For a comprehensive history on this ‘ere show, you can skip on over to the video that inspired me to take this on as a new review series. For a shorter one, at some point somebody at Warner Brothers came up with the idea to do the same thing they’d done to Batman and that other people were thinking of doing to Zorro to the Looney Tunes characters. That is, recreate them as futuristic superheroes. You might have noticed that two of those properties already were about superheroes. They only had to add some flying cars and some (more) laser guns, find a plucky teenager to stand in for the original hero, and they were good to go.
You might also have noticed the number of times Looney Tunes took anything it did seriously can be counted on one hand (and yes I’m thinking of Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue). This would seem to hinder the ability of anyone familiar with the characters to be able to get into a more "extreme" version about Bugs and Daffy’s descendants fighting crime in the far-flung future.
And that, by and large, is what happened. Loonatics Unleashed was a fiasco. I can still watch the classic cartoons without thinking of this, but there are plenty of others who don’t claim the same. The show ran for 26 episodes and though they were obviously setting up to have more, that mercifully never came to pass.
At the risk of being branded (more) insane, I’ll say the second season did evolve a little because the show embraced its roots more. Rather than just the great-great-great grandkids of Bugs, Daffy, Lola, Taz, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, the other classic characters started showing up too. I don’t want you to think the show was exactly good after that, or that the premise wasn't fundamentally flawed from the get-go and that this fixed it, but there were parts that came surprisingly close to being watchable.
There were ways the second season was a step backward, however, such as an exponentially more terrible intro sequence. For that matter, as you can probably imagine the reintroduction of pretty much the entire lineup makes the idea that the characters are descendents of the ones from the shorts look a little raggedy. Especially when you see the future counterparts of Pepe LePew and Foghorn Leghorn.
Since Ryan Lohner already explained the details of the first episode in his video (or what there was to explain; that was one of the clunkiest debut episodes I’ve ever seen), I’ll be skipping right to the second one. So, without further ado…
Things open on a news report about a scientist, Prof. Zane, who’s created something called a bio-pet, which I guess is like a regular pet but artificial. After he explains what a “Fuz-Z” is (a little fuzzy head with a tail), we suddenly hear an ad jingle for them. What the hey? Are those parts of the same segment? Is that normal in the future?
Afterward we see a kid cuddling up with his Fuz-Z in bed and giving it a bite from a candy bar. I guess it’s a candy bar.
When the kid wakes up, however, his Fuz-Z’s gone and there’s a hulking monster in his bedroom. I probably don’t have to tell you what happened.
The kid runs away, and as his parents join him we see just how tight continuity was in this show.
|What's wrong with your commeeeeeeeeeercial?|
We get our intro sequence about a meteor striking “the city-planet of Acmetropolis,” knocking the planet off its axis and releasing forces that create superhuman beings. Like our heroes. And referring back to the video, yeah that does sound like something that would end the story right there.
As we see snippets of the characters there are also little blurbs that presumably point out their powers. But what the hell does “power orb randomizer” or “quantum quack” mean? Maybe I’m biased here because I also consider myself a storyteller, but it’s generally considered bad form to thrust the audience straight into a strange and complex universe with no idea what’s going on. Even Stephenie Meyer knew better than to start her later books without bringing new readers up to speed.
Oh, and for the record, like Ryan I'm not going to bother referring to the Loonatics by their new names besides Lexi, as her predecessor was as much of a boring female stereotype as she is. I don't care that these aren't supposed to be the Looney Tunes themselves but their descendents in the future. The franchise put the characters in different settings all the time, and this show barely makes an effort to distance the Loonatics from the originals. So it's hard not to think of this as just another spin on the same characters.
Besides, if the crew wanted so badly for me to think of the Loonatics as characters apart from the ones they're based on, they could've done more with that idea in the show itself than two or three ten-second mentions across the span of the whole show. So I'm not counting the Word of God mentions that these are Looney Tunes's grandkids in the future. If you have a problem with that, you probably don't like me anyway for pissing all over a show you like.
