Charlie Adler – Buster Bunny (most episodes & film)
John Kassir – Buster Bunny (season 3), Bugs Bunny (“Night Ghoulery”)
Tress MacNeille – Barbara Ann “Babs” Bunny, Babs’ Mom, Baby Duff, Barbara Bush, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Mama Bear, Max’s mother (1 episode), Plucky’s mother, Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg, Witch Hazel (1 episode), Marcia the Martian, various
Joe Alaskey – Plucky Duck, Batman/Bruce Wayne, George Washington’s Ghost, Hugo the Abominable Snowman (1 episode), Marvin the Martian, Ed Norton, Danny DeVito, Plucky’s dad, Pete Puma (1 episode), Porky Pig (1 episode), Speedy Gonzales, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester (1 episode), Wile E. Coyote, Yosemite Sam (1 episode), various
Don Messick – Hamton J. Pig, Bosko, Gremlin, various
Maurice LaMarche – Dizzy Devil, Yosemite Sam (most episodes), Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost, Dick Clark, Ed McMahon, Jackster, Orson Whales, Red Rad Robin Killems, Tim Burton, Tom Ruegger, The Terminator, various
Danny Cooksey – Montana Max
Cree Summer – Elmyra Duff, Mary Melody (except 1st), Michelle Pfeiffer, Oprah Winfrey
Kath Soucie – Fifi La Fume, Li’l Sneezer, Macaulay Culkin, Gnome, Margot Mallard, Lady May
Frank Welker – Furrball, Gogo Dodo, Barky Marky, Big Bee, Bookworm, Byron Basset, Calamity Coyote, Little Beeper, Dustin Hoffman, George H.W. Bush, Gossamer, Gremlin, Hugo the Abominable Snowman (1 episode), MacArthur Duff, Monty’s father, One-Eyed Jack, Papa Bear, Ralph the Guard, Road Runner, Roger Rabbit, Ronald Reagan, Steven Spielberg, Ticklepuss, The Wolverine, X-Bird, Coyote Kid, Charlie Dog, Mugsy, Chewcudda, various
Gail Matthius – Shirley “The Loon” McLoon, Max’s mother (1 episode)
Candi Milo – Sweetie Bird
In 1985, The Walt Disney Company made a triumphant return to television with the formation of their Walt Disney Television Animation studio. Their first offering, The Adventures of the Gummi Bears, was a success that was followed up by the even stronger DuckTales in 1987, with Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers on the way in 1988. Disney had found a way to take classic, established characters and breathe new life into them.
|The Warner Bros. Studio Lot, which would be the home and sometimes setting of their return to television.|
This did not go unnoticed by Warner Bros. president Terry Semel, who decided that his studio could find the same amount of success on television. To usher in this new age of animation, he envisioned a series focused around younger version of the Looney Tunes—Warner Bros.’ most well-known characters—that would also embody the babyfication craze that dominated most of the 1980s. Babyfication was the process by which established characters were represented as younger versions of themselves, which had been done on such shows as Muppet Babies, Tom & Jerry Kids, The Flintstone Kids, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
|Steven Spielberg with the Tiny Toons characters.|
Noted director Steven Spielberg had expressed interest in working with Warner and the Looney Tunes, and he was approached with Semel’s idea. While Spielberg was interested in it, he wanted an opportunity to create new characters as part of the Looney Tunes stable. It was decided that the idea would focus on young toons similar to the established characters, but with no direct relation. The idea moved forward initially as a feature film until a series was deemed better to reach a broader audience.
|The Warner Bros. Animation crew.|
Jean MacCurdy was hired away from Hanna-Barbera Productions to head up Warner Bros. Animation, and with her she brought along several former colleagues including Tom Ruegger to head up the new series. Ruegger had previously been involved with the production of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo’s first season. Together with writer Wayne Kaatz and artist Alfred Gimeno, Ruegger and Spielberg set down to develop the characters of the new show.
|Acme Acres, with the Looniversity front and center.|
What they came up with was Tiny Toon Adventures. The series would be set in the fictional town of Acme Acres (named after the fictional company that often supplied various props in Looney Tunes theatrical shorts) and would focus on the next generation of Looney Tunes characters. To become stars, the young characters attended Acme Looniversity where the seasoned characters would educate them in the various methods needed to be a cartoon star: from taking an anvil to the head to being exploded.
|Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation, fortunately).|
The principal residents of Acme Acres included Babs (Tress MacNeille) and Buster (Charlie Adler) Bunny (no relation, as they have to point out often). Whereas Buster embodied the cooler and collected yet vindictive in the face of adversity side of his mentor, Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, Noel Blanc & John Kassir), Babs embodied his more manic side and his penchant for impressions with quick changes and celebrity impersonations. Babs and Buster would often host the episodes either together or individually. They would talk about that episode’s theme, or just provide a bridge between segments.
