It appears that Pepe Le Pew has officially been canceled, as the controversial cartoon skunk won't be featured in any upcoming projects in the works at Warner Bros. TV. This week, it was reported that Pepe had been totally scrubbed from his planned scene in Space Jam: A New Legacy and wouldn't even be making a cameo appearance in the sequel. Now, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that there are no plans for Pepe to return in any other animated movies or TV shows either.
In recent days, Pepe had come under fire in a New York Times opinion piece criticizing the skunk as a character who "normalized rape culture." The op-ed was penned in the wake of another recent controversy with Dr. Seuss Enterprises pulling six books from publishing due to insensitive imagery. While the article put the spotlight back onto Pepe, word is the decision to "cancel" the skunk was made at Warner Bros. over a year ago.
There was supposed to be a big scene for Pepe in Space Jam 2 before the scene was mixed. Previous director Terence Nance had filmed a live-action scene with singer-actress Greice Santo that would have had the Jane the Virgin star putting Pepe in his place when he tried to hit on her. The scene would have also revealed that Penelope had filed a restraining order against Pepe and LeBron James telling the skunk that he "can't grab other Tunes without their consent." Santo is reportedly upset that the scene was axed, feeling that it sent a positive message with Pepe getting his comeuppance.
Originally voiced by Mel Blanc, Pepe Le Pew first began appearing in cartoons back in 1945. His schtick typically involves trying to seduce Penelope Pussycat, a black feline who accidentally gives herself a white stripe, giving Pepe the impression she is also a skunk. In the classic cartoons, Pepe could be rather forceful with his advances, something that has faced heavy criticism in light of the #MeToo movement. Now, it seems that those in charge at Warner Bros. no longer want the controversial character representing the company in any capacity.
When new director Malcolm D. Lee replaced Nance on Space Jam 2, he saw it necessary to make some other changes beyond leaving Pepe Le Pew on the cutting room floor. Many fans have noticed that Lola Bunny has undergone a makeover to appear more family-friendly, which Lee says was necessary as a kids' character doesn't need to be "sexualized." This decision also generated a lot of backlash online with fans.
While Pepe Le Pew won't be anywhere to be seen, Space Jam 2 will bring back Lola Bunny, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Tweety Bird, Sylvester Cat, Foghorn Leghorn, and many other Looney Tunes fan favorites. On the live-action side of the cast, LeBron James stars alongside Don Cheadle, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, and Cedric Joe. The movie follows LeBron teaming up with the Tunes to make his way back home after the NBA legend and his son wind up trapped in a virtual space.
Space Jam: A New Legacy will release in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16. This news comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.