Eleven-year-old Thomas Adams thought Warner Bros. had gone daffy when he saw the company's plans for a new cartoon called "Loonatics," based on Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes pals.
The grimacing, hollow-eyed, power-fisted prototypes of a futuristic Bugs, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner struck the boy as dark and scary. In the words of Daffy Duck, he found them "dethh-picable."
Now, nearly two months after starting an Internet petition drive against the TV series' fall debut, Thomas has gotten their attention.
Warner Bros. Entertainment spokesman Scott Rowe said his company wants the thousands of fans upset by the made-over characters unveiled in February to know "that's NOT all, folks."
Those "early drawings" have been revised into characters that are softer and less menacing, he said.
"We heard the outcry from fans, including Thomas," Rowe said.
That's enough to draw an emphatic "YESSS!" from the lanky fifth-grader who started the stir with fewer than 20 signatures on a piece of paper at his private school.
Thomas couldn't figure out what was up with the plans to turn the old Looney Tunes gang into their Japanese anime-styled descendants. The prototypes depicted sword-eared superheroes, such as "Buzz Bunny," battling evil in the year 2772.
"Those weren't the Looney Tunes I know," said the boy, whose favorite classic character is the Tasmanian Devil "besides Bugs, of course."
Thomas' parents, Rachel and John Adams, suggested he might have more success by taking his drive to the Web. A family friend who runs an Internet design business was willing to help.
Worldwide petitionBetween piano lessons and shooting hoops, the boy pedaled his bike to the friend's house over several evenings to work on the site's content. On Feb. 28, www.saveourlooneytunes.com came on line.
The petition asked Warner Bros. to create entirely new characters for the series instead of "ruining" the old ones.
Within days, the response had overwhelmed the family's home computer. By late March, more than 25,000 people from around the world had signed the petition. After a CNN story on Thomas aired in mid-April, the site had tallied 80,000 signatures and 95,000 hits, the family said.
"Keep up the fight," fellow fans urged in their e-mails, calling the boy an inspiration.
The passion of fans for the old characters is understandable, said Bob Bergen, the voice actor behind Porky's stutter and Tweety's "putty tat" the past 15 years.
"They've been around since the 1930s," he said. "They've been around as long as classic motion pictures."
Bergen, who decided at age 5 he wanted to be Porky Pig and "just pursued it," is not involved in the new series' development, but he cautions fans against rushing to judgment before it airs.
"The kids who are going to be seeing this are not as versed in classic Looney Tunes as these fans are," he said. "Let the target audience be the judge."
Paging Poochie ...The "Loonatics" — scheduled to air Saturday mornings come fall on Kids' WB! — is aimed at 6-to-11-year-olds. Test-groups loved it, Rowe said.
It's not intended to replaced the original characters, which appear in new episodes on Cartoon Network and classic shows on the network's station Boomerang.
"We just wanted to create something that would be accessible and fun to a new generation of kids," he said.
He said the redrawn characters will be unveiled at a later date but that "Loonatics" will remain an action-adventure show.
Thomas, who has dreams of becoming a cartoonist or comedian, hopes Warner Bros. also will continue to create new episodes for the old Looney Tunes gang.
Thrilled to have made a difference in a way his mother calls "a David and Goliath story," the young activist is considering a new protest.
"I was thinking about doing one against homework," he said.