We cut to Bugs in the Loonatics’ Danger Room fighting off little flying saucers with his sword and laser vision. To me, he epitomizes the problem with trying to “hero-ify” these characters. Sure, Bugs was considered the “good guy” of a lot of the cartoons, but watch them and pay close attention. He doesn’t just defend himself from Elmer and Sam, he flat-out screws with his enemies. He's as much of a con artist as anything else.
What kind of role model would that create for kids in this age of ridiculous censorship, though? Thus we have Ace Bunny, a hero with a personality every bit as bland as the powers I described. He tosses out the occasional quip, but that's about all you'll see from him as unique character attributes. And that's not really something you want people to say about Bugs Bunny for crying out loud, especially not in what was supposed to be the new generation of Looney Tunes.
His distaff counterpart, Lexi Bunny, enters the room and shows off her own brand new Fuz-Z. To answer Ryan’s rhetorical question, Lola Bunny was given a futuristic counterpart for the same reason they came up with Lola in the first place: so there would be a girl.
By the way, I'm not using the characters' new names. I know they're supposed to be descended from the old ones, not new versions of the old ones, but all the designers really did is slap on some generic powers and squeeze the characters into black tights, and that's not a complete reinvention in my book. Nor is talking fast a personality. I'll go ahead and acknowledge the token female in her new identity, but only because they actually tried to give the previous version who was a no-nonsense tough girl another personality trait: she's a shopaholic. Even if they never work that into the plot besides a few sparse mentions.
Taz tries to eat her new pet, misses, and knocks over a laser cannon that nearly fries Wile E. Coyote, the team’s resident super genius. Except in this show, he actually is. Well, maybe. He was working on some kind of experiment in the same room where Bugs was having battle practice, and what kind of idiot would do that?
Lexi explains that besides being lovable creatures, Fuz-Z’s can also be used as fashion accessories. So the scientist managed to combine a Furby with a Thneed. Damn.
By the way, I’ve never understood why their exposed mouths are neon colors. Especially since they look just like the original characters during the rare moments when they’re not in costume.
Plus, they're pretty much the only anthropomorphic animals around. It's not to disguise themselves.
Daffy comes in and demands to know how she got a Fuz-Z while his has been on order for weeks. Lexi angrily tells him to leave Zozo alone. He laughs at the name, and I have to agree. Zozo?
|Oh don't I wish I was watching that show instead.|
With all due respect to Mr. Lohner, Daffy's about the only Loonatic I can stand. Mainly because, with the sarcastic worldview of his ancestor, he reminded me a lot of me as I watched this wasteland of entertainment. It helped that he was one of the only first-season characters who had a personality in the first place to hang onto it during the transition. That's something you find yourself appreciating a lot more when the episodes are three times longer and take themselves way the hell more seriously.
But that’s enough of the “humorous” banter, time for the team’s handler to pop in and give them their mission for the episode. That would be the mysterious Zadavia, voiced by Candi Milo (man, it’s been a while since SWAT Kats). She’s so mysterious even the Loonatics don’t really seem to know her that well. Establishing little things like how the team was set up and why they take orders from this woman when they don’t seem to know who she is would’ve been a good idea.
Daffy asks, fearfully, where the monster’s going, with Zadavia pointedly replying, “The idea was for you to go there, Danger Duck.” She says his name like that obviously communicates his duty, but the thing is he was still trying to pick a superhero name in the previous episode and she picked that name for him just to make him shut up. What I’m saying is it makes Zadavia sound like a bitch.
Even Bugs seems to realize it, as once she signs off he quips, “She gets to go out, and we get to battle mutant spiders.” With that he trots out his catchphrase, “Let’s jet!” It’s meaningful, I guess, because they get around via jetpacks, but you’ve probably heard somebody say that when all they meant was “let’s leave.” It doesn’t sound that cool anyway.
