Warner Bros. Animation

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This article is about the studio founded in 1980. For the studio that existed from 1930 to 1969, see Warner Bros. Cartoons.
Warner Bros. Animation
Type Subsidiary
Industry Television
Founded 1980; 34 years ago (1980)[1]
Founders Hal Geer
Headquarters Burbank, CA, USA
Key people Sam Register, President
Products animated television programs, online shorts, animated theatrical and direct-to-video motion pictures
Owners Time Warner
Parent Warner Bros. Entertainment
Website Official website

Warner Bros. Animation (also known as Warner Animation Group for theatrical films) 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, among others. The studio is the successor to Warner Bros. Cartoons (formerly Leon Schlesinger Studios), the studio which produced Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon shorts from 1933 to 1963, and from 1967 to 1969. Warner reestablished its own animation division in 1980 to produce Looney Tunes related works.[1]

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.

History[edit]

1970–1986: Restarting the studio[edit]

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 titled Bugs Bunny: Superstar, led Jones to produce The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie for Warner Bros. in 1979. This film blended classic Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts with newly produced wraparounds of Bugs Bunny introducing each cartoon. Warner Bros. responded to the success of this film by reestablishing its own cartoon studio.

Warner Bros. Animation reopened its doors in 1980 to produce compilation films and television specials starring the Looney Tunes characters. The studio's initial head was Hal Geer, who had been the original studio's sound effects editor during its final days, and he was soon joined by Friz Freleng, who left DePatie-Freleng (which became Marvel Productions after being sold to Marvel Entertainment), and returned to Warner 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 Fantastic Island (1983) featured footage by a new Warner Bros. Animation staff, composed mainly of veterans from the golden age of WB cartoons, including writers John Dunn and Dave Detiege.

By 1986, Freleng had departed, and Hal Geer also stepped down the following year. Geer was briefly replaced by Steven S. Greene, who in turn was replaced by Freleng's former secretary Kathleen Helppie-Shipley, who would spearhead a major revival of the Looney Tunes brand in the years that followed. 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.

1986–1998: Moving into television animation[edit]

Beginning in 1986, Warner Bros. moved into regular television animation production. Warners' television division was established by WB Animation President Jean MacCurdy, who brought in producer Tom Ruegger and much of his staff from Hanna-Barbera Productions' A Pup Named Scooby-Doo series. A studio for the television unit was set up in the office tower of the Imperial Bank Building adjacent to the Sherman Oaks Galleria northwest of Los Angeles. Darrell Van Citters, who used to work at Disney, would work on the newer Bugs Bunny shorts, before leaving to form Renegade Animation in 1992. The first Warner Bros. original animated TV series Tiny Toon Adventures (1990–1995) 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. television shows, 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. 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. These shows were part of the DC animated universe. A theatrical Batman spin-off feature, Mask of the Phantasm, was produced in 1993 and bumped up to theatrical release. The film was near universally-well received by critics but performed poorly at the box-office, though it eventually became a commercial success through its subsequent home video releases.

1994–2004: The rise and fall of Warner Bros. Feature Animation[edit]

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 Sherman Oaks near the television studio in nearby Glendale.[2] Turner Feature Animation, later merged and named Warner Bros. Feature Animation, like all of the in-house feature animation studios proved an unsuccessful venture, as six of the seven films it produced failed to earn money during their original theatrical releases (due to lack of promotion).[citation needed]

The first of Warners' animated features was Space Jam (1996), a live-action/animation mix which starred NBA 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 and 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.

Before the success of Space Jam, a Turner Entertainment-run studio that spun off from Hanna-Barbera were already producing animated features following the success of the Disney features. The first was The Pagemaster, a fantasy adventure featuring the performances of Macaulay Culkin and Christopher Lloyd with live-action segments serving as bookends for the film's story. Released by 20th Century Fox, the film was a financial and critical disappointment during its holiday release of 1994. After the merger with Turner and Warner Bros. in 1996, Turner Feature Animation completed its second and last feature, Cats Don't Dance (1997), which was met with warm critical and audience reception but bombed thanks to little marketing and fanfare. By the time of Cats' release however, Turner Feature Animation had merged with Warner Feature Animation and transferred a majority of its staff from said studio.

The following year, the next film, Quest for Camelot (1998), underwent severe production difficulties and was severely panned by both critics and audiences, but its soundtrack (especially one of the songs, "The Prayer") did receive some accolades.

The third animated feature from Warner Feature Animation, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), performed greatly with test audiences but the studio decided to rush its release to the end of the summer with a very small marketing push.

The studio's next film, Osmosis Jones (2001), was another animated/live action mix that suffered through another troubled production. This time, the animation segments, directed by Tom Sito and Piet Kroon, were completed long before the live-action segments were filmed, eventually directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly and starring Bill Murray. The resulting film was a box office flop, although it was successful enough on home video for Warner's Television Animation department to produce a related short-lived Saturday morning cartoon, Ozzy & Drix 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.

