Warner Bros. Animation is the animation division of Warner Bros., a subsidiary of Time Warner. The studio is closely associated with the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies characters and others, some of whom - such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tom and Jerry - are among the most famous and recognizable characters in the world.
The studio is the successor to Warner Bros. Cartoons (formerly Leon Schlesinger Productions), the studio which produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon shorts from 1933 to 1963, and from 1967 to 1969. Warner re-established its own animation division in 1980 to produce Looney Tunes related works. Since 1990, Warner Bros. Animation has primarily focused upon the production of television and feature animation of other properties, notably including those related to Time Warner's DC Comics publications.
1976 - 1989: Restarting the studio
The original Warner Bros. Cartoon studio, as well as all of Warner Bros.' short subject production divisions, closed in 1969 due to the rising costs and declining returns of short subject production. Outside animation companies were hired to produce new Looney Tunes
-related animation for TV specials and commercials at irregular intervals. In 1976, Warner Bros. Cartoon alumnus Chuck Jones began producing a series of Looney Tunes
specials at his Chuck Jones Productions
animation studio, the first of which was Carnival of the Animals
. These specials, and a 1975 Looney Tunes
retrospective feature film entitled Bugs Bunny: Superstar
, led Jones to produce The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie
for Warner Bros. in 1979. This film blended classic Looney Tunes
shorts with newly produced wraparounds of Bugs Bunny introducing each of the cartoons. Warner Bros. responded to the success of this film by re-establishing its own cartoon studio.
Warner Bros. Animation re-opened its doors in 1980 to produce compilation films and television specials starring the Looney Tunes characters. Friz Freleng left DePatie-Freleng (which became Marvel Productions after being sold to Marvel Entertainment), and returned to Warners as executive producer. Before leaving DFE, Freleng produced new animation for The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981). The new wraparounds for Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) and Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island (1983) featured footage by a new Warner Bros. Animation staff, comprised mainly of veterans from the golden age of WB cartoons, including writers John Dunn and Dave Detiege.
By 1986, Freleng had departed, with Steven S. Greene and Kathleen Helppie-Shipley taking his place. The studio continued production on special projects starring the Looney Tunes characters, sporadically producing new Looney Tunes shorts for theaters such as The Duxorcist (1987), Night of the Living Duck (1988), Box Office Bunny (1990), and Carrotblanca (1995). Many of these shorts, as well as the new footage in the compilation film Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (which includes The Duxorcist), were directed by Greg Ford and Terry Lennon, as well as Darrell Van Citters.
1989 - 1997: Moving into television animation
Beginning in 1989, Warner Bros. moved into regular television animation production. Warners' television division was established by producer Tom Ruegger
, who brought with him much of the staff from Hanna-Barbera Productions
' A Pup Named Scooby-Doo
series. A studio for the television unit was set up at the Sherman Oaks
Galleria northwest of Los Angeles
. The first Warner Bros. original animated TV series Tiny Toon Adventures
(1990-1992) was produced in conjunction with Amblin Entertainment
, and featured young cartoon characters based upon specific Looney Tunes
stars, and was a success. Later Amblin/Warner Bros. TV series, including Animaniacs
(1993-1998), its spin-off Pinky and the Brain
(1995-1998), and Freakazoid!
(1995-1997) followed in continuing the Looney Tunes
tradition of cartoon humor.
Warner Bros. Television Animation also began developing shows based upon comic book characters owned by sister company DC Comics. These programs, including Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000), Batman Beyond (1999-2001), and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (2001-2006) proved popular among both children and adults. A theatrical Batman spin-off feature, Mask of the Phantasm was produced in 1993 and bumped up to theatrical release.
1997 - 2003: The rise and fall of Warner Bros. Feature Animation
Warner Bros., as well as several other Hollywood studios, moved into feature animation following the success of Disney's The Lion King
in 1994. Max Howard, a Disney alumnus, was brought in to head the new division, which was set up in two studios: one in Sherman Oaks near the television studio, and the other in nearby Glendale
. Warner Bros. Feature Animation proved an unsuccessful venture, as four of the five films it produced failed to earn money during their original theatrical releases (Because of lack of promotion for their animated features). The first of Warners' animated features was Space Jam
(1996), a live-action/animation mix which starred NBA
basketball star, Michael Jordan
opposite Bugs Bunny
(Jordan had previously appeared with the Looney Tunes in a number of Nike
commercials). Directed by Joe Pytka (live-action) and Bruce W. Smith
& Tony Cervone (animation), Space Jam
proved to be a success at the box office. Animation production for Space Jam
was primarily done at the new Sherman Oaks studio, although much of the work was outsourced to animation studios around the world.
Following Space Jam's success, Warner Bros. Feature Animation continued production on its next feature, Quest for Camelot (1998), which proved an unsuccessful release. The third Warner Bros. animated feature, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), was not a commercial success, although it received rave reviews and performed well with test audiences. The Iron Giant would eventually became a modern cult classic. The studio's next film, Osmosis Jones (2001) was another animated/live action mix which suffered through a troubled production. Directors Tom Sito and Piet Kroon completed the animation long before the live-action segments, eventually directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly and starring Bill Murray, were begun. The resulting film was not a box office success, although Warners did produce a related Saturday morning cartoon, Ozzy and Drix (2002-2003) for its WB broadcast network.
