweety asks, "You all still wike me?"

Lola replies, "Why wouldn't we like you?" Any fan of the real Warner Bros. cartoons could hand her a list of reasons.

"Baby Looney Tunes" can be seen weekdays at 9 a.m. on the Cartoon Network.

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