Co-EPs / Co-showrunners Nate Cash and Erin Gibson’s revived ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’ series, set at Acme Looniversity, famed institution of higher hijinks learning, sports a visual facelift where the characters ‘move in a cool 3D way, but it's all hand-drawn;’ Season 1 debuts today, September 8 on Max, tomorrow on Cartoon Network.
Big mallets, stampedes, freeze guns, rogue rockets, and way, way too much pizza. Tiny Toons Looniversity, releasing all Season 1 episodes today, September 8, on Max, with one episode per week airing on Cartoon Network starting tomorrow, takes all the best parts of art school and douses it with slap-stick violence. And for the series’ creators, production has been a somewhat cathartic experience.
“I couldn't have been more excited to go to art school,” remembers Nate Cash, co-EP and co-showrunner with Erin Gibson on the revived Tiny Toons series. “And the actual classes were the least fun part of it. But just figuring out who you are and what the future holds for you is a really exciting moment. And I think the premise of the show leans into that really well, where the instructors are these legacy Warner Brothers cartoons that everybody looks up to. But also, these students are not just going to imitate their teachers. They’ve got to figure out what their thing is going to be. Which is a pretty cool setup.”
Produced by Amblin Television in association with Warner Bros. Animation, Tiny Toons Looniversity reboots the 1990 Emmy Award-winning Tiny Toon Adventures for a new generation, with 10 episodes coming in both Season 1 and Season 2. The new series follows rabbit twins Babs and Buster to Acme Looniversity, the premier institution of higher hijinks learning. While enrolled, they form long-lasting friendships and perfect their cartoony craft while studying under the greatest cartoon characters in history, the “Looney Tunes.”
The voice cast includes Emmy Award-winner Eric Bauza as Buster, Daffy, and Gossamer; Ashleigh Hairston as Babs; David Errigo Jr. as Hamton J. Pig and Plucky; and Tessa Netting as Sweety. The series also welcomes back Tiny Toon Adventures alumni Jeff Bergman, Bob Bergen, Candi Milo, and Cree Summer, who reprise their roles as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Dean Granny, and Elmyra, respectively. Bergman also voices Sylvester and Foghorn Leghorn, and Milo also voices Witch Hazel. Looney Tunes veteran actor Fred Tatasciore voices Taz and Yosemite Sam.
Steven Spielberg also returns as executive producer, with Sam Register, President of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios, and Amblin Television Presidents Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank also serving as executive producers.
“There were very few shorts from the original series that actually had the characters in class, other than the main title sequence,” shares Cash. “That series was made up of 11-minute episodes broken up into smaller shorts. We're doing a 22-minute sitcom-structured show of these characters at college, focusing on the fun life in class, between classes, and in the dorms. Plugging all the antics of a typical college experience into the already established Warner Brothers cartoon world with ACME products like rockets, anvils, and mallets has been fun.”
Another one of the most enjoyable parts for Cash and his animation team was giving Buster, Babs, and the Looniversity staff and students a 20-plus-year facelift.
“The super volumetric style of classic cartoons doesn't get done very often anymore, and our lead character designer Leonard Lee really nailed it with having the volumes of the characters move in a cool 3D way, but it's all hand-drawn.” says Cash. “The Simpsons was referenced a lot because those characters have a minimal amount of linework to them, but they move in such a believable way. We took all this from the old Tiny Toon show and refined it.”
But the big challenge was actually finding artists capable of working in a style that, while classic, is still fairly old-school (pun intended).
“Finding the right crew that can draw in that volumetric way, and finding animators who can animate in that style, was difficult, but key,” shares Cash. “We had to find people who were capable and passionate about creating this way, because it’s difficult to draw simple characters as three-dimensionally as we're doing, and it looks really bad when it's done wrong. We had to make sure it was done right and with care.”
Working in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Adobe Photoshop, Cash and his team utilized digital tools for hand-drawing Looniversity, but included no 3D animation software, save for one or two episodes that include a CG golf cart.
“There are a lot of electrics to getting this kind of look,” explains Cash. “You have to have the 2D forms wrap around a simple volume, so that all the details of the face follow that. You're not coming up with a drawing that looks good at just one angle, but you’re following a math equation where all the facial expressions are following this form. It’s a classic way of drawing that's difficult to do, but appealing. And, once you learn it, you get an eye for it.”
Cash says one of the main inspirations his team drew from – literally – were the old black and white Porky Pig Warner Bros. cartoons dating back to the 1930s.
“In a lot of those black and white cartoons, like Porky in Wackyland from 1938, Porky didn't look like the character we know now,” notes Cash. “He was adorable, and everything was really… squishy. That’s the word that comes to mind. We used a lot of Ub Iwerks’ cartoons as a reference.”
Even with the black and white cartoons serving as a pillar in Looniversity’s design, Cash was clear that he wanted the color in the world to pop. After all, what’s a football field explosion without bright blue skies and equally bright and devastating flames?
“Benjamin Lee, our art director, really killed it with the right amount of detail and colors,” says Cash. “A lot of times, backgrounds on shows can get so detailed that they make the characters in front of them not as appealing. So, we wanted to make sure all the colors and backgrounds really pop the characters and draw the focus to them.”
Since the show’s episodes are stand-alone and not serialized, Cash says he and the team are more than game to continue with more Tiny Toons stories, should audiences demand it after Season 2, and especially since it opens the door to the Toon world for those who haven’t passed through the doors before (as hard as that is to imagine).
“There are definitely a lot of Easter eggs for people who have nostalgia for the old show, but you certainly won’t have needed to watch Looney Toons or Tiny Toon Adventures to watch this one,” says Cash. “It’s not like Avengers. There isn’t a massive list of movies you’d need to see beforehand.”