Like you, I am a huge Warner Bros cartoons fan. But do you think they should just stop doing new stuff with the Bugs Bunny cast of characters?
Joe: Frankly, that would be okay with me. That era was over in 1960. The theatrical cartoons that they produced after 1960, which I remember having to suffer through at the movies, were just abominable. They weren’t funny, they were badly animated, they were sub-television level and almost everything they’ve done since is just a pale shadow of what the great cartoons were. I can tell you from experience that the people currently running Warner Bros have no interest or understanding of that period or those characters. I was making a movie for them with those characters [Looney Tunes: Back in Action] and they did not want to know about those characters. They didn’t want to know why Bugs Bunny shouldn’t do hip-hop. It was a pretty grim experience all around.
I did read about an old project of yours that never came to fruition about the animators at Warner Bros called Termite Terrace.
Joe: Yeah, they made Space Jam instead. Termite Terrace was a comedy but it was about Chuck Jones’ early years at Warner Bros in the 30’s. Back when the unit was actually part of the lot with movie stars and stuff. It was a hilarious story and it was very good except that Warner Bros said “Look, it’s an old story. It’s got period stuff in it. We don’t want that. We want to rebrand our characters and we want to do Space Jam.” So they went and did Space Jam and Termite Terrace is just sitting in a vault somewhere and it will never get made.
Make it for HBO, it’s owned by Warner Bros.
Joe: No, you’d be surprised. When it comes to those characters, they have people who are elected custodians. They have to sign off on every single use of the characters. They’re very protective of what they think of as a money making brand. But there’s a lesson there and the lesson is, you don’t develop a script based on characters you don’t own.
(The interview was conducted by Daniel Robert Epstein, whose tragic death this week deprived us of a very talented entertainment interviewer. The Comingsoon link has more links to tributes to DRE.)