Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bugs is back

Warner Bros. has announced plans to produce new TV and theatrical cartoons featuring Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester & Tweety and their cohorts. WB apparently feels compelled to roust the company's legacy luminaries out of their gated retirement communities and foist them on unsuspecting hordes of Justin Bieber fans. Wanna bet the violence and mayhem will be less … violent? We can just imagine the PC Police getting their hands on old Tex Avery scripts and red-penciling certain strains of insensitive behavior.

When this
New York Times article appeared last week, someone in the Scott family asked me if Warner might use Raymond Scott music in the soundtracks. I'm not optimistic. When WB peppered their classic 1940s and '50s 'toons with RS themes, they owned Scott's publishing (under their Advanced Music publishing arm). Modest user fees were paid from the Warner film division to Advanced, but I'm sure there was cooperation and that requests for usage were pro forma. In fact, all non-Carl Stalling compositions adapted for the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies from the 1930s thru the 1960s were owned by one of Warner's publishing affiliates (Remick, Harms, Witmark, or Advanced).

When the Scott copyrights reached the 28-year renewal term (since extended by law) in the early 1960s, US rights reverted to the composer, and title by title the catalog began slipping out of WB's grasp. The last instance of a Scott melody ("
Powerhouse") heard in a WB score (Sheep in the Deep) was in 1962. In 1964, Scott sold the catalog to Music Sales Corp.

In the 1980s, a friend of ours was hired to direct new WB 'toons with the classic characters, and he tried to include a few Scott melodies for historical continuity. He was given budgetary grief from the executive suites and managed to prevail in only a few instances.

Music Sales knows about this project and will make an attempt to place Scott's melodies—especially "Powerhouse." But it will all come down to whether the studio considers it worth the expense. I suspect licensing non-WB music will be a distant consideration.

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