Eh, what's up, doc?

Bugs Bunny is now Internet- and mobile phone-savvy; spoiled rich kid Daphne (above middle) and the Scooby Doo gang are much smarter; and Tom and Jerry's cat-and- mouse game is more politically correct.
The Scooby Doo gang are much smarter.PHOTO: WARNER BROS
Bugs Bunny (above) is now Internet- and mobile phone-savvy; spoiled rich kid Daphne and the Scooby Doo gang are much smarter; and Tom and Jerry's cat-and- mouse game is more politically correct.
Bugs Bunny (above) is now Internet- and mobile phone-savvy.PHOTO: WARNER BROS
Bugs Bunny is now Internet- and mobile phone-savvy; spoiled rich kid Daphne and the Scooby Doo gang are much smarter; and Tom and Jerry's (above) cat-and- mouse game is more politically correct.
Tom and Jerry's (above) cat-and- mouse game is more politically correct.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

The new versions of beloved Warner Bros cartoons have been updated without losing what made them special

If you grew up watching the classic Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo cartoons, you might have noticed a few changes in the rebooted versions now shown daily on the Boomerang channel (Singtel TV Channel 228 and StarHub TV Channel 317).

The Bugs depicted in Wabbit is Internet- and mobile phone-savvy, the goofy gang on Be Cool, Scooby- Doo! are smarter than they used to be, and Tom and Jerry's eternal cat-and-mouse game has become a little more politically correct.

Speaking to Life and other press at the Warner Bros Animation studios in Los Angeles, the series producers say that the goal was to update these beloved old cartoons without losing what made them special.

Debuting at 5.30pm today, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! is the latest iteration of the 1969 cartoon about a mystery-solving Great Dane and his teenage friends Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy.

Producer Zac Moncrief says: "The last one they had done was Mystery Incorporated, which was really well-received and focused more on the fear. This time, we decided to focus more on the fun and turn this into a comedic ensemble by raising all the other characters to that Scooby and Shaggy level.

"It was mostly Scooby and Shaggy who carried the comedic tone of the show before but now, we're bringing up Daphne, Fred and Velma and making them more interesting."

As a result, everyone is "much sharper, both in terms of their smarts and their humour".

This personality makeover has turned Daphne, who typically played the spoiled rich kid in earlier versions, into a new fan favourite.

"From the little bit of testing that we've done, we have found out that Daphne's become our breakout star. Scooby and Shaggy are still loved but Daphne, because of the quirkiness and fun that we've given her, is right now popping higher than everybody else."

Much has stayed the same though and fans watching this with their own kids will recognise a few villains and monsters from the earlier cartoons.

Moncrief adds: "When I started developing this, I looked at the classic series because I didn't want to take away from what they started out with in that first 1969 to 1971 run. I wanted that original vibe."

So the show will feature the same "musical romps that we did in the old shows - at one point in every show, the whole gang gets chased by the monster".

The retro-1970s outfits are still there, although bell bottoms have been replaced by skinny jeans.

"Because things like Fred's ascot and Velma's orange turtleneck are iconic, we said, 'let's keep the characters in these costumes but let's not draw attention to them'. And test audiences have accepted this.''

It was a bit trickier modernising older cartoons such as Wabbit, based on the Looney Tunes series of shorts from the 1930s to 1960s, and Tom and Jerry, created in 1940.

Jay Bastian, executive producer of The Tom and Jerry Show, which is on at 4.25pm, says that compared to the early versions, "we obviously have different standards and practices now because it's a different time".

"There are jokes we obviously wouldn't touch and jokes that will be edited out in the older cartoons that might not be suitable today," he says, in reference to the fact that newer Warner Bros DVD releases of old Tom and Jerry cartoons now come with a disclaimer explaining that they are "a product of their time and may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society".

Bastian adds: "But after we take away the things we can't do, hope- fully it feels like we're still tapping into those same characters and that same vibe and feeling."

He believes the violence between the characters is an essential part of that vibe and editing that out would be a mistake.

"Yes, there's a lot of comedy slapstick violence in there but I think you have to do it in order to do Tom and Jerry right. If you softened it and they were just friends, you wouldn't have the right dynamic that makes them who they are."

Violence was also a concern for the producers of Wabbit, which airs at 5pm. Matt Craig and Gary Hartle had to be especially careful about the depiction of guns in this new Bugs Bunny cartoon, which also features other characters from the Looney Tunes series such as Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote.

Craig says there was a big debate over Elmer Fudd because "he's a hunter, he carries a gun and nowadays, we have a lot of issues surrounding that".

When it came to Bugs, the evolution was more subtle.

Hartle says "the idea was to bring back the original Bugs in terms of the trickster personality and style of the early cartoons", but to also "bring him down from the pedestal we had put him on".

This is why the restyled version is shorter and more elastic-looking. "He's got a little more of a rubber- hose feel to him. He literally stretches and bends, so we can get more slapstick out of him because then, you feel like the characters can't really get hurt."

Bugs has always been an everyman who reflects society, so today, "he uses technology if he needs it - he'll whip out an iPhone and use it".

The biggest change, though, was making the reluctant hero get his hands dirty more often and the animators have introduced a host of new friends and foes to force him to do so.

"In the last 20 years, Bugs has been so smart that he doesn't get involved in things unless he has to," says Craig. "Which is where the new character Squeaks the Squirrel comes into play - to give us somebody who could point out the flaw in humanity or some societal wrong which we could address to get Bugs back into that hero position."

Another new character, Leslie Lilylegs, is "always vice-president of something or the heir to the throne, and Bugs always comes in and messes it up for him".

"That's based on today's idea of wealth, where even when you're doing well and should be content, you're always like, 'Why am I not one step higher?' Characters like these help to bring Bugs into this modern society."

•The Tom And Jerry Show airs daily at 4.25pm, Wabbit airs daily at 5pm and Be Cool Scooby-Doo! airs on weekdays at 5.30, on Boomerang (Singtel TV, Channel 228 and StarHub TV, Channel 317).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'Eh, what's up, doc?'. Print Edition | Subscribe