Bugs Bunny needs to be extra careful as his longtime nemesis Elmer Fudd is once again packing heat. Last year, the revival series Looney Tunes Cartoons premiered on HBO Max to further continue the feud between the wisecracking rabbit and the wascally wabbit hunter. Based on concerns over cartoon characters using firearms in children's programming, both Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam had their guns taken away for the first season of the Looney Tunes revival.
This week, Looney Tunes Cartoons returned for another season on HBO Max. For better or for worse, the decision was made to give Mr. Fudd his guns back, and it wasn't long before he put them to use. In the "Rotund Rabbit" segment of the season's sixth episode, Elmer Fudd goes back to his roots by chasing after Bugs Bunny with his old hunting rifle. He shoots at the speedy rabbit, but because Bugs is so fast, the bullet stops itself in midair before announcing, "That's it, I quit!" The bullet then puts on a hat and storms off with its briefcase.
"New Looney Tunes Cartoons out today! Now with guns!" tweeted the show's executive producer Pete Browngardt, including a video clip of the scene in question.
This could be seen as good news for fans of Pepe Le Pew left saddened by the cartoon skunk's removal from Space Jam: A New Legacy. Although original director Terence Nance had planned for Pepe to appear in the sequel, Malcolm D. Lee had the character completely scrubbed when he took over the project, and the skunk isn't seen in so much as a cameo. The decision was met with widespread controversy that was only exacerbated when the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange were spotted in the trailer.
It's too late for Pepe Le Pew to make the cut for Space Jam: A New Legacy, but Warner Bros. allowing for Elmer Fudd to start shooting guns in cartoons again shows that the controversial decisions made by the company aren't necessarily final. The noticeably negative response to the Pepe Le Pew situation could potentially convince the powers that be for the controversial skunk to return in another Looney Tunes project down the line.
In his case, Pepe got the boot from Looney Tunes canon after some fans complained that his behavior toward Penelope Pussycat in classic cartoons promoted rape culture. Linda Jones, the daughter of Pepe's creator Chuck Jones, has even pitched an idea of how to bring him back that wouldn't involve making unwanted advances towards other animals he mistakenly believes to be fellow skunks.
"[He could be a] perpetual job-seeker who keeps getting rejected, but constantly changes up his routine thinking he's the perfect candidate," Linda suggested, adding that her father's sole motivation when creating Pepe was "pure comedy."
"[Nobody who ever watched Pepe] was inspired to go out and rape, or even harass, people," she noted.
Space Jam: A New Legacy will be released in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16. You can check out the new episodes of Looney Tunes Cartoons, now with guns, currently streaming alongside its firearm-free first season on HBO Max.