Looney Tunes: Back in Action

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For the tie-in video game, see Looney Tunes: Back in Action (video game).
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Movie poster looney tunes back in action.JPG
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Joe Dante
Produced by Bernie Goldman
Joel Simon
Paula Weinstein
Written by Larry Doyle
Starring Brendan Fraser
Jenna Elfman
Steve Martin
Timothy Dalton
Joan Cusack
Heather Locklear
Joe Alaskey (voice)
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Rick Finney
Marshall Harvey
Baltimore Spring Creek Productions
Goldmann Pictures
Warner Bros. Animation
Lonely Film Productions GmbH & Co. KG.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • November 9, 2003 (2003-11-09) (premiere)
  • November 14, 2003 (2003-11-14) (United States)
Running time 93 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million[1]
Box office $68,514,844[1]

Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a 2003 American live action/animated adventure comedy film directed by Joe Dante, written by Larry Doyle, and starring Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Timothy Dalton, Joan Cusack, Bill Goldberg, with Heather Locklear and Steve Martin. It is the second live-action feature-length film starring the Looney Tunes characters, the first being Space Jam (1996).


Tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck demands his own movie from Warner Bros. only to be fired by the Vice President of Comedy, Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser), son of action star Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton), is also fired from his job as a security guard when trying to escort Daffy from the studios, driving the Batmobile into the studio's water tower which falls on Kate's car. Kate tries to make Bugs' new film more educational and socially relevant, but he refuses to work with her unless Daffy is brought back; she is ultimately forced to comply to keep her job after Bugs is injured during a routine that required Daffy's presence. DJ returns home and is surprised to find Daffy sneaked along. Finding a hidden video screen, DJ is told by his father (who actually IS a super spy) to go to Las Vegas to find a woman named Dusty Tails (Heather Locklear) to get a diamond called the Blue Monkey. DJ and Daffy head out in an old AMC Gremlin car. Bugs and Kate arrive at the house after Bugs calls Daffy and learns the situation, and pursue them in Damian's spy car, a right hand drive TVR Tuscan Speed 6. Also after the diamond are the Acme Corporation run by Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) who plans to use the diamond to take over the world and sell more Acme merchandise.

DJ and Daffy arrive in Las Vegas and find Dusty Tails performing at a casino run by Yosemite Sam. Dusty gives DJ a playing card with the Mona Lisa's face on it. Then Yosemite Sam, working for Acme, attacks the three and his goons chase DJ and Daffy across the city (after Sam "commandeers" Jeff Gordon's famed #24 NASCAR), leading to a car chase with Bugs and Kate being dragged into the mayhem when DJ takes the wheel of the spy car. The heroes escape via the spy car's flight ability whilst Sam crashes into his own casino. The spy car crashes in Death Valley where the heroes conveniently find a Wal-Mart thanks to Kate's desire for more product placement. Mr. Chairman sends in Wile E. Coyote to kill the heroes but he fails via a misdirected missile. The heroes wander into Area 52 (Area 51 created as a "paranoid fantasy" to hide Area 52's identity), where they meet Mother (Joan Cusack), a Q-like figure who gives DJ new gadgets to help find the diamond and reveals that Acme will use the magically-powered diamond to turn mankind into monkeys to create their merchandise and then turn them back so they'll buy the products. Marvin the Martian and a group of famous aliens (including two Daleks from Doctor Who and Ro-Man from Robot Monster) break free and attack, but the heroes escape. They conclude the next clue is in the Mona Lisa painting in Paris.

In the Louvre, the heroes discover the playing card doubles as a viewing window and find a map of Africa behind the Mona Lisa painting and take a photo on Kate's mobile phone. Elmer Fudd arrives to gain the card, turning out to be "secretly evil". Bugs and Daffy flee playfully around the museum, leaping through various famous paintings until Elmer is defeated by Bugs via a fan when he jumps out of a pointillist painting. Mr. Smith, henchman of Mr. Chairman, kidnaps Kate and steals her phone, and by extension, the map. However, DJ manages to rescue Kate. The heroes travel to Africa where they hitch a ride on an elephant ridden by Sylvester, Tweety, and Granny. They find the diamond within a jungle temple, but Granny and the others reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smith, and the Tasmanian Devil. Mr. Chairman uses a disintegration pistol to transport himself and the heroes to Acme Headquarters and gains the diamond.

The diamond is taken to a satellite by Marvin; Mr. Chairman explaining he will fire an energy beam worldwide which will turn everyone into monkeys aside from himself and his love interest, Mary. DJ and Kate save Damian from being killed (after dealing with a robot dog) and Wile E. Coyote blows up in a train. Bugs and Daffy chase Marvin to the satellite, and while Bugs fights Marvin, Daffy becomes Duck Dodgers and manages to destroy the satellite by plugging its dish with his beak. Bugs defeats Marvin by overloading his own bubble gun. Despite Daffy's blocking the satellite dish, a stray energy beam strikes Mr. Chairman, turning him into a monkey. Later, Daffy learns the entire adventure was part of Bugs' film, but Bugs suggests the two become equals from now on; Daffy starts cheering until he is flattened by the Looney Tunes' title iris ironically. While Porky Pig tries to say his ending line "Th-Th-Th-That's All, Folks", the studio starts to close. Just before all the lights are turned completely off, Porky gives up and tells the audience "Go home, folks."




