'Looney Tunes Cartoons': How did the timeless children's classic get such a wacky name?
As an explanation for the 'Looney' part of the title, Warner Bros wanted the audience to know that their cartoons were wackier than the Disney characters
For over 80 years, we have just grown to accept and love the name 'Looney Tunes' without ever questioning the origin of its quirky name. It's not really a surprise that the show was called 'Looney', because the writers wanted to emphasize how wacky it is. You have a rabbit, a duck, a pig, a man trying to hunt a rabbit, a bird, a cat, and a grandmother. Sometimes, you have a little Martian around and a lovestruck skunk. That spells nutty, in every possible way. But nevertheless, let's go back to the 1920s and see what went behind the making of this peculiar name.
During the early days of animation, Disney used to produce short films with music called 'Silly Symphonies'. According to Bob Bergen, who is the current voice of Porky Pig, the purpose of these films was to promote and sell music in the form of records and sheet music. "Back then, before people had TVs, the thing to do was to buy sheet music and play…piano," he told Reader’s Digest. "Sheet music sales were huge, a huge part of the profits of the studios. This was (the) pop music of the day."
As the popularity of these 'Silly Symphonies' soared, Warner Brothers decided to create their own equivalent. They produced 'Merry Melodies' and 'Looney Tunes'. As an explanation for the 'Looney' part of the title, Warner Bros wanted the audience to know that their cartoons were wackier than the Disney characters, at least according to Bergen's logic. The tune-filled toons went away as the entertainment industry evolved. "After a while, (they were about) Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety; they didn’t have anything to do with music," said Bergen.
So in short, it was a complete coincidence that 'tunes' sounded liked 'toons', and it became a matter of confusion in the 1990s. Bergen said that people always ask him about the name as they think it is a typo. "They think it was a typo… (and) that (Warner Brothers) were just like, 'let’s just live with it'," he said. Later, Warner Bros added to the confusion by releasing 'Tiny Toons' adventures.
'Looney Tunes Cartoons' is streaming on HBO Max.