From queer nightstands to nuns in cinema, single-function Instagram accounts have been popping up left and right. It’s curious that it has taken this long for this format to become popular, perhaps because it runs counter to vanity that’s been associated with the platform. From accounts that document tiles that appear in film backgrounds to pictures of cats on prayer mats, the variety of content that gets posted seems to only be limited by the imagination of the accounts’ administrators. It becomes a form of collecting and archiving, breaking through the platform’s built-in grammar of gaining popularity and engagement.
Occasionally, we find an account which changes how we view these images, that re-contextualise scenes that we have previously seen but did not quite appreciate. Beñat Iturbe Hualde, a TV writer and comedian from the Basque country, does exactly this, in his account Looney Tunes Background. Described as “Looney Tunes without Looney Tunes,” the account curates backgrounds from the series active during the golden age of American Animation. These stills take on a poetic feel without the goofy band of anthropomorphic animals. Empty city skylines with tenements tinted purple from the evening sky look a bit more melancholy. Meandering cliffs joined by a tightrope doesn’t seem so comical without the wisecracking rabbit, and instead is rather grand and almost mythical.
“I opened the account after looking on Instagram for it. I was certain there had to be a profile dedicated to all those beautiful backgrounds,” Beñat tells It’s Nice That. “I remembered from the classic shorts, as there were for many others such as The Simpsons, but I didn't find any, so I Googled for some, then went home and captured some others, building a huge album on my phone where I go everyday to find the next one to post.” Today, he still has about four hundred stills that he has yet to post.
Beñat credits the illustrators on each of these posts. These backgrounds, far from the realistic style that early animators preferred, was a style pushed by Maurice Noble, a background artist who worked closely with Chuck Jones. This was to match the characteristics of the cartoons themselves: flat, comical and stylised. “I think everyone who follows the account does it because they love the art as much as I do, and the appreciation is huge,” Beñat says. “I love when someone speculates or says they know who the uncredited artist for certain scenes are, because I haven't got that trained eye, and I also appreciate when they correct my typos, like when I write that a short was made in 1854, which happens way too often.”
The posts are carefully curated into three columns: one for interior scenes, one for nature and another for urban environments. Like we suspect, the joy in running accounts like these is to be able to share joy with others on the internet, an act of love that’s slowly disappearing in an age of hyper-personalised timelines and crisis-driven platforms. “There are some followers who have also made their illustrations based on some of the backgrounds I post, and I love it when they send them to me,” he adds. “It's been great to see how many people care and have people tell me that every time a shot appears in their timeline, it makes them happy.”
Looney Tunes Backgrounds (Copyright © Looney Tunes)
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.