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CARTOONS—Bugs Bunny to Appear on a Computer Screen Near You

Bugs Bunny and his pals have a new home and it’s not a hole in the ground. It’s on the Web. On May 1, Burbank-based Warner Bros., the studio that created the famed hare, launched Looneytunes.com to showcase a variety of new cartoons, made just for the Web. “The Looney Tunes are among the most treasured Warner Bros. characters, and this site is the perfect showcase for them,” said Kevin Tsujihara, Warner’s executive vice president of new media. The effort comes two months after Warner Bros. Animation named Sander Schwartz president of the unit with a pledge to revitalize the animation unit. Warner Bros. is moving forward with its new kids’ Web site while other entertainment companies are shedding theirs. Internet analyst Jordan Rohan, of the consulting firm Wit SoundView, said Warner Bros. is smart to stick to its brand name. “Bugs Bunny is perfect for Warner Bros. That’s what they need to capitalize on,” he said. While the company won’t say how much it has spent to develop the site and its content, the programming can’t be cheap. Already, the studio’s animation unit has developed a number of made-for-the-Web cartoons, including its 10-part “Toon Marooned,” a parody based on the popular “Survivor” television series on CBS. “This site is a great place for us to experiment with and incubate new programming ideas,” Tsujihara said. “Toon Marooned” features Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, among others, in a competition for a $100 purse in a remote jungle. Those watching will have a chance to interact with the characters by choosing which supplies the characters will need in their isolated camp and which items they can drop on their heads. This and other cartoons could eventually surface on television but, Tsujihara said, any such plans are a long way off. Although geared primarily to children, the cartoons will also have the smart dialogue and situations that will attract adults like the original Looney Tunes cartoons did, Tsujihara pledged. The first Looney Tunes cartoon premiered in April 1930 with two now-obscure characters named Bosko and Honey. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck came along in 1936, featured most often in six-minute shorts targeted mostly at adult audiences who saw them sandwiched between double features at movie theaters well into the 1960s. The new cartoons feature the voice of June Foray, who has played Granny in the Tweety cartoons for more than 40 years, and veteran voice artists Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Jim Cummings and Greg Burson. Mel Blanc, the original voice of Bugs Bunny and many of the other characters, died in 1989. The site will feature new cartoons every two weeks, with a new serial starting every 20 weeks. “This is really the first time in four decades that they’ve been brought together in an ongoing, serialized format,” said Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation. The Web site will also include a series of games based on scenes from classic Warner Bros. cartoons, message boards, a library of interactive stories that children can read and interviews with animators and information on the characters. The site will also carry banner ads. Warner Bros.’ move is in contrast to other studios that have been scaling back their Internet presence amid mounting losses. Disney, for instance, lost $790 million before dumping its Go.com flagship site and other assorted sites in January. NBC last month agreed to get rid of its NBCi.com site by year’s end after spending millions on its promotion and content.

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