|Clockwise from top: Calamity, Sweeitie, Shirley, Furrball, Max, Hamton, Plucky, Gogo, Elmyra, Dizzy, Fifi and Li'l Sneezer.|
Their friends and classmates included the self-aggrandizing Plucky Duck (Joe Alaskey), who took after Daffy Duck (Bergman & Burson) in his constant scheming to improve his own standing; the cleanly Hamton J. Pig (Don Messick), who often ended up involved in Plucky’s elaborate schemes and stuttered less than his classic counterpart, mentor and idol, Porky Pig (Alaskey & Bob Bergen); Fifi La Fume (Kath Soucie) was much like Pepe Le Pew (Burson) in her aggressively constant efforts to find love and being unable to do so due to her natural skunk odor; the unlucky Furrball (vocal effects by Frank Welker, speaking voice by Rob Paulsen in 1 episode) who was often homeless and, like Sylvester (Alaskey & Bergman) with Tweety (Bergman), chased after canary Sweetie Pie (Candi Milo); scientifically proficient Calamity Coyote (Welker) who, like Wile E. Coyote (Alaskey), communicated through signs he pulled from behind his back, but unlike the older toon chose to focus on his inventions rather than tirelessly pursue Little Beeper (also Welker) as Wile E. did Road Runner; Dizzy Devil (Maurice LaMarche) was every bit the dim-witted Tasmanian devil that his predecessor, Taz (Blanc, Bergman & Burson), was; the bizarre Gogo Dodo (Welker) from Wackyland, who was the only member of the cast directly related to a Looney Tunes character with his father being Yoyo Dodo from Porky in Wackyland; and original creation Shirley McLoon (a play on Shirley MacLaine, voiced by Gail Matthius using a Valley girl accent), who was highly superficial and served as the object of desire for Plucky and rooster Fowlmouth (Paulsen). On the human side, Yosemite Sam (LaMarche, Alaskey, Bergman & Adler) was represented by the mean, rich and greedy Montana Max (Danny Cooksey) and Elmer Fudd (Burson & Bergman) by the selfishly caring animal lover Elmyra Duff (“Fudd” in reverse, voiced by Cree Summer).
|Fowlmouth fawning over Shirley.|
Other characters included Li’l Sneezer (Soucie), based on Sniffles and who was a blabbermouth with many allergies; Arnold the Pit Bull (Paulsen), a muscular pit bull heavily influenced by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Mary Melody (Summer), a sweet human girl who attended the Looniversity and whose name was based on the Merrie Melodies series of shorts; Concord Condor (Paulsen), based on Beaky Buzzard, was a shy and dimwitted condor who often ended sentences with “nope, nope, nope, nope” or “yup, yup, yup, yup”; Barky Marky (Welker), based on Marc Anthony, was a dog who loved sports and other activities; Bookworm, a worm with glasses who worked at the Looniversity library and never spoke; and Byron Basset (Welker), based on Barnyard Dawg, a slow and lazy basset hound who usually turned around by pulling his head and tail inside his body and popping them out on the opposite ends. Speedy Gonzales (Alaskey) appeared as the school’s track coach and sports announcer, Pete Puma (Stan Freberg & Alaskey) as the school’s janitor, Foghorn Leghorn (Bergman & Burson) was a teacher, and Granny (June Foray) served as the head nurse and taught a computer animation class (a running gag had her assign thousand-page book reports to people who failed to answer a question correctly).
|A Tiny Toons table reading.|
Voice director Andrea Romano and Ruegger auditioned over 1,200 voices for the series before selecting the dozen main actors the series began with. Each one brought something unique to their respective roles: Adler gave Buster, the last role to be cast, a “great deal of energy”, Ruegger once told Comics Scene, however the producers had to work hard to keep his voice consistent between performances. Spielberg wanted Adler replaced as a result, but Ruegger and Romano fought to keep him on the show. MacNeille was versatile enough to handle Babs’ many impressions, a trait that was shared by LaMarche, Welker and Paulsen allowing the producers to assign them multiple roles, saving on additional casting. Cooksey, the only actor on the show who wasn’t an adult, was able to do a perfectly mean voice needed for Montana Max. Legendary voice actor Mel Blanc was set to reprise all of his classic Looney Tunes roles for the series, however he died while the show was in production. Blanc’s characters were handled by several different actors that included his son, Noel.
|The animator that started it all.|
Spielberg would serve as executive producer on the show and co-produce it through his Amblin Entertainment. He would also funnel in additional capital to ensure the highest quality out of the production, giving the first season a total budget of $25 million. One part of that quality, and a stipulation of Spielberg’s, was to have full animation in every episode produced rather than the limited animation studios like Hanna-Barbera were known for. As a result, the animation was much more fluid and involved almost double the amount of animation cels a standard television cartoon would employ. In order to accomplish that and fulfill the 65-episode order needed to have their show run in syndication, several animation houses were contracted to work on the episodes: Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now TMS Entertainment), Wang Film Productions, AKOM, Freelance Animators New Zealand, Encore Cartoons, StarToons International, LLC and Kennedy Cartoons. Kennedy, however, would be let go at the end of the first season due to their inconsistent quality and the high number of retakes often required on segments they produced.
