|Founded||Hollywood, California, USA (1980) |
|Headquarters||Burbank, CA, USA|
|Key people||Sam Register, VP Of Creative Affairs|
|Products||animated television programs, online shorts, animated theatrical and direct-to-video motion pictures|
The studio is the successor to Warner Bros. Cartoons (formerly Leon Schlesinger Productions), 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. 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.
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. Friz Freleng 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, comprised mainly of veterans from the golden age of WB cartoons, including writers John Dunn and Dave Detiege.
By 1986, Freleng had departed, with Steven S. Greene and Kathleen Helppie-Shipley taking his place. 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.
Beginning in 1989, 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 at the Sherman Oaks Galleria northwest of Los Angeles. 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. Television 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 well-received by critics but performed poorly at the box-office, though it eventually became a commercial success through its subsequent home video releases.
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 two studios: one in Sherman Oaks near the television studio, and the other in nearby Glendale. Warner Bros. Feature Animation proved an unsuccessful venture, as four of the five films it produced failed to earn money during their original theatrical releases (due to lack of promotion for their animated features). The first of Warners' animated features was Space Jam (1996), a live-action/animation mix which starred NBA basketball 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 & 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.
Following Space Jam's success, Warner Bros. Feature Animation continued production on its next feature, Quest for Camelot (1998), which was less successful. The third Warner Bros. animated feature, Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999), was not a commercial success, although it received rave reviews and performed well with test audiences. The Iron Giant would eventually became a modern cult classic. The studio's next film, Osmosis Jones (2001) was another animated/live action mix which suffered through a troubled production. Directors Tom Sito and Piet Kroon completed the animation long before the live-action segments, eventually directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly and starring Bill Murray, were begun. The resulting film was not a box office success, although Warners did produce a related Saturday morning cartoon, Ozzy & Drix (2002–2003) 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. The final Warner Bros. Feature Animation production was another live-action/animation mix, Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), which was meant to be the starting point for a reestablishment of the Looney Tunes brand, including a planned series of new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts produced by Back in Action writer and producer Larry Doyle. After Back in Action, directed by Joe Dante (live action) and Eric Goldberg (animation), failed at the box office, production was shut down on the new Looney Tunes shorts and the feature animation unit was dissolved. Two TV series based loosely upon the Looney Tunes property, Baby Looney Tunes (2002–2005) and Loonatics Unleashed (2005–2007) have assumed the place of the original shorts on television.
Warners' parent company Time Warner merged with Turner Entertainment in 1996, not only reacquiring the rights to the pre-August 1948 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. 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 (beginning with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island) 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, 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. Warner Bros. Animation 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 Loonatics Unleashed, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, Krypto the Superdog, Xiaolin Showdown, The Batman, 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.
To expand the company's online content presence, Warner Bros. Animation launched the new KidsWB.com (announced as T-Works) on April 28, 2008, new website that gathers its core animation properties in a single online environment that will be 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, all supported by advertising. Some of the characters to be used in the project from the Warner libraries include those of Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and DC Comics.
On March 25, 2009, sister network Cartoon Network announced a new Scooby Doo! series in the Fall 2009-2010 season by Warner Bros. Animation, making WBA now producing two shows (the other is Batman: The Brave and the Bold) on the same network. Warner Bros. Animation recently confirmed that a new Looney Tunes TV series is being made, called Laff Riot. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Warner Bros. Animation is producing 4 to 6 shorts starring DC Comics characters to fit with the PG-13 rating.
Warner Bros. Animation also manages the vast animation holdings of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which include various aforementioned acquisitions.
Warner retains ownership of all the animated works they themselves produced and/or distributed, including:
In addition, Warner has also acquired several other animated works through various mergers and acquisitions
WB also has DVD rights to programs produced by Cartoon Network Studios.
Some of these programs can be seen on the Kids' WB website.