The Looney Tunes characters are some of the most enduring creations of the 20th century. Eighty six years since the first appearance of first Warner Bros characters, the snarky and weird Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, and more have become such cultural icons that they attract children to theme parks and have played basketball with Michael Jordan.
But what made the Looney Tunes characters so great isn’t just the simplicity of the ideas or how endearing the faces of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, and friends were–it was the people behind them. And one of the great animators of the glory days of Looney Tunes–Chuck Jones–gets his due in the latest installment of Tony Zhou’s “Every Film A Painting,” a web series that deep-dives into the work of great filmmakers.
In Jones’s case, the exploration is a fascinating look at the elements that made the Looney Tunes characters iconic, with archival interview footage from Jones himself, as well as Stephen Spielberg and other filmmakers, buttressing the idea that Jones’s study of humanity led him to bring that exact element out of anthropomorphic rabbits, ducks, and pigs. The short documentary explores how a combination of simplicity (every character has a very clear and distinct goal), movement (we are talking about animation here), and discipline (the reason why Bugs Bunny only ever acts in self-defense, lest he be a bully) made each of the over 200 Looney Tunes shorts he made so distinct and memorable. It’s hard not to come away from this episode with an urge to revisit some of the Coyote’s most inspired attempts to catch the Roadrunner, or maybe Bugs Bunny’s trip to the opera–at the very least, you’ll probably go away from it whistling “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit,” which–as the episode makes clear–is enough to get you on the receiving end of a sociopathic bunny’s hilarious quest for vengeance.