The Looney Tunes Transform Into Wizard of Oz to Celebrate Warner Bros' 100th Anniversary

Warner Bros. Animation Acme Fools Looney Tunes Wizard of Oz
Warner Bros. Animation Acme Fools Looney Tunes Wizard of Oz

The spirit of what April Fools’ Day should be is the energy of the Looney Tunes, and with that in mind ACME Fools will debut wacky new content to celebrate the silly antics of animation’s agents of chaos and their Warner Bros. 100 crossover events.

io9 caught up with Josh Hackbarth, SVP of the Animation Franchise Development at Warner Bros., to find out what ACME Fools is all about, how the Looney Tunes transcend generations, and what’s up next for the franchise. We discussed the inspiration behind the upcoming The Wizard of Oz and Looney Tunes mashup (which you can see exclusively in the video below), the first of four 30-second custom shorts debuting Mondays across the company’s socials starting today.

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ACME Fools | Looney Tunes & The Wizard of Oz Mash-Up! | @wbkids

In conjunction with the mash-up shorts, collections inspired by the Looney Tunes crossing fandom lines will continue as part of Warner Bros. 100 lines at RSVLTS, Funko, and the WB Shop online. And of course on April Fools’ Day, more mayhem will be unleashed, with 12-hour stunts across Looney Tunes’ social media pages (@LooneyTunes on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), plus WB Kids YouTube and Cartoon Network marathoning the franchise series—all leading up to the release of new HBO Max Looney Tunes Cartoons on April 6.

Sabina Graves, io9: Let’s talk about this year, which is a huge year for Looney Tunes and the Warner Bros. 100. What are the plans to have the characters ring in the centennial?

Josh Hackbarth: It is a huge year, not just for the Looney Tunes but certainly for the studio. We’re taking the opportunity to essentially leverage our Looney Tunes to showcase all of the fandom of the 100 years of Warner Bros. history. Looney Tunes are such a great platform to tell stories with—and so we thought, what better way than dressing them up as some of our other legendary Warner Bros. characters? Anything from our DC portfolio to Scooby-Doo, Wizard of Oz. We’re using ACME Fools as kind of a continuation of what we’ve started in the past but really amplifying it this year with the 100th.

io9: What’s the selection process like to match up the Looney Tunes with classic Warner Bros. fandom?

Hackbarth: It was such a fun process—and you can imagine the ideas that were flying in. When you look across the Warner Bros. library there’s not an IP we wouldn’t love to mash it up with, but we really started with fan-favorite Warner Bros. iconic properties like Wizard of Oz. Our DC characters, which there’s a long history of Looney Tunes and DC overlap there—so it’s fun to bring that back to life. But then things that we haven’t really done in the past in our animation library across Hanna-Barbera, like Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones, [were] fun to bring to life as well.

io9: Love the RSVLTS Looney Tunes X DC Mashups for the WB 100.

RSVLTS DC x Looney Tunes
RSVLTS DC x Looney Tunes

Hackbarth: There’s a close alignment there and what you’ve seen in that line. So it’s kind of fun to tell that kind of 360 storytelling from products all the way down to the shorts that we’re going to be releasing.

io9: The Looney Tunes characters have this long history of mash-ups—from their inception, when they riffed on Hollywood back in the day, to being in the Space Jam [movies], like The Matrix moment. Has there been any consideration to expand that into longer form shorts or features, kind of like Carrotblanca [the Looney Tunes feature parody of WB classic Casablanca]?

Hackbarth:  I mean, they’re born in parody, right? It’s so nice to talk to a true Looney Tunes fan because you know the history. Since their inception in the ‘40s, they were really meant almost as a mirror onto culture, versus an aspirational window into somewhere else. And so it’s been been fun to see those kind of mash-ups, I don’t think we’re introducing that into the franchise. It’s been long discussed and long eventized with Looney Tunes. So I’ll say: I can’t see an end to it but there’s nothing specific that we have to announce today. It is fun to play with, even in the latest Looney Tunes cartoons that are up on HBO Max—there’s plenty of parody in there that’s been fun to bring to life in different ways.

io9: Oh, yes. I love those. And the work Eric [Bauza, voice of Bugs Bunny, Tweety, and Daffy on the Looney Tunes Cartoons] and all the voice actors do on that is just so incredible.

Hackbarth: Incredible, and we won our first Bugs Bunny Emmy. The very first one.

io9: Yes! What was the reaction to that around the studio?

