BY CATHERINE APPLEFELD OLSON
What's up, Doc? Ask Warner Home Video, and the answer is a new suite of DVDs celebrating the wit and whimsy of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons.
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Road Runner, Sylvester and friends make their way to the digital medium for the first time Oct. 28.
The releases are timed to coincide with the theatrical debut of "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," a combination live-action/animation caper slat-ed to hit theaters in November.
dozen Looney Tunes compilations have arrived through the years on VHS,
Warner put those titles on hiatus last April to
clean pipeline for the up-coming DVDs, says Dorinda Marticorena,
WHV executive director of kid marketing.
" We consider the Looney Tunes cartoons to be the crown jewel of collectible animation," she says. "Many of them needed to be restored and remastered before we were willing to put them out on DVD, and the collectors have been sitting around waiting for the new-format release."
Indeed, while the cartoons' subject matter may be light, WIN has been all business in its development of distinct content and marketing strategies targeting three particular consumer audiences–the collector, the nostalgic parent and the teen–which the studio identified through extensive consumer testing.
WHV conducted studies last winter that "looked at everything from the type of content to the packaging design to the enhanced content to promotions," Marticorena says.
For the adult animation collector, there is the four-disc "The Looney Tunes Golden Collection." It comprises 56 shorts and a bevy of extra content that includes never-before-seen cartoons, pencil tests and commentaries by directors and animation experts.
" The enhanced content is geared specifically to the collector," Marticorena says of the set's $64.92 suggested retail price.
The two-disc $26.99 "Premiere Collection," assembled for the more casual collector and/or parent who grew up with Bugs Bunny and com-pany, contains 28 cartoons culled from "The Golden Collection" and family-oriented enhanced content.
To reintroduce the brand to teens and tweens, the $19.98 single-disc compilations "Reality Check!" and "Stranger Than Fiction!" each feature new animated shorts that Warner Bros. Animation has developed during the past 18 months.
In the spirit of their forerunners, the cartoons provide a distinctive Looney Tunes twist on current events and popular culture.
Based on reality TV, "Reality Check!" contains cartoons ranging from a "Survivor" knockoff with Daffy Duck plotting to get the other toons kicked off the island to a "Judge Judy"like court drama. "Stranger" blasts the sci-fi phenom to comedic heights with such shorts as "Loch Ness Mess," featuring a Yosemite Sam and Porky Pig hunting expedition.
WHV is releasing the two discs of new content on VHS and DVD. The latter format includes such features as outtakes, character interviews and unique Looney Tunes-style commercials embedded in the motion menu.
The new Looney lot also includes a special edition of "Space Jam," which, in March 1997, was one of the first titles to ever be released on DVD. It was WHV's best seller until the Harry Potter franchise came on the scene.
The new disc, which carries a $26.99 suggested retail price, of-fers the film in wide-screen for the first time and includes extras like the featurette "Jam-ming With Bugs and Michael Jordan," plus an hour's worth of classic Looney Tunes shorts not available on the other collections.
Additionally, Warner is raising the content bar by including "mini" versions of the "Back in Action" ROM games Electronic Arts (EA) developed in conjunction with Warn-er Bros. Interactive Entertainment. "Reality Check!" and "Stranger Than Fiction!" contain exclusive games; nonexclusive games are wrapped into the "Premiere Collection" and the special-edition "Space Jam."
" The strategy here is that EA expects most of the consumers for its 'Back in Action' game to be between 8 and 15. So we decided to take exclusive mini games and put them on those titles that have the same core target audience," Marticorena says.
In a broad marketing tie-in to the feature film, each DVD will contain a free child's movie pass (worth up to $6.50) that is redeemable at several national theater chains. The passes are good from the film's Nov. 14 opening through Dec. 19. WHV had success with a similar promotion for the live-action "Scooby-Doo" movie last year, according to Marticorena.
Other account-specific promotional opportunities are in the works and will reflect "WHV’s strategy of reaching out to three particular audiences.
" Just as we've developed the titles for three specific targets, what we are doing with retailers is based on their specific consumer profiles," Marticorena says.
While the new discs' contents are comprehensive in breadth, the Warner Bros. Animation library is bulging with more than 1,000 Looney Tunes shorts, and Marticorena hints that additional cartoon compilations will likely make their way to retail.
" AOL Time Warner is very com-mitted to the Looney Tunes brand," she says. "It is the pillar of our collectible animation library, and we are looking to continue to grow the brand in 2004 and beyond."
And ththththat's all, folks!