Disney lobbied the federal government to change how copyright law works to protect Mickey Mouse, but over at Warner Bros. Discovery, they can’t even be bothered to keep Bugs Bunny on their own streaming service. As of the very end of 2022, 256 Looney Tunes shorts have been removed from HBO Max, covering everything from 1950 to 2004, which is about half of what that the streaming service had when it launched. Older shorts from 1930 to 1940 are still available, but Vulture notes that the deleted cartoons include “What’s Opera, Doc?” (see above), “Rabbit Of Seville,” “Duck Amuck,” and “One Froggy Evening” (as if the death of The WB wasn’t enough of an insult to the great Michigan J. Frog).
But wait, there’s more: HBO Max has also pulled seasons four through six of The Flintstones, which amounts to 78 episodes, leaving only the first three seasons on the platform (where are kids supposed to learn about The Great Gazoo now?). Variety explains that these shows were licensed to HBO Max by Warner Bros. (once more for those in the back: THAT COMPANY OWNS HBO MAX), but the streaming service reportedly decided not to renew those licenses (with ITS OWN COMPANY) to save money. That’s in keeping with Warner Bros. Discovery’s crusade against animation and animators, with WBD boss David Zaslav having already gutted his company’s cartoon offerings earlier in 2022.
Curiously, one of the first places to catch on to this news was a Twitter account called @thecartoonnews, a Twitter Blue account (take from that what you will) that somehow abbreviates its name to “CCN.” That account tweeted about the Looney Tunes shorts being removed on December 31, which was correct, but earlier this week it claimed that the shorts were removed “temporarily due to a maintenance check to fix the photoshop titles” and that they “will be returning to HBO Max soon.” A rep has confirmed to The A.V. Club that that part is not true and that the shorts were removed on purpose and that they will not be coming back to HBO Max (or at least they won’t be coming back “soon”).
All of that means that half of Looney Tunes and half of The Flintstones are no longer available on HBO Max and—as with most things pulled from HBO Max—may never be available to stream anywhere again. Some HBO shows like Westworld will be licensed to other, ad-supported streaming services in the future, but it’s unclear if Warner Bros. intends to do anything with these discarded Looney Tunes episodes. (But hey, don’t tell Zaslav that some of these are still available on YouTube.)