Looney Tunes Cartoons drops on HBO Max on May 27th and today we got the opportunity to interview one of the producers of the show Peter Browngardt.
Alan: Hello Peter, how’s it going?
Peter: It’s going good! Beautiful weather out here so…
Alan: That’s good! You have produced and even starred in a few shows yourself: Uncle Grandpa, Chowder, Venture Bros, among others. How did Looney Tunes Cartoons come about?
Peter: So I finished up Uncle Grandpa and I took a little time off and met Audrey Diehl, the creative executive at Warner Brothers, we met up once and a while to see what’s going on- touch base. She was like “I want to talk to you about some projects going on at Warner Brothers” so we had lunch. She was actually talking to me about another project that I wasn’t interested in and I told her it wasn’t something I was interested in.
But we wrapped up lunch, just about to leave, and I said “you know, what I really want to do is direct a Looney Tunes short” and she said “really? you like Looney Tunes?” and I said “yeah those are my favorite!” and she said well you should come talk to Sam Register, the president, I’ve never met before and we had a meeting with Sam and I verbally pitched to him what I would do to Looney Tunes. I said “I wanted to bring it back to the era of the 1940’s where Daffy was zany and crazy and bugs had a certain different energy, he had flaws he wasn’t perfect he’d lose to the gremlin or Cecil the Turtle he wasn’t always perfect. And the aesthetic, that animation aesthetic, art aesthetic, writing aesthetic that was the stuff that inspired me as a youth and got me into animation. That was my spiel, I just said “more cartoons” don’t try to updated it dont try to change how they look or how they act or anything like that or pair them differently. I think somewhere in the later Looney Tunes- they started pairing the characters oddly but what I wanted to do was stick to the classic pairings and I wanted a very visual and gag based cartoon.
Alan: Yeah! Eric Bauza(the voice of Bugs Bunny in Looney Tunes Cartoons) just mentioned how this was “the perfect love letter to Looney Tunes” and after watching some of it I have to agree! The animation is very faithful and the voices just fit perfectly.
Peter: Thanks so much! It was definitely a love letter but not only from me and Eric. Eric was the perfect person, really timing was huge in all of this stuff. Meeting Eric at this point in his career and having veterans like Bob Bersen, Jeff Bergman, and adding some new people to the cast like Fred Tatasciore and Candi Milo it’s just- it’s huge. Our artists on the show like supervising producer Alex Kirwan, art director Aaron Spurgeon, directors David Gemmill, Ryan Kramer, and Kenny Pittenger it was just- I knew the right people to put together. I knew people who wanted to do what I wanted to do that didn’t have the chance and now we got the chance.
We spent a lot of time looking at the old shorts analyzing them to crack the code to how they worked.
Alan: Were there any particular episodes that really stood out when you were studying?
Peter: I mean we all have our favorites it’s more of a personal thing whether you saw them as a kid or later, it’s very subjective. The Bob Clampett stuff early Avery, I’m a big Tex Avery fan, Falling Hare I love Buccaneer Bucks which is a Friz cartoon. Even the early 40’s Jones hair raising hares and his earlier work- I love the humor it felt like the height of the studio. Right before Clampett left, the competitiveness they had with eachother- everyone had learned. They had that job for so long and made so many of them[cartoons] that they got so good at them which is such a rare thing.
I think what’s working with our show is that we are making so many that we’re able to get a team together and keep them together for a 2 year period which is sort of unheard of. Unless your show becomes a mega hit there’s hiatuses and people getting poached, we were able to keep this core because nobody knew what we were up to because we kept a tight lid on it, I think it helped a lot.
Alan: Are there any certain places you want to take the Looney Tunes that we haven’t seen yet? How would you want to stretch Bugs, Daffy, and the gang further after 90 years of cartoons?
Peter: Not particularly. Probably if anything we have a few gross out jokes that they might not have done. They didn’t really do scatological stuff like farts or burps. Once in a while they would do a burp which is very modern or at one point modern. We got some people from Ren & Stimpy kind of era but for the most part we were trying to stay true to the style of humor they were doing. We never had a mandate that we had to make them look more modern. We did have a scene where bugs is holding a cell phone and that didn’t come out because it’s modern it was convenient for the story. Whatever felt right for the gag, story, or character was the most important thing.
Alan: What do you think is the difference in producing a show like Looney Tunes Cartoons vs starting out with character layouts, prop designer, or storyboard artist?
Peter: Unfortunately I don’t get to draw as much as I used to. That being said i get to curate who does draw. I feel like I have a knack for it where I’m able to recognize artists strengths and weakness in a role that I hope they shine in.
The biggest challenge is that the style of draftsmanship, drawing, and design that they were doing, was very traditional and not really taught and not very popular anymore so finding artists that can draw like that is very hard. People don’t draw, like, 3D dimensional 4D style characters, that being said I feel like I have some of the best people so we tapped into some veterans like Dan Haskett who’s worked with these characters for decades. I asked Dan when was the first time he drew one of these characters and he said “1979” and I said “that’s when I was born!” and he’s a master.
Then I found Jim Soper who I was just a fan of his artwork on Instagram and when the project came up I said “I’m going to use this Jim Soper guy”. I didn’t know Jim and got his contact info through Instagram messaging and I gave him a call I said “hey Jim i’m Pete I don’t know if you know my work but I really love your artwork Jim I saw your work on Instagram and I’m doing this new Looney Tunes project from Warner Brothers and I would love for you to help me set the style of the show with your drawings” and there was this pause and I got all nervous like “oh geez he’s going to not do it” and he said “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this phone call”.[laughs]
It was incredible! This is a young guy who is working in a motion graphics studios who’s putting up his incredible drawings on Instagram and I found him and hes been a huge part of this show. So it’s interesting, we have both sides of the coin we’ve got veterans and young geniuses.
Alan: That’s great to hear! So final question: what is your favorite Looney Tunes era?
Peter: Oh definitely the mid 40’s Bob Clampett like Falling Hare or Great Piggy Bank Robbery, just all of the 40’s stuff even the Friz stuff and just all of the directors. I love the aesthetic, I love how the characters act and perform and related to each other. I loved the wacky story lines and I don’t think they realized it at the time but they were inventing a language of cinema that inspired comedy and entertainment until the end of time. Would there be a Jim Carrey without a Bob Clampett? I don’t know. I listened to Conan O’Brien’s podcast I think it was one of the earliest episodes and he said the biggest influence of his humor was the Looney Tunes.
It’s incredible they’re the greatest comedy shorts, definitely greatest animated shorts but just shorts in general. They’re just masterpieces and I don’t think we can ever match that but we can certainly try and we can certainly show affection to their greatness.
Alan: Peter thank you so much for answering our questions.
Peter: Absolutely! Thank’s for taking the time to do this!