An opinion piece on The New York Times about the recent Dr. Seuss Enterprises decision to no longer sell six books by the author featuring racist and insensitive imagery also noted some cartoons of old that are perhaps best left behind as well, in particular the Looney Tunes' skunk Pepe Le Pew. Author Charles M. Blow noted that the character "normalized rape culture" in his many forms, and Warner Bros. apparently agreed that he would no longer be appropriate as it wasn't long before the company announced he wouldn't be appearing in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy. Now we've learned that there are no plans for Pepe Le Pew to return on the small screen either.
Lest we think that these were reactionary decisions by Warner Bros. hoping to avoid a scandal, The Hollywood Reporter brings word that "the decision to both scrub him from the film and not have him return for TV projects was made more than a year ago." As you may recall, Pepe Le Pew was a skunk with a French accent who frequently attempted to kiss and aggressively pursue a black cat, who frequently appeared skunk like through comical means. The most recent appearance by the character was as a cameo in "Happy Birthday Bugs Bunny!," an episode of the HBO Max original series, the Looney Tunes Cartoons.
It was reported yesterday by Deadline that at one point Pepe Le Pew was planned to have been in the upcoming Space Jam sequel. The trade noted that "a hybrid live-action animation scene" featuring Jane the Virgin actress Greice Santo was shot with Santo appearing alongside Pepe Le Pew. The sequence was shot in June of 2019 when the film's first director Terence Nance was helming the project. After Nance departed the project and Malcolm D. Lee took over the scene was removed and the character eliminated from the film entirely. They reported "according to sources who saw a rough cut three months ago, they didn’t see any kind of cameo by the skunk" and that his removal had nothing to do with the recent NYT piece.
Space Jam: A New Legacy will debut on July 16 and will arrive on HBO Max and in theaters on the same date. The film's official description reads:
“In this film, basketball champion and global icon LeBron James goes on an epic adventure alongside timeless Tune Bugs Bunny. When James and his young son Dom – who dreams of being a video game developer – are trapped in a digital space by a rogue AI, James must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the AI’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before.”