Lexi wants to bring her new pet, not seeming to get that if she loves it so much, a superhero battle is probably the last place she wants it to be. Say what you will about the size of Darkwing Duck's ego, he at least was trying to keep his daughter away from his clashes with evildoers. Lexi does try, but can’t resist the thing’s puppy dog eyes and sneaks it along anyway. Wow, what willpower. I feel safer having someone like her around protecting my great-great-great-great grandkids.
The Loonatics find the giant bug, and defeat it by luring it onto a bridge that they then collapse. When they go down to make sure they took out the monster, it’s nowhere to be found. Just another Fuz-Z the same color as the monster. Yeah, they can stop pretending it’s a mystery now.
Bugs asks what the odds are that they’d just find a Fuz-Z where a giant bug had just disappeared, and because he’s a genius, Wile E. comically does calculate the odds. Both of the creatures jump into a pocket of Daffy’s jetpack and munch on the chocolate power bars in there, monstering out exactly like we knew they would.
Another fight starts, and again the comedy falls flat as Bugs yells “Duck!” meaning “move to avoid an incoming attack” and Daffy thinks it means him. That seems like something that would’ve come up before. It’s not quite made up for when one of them smacks Bugs into a wall and he hits us with “Of course you realize this means war…”
There’s some more fighting, but before the Loonatics have to actually use their offensive powers on the monsters the sugar high wears off and the creatures turn back to normal. Having figured what changes the monsters, Zadavaia appears on a billboard and tells them where Prof. Zane’s lab is. She also knows about the kid who fed his pet chocolate before the first monster sighting. Why does she know what happened in a little kid's bedroom...?
They’re unsure as to how they’re going to round up all the creatures before they can monster out, and during this we appear to see two guys using them to wash a car. Huh?
Seems Wile E. already invented a flying vehicle with a huge vacuum cleaner built into it, evidently because Taz get so enthusiastic at lunch time he covers the entire room with his meal. Why was it built into an aircraft, though?
|That sure is an impressive...something.|
|Ah, that's better. Sort of.|
While the rest of the team is doing that, Daffy and Lexi go to the lab to talk to Prof. Zane. Only guess what, the thing about the creatures he invented turning into monsters was totally intentional. This show’s one shocking twist after another.
Meanwhile we see the others going around Acmetropolis collecting the various creatures. Isn’t Acmetropolis the entire planet? Those guys work fast. Although I question the wisdom of putting the mindless glutton in charge of aiming the vacuum gun.
Down on the ground, we have the sixth Loonatic, the Roadrunner, running around picking up the other creatures at super-speed. Again with all due respect to Mr. Lohner, I actually found Rob Paulsen’s super-fast banter to actually be kind of amusing when not overused, like when he takes 600 words to suggest a lady with a Fuz-Z get a cat instead.
|Don't mess with him, or he'll rip out your eyeballs and show 'em to you.|
Prof. Zane unleashed the Fuz-Z’s because, surprise of surprises, his work was ridiculed by the scientific community. He didn’t actually invent the Fuz-Z’s, though. They’d been living underground and he happened to be right there when the meteor impact cracked the ground open and released them.
The rest of the Loonatics show up and another fight breaks out. Taz and Roadrunner spend the fight evacuating Prof. Zane’s stash of processed cacao bean products so they don’t get overrun by new monsters. Which means, *gasp*, that the people who wrote this episode are smarter than the ones who wrote the chicken episode of Dino Squad.
|These are two different trips. The effort that went into this show is just staggering.|
After another tepid action sequence Bugs manages to get his hands on a ray gun that turns the Fuz-Z’s back to normal. Then they drop the critters down a crack to wherever it was they came from. Seriously, we’ve got no idea what’s down there, if chocolate grows there or if the critters can even survive the fall in their regular forms.
For our limp end-of-episode jape, Daffy’s moved on from Fuz-Z’s and has a personal flea circus. Except the fleas have escaped. Guess where they went.
Remember how the old cartoons were still funny even without butt jokes?