It was about time I got this cult classic series reviewed on my blog!...
Name: Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: Volume 1
Created by Tom Ruegger
Original run 1993
Genre Animated comedy
Western animation went through a sort of second Golden Age, a revival in the late 80s and early 90s.
The Warner Bros. Animation studios were brought back to a level of relevance they hadn't known for decades since the old short animated features from which the original Looney Tunes emerged.
While most will always remember the super hero cartoons like Batman and the Justice League Unlimited series, it was with Tiny Toons that all this began.
It all started when Warner Bros reopened their animation studio in 1989 after over a decade of silence.
First they worked on bringing back some classic proprieties.
And finally through a collaboration with famed film director Steven Spielberg, the studio went on to launch some new original material which would bring what some call "the animation renaissance", a boom in the animated genre that ran along the modern success of Disney movie pictures.
In a way, Animaniacs is sort of like the spiritual successor to Tiny Toon Adventures.
But instead of focusing on or around Looney Tunes, Tom Ruegger and his fantastic crew developed their own new original characters. This cartoon series ran from 1993 to 1998, it launched several spinoffs, video games and other line of products.
Animaniacs told the story of three old 1930s "Golden Age" characters (inspired by old black & white classic toons such as Mickey Mouse, Felix The Cat or Oswald the Rabbit) who where kept hidden in secret for years in the Warner Bros. Studios' water tower.. that is, until the 1990s when they were able to get out and run amok around the studio!
They are the Warner Brothers - Yakko and Wakko - and their sister Dot!
Like Tiny Toons before, Animaniacs episodes are composed of several smaller shorts.
The main feature was of course the zany fourth wall-breaking adventures of the Warner Bros. while they annoyed the production lot, Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, the studio's psychiatrist and his assistant Hello Nurse, or running from the security guard Ralph...
Most times, the Warner Bros. were "casted" into various sort of roles, in classic literature pieces (Hamlet, Moby Dick,..), movie spoofs or parodies of genres.
The show also frequently featured songs - enough to warrant several album releases over the ears. Such an innovative use of music, played with the notion Disney established for animation for children. But here Warner Bros Animation used it to either spoof that trend or simply teach some stuff to kids. I learnt all of the world's countries thanks to Yakko's World!
But the show also distinguished itself from most other similar cartoons by featuring such a fun, larger and well thought cast of supporting characters.
Amongst the most populars were, of course, Pinky and the Brain.
Genetically altered laboratory mice trying to take over the world!
They were different enough from the rest by being much more different from your usual Looney Tunes.
At first, they were almost gonna use Tex Avery's classic Screwy Squirrel.
But due to copyright issues, they preferred to make their own parody character, Slappy Squirrel. (funny enough, Warner Bros. did eventually acquire Screwy later on, making him a Looney Tune therefore, but alas too late for Animaniacs)
She's the old recurrent Golden Age character that actually aged and now prefers some good slapstick instead of all the puns and dialogues of today's humor.
There's also Rita and Runt, Buttons and Mindy, Chicken Boo, The Hip Hippos, The Goodfeathers pigeons and so many more to count...!
Tom Ruegger and executive producer Steven Spielberg imagined the way all these would work out together as those hour long programs that aired reruns of old Merry Melodies cartoons.
Inspired by those old unrelated shorts, they didn't require consistency or even to work along each other, but they be unified by their regular characters and the tone in the end.
The Animaniacs had to at least guest star once per episode but they didn't need to be the focus of a single episode.
Also some episode could take over the entire 20-minutes screentime, things weren't that constricted.
Many great Warner Bros writers had a go at Animaniacs or started their career here.
From Tom Ruegger to Sherri Stoner and Paul Rugg, Deanna Oliver, John McCann, Nicholas Hollander, Peter Hastings, Charlie Howell, Gordon Bressack, Jeff Kwitny, Earl Kress, Tom Minton, and Randy Rogel...
Since Tiny Toons, a lot of animation studios were now working together for Warner Bros Animation, across oceans and whatnot. The biggest and most famous ones being TMS, StarToons, Freelance Animators New Tealand, AKOM, etc.
Each taking over specific given segments to make the show a bit more consistent than Tiny Toons.
Animaniacs had really something for everyone.
Chances are, even if you're not a big fan of it you still probably had a favorite Toon or segment.
There was content for the whole family.
The show was heavily inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood, pop culture and mainstream celebrities.
There was a lot of innuendos and jokes aimed at adults alongside the big laughs for the kids.
The cast was exceptional!
Most of the actors came from Tiny Toons actually.
Lead brilliantly by a Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell and Tress MacNeille at the top of their game.
And let's not forget the amazing Maurice LaMarche who did not only the memorable voice of Brain but also a bunch of other voices like everyone else on the show.
Animaniacs was a very musical animated series.
Richard Stone composed most of the score.
The show was given a proper orchestral modern (and expensive) production value in the style of Looney Tunes of old.
Everyone got to sing at one point or another.
The show riffed on a lot of classic songs and symphonic pieces.
Overall, it is simply one if not my favorite animated series of all time!
Innovative. Original. Always hilarious.
It proved to be one of the most popular cartoons in the 90s.
The first season presented here above features all the classic stories, characters and tone of episodes the show would explore all its 5 Seasons and 100 episodes later.
The first episode is certainly the most straight forward one with the introduction of our main characters, a song and a children's book parody.
But it gets better, they would meet figures like Albert Einstein, spoof the Godfather, introduce all the other type of segments such as Rita & Runt, mock Les Misérables, parody Johann Strauss.' Blue Danube, have Jerry Lewis play an annoying director (who would go on to be a recurrent "character"), Slappy re-playing Adam and Eve's and many more always unexpected and brilliant stories these 25 first episodes!
The show became part of popular culture and is still beloved to this day by many many fans all around the world!
There even was a feature lenght direct-to-video animated movie a year after its run, in 1999, titled Wakko's Wish.
I give it:
3 / 3 Felixes!