|Tiny Toons Music Television.|
Another insistence of Spielberg’s was that the show would employ a full orchestra, much like the Looney Tunes shorts had. The studio was initially resistant to the idea because of the cost, but eventually they relented and agreed. Bruce Broughton served as the series’ music supervisor and oversaw the 26 other composers used to score different episodes which included Julie and Steve Bernstein, Steven Bramson, Don Davis, John Debney, Ron Grant, Les Hooper, Carl Johnson, Elliot Kaplan, Arthur Kempel, Ralph Kessler, Albert Lloyd Olson, Hummie Mann, Dennis McCarthy, Joel McNeely, Peter Myers, Laurence Rosenthal, William Ross, Arthur B. Rubinstein, J. Eric Schmidt, David Slonaker, Fred Steiner, Morton Stevens, Richard Stone, Stephen James Taylor and Mark Watters. Each composer conducted their own music and was credited in an episode based on how much of their composition was used.
|An ad for the Tiny Toons debut on CBS.|
Tiny Toon Adventures made its debut as a prime-time special on CBS on September 14, 1990 before moving and continuing on in first-run syndication for its first two seasons. The show’s introduction was animated by TMS and set to a theme song composed by Broughton and written by Ruegger and Kaatz. The majority of the episodes were broken up into several short segments united by a common theme; such as looking out for someone smaller, sports or enjoying a particular season. The show employed a blend of classic slapstick gags, pop culture references and parodies, and ethical and morality stories. Notable writers on the show included Ruegger, Kaatz, Paul Dini, Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver, Chuck Menville, Arleen Sorkin, Bruce Timm, Paul Rugg, Tom Minton, Buzz Dixon, Pamela Hickey and Dennys McCoy, amongst several others. Adler even contributed to a script for an episode.
|A caricature of the three teen writers.|
Three of the show’s most noteworthy writers came on board as a matter of chance. In October of 1990, a trio of eighth grade fans of the show—Renee Carter, Sarah Creef, and Amy Crosby—wrote a 120-page script based off a doodle of Carter’s that looked like Babs wearing a grass skirt. They sent the script out to Spielberg for consideration as an episode, not really expecting much to become of it. A Warner Bros. employee accidentally opened the package and, impressed by the contents, forwarded it on down the chain until it landed on Spielberg’s desk. Spielberg was impressed by what he saw and had the girls flown from Waynesboro, VA to his offices at Universal Studios where they were presented at a press conference and took part in a writer’s meeting regarding their episode. “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” aired during the show’s second season, and featured animated cameos by its writers and Spielberg himself.
|The Vacation DVD.|
The series proved to be a success, able to achieve a large audience by being accessible to both children and adults with its humor and story content. The 1992 direct-to-video movie, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, was one of the highest selling videos in the United States as a result (the movie would later be broken up into four episodes and included in the syndication package). The show easily won its second and third season, as well as a network spot as FOX picked up the rights to broadcast the third season in their Fox Kids programming block. The show also gained a short-lived spin-off: The Plucky Duck Show.
|The censors weren't quite as receptive as the intro had you believe.|
Unfortunately, becoming a network show meant the content freedom they once enjoyed received more scrutiny. After its initial airing, “Elephant Issues” received numerous complaints over the content for the “One Beer” segment, leaving the episode in limbo until the series was reran on The Hub in 2013. Later, FOX outright banned “Toons From the Crypt” from airing due to the “Night of the Living Pets” segment. Although “Wait ‘Till Your Father Gets Even” was aired as part of The Plucky Duck Show, the entire episode would only first be seen in Australia until Nickelodeon finally aired it in 1995.
|Demanding star treatment.|
Behind the scenes, Adler left the show during the production of the third season. He felt slighted that the producers had failed to cast him, the series’ star, in their next venture, Animaniacs, while co-stars with smaller roles got starring parts. He resigned with an angry letter sent to the producers and Spielberg accusing them of making it difficult for him to work on Tony Toons; which left Ruegger and Romano feeling betrayed given the effort they put into keeping him on. Kassir assumed the role of Buster for the remainder of the series, which had just about neared completion. Alaskey also left for financial reasons, but the studio worked with him on terms for his return. However, Alaskey had reportedly had problems with how Romano would direct voicing sessions, prompting Romano to ensure she’d never direct Alaskey in another production again.
