HBO Took Elmer Fudd’s Gun, Did His Funny Go With It?

WB / Elmer Fudd

Warmer Brothers has spent decades trying to recapture the charm and wit of the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies shorts from the 1950s and 60s, usually to little success. The vast majority of entertainment from 1950 does not hold up today, but Warner Brothers’ cartoons are not only as funny to a modern audience as they were to their parents and grandparents, but they’re still funnier than most of what Warner has made since, excluding the few years in the 1990s when they struck gold with Animaniacs, Pinky & the Brain and Freakazoid.

The latest attempt to revive the classic Warner characters, mainly Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck, is Looney Tunes Cartoons on HBO Max. Some previous attempts had toned down the violence of the original cartoons, and while the new series largely doesn’t, viewers will notice one big difference: there are virtually no guns.

I say virtually because the first Bugs Bunny cartoon of the new batch, which features Yosemite Sam, opens with smoke and the sounds of gunshots in the distance, though no guns are seen on-screen.

Peter Browngardt told the New York Times “We’re not doing guns, but we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.”

Even without guns, there is still a lot of cartoony violence. In the Elmer and Bugs short I watched, Elmer comes after Bugs with a pitchfork and an ax as they fight over the use of Fudd’s swimming pool on a hot day. And I have to admit it was actually pretty funny. The ax especially is part of one of the better gags of the episode.

You can watch classic Looney Tunes episodes where Elmer has his rifle, like Rabbit Fire and Rabbit Seasoning (though disappointingly not Duck! Rabbit! Duck!, the third part of Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese’s hunting trilogy of shorts).

Rabbit Fire, in particular, is still perhaps the funniest Looney Tunes or Merry Melody cartoon ever made, so maybe it’s a good thing the new show has to find new ways to pit Elmer, Bugs, and Daffy against each other; the new series is pretty good, but it would do itself no favors being compared to classics like that.

At the end of the day, I understand the lack of guns; these are cartoons for kids and the current generation of kids has some pretty deep trauma surrounding guns with the unbelievable number of school shootings and active shooter drills. If you were making a cartoon for kids to watch and relax, you probably wouldn’t put a gun in it, either.

Less forgivable are the decisions to use Bugs Bunny’s older yellow gloves and Daffy Duck’s original zany personality instead of the shrewd, selfish, more cowardly persona he adopted starting in the aforementioned Rabbit Fire. Those are the things people should be complaining about on social media.

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