Following the releases of The Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones the feature animation staff was scaled back, and the entire animation staff - feature and television - were moved to the larger Sherman Oaks facility. The final Warner Bros. Feature Animation production was another live-action/animation mix, Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), which was meant to be starting point for a reestablishment of the Looney Tunes brand, including a planned series of new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts produced by Back in Action writer and producer Larry Doyle. After Back in Action, directed by Joe Dante (live action) and Eric Goldberg (animation), failed at the box office, production was shut down on the new Looney Tunes shorts and the feature animation unit was dissolved. Two TV series based loosely upon the Looney Tunes property, Baby Looney Tunes (2002-2005) and Loonatics Unleashed (2005-2007) have assumed the place of the original shorts on television.
1996–present: Acquisitions and Warner Bros. Animation today
Warners' parent company Time Warner
merged with Turner Entertainment
in 1996, not only re-acquiring the rights to the pre-1948 color Looney Tunes
and Merrie Melodies
(plus all the B&W Merrie Melodies
except Lady, Play Your Mandolin!
, which WB had held on to since 1967 after merging with Seven Arts Productions
, which had owned that cartoon and the B&W Looney Tunes
) but also taking on two more animation studios: Turner Feature Animation and Hanna-Barbera
Cartoons. Turner Feature was immediately folded into Warner Bros. Feature Animation, while Hanna-Barbera was slowly absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation itself. With the death of William Hanna
in 2001, Warner fully took over production of H-B related properties such as Scooby-Doo
, producing a steady stream of Scooby
direct-to-video films and two new series, What's New, Scooby-Doo?
(2002-2005) and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!
(2006-2008). The Turner merger also gave WB access to the pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
library, which included its classic cartoon library (including such characters as Tom and Jerry
, Barney Bear
and Screwy Squirrel
). WBA has since co-produced a few direct-to-video films with Turner which starred Tom and Jerry. Besides producing content for the daytime market, Warner Bros. Animation also produced Baby Blues
with sister company Warner Bros. Television
and 3 South
with MTV Animation
The series which Hanna-Barbera had been producing for Turner's Cartoon Network before and during the Time Warner/Turner merger were shifted to production at Cartoon Network Studios, a sister company to Warner Bros. Animation. Warner Bros. Animation, is today exclusively involved in the production of animated television programming and direct-to-video features. It produced many of the shows airing on the Kids' WB! Saturday morning programming block of The CW until May 24, 2008. These programs included Loonatics Unleashed, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, Krypto the Superdog, Xiaolin Showdown, The Batman, and Tom and Jerry Tales. By 2007, the studio had downsized significantly from its size during the late 1990s. Warner Bros. downsized the studio further in June, shut down the Sherman Oaks studio, and had Warner Bros. Animation moved to the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank, California.
To expand the company's online content presence, Warner Bros. launched the new KidsWB.com on April 28, 2008, new website that gathers its core animation properties in a single online environment that will be interactive and customizable for site visitors. The Kids WB offers both originally produced content along with classic animated episodes, games, and exploration of virtual worlds, all supported by advertising. Characters to be used in the project from the Warner libraries include those in the Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, DC Comics, and others.
As recently announced, Warner Bros. Animation is also working with online production company Studio 2.0 (a sister subsidiary of Warner Bros.) on online series based on Batman, Plastic Man and The Wizard Of Oz.
Films produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation
Tom and Jerry
- 3 South (2002-2006, with MTV Animation)
- Animaniacs (1993-1998, with Amblin Entertainment)
- Baby Blues (2000-2002, with Warner Bros. Television)
- Baby Looney Tunes (2002-2005)
- Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
- Batman Beyond (1999-2001)
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-present)
- The Batman (2004-2008)
- The Cat&Birdy Warneroonie PinkyBrainy Big Cartoonie Show (1999-2000)
- Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island (2005-2006)
- The Daffy Duck Show (1996-1997)
- Detention (1999-2000)
- Duck Dodgers (2003-2005)
- Firehouse Tales (2005-2006)
- Freakazoid! (1995-1997, with Amblin Entertainment)
- Histeria! (1998-2001)
- Johnny Test (first two seasons only, now done by Cookie Jar Entertainment) (2005-2008)
- Justice League (2001-2004)
- Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006)
- Krypto the Superdog (2005-2006)
- Legion of Super Heroes (2006-2008)
- Loonatics Unleashed (2005-2007)
- ¡Mucha Lucha! (2002-2005)
- The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999)
- The New Batman/Superman Adventures (1997-2000)
- Ozzy & Drix (2002-2004)
- Pinky and the Brain (1995-1998, with Amblin Entertainment)
- Pinky, Elmyra and The Brain (1998-1999, with Amblin Entertainment)
- The Plucky Duck Show (1992, with Amblin Entertainment)
- Road Rovers (1996-1997)
- Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! (2006-2008)
- Static Shock (2000-2004)
- Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)
- The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (1995-2002)
- Taz-Mania (1991-1996)
- Teen Titans (2003-2006)
- Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1994, with Amblin Entertainment)
- Tom and Jerry Tales (2006-2008)
- Waynehead (1996-1997, with Nelvana)
- What's New, Scooby-Doo? (2002-2006)
- Xiaolin Showdown (2003-2006)
- The Zeta Project (2001-2002)
- Chuck Amuck : The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist by Chuck Jones, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, ISBN 0-374-12348-9
- Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, Leonard Maltin, Revised Edition 1987, Plume ISBN 0-452-25993-2 (Softcover) ISBN 0-613-64753-X (Hardcover)