Another live-action/animation mix, Looney Tunes: Back in Action released in 2003. It was meant to be the starting point for a reestablishment of the classic cartoons brands, including a planned series of new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts. The newer Looney Tunes were produced by Back in Action writer and producer Larry Doyle.[citation needed] After Back in Action, directed by Joe Dante (live action) and Eric Goldberg (animation), received mixed reviews but failed at the box office, production was shut down on the new shorts. However, several TV series based loosely upon the Looney Tunes property, Baby Looney Tunes (2002-2005), Loonatics Unleashed (2005–2007), and The Looney Tunes Show (2011–2014) have assumed the place of the original shorts on television.

The final film produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation was 2004's Clifford's Really Big Movie. It was based on the Scholastic Corporation book series, Clifford the Big Red Dog and the PBS Kids television series with the same name. The film suffered a limited release of 500 screens and grossed only $3 million. Despite this failure, the television series was cancelled and the feature animation department shut down. However, the show grabbed more audiences and positive ratings during reruns.

1996–present: Acquisitions and Warner Bros. Animation today[edit]

Warners' parent company Time Warner merged with Turner Broadcasting System in 1996, not only reacquiring the rights to the pre-August 1948[3] color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (plus all the B&W Merrie Melodies except Lady, Play Your Mandolin! and the post-Harman/Ising B&W entries, 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 merged with Warner Bros. Animation itself. Until 1998 Hanna-Barbera operated on its original lot at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood, CA, one of the last "big name" studios with an actual Hollywood zip code. Studio operations, archives, and its extensive animation art collection were then moved northwest to Sherman Oaks. Hanna-Barbera occupied space in the office tower adjacent to the Sherman Oaks Galleria along with Warner Bros. Animation.

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 (curiously created by the H-B duo), Droopy, 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 for primetime.

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. WBA 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 Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, Krypto the Superdog, Xiaolin Showdown, The Batman, and the aforementioned Loonatics Unleashed 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. In early 2008 after the demise of Kids' WB!, Warner Bros. Animation became almost dormant with only Batman: The Brave and the Bold in production at the time.

To expand the company's online content presence, Warner Bros. Animation launched the new KidsWB.com (announced as T-Works) on April 28, 2008. The website gathers its core animation properties in a single online environment that is 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. Some of the characters to be used in the project from the Warner libraries include those of Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, pre-1986 MGM animated characters and DC Comics.

On March 25, 2009, sister network Cartoon Network announced Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated in the Fall 2009-2010 season by Warner Bros. Animation.[citation needed] Warner Bros. Animation recently announced several new projects, such as The Looney Tunes Show (formerly called Laff Riot); a reboot of ThunderCats, and several series based on DC Comics properties such as MAD, Green Lantern, and Young Justice.[citation needed]

Warner Bros. Animation is also producing DC Showcase, a series of short subjects featuring lesser known comic book superheroes, to be released in tandem with direct-to-video films based on DC Comics properties.

On July 30, 2010 Coyote Falls, a 3D cartoon featuring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner was released, being the first time WB Animation produced theatrically released content since The Karate Guard (the last Tom & Jerry short) in 2005, and the first time the animation studio used full CGI and stereoscopic 3D. Two more theatrical Road Runner cartoons have followed during the year (Fur of Flying and Rabid Rider). On June 8, 2011, three more shorts were announced: I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat with Sylvester, Tweety, and Granny, which was released with Happy Feet Two; Daffy's Rhapsody with Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, which was released with Journey 2: The Mysterious Island; and an untitled Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short.

2013–present: Warner Animation Group[edit]

In January 2013, Jeff Robinov (then the head of the studio's motion picture division) founded a "think tank" for developing theatrical animated films, known as the Warner Animation Group.[4] It is the successor to the dissolved Warner Bros. Feature Animation. The group includes John Requa, Glenn Ficarra, Nicholas Stoller, Phil Lord and Chris Miller and Jared Stern.[4] Warner Bros. created the group with the hope that the box office reception of their films will be competitive with other animation studios' releases.[4] The group is reportedly somewhat similar to Pixar's famous "brain trust" in terms of how its members consult with one another and give feedback on each other's projects.[5]

On February 7, 2014, Warner Animation Group released their first film The Lego Movie, a film animated by Animal Logic using the Lego Digital Designer and Autodesk Maya as the animation technologies, Houdini Effects as the effects technology, Autodesk Softimage as the animation, compositing, rendering, and lighting technology, Pixar's Renderman as the rendering technology, and Autodesk Inventor as the camera technology. This film also has a segment shot in live-action using Steadicam. It met with positive reviews and proved to be a box office success.