Hackbarth: Oh, it’s—I mean, Eric’s incredible and just to have Bugs Bunny recognized like that, it’s just awesome. I got to hold [the Emmy]! Eric brought it to lunch and I got to hold it.

io9: Since they were first introduced into pop culture, every generation has had their iteration of the Looney Tunes—not just through whatever content they’re in, but in the ways fans embrace them. I grew up in the Space Jam generation, with the Looney Tunes clothes, Cartoon Network [Boomerang] re-runs, and going to Six Flags to meet the characters—I’m very jealous of Abu Dhabi [location of Warner Bros. World, which has a Looney Tunes Land]. But yes, even down to most recently their life in memes and fashion—I just love how Gen Z is so into them. The Looney Tunes have transcended and become so evergreen in that regard.

Hackbarth: Oh, 100 percent. And you kind of riffed on how every generation has their Looney Tunes—but the interesting thing is it’s all the general kind of same philosophy for Looney Tunes, just maybe it’s the particular pop culture they’re referencing or things like that. But, you know, those shorts from the ‘40s and early ‘50s, those hold up today and that humor holds up. But I too was born of the Looney Tunes ‘90s generation, and I had my denim Looney Tunes shirt from the Warner Bros. studio store that I wore to school—and so, you know, it’s almost more of a pop culture Looney Tunes that I was used to versus the core cartoons. Every generation, to your point, has their own shorts, their own TV shows, their own films, even, you know, whether it’s Space Jam or [Looney Tunes] Back in Action. We have stage plays and you mentioned theme parks. I mean, there’s no better place to see it come to life, whether it’s Six Flags or you mentioned Abu Dhabi.

Fast and Furry-ous Ride WB World Looney Tunes
Fast and Furry-ous Ride WB World Looney Tunes

Fast and Furry-ous Ride at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.

io9: Tell me more about [Warner Bros. World] Abu Dhabi, because there’s a whole land called the Dynamite Gulch and Cartoon Junction where they all live, right?

Hackbarth: It’s so amazing that land that we built over there. I was able to visit it a couple of years ago. It really does just come to life, and bring Looney Tunes to life in front of your eyes. You see the ACME Factory, you see the characters walking around it. It’s really exciting. I think the wonderful thing about Looney Tunes too is that it’s not historical generations that are only loving them. You know, we’re continuing to feed future generations. There’s a great preschool show on right now called Bugs Bunny Builders.

io9: Yes, it’s so good!

Hackbarth: Such a great show [and] fun way to experience them for the very first time. We still have generations watching Saturday morning cartoons; whether they’re programmed or not they kind of do their own thing.

io9: What what are the plans coming up for more Looney Tunes merch? Not just with the WB 100, but the release of new fan collections for Bugs Bunny Builders and beyond?

Hackbarth: Huge kudos to our consumer products team. All around the world, they continue to bring Looney Tunes to life through our partners in all sorts of unbelievable ways. I was just over in Europe and seeing what’s popping up in the local markets for Looney Tunes is always so incredible. It’s this fan love all around the world. But you know, specifically you’ve seen the first of the four mash-up shorts that we’re doing, we’re really excited about those. We’ll have some other stunts happening throughout the month for ACME Fools [and] of course we have Abu Dhabi [and] a new stage show there. [Laughs] Not to keep pouring salt on that wound. We have a new stage show that the Looney Tunes are going to be front and center of over there as part of 100th anniversary. And then a little more closer to home we do have Bugs Bunny at the Symphony coming back to Los Angeles this summer.

io9: If it’s not too early to ask, is there any news regarding upcoming projects in the works for the Looney Tunes?

Hackbarth: I’ll just say we’re always finding new ways to bring Looney Tunes to life so I’m sure you’ll hear some news on that at some point.

io9: Obviously excited for Coyote vs. Acme as well!

Hackbarth: There’s some great content.

io9: Amazing. And just to get down to some some fun personal questions, what were your first fandoms were growing up? And did they influence your career path?

Hackbarth: Oh, I mean, 100% Looney Tunes. And I don’t just say that because of my job. I have an amazing three-year-old birthday picture of me with the Bugs Bunny birthday cake and I’ve just been a fan ever since. And of animation, just the whole process of bringing those characters to life always just enthralled me. I’m so excited to work on it today, and being whatever shepherd I can for those characters is really a dream come true, for sure.

The Wizard of Oz x Looney Tunes Mashup premieres here first today—and on the rest of the platforms later this afternoon. Weekly Monday drops will reveal the next three fun mashup shorts. All-day Looney Tunes marathons of Looney Tunes Cartoons, New Looney Tunes and Looney Tunes Show will take over channels on April 1; check your local listings for more or watch online. And a new collection of Looney Tunes shorts will premiere April 6 on HBO Max—which will also see an ACME Fools takeover for the month; the newest preschool show, Bugs Bunny Builders, will be adding more classic sci-fi characters to its roster.

Correction: Due to a transcription issue “Warner Bros.” was identified as “Warner Brothers” in an earlier version of this post. io9 regrets the error.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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