A follow-up to Space Jam was planned as early as the film's release. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball completion between the Looney Tunes and a new villain named Berserk-O!. Joe Pytka would have returned to direct and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors. However, Michael Jordan didn't agree to star in a sequel and producers were actually lying to design artists claiming that he did sign on to keep development going. Warner Bros. eventually canceled plans for Space Jam 2.[3]

The film then re-entered development as Spy Jam and was to star Jackie Chan. Chan later resigned and the production was delayed numerous times. Warner Bros. then asked Joe Dante to direct the film, having had previous success with Gremlins and Innerspace. Dante early in the 1990's wanted to produce a biographical comedy with HBO, called Termite Terrace. It centered around director Chuck Jones’ early years at Warner Bros in the 30’s. Dante offered the project to Warner Bros and they said, “look, it’s an old story. It’s got period stuff in it. We don’t want that. We want to re-brand our characters and we want to do Space Jam.”[4]

Years later when Warner Bros. offered Back in Action to him, Dante agreed to direct as tribute to Chuck Jones. He and screenwriter Larry Doyle conceived the film as the "Anti-Space Jam" as he had hated how that film represented the Looney Tunes brand and personalities and decided to poke fun at the studio system that put Space Jam into production. "I was making a movie for them with those characters and they did not want to know about those characters. They didn't want to know why Bugs Bunny shouldn't do hip-hop," Dante said. Warner then hired Walt Disney Feature Animation's Eric Goldberg, most known for his fast-paced, Warner Bros-inspired animation of the Genie in Aladdin, to direct the animation.

Despite being directed by acknowledged fans of the original cartoons, production was reportedly a disaster. Warner Bros., presumably infuriated by the script, gave Dante little to no creative freedom with the project. "It was a pretty grim experience all around," Dante recalled. "The longest year and a half of my life." Dante and Goldberg managed to preserve the original personalities of the characters, but were fighting against the studio towards other aspects of the film. The opening, middle, and end of the film are different to what Dante envisioned.[5]

Of an interesting note, Goldberg also provides the voices of Tweety, Marvin the Martian and Speedy Gonzales. Brendan Fraser voices the Tazmanian Devil having impressed Dante with his vocal impression.


This was the final film legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith created music for. Due to Goldsmith's failing health, the last reel of the film was actually scored by John Debney, though Goldsmith was the only credited composer in marketing materials and the Varèse Sarabande soundtrack album only contains Goldsmith's music (although the first and last cues are adaptations of compositions heard in Warner Bros. cartoons). Debney receives an "Additional Music by" credit in the closing titles of the film and "Special Thanks" in the soundtrack album credits.[6] Goldsmith died in July 2004, months after the film's release.

  1. Life Story - Carl Stalling (:18)
  2. What's Up? (1:24)
  3. Another Take (:48)
  4. Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
  5. Out of the Bag (3:42)
  6. Blue Monkey (:54)
  7. In Style (1:09)
  8. The Bad Guys (2:57)
  9. Car Trouble (3:45)
  10. Thin Air (1:24) (a version of the well known Powerhouse theme is heard)
  11. Area 52 (1:27)
  12. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
  13. We've Got Company (1:50)
  14. I'll Take That (1:19)
  15. Paris Street (1:21)
  16. Free Fall (1:15)
  17. Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
  18. Jungle Scene (1:40)
  19. Pressed Duck (3:22)
  20. Re-Assembled (:50)
  21. The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin) (:16)


Commercial reception[edit]

Looney Tunes: Back in Action was released on November 14th, 2003, originally planned to open in the Summer of that year. With heavy competition and little promotion the film grossed a $20 million dollars domestically, horrific compared to its $80+ million budget. Worldwide grosses added the total to $68.5 million.[7][8]

Warner Bros. was hoping to start a revitalized franchise of Looney Tunes media and products with the success of Back in Action. Even new animated shorts and a "Duck Dodgers" TV series were commissioned to tie-in with Back in Action. The film's failure instead triggered Warner Bros. to desperately attempt to re-brand the Looney Tunes in projects like the TV series Loonatics Unleashed. Back in Action also officially shut down the Warner Bros. Feature Animation department after a string of financial failures.

Critical response[edit]

Despite the film's financial disaster, critical response for Looney Tunes: Back in Action was mixed to positive, making it more critically successful than the previous Looney Tunes film Space Jam. The film scored a 56% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes,[9] whilst at Metacritic, it scored a 64/100.[10] Chicago Sun-Times movie critics, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, gave the film "Two Thumbs Up"; Roeper called it a "cheerful and self-referential romp blending animation with live action in a non-stop quest for silly laughs," while Ebert called it "goofy fun."[11]

Along with the positive critical response, the film was also nominated for Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature.


  1. ^ a b c "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 25, 2008. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318155/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast
  3. ^ "Artist Bob Camp recalls the ill-fated "Space Jam 2"". Animated Views. 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  4. ^ "Joe Dante on Looney Tunes". Something Old, Nothing New. 2007-06-15. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  5. ^ "The Den of Geek interview: Joe Dante". Den of Geek. 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  6. ^ Looney Tunes: Back in Action soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  7. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  8. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. 
  9. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  10. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  11. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved October 29, 2012. 

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