Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Johnny California: Bugs Bunny’s Howl-O-Scream Spooktacula

 by JB

At last! A little treat for Scary Move Month that doesn’t disappoint... and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Last week (while recording our special, exclusive to Patreon podcast about the new Munsters movie*) I mentioned a marketing e-mail I had received just the previous day. I shared my belief that this email was heralding a curated collection of old Looney Tunes shorts that all shared a spooky, Halloween-theme that was about to drop on Peacock**. Boy, was I was wrong!*** I am here to set the record straight, friends.

FIRST CLARIFICATION: The Looney Tunes characters wouldn’t be caught dead on Peacock, which is owned by NBC/Comcast/Universal. I should have realized that the corporate home of Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Porky, and all the rest could only be HBO, a Time/Warner Company. The Looney Tunes are owned—lock, stock, and barrel of monkeys—by the Warner Brothers.

SECOND CLARIFICATION: The e-mail is question was not touting re-packaged goods—it was advertising something called The Howl-O-Scream Spooktacula (God, I love typing that), which is not a curated collection of old cartoons, but a brand-spanking-new collection of brand-spanking-new Looney Tunes shorts. Hooray!
I re-read the email (UGH!! REEDINGS IS SEW HRD), which directed me to HBO Max. Once I found the Looney Tunes page (Look carefully; it’s kind of hard to find) I scrolled through five pages of episodes before arriving at a separate page for two holiday specials: one for Valentine’s Day, and the “Howl-O-Ween Spooktacula,” which is the subject of this column.

THIRD CLARIFICATION: Sure, I could have just used the search bar! (Who are you, my wife?) I simply PREFER to find things on my own. I am old. I am the “streaming content” version of the man who will never stop to ask for directions. Anyways, who stops for directions anymore? Everyone has GPS! But my previously-mentioned oldness means that I don’t need to follow your new, hep “rules” for “finding things” and “getting places” and “using technology.” Remind me sometime to tell you the story of how it once took me an hour to find the local FedEx/Kinkos because I refused to use the navigation system in my car. I just thought I could drive around until I found it because I knew what street it was on. Like I said, it wound up taking an hour. I got so damn lost.

That FedEx/Kinko’s was across the street.

Why was I visiting my local Fedex/Kinkos? Why, to send a fax, of course.
The Howl-O-Scream Spooktacula (yep, I STILL love typing that) is a super-fun treasure trove. We get “Graveyard Goofs,” featuring Porky Pig and Daffy Duck in a crazy cemetery, trying to bury Daffy’s best friend; “Hex Appeal,” featuring Witch Hazel lamenting the state of her looks; “Inn for Trouble,” featuring Porky and a terrified Sylvester the Cat checking into a suspicious, spooky hotel; and “Mummy Dummy,” in which Bugs Bunny thinks he is vacationing in Las Vegas but, clearly, he zigged when he should have zagged. That’s four new shorts full of spooky goodness. The whole shebang clocks in at just under a half an hour and is delightful.

Here, taste it for yourself:

Something struck me as I watched this fun little show. In a 2020 documentary on Ren, Stimpy, and John Kricfalusi (Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story), many modern animation legends opined that every cartoon that followed R & S was influenced by them in some way. I have noticed this while watching SpongeBob SquarePants and some other recent cartoons. I saw this influence again in the Howl-O-Scream Spooktacula. Even though the main character designs in these new Looney Tunes shorts follow those of the classic 1940s-era (era) Warner Brothers characters, the designs of many secondary characters (I’m looking at you, Mummy) come straight from the Ren & Stimpy design book. The trope of switching to a grotesque, highly detailed view when cutting to a close-up is also cheerfully copied here. It’s an odd mish-mash of old and new. I liked it! I actually looked for John K.’s name in the closing credits, but apparently, he is still serving time in cartoon jail.
If you have access to HBO Max and access to children, your duty this month is clear. Gather those children and watch the Looney Tunes Howl-O-Scream Spooktacula with them! You will all have a grand time. They stay faithful to the spirit of older Looney Tunes shorts; the voice cast is amazing, channeling the spirits of Mel Blanc and June Foray; and the plentiful jokes are actually funny. I laughed out loud ten or fifteen times during my viewing, and I am not prone to laugh out loud. Maybe it was just because this delightful Halloween surprise made me feel like a 7-year-old kid again! Actually, I really do have the heart of a 7-year-old.

I keep it in a jar on my desk.

*You absolutely should become a Patreon subscriber. All the cool kids are doing it.

**Speaking of Peacock, if you subscribe to that or the Criterion Channel, look at all the Universal Monster films both sites are featuring for Scary Movie Month. It’s an embarrassment of Monster riches for any Monster Kid.

*** I later discovered that ANOTHER page of the HBO Max interface helpfully contains links to all the Halloween-themed cartoon shorts from Loony Tunes golden era (era).


  1. AHHHHHHH!!! THANKS JB!!! Not sure if your ears were ringing or whatnot but i was..not 24 hours ago...discussing with my kid the need to dig out my Loony Tunes DVD/Blus (physical media for eva!) to find some classic halloween/scary themed episodes for us to enjoy in the coming weeks. Finding out there's a NEW special that will help scratch that itch is wonderful. I, as usual, owe ya one!

    Peace & "hoooocusss pocuuuusss..." "abbacadaba!" "hoooooocusss pocusssss" "abbbacadabra!"..."hooo cuuuusss pocccccuuuus"


  2. Excellent recommendation! Watched it tonight!

  3. OMG....just watched with my kid...SOOOOOO good. every short very much captures the old school vibe. Made with tons of love and respect for the original shorts.

    THANKS JB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!