Particle physics art

The art of Warner Bros.

At the end of September, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science opened the new traveling exhibit “The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons ”. The short-lived exhibit ends on January 2, leaving locals just a few weeks to check it out before it leaves town. This Saturday, December 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the museum is organizing a special event, celebrating the exhibition and offering additional activities for patrons.

The exhibit itself highlights the art and history of Warner Bros. ‘ Looney Tunes Shorts. It’s not a particularly interactive exhibit, more of a traditional genre of “words and pictures on the wall”, but it does showcase a wealth of history and pop cultural artifacts. Anime fans will be excited to get a glimpse of their favorite characters including Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Pepé Le Pew, and Sylvester & Tweety. While classic cartoons don’t seem to have much in common with natural history, the museum has done a lot to give the exhibit a scientific angle, asking how the animals in the cartoons compare to local wildlife and how cartoon physics live up to reality.

Bugs Bunny has said on more than one occasion that he “should have taken the left turn in Albuquerque”. But that’s not New Mexico’s only connection to Looney Tunes. Amid the exhibition of model sheets, artist sketches, animated cels and background paintings from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the museum inserted a number of actual inspirations from the animators.

“The Looney Tunes cartoons are set in the southwestern United States and were the first introduction many had to its landscape and animals,” says museum educator Misty Carty. “We had fun comparing the images in the cartoons with real life, including adding real animals from New Mexico to the exhibit. The public can see the size and color of a real coyote and roadrunners alongside original artwork by Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. And we have mice, a skunk and a duck to compare to Speedy Gonzalez, Pepé Le Pew and Daffy Duck. So alongside the footage of Looney Tunes’ famous Coyote and Road Runner antagonists, you’ll find a real coyote and roadrunner (albeit of the plush and ridden variety). Fans of the Coyote’s favorite traps (ordered direct from ACME Corp.) will be amused to spot a real TNT piston, historically used in many mines in New Mexico. There’s even an Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta poster display.

“Images of Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner and Bugs Bunny were featured on posters of Balloon Fiesta,” Carty notes. “We loaned the original Balloon Fiesta posters from the first gathering in 1972; Wile E. Coyote’s poster was signed by all pilots that year. And we’ve also featured the current series of posters featuring Looney Tunes characters that will culminate next year for Balloon Fiesta’s 50th anniversary.

On December 18, the museum starts the day with a screening of some of Looney Tunes’ favorite cartoons at the Versus Research Dynatheater starting at 10 a.m. Animated shorts include “Fast and Furry-ous” from 1949, the first cartoon of Coyote and Road Runner, and Daffy Duck’s fancy flight from 1953 “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century”. This sci-fi comedy is particularly apt, as the Natural History Museum is closely associated with the planet Mars, having provided analysis before, during and after the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission. Dr Larry Crumpler, a volcanology and space science researcher at the NMMNHS, was appointed to the mission team following his pioneering work with the Mars Exploration Rover from 2003 to 2018. (The museum also has a new exhibit on Mars opening in its Space Science Wing, so be sure to stop by and check that out as well.) Cartoon screenings are followed by a science story hour and a selection of activities fun from participants from across the state, including New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center in Socorro, New Mexico Department of Fish & Game, St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and ABQ BioPark.

“Most people are drawn to the fun aspect of the exhibit, the nostalgia they feel when they see the characters, and the uniqueness of the exhibit,” says Carty. “It’s unexpected to see a Looney Tunes exhibit in a natural history museum. Our way of relating art to the nature of New Mexico was a fun and memorable educational experience for everyone.

Admission to the Art of Warner Bros. and the Looney Tunes screening on Saturday, December 18 is free with regular museum entry. General admission (18 to 59 years old) is $ 8. Seniors (60 and over) and teens (13 to 17) are $ 7. Children ages 3 to 12 are $ 5. To reserve tickets in advance, visit 680.

Devin D. O’Leary

Film / Television Editor, Editor-in-Chief Devin D. O’Leary was Film / Television Editor at Weekly Alibi for 28 years. He has written and produced four feature films here in New Mexico and has been the booker / host of the Midnight Movie Madness screenings at the Guild Cinema for 13 years.