Pepe Le Pew may have been cancelled

PHOTO: LOONEY TUNES/FACEBOOK

LOS ANGELES • French skunk Pepe Le Pew will not appear in an upcoming Space Jam sequel and is not planned to feature in any new Looney Tunes cartoons, sources familiar with the productions said on Wednesday, as a debate swirls over sexism and "cancel culture" in Hollywood.

The lovelorn cartoon animal - who spends most of his time in luckless pursuit of a female cat, who is repelled by his advances and noxious smell - hit the headlines last week after a New York Times columnist said Pepe "normalised rape culture".

Days later, it emerged that a live-action scene for this summer's cartoon-hybrid Space Jam: A New Legacy, featuring Pepe, had been filmed in 2019, but will not appear in the final cut - prompting claims that the decades-old character was the latest victim of heavy-handed political correctness.

"Does this mean they are gonna try to cancel Fluffy too?" tweeted comedian Gabriel Iglesias, who voices Speedy Gonzales in the Space Jam sequel, referring to himself by a nickname. "U can't catch me, cancel culture. I'm the fastest mouse in all of Mexico."

The scene would have featured a typically amorous Pepe getting his comeuppance, but was abandoned when the film's director changed and had never reached the stage of rendering the skunk's animations.

There are no plans for Pepe to appear in Warner Bros' Looney Tunes Cartoons or upcoming series Bugs Bunny Builders and Tweety Mysteries, although the decisions were made by the shows' individual producers. The character has not been officially banned or retired.

Decisions not to feature Pepe had been made months before the New York Times article, the sources said.

Looney Tunes, with characters including Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales, date back to the 1930s, when the brief humorous cartoons would play in theatres along with Warner Bros movies.

They have been reincarnated multiple times, including in the 1996 crossover family comedy Space Jam, which cast the cartoon characters alongside basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The sequel, out in July, will see current basketball superstar LeBron James join forces with Bugs Bunny and the gang.

Alterations have been made to modernise the cartoons in keeping with shifting cultural attitudes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2021, with the headline 'Pepe Le Pew may have been cancelled'. Subscribe