Here Come the Loonatics

Charlie Richards | Guest columnist | Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Here Come the Loonatics

One look at the new, angry Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and I’m reminded why I got into this field of children’s entertainment in the first place: The gatekeepers of today’s animation don’t care what parents think. It’s not even a consideration.

If you haven’t heard, Warner Bros. is prepping a new-look Looney Tunes (calling them Loonatics) for the near future, having turned the lovable characters we’ve grown up with into menacing creatures that look like they crawled out of a nuclear disaster.

Warner Bros. just doesn’t get what the fuss is all about.

The studio sent recently named entertainment president David Janollari out to quell the uprising. “We all flipped for it” Janollari explained with glee. “We just said, 'Wow, what a great way to take the classic Looney Tunes franchise that has been huge with audiences for decades and bring it into the new millennium.”

This from the same Janollari who recently told a gay magazine “it would be really remiss of me if I didn't try to find shows on this network that accurately reflect gay life.”

Again, blue-state Warner Bros. just doesn’t get it.

But moms and dads do. I know more and more parents who are using their channel blocking controls to keep children’s shows off the television, let alone MTV. It’s one thing to have show after show that has no redeaming value, it’s another to have show after show pushing an agenda with which many parents don’t agree. Witness the recent obsession with introducing kids to homosexuality. The children’s network Nogin has a show with a gay relationship. A PBS show for kids featured a family with two mothers. And now the Simpsons has a character come out. While the Simpson producers often say the show is not for kids, Fox knows better – which is why they run the show at 8, when more kids are likely to be watching. Note to the producers of the Simpsons: if you want to pretend The Simpsons isn’t for kids, don’t make lunchboxes.

I was first exposed to the children’s entertainment insanity years ago when the sitcom I was writing for was cancelled and I was suddenly asked to pitch children’s shows. At the time, I didn’t know much about them. As I did my homework and pitched show ideas, I kept running into the same problem: they weren’t interested in shows that honored parents or taught a moral lesson.

I wasn’t interested in pitching shows that didn’t. I’d say that was an impasse.

I wanted to create a show that parents could trust. The networks and studios wanted shows that got attention - not necessarily shows kids watched. That’s their right, I suppose. But it was a rather depressing realization. But I’m an optimist, so I kept coming back with ideas for shows that had redeeming value. They kept sending me away with a thank you and a bottle of carbonated water.

Seven years and three kids later, I get it now more than ever. I monitor what my kids see. Even the commercials that run during kids’ shows are problematic.  More and more, I’m liking the world of direct-to-video.

So now I see this Bugs Bunny that looks meaner than the bad guys he battled in his worst days, and I ask myself this question: Did they bother asking what parents think? Did they even bother wondering what parents think?

I phoned Warner Bros. to ask that one question, but they didn’t return my call.

In one article, Warner Bros. animation president Sander Schwartz explained “We’re taking Bugs, a classic, and making him fresh, cool and hip.” That’s what parents need. Fresh, cool, hip.

How many times have you said “Where can I find a fresh, cool, hip example for my child?”

Instead, parents who care are being ridiculed.  Look at the way the media handled the Spongebob controversy. Most of the articles I read didn’t even begin to represent Dr. Dobson correctly. A single MSNBC story called those concerned “Crackpot Christians” 15 times. Whether or not one agrees with either side of that squabble, it’s rather clear the media are obsessed with their own hostility toward conservatives.

And there’s the rub.  Parents tend to lean conservative. Of the 100 fastest growing counties in the United States, 97 voted for Bush in 2004.

When you have kids, these things matter.

But Warner Bros. just doesn’t get it.

© 2005 Charlie Richards

Charlie Richards is creator of the new children's video series called 'The Pond' and is the network producer for Salem Radio.  He also wrote for the NBC sitcom 'House Rules.'  The Pond Video/DVD is available online or in Christian Bookstores.

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