Warner Bros. Discovery Backs Down, Will Not “Cancel” ‘Looney Tunes’

in Movies, Television

Bugs Bunny dressed as a king with the Warner Bros logo on his sceptre

Credit: Warner Bros Discovery, edited by ITM

Warner Bros. Discovery has backed down in the face of public outcry and will not cancel the legendary animated series Looney Tunes from streaming availability on Max, despite its previous announcements.

Credit: Warner Bros. Animation

In recent years, Warner Bros. Discovery has become notorious for canceling and shelving finished or near-finished projects, like Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt, allegedly for tax write-offs. Similarly, the company, led by CEO David Zaslav, led the way in permanently removing existing TV shows and movies from its streaming service Max (as opposed to cycling it through licensing terms), likely to avoid paying residuals to writers, performers and other workers.

The cancelation of Batgirl, which was reportedly nearly finished, struck a nerve with DC fans and the wider public, who questioned why a media company should be allowed to deliberately not release content in order to take advantage of tax loopholes. Batgirl was intended as an HBO Max release and was to co-star Michael Keaton, reprising his version of Batman, and Academy Award winner Brendan Fraser as a villain. It was hotly anticipated until it was abruptly shelved.

Leslie Grace as Batgirl
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Warner Bros. Takes Art Out of Filmmaking, Accused of Creating Tax Write-Offs, Not Movies

The official line from Warner Bros. Discovery was that the movie was simply not up to the quality that it demanded for a DC Extended Universe release, a claim that is somewhat suspect in the wake of the tremendous box office flop and critical drubbing of The Flash.

Credit: Warner Bros. Animation

However, that claim could not be made for Looney Tunes, the long-running and beloved Warner Bros. Animation series that, along with Merrie Melodies, helped define modern cartoon shorts, particularly during the years led by Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies first premiered in 1930 and jointly starred classic characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner, and many more.

Since the Looney Tunes cartoons (and Merrie Melodies) began, they have consistently released new cartoons and feature films like Space Jam (1996), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), which coincidentally starred Brendan Fraser, and Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021). Bugs Bunny has remained a pop culture icon for nearly a hundred years, and the entire Looney Tunes roster is as recognizable as they ever have been.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Despite that, the Warner Bros. Discovery streaming service Max announced in its “What’s New on Max This December” press statement earlier this month that the Looney Tunes shorts would be removed from the platform at the end of the year.

A huge backlash immediately hit Warner Bros. Discovery from fans over the cancelation of Looney Tunes (via Deadline), leading the company to quickly back down and describe the statement as a “mistake.” Max released a new press statement, now claiming that “Looney Tunes was included in error as a title leaving the platform. This is not the case and the show will continue streaming on Max.”

While it may indeed have simply been a copywriting error that led to the initial statement, it is worth noting that when HBO Max was relaunched as Max, audiences quickly noted that the credits for movies and TV shows had been altered to refer to directors, writers, editors, and essentially all production members as “creators.”

Many commentators suspected this may have been an attempt to adjust residual payments, most of which are attached to the credit received, although this has not been confirmed, not to mention a violation of union agreements (per The Verge). Either way, Max also referred to this as basically a “mistake.”

Related: Warner Bros. Subject of Federal Investigation After Controversial Cancellation

Credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Max backing down and releasing a statement that Looney Tunes had not been canceled from streaming availability also comes on the heels of Warner Bros. Discovery’s debacle over Coyote vs. Acme, a Looney Tunes feature film, which it had decided to shelve, despite it being completely finished and had received glowing early evaluations.

After the fan outcry over the cancelation of Coyote vs. Acme (which has since been reversed), one might think Warner Bros. Discovery would have learned to stop trying to cancel beloved properties. It seems the company needs to keep being reminded.

Do you think it was really a mistake that Looney Tunes was to be deleted from Max? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

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