Exclusive: Designing Pre-K Looney Tunes for ‘Bugs Bunny Builders’

***This article originally appeared in the August ’22 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 322) ***

In the original Looney Tunes cartoons, self-described super genius Wile E. Coyote was always on the cutting edge of STEM experimentation. Utilizing his own imaginings and materials from the Acme Corporation, the bewildered prairie wolf failed hilariously — but was never so discouraged that he stopped trying to catch the Road Runner. So, it’s only fitting that in the new preschool animated show Bugs Bunny Builders we find a familiar cast of characters working together, learning about building and design as well as collaboration, self-expression and problem-solving.

Nicole Belilsle

“I think we really focused on keeping the characters’ core personality traits intact, and then we just avoided any mature behaviors,” says Nicole Belisle, producer and story editor for the show, which premiered on HBO Max and Cartoon Network’s Cartoonito block last month.

“To give an example: With Wile E. Coyote, he’s not trying to eat the Road Runner in our show,” she explains. “He’s just incredibly annoyed by his presence. So, we have one episode where he goes to extreme lengths to keep the Road Runner away. And then in another episode, he’s trying to beat the Road Runner in a race. But I think that you’ll see that Bugs is still casual and chomping on his carrot, Porky is still meticulous and easily flustered and Daffy is just all over the place and super daffy. We really wanted to hold on to those core personality traits while just avoiding any mature ideas or themes.”

Bugs Bunny Builders
Bugs Bunny Builders

Mindful of the Legacy

Supervising producer and showrunner Abe Audish says he also had the history of Looney Tunes in mind as he and the team crafted each episode. “We wanted to do is make sure we established a world where all our favorite and beloved Looney Tunes characters from the past can show up and everybody has some kind of problem to solve or build that they need to create,” says Audish, who has also worked on shows such as as Sanjay and Craig, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Tig N’ Seek. “We’re having fun with the characters, but we’ve changed the characters a bit in terms of some of the things that they want, who they are, and we’ve also expanded some new characters for the show.”

He adds, “Having those characters that have such a rich past history was so much fun. Even as we’re thinking about other characters and their possible storylines, there’s so much to work with here. We’re excited to work with each one of these characters. We want to go back to some old characters and revisit them and have new builds and challenges for them. It’s been a very exciting and fun process.”

Bugs Bunny Builders
Bugs Bunny Builders

Warner Bros. Animation was the main production studio, with Snipple, an animation studio in the Philippines with offices in London, and Digital eMation, located in Korea, providing additional animation services.

This new younger take on Looney Tunes classics features the likes of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, Sylvester, Petunia, Wile E. Coyote, Taz, and Lola as they work together in a preschool-friendly world. Of course, they’ll use many of their classic personality traits and abilities to solve problems and meet challenges. They’ll retain essential aspects of their looks, but the character style has also been updated.

Abe Audish

“We just made them a little bit softer, a little brighter, making the line work a little bolder,” says Audish. “The art director and I made sure that we tried to incorporate a nostalgia for the original look of Looney Tunes while using a style that’s geared toward a young audience so kids get familiarized with it. It’s classic Looney Tunes, but brighter and more simplified. We wanted to simplify the voicers, too. Our voice director and I really wanted to make sure we slowed down the verbiage in the speech patterns in the dialog. This way the audience understands the story and doesn’t get lost. That’s part of the STEM work we’re doing, just making sure that our audience understands what’s going on.”

Eric Bauza, a tireless veteran Looney Tunes actor, returns as the voices of Bugs, Tweety and Daffy. Another familiar Looney Tunes thesp, Bob Bergen, is voicing Porky, while Lola Rabbit is played by Chandni Parekh. Additional voice actors include Jeff Bergman as Sylvester, Alex Cazares as Petunia Pig and Fred Tatasciore as Taz.

Cartoonito’s curriculum director Dr. Laura Brown believes the show supports the interest and excitement kids have for building. In particular, she’s noted the design thinking process of imagining, building and fixing and the emotional intelligence of learning to work together. Bugs Bunny Builders aims to include stories that inspire kids to develop interpersonal skills as well as STEM.

Bugs Bunny Builders
Bugs Bunny Builders

Baking in the Design Elements

“I think, first and foremost, we want to tell the best story,” says Belisle, whose previous credits include Kung Fu Panda: Paws of Destiny, Mickey Mouse Funhouse and Go, Dog. Go! “So, we always think about that first, and for us that means coming up with a really ‘Looney’ build and a fun character arc to follow and then baking that into our design curriculum, which consists of imagining the build and the fix, and then we achieve that by working closely with our educational consultant, as well as our executives, just to make sure that each episode is easy to comprehend.”

She adds, “Of course, we still want to be very ‘Looney.’ It was very important to us that we not lose any of the ‘Looney’ or fun parts of the characters and that we still make it palatable for such a young audience. I find so much fun to work with the cast of characters that we get to work with on this show. I grew up watching classic Looney Tunes, and to have a chance to write for their voices and to see our artists bring a show to life is really special. It’s exciting to introduce these iconic characters to a young audience.”

Belisle says she can’t wait for the show to premiere so that kids can meet these new incarnations of the familiar characters. “We’ve been really cognizant of also looking at it as a family show and I think there’s something for everyone in this show,” she notes. “We also have wordplay for older kids and nods to the classics for the parents, so I really think the whole process has been about including the whole family in this show. The payoff has been really huge.”

Bugs Bunny Builders premiered today (Mon., July 25) on Cartoonito on Cartoon Network, and streams tomorrow (Tues., July 26) on Cartoonito on HBO Max. 



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