On January 7, 2013, Warner Animation Group announced their second film, Storks, which will be released in 2015.[6] On the same day, they announced their third film, Smallfoot, which will be released in 2016.[6] Another WAG film releasing in 2016 is based on the Lego Ninjago theme of Lego toys.[7]

On February 7, 2014, the same day The Lego Movie was released, it was reported that Jared Stern and Michelle Morgan were hired to write Warner Animation Group's first sequel, The Lego Movie 2.[8] The sequel was announced to be released on May 26, 2017,[9] but later that year, it was reported that a spin-off film featuring Batman from The Lego Movie might take the sequel's release date, pushing the sequel back to a later date.[10]

Filmography[edit]

Feature-length films[edit]

Compilation films[edit]

Original films[edit]

An asterisk (*) indicates a live-action/animation combination film

Release Date Title Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Budget Gross
December 25, 1993 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 81%
(6.8/10 average rating) (26 reviews)[11]
N/A N/A $5,617,391
Warner Bros. Feature Animation
November 15, 1996 Space Jam* 35%
(5.1/10 average rating) (49 reviews)[12]
N/A} $90 million $230,418,342
May 15, 1998 Quest for Camelot 36%
(5.3/10 average rating) (22 reviews)[13]
N/A $40 million $22,510,798
August 6, 1999 The Iron Giant 97%
(8.1/10 average rating) (123 reviews)[14]
85 (27 reviews)[15] $70 million $23,159,305
August 10, 2001 Osmosis Jones* 55%
(5.5/10 average rating) (108 reviews)[16]
57 (28 reviews)[17] $70 million $13,596,911
November 14, 2003 Looney Tunes: Back in Action* 57%
(6/10 average rating) (134 reviews)[18]
64 (32 reviews)[19] $80 million $68,514,844
Warner Animation Group
February 7, 2014 The Lego Movie* 96%
(8.1/10 average rating) (193 reviews)[20]
82 (41 reviews)[21] $60 million $468,018,668
2015 Storks[22] N/A N/A N/A N/A
2016 Smallfoot[22] N/A N/A N/A N/A
September 23, 2016 Lego Ninjago N/A N/A N/A N/A
February 10, 2017 Untitled Warner Animated Film[23] N/A N/A N/A N/A
May 26, 2017 Lego Batman N/A N/A N/A N/A
February 9, 2018 Untitled Warner Animated Film[23] N/A N/A N/A N/A
May 25, 2018 The Lego Movie 2* [24] N/A N/A N/A N/A
May 24, 2019 Untitled Warner Animated Film[25] N/A N/A N/A N/A
TBA Space Jam 2* N/A N/A N/A N/A

Theatrical shorts[edit]

Television series[edit]

Anthology series[edit]

Original series[edit]

TV specials[edit]

Direct-to-video features[edit]

Direct-to-video short films[edit]

Failed pilots[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic. New York: Plume/Penguin Books. Pg. 273.
  2. ^ Kenyon, Heather (April 1998) "An Afternoon with Max Howard, President, Warner Bros. Feature Animation". Animation World Network. Retrieved June 16, 2007.
  3. ^ The latest released WB cartoon sold to a.a.p. was Haredevil Hare, released on July 24, 1948.
  4. ^ a b c Kit, Borys (7 January 2013). "Warner Bros. Creates Animation Film Think Tank". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media LLC). Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Shaw, Lucas (9 February 2014). "‘The Lego Movie’ Snaps a Bright, Colorful Franchise Into Place for Warner Bros. Animation". The Wrap (The Wrap News Inc.). Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Warner Bros. Pictures Dives Into Animation Think Tank". ComingSoon.net. January 7, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Warner Bros Dates Lego Spinoff ‘Ninjago’ For Fall 2016". Deadline. May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ Shaw, Lucas (February 3, 2014). "Warner Bros. Already Working on Sequel to ‘The Lego Movie’ (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  9. ^ McNary, Dave (February 21, 2014). "‘Lego’ Sequel Set For May 26, 2017". Variety. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ Kit, Borys (October 10, 2014). "'Lego Batman' Spinoff Movie in the Works at Warner Bros. (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 11, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Quest for Camelot". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  14. ^ "The Iron Giant". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  15. ^ "The Iron Giant". Metacritic. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Osmosis Jones". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Osmosis Jones". Metacritic. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Metacritic. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Lego Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Lego Movie". Metacritic. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b "Warner Bros. to Produce One "High-End" Animated Film Per Year; Nicholas Stoller, Phil Lord, and Chris Miller Among Filmmakers Developing Projects". Woodall's Campground Management. January 7, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b McNary, Dave (May 6, 2014). "Warner Bros. Sets Two New Animation Releases for 2017 and 2018". Variety. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  24. ^ "The LEGO Movie Sequel is Officially Set for May 26, 2017!". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  25. ^ McClintock, Pamela (August 6, 2014). "Two More 'Lego' Movies Get Release Dates". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 7, 2014. 
  26. ^ http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2012/06/08/teen-titans-go-joining-dc-nation/
  27. ^ a b http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/adult-swim-announces-new-series-pilots/
  28. ^ a b "Cartoon Network Unveils Upfront Slate For 2014-15". Deadline. March 10, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  29. ^ http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/07/07/comic-con-2013-schedule-sunday/
  30. ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-15/entertainment/sns-201208151738reedbusivarietynvr1118057864-20120815_1_scooby-doo-scooby-gang-mystery-machine
  31. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike. "Animated ‘Flintsones’ Pic Adds Pro Wrestlers To Its Bedrock" Deadline.com (May 29, 2013).

References[edit]

External links[edit]