|Having a frightfully good time.|
FOX ordered no further episodes of Tiny Toons, but instead were looking for a spin-off. The production decided to produce the show Tiny Toons had been preparing them for: Animaniacs, which would employ many of the same actors (as noted above) and crew, as well as take a more adult-oriented stance on humor. The last Tiny Toons episode aired on December 6, 1992, leaving two unaired: “It’s A Warner Bros. Time” and “Tiny Toons the Musical.” However, the studio did produce two specials: 1994’s “Tiny Toon Spring Break” and the hour-long “Tiny Toons’ Night Ghoulery” in 1995. The characters would also appear in cameos in the various Warner Bros. Animation shows to follow. The show remained on the air in syndicated reruns, being seen on Nickelodeon, Kids’ WB and its follow-ups, Cartoon Network, Nicktoons, and The Hub Network/Discovery Family. Tiny Toons was nominated for numerous awards during its initial run, including eight Daytime Emmy Awards (of which it won seven), two Annie Awards, an Emmy, two Young Artist Awards (of which it won one), and an Environmental Media Award, which it won.
|Tiny Toons in game form.|
From 1991-94, Konami published several games based on the series for the various Nintendo systems and the Sega Genesis: Tiny Toon Adventures followed Buster, Plucky, Dizzy and Furrball as they attempted to rescue Babs from Max; Cartoon Workshop allowed users to create their own 5-minute Tiny Toons cartoon; Babs’ Big Break had Buster, Plucky and Hamton attempt to keep Max from ruining Babs’ dreams of becoming a star; Trouble in Wackyland had Plucky, Hamton, Babs, Furrball, Sweetie and Buster navigating through a new amusement park that’s part of a nefarious plan by Max; Montana’s Movie Madness had Buster attempt to alter the plot of Max’s movies which depict him as the hero and Buster as a villain; Buster’s Hidden Treasure followed Buster as he uncovered treasure stolen by Max and attempted to rescue Babs from him; Buster Busts Loose followed Buster as he accomplished a variety of goals each level; Wacky Sports Challenge followed Buster, Babs, Plucky and Dizzy as they competed in various Olympic-style events; and ACME All-Stars allowed players to make teams with the various characters to participate in sports games. Atari had intended to make a Tiny Toons game as a launch title for its Jaguar system, but the game was ultimately cancelled. Tiger Electronics also made a handheld game in 1991.
|An ad for the Nintendo games.|
From 1996-99, Terraglyph Interactive Studios made three games for the PC and Sony PlayStation: Buster and the Beanstalk had Buster and Plucky navigating through a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk; The Great Beanstalk was published by NewKidCo International, Inc. and featured a similar premise to the previous game; and Toonenstein: Dare to Scare, published by Vatical Entertainment LLC and Swing! Deutschland, had Furrball, Plucky and Hamton navigating Baroness Toonenstein’s (Elmyra) mansion looking for her treasure and avoiding their brains being put into her cuddly creation. From 2001-02, Conspiracy Games published several games for the PlayStation, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance: Plucky’s Big Adventure, developed by Warthog, was based around the episode “A Ditch in Time”; Buster Saves the Day had Buster going up against Max to rescue all of his friends; Dizzy’s Candy Quest, developed by Lost Boy Games, had Dizzy teaming-up with a candy-stealing Robot to face Max and clones of his friends; Wacky Stackers was a puzzle game similar to Tetris; and Buster’s Bad Dream (called Scary Dreams when it was released in North America in 2005), developed by Treasure Co., Ltd., had Buster looking to stop his bad dreams with the help of Babs, Plucky, Hamton, Dizzy, Shirley, Fifi and Li’l Sneezer. A PlayStation 2 game, Defenders of the Universe, was slated to be released in 2004 but had been quietly cancelled for unspecified reasons (potentially due to the financial difficulties Conspiracy was experiencing at the time). Bad Dream was the last original production to feature the Tiny Toons characters.
|Babs using a Babs lunch box. Meta.|
DC Comics and Welsh Publishing Group published Tiny Toon Adventures Magazine, a quarterly children’s magazine. Only seven issues were released. Little Golden Books published books based on the series; both featuring episode adaptations and original stories. The characters also frequently appeared in books based on Warner Bros. Animation properties, including Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. Because of its popularity, Tiny Toons had an enormous amount of merchandising tie-ins. They were featured toys in the kids meals from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, had various toys and figurines, lunch boxes, clocks, party supplies, puzzles, costumes and more.
|Got Tiny Toons on the brain? Take them home!|
In the early 1990s, Warner Bros. Home Video releases several VHS collections featuring episodes with similar themes, as well as the My Vacation movie. Season 1 was released to DVD in two volumes between 2008 and 2009. The remainder of the show was released in two more volumes in 2013. In 2012, My Summer Vacation received a DVD release. Warner Bros. Records published a CD and cassette called Tiny Toons Sing! in 1992 featuring the characters singing original and cover songs.