Sunday, December 13, 2015

MR Wakko's Wish


We continue our Xmas-a-thon with something lighter for a change of pace!


It's time to look back at one of my all-time favorite Christmas-themed animated features! And no, I don't think it's something you would expect!


So how exactly does a wish on a wishing star work? You need to physically get to said fallen star to make a wish? And then you get, like, three wishes?


Movie: Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish or just Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish also known as simply Wakko's Wish, tentatively titled It's a Wakko, Wakko, Wakko, Wakko Wish
Directed by Liz Holzman, Rusty Mills and Tom Ruegger
Release date 1999
Genre Musical/Fairy tale/Comedy animated film
Country USA

You all probably remember Animaniacs. But how many people remember the only Animaniacs movie we ever got?

That's right, there was a movie as well!

The film Wakko's Wish was released in 1999 following the run of the show that lasted from 1993 to 1998. In fact it was one of the last productions revolving around the Animaniacs, along the 2005 video game Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt.

The film was originally meant for a theatrical release but it ended up being a direct-to-video feature. But the quality is still there, it clearly shows this was meant for a bigger distribution. But it wasn't the Animaniacs' first theatrical production either, that honor actually goes to the 1994 short "I'm Mad" which was released in front of Don Bluth's animated film Thumbelina.

The same way the segments from the show often used a completely different setting to tell different stories every time, the movie is set in the middle ages and is structured like a fairy tale.

It's about the Warner siblings on a race to get to a wishing star to get a wish!


Our story takes place around Christmas. Although Christmas is not the main focus of the plot aside from the story taking place in the winter.

It's set in the town of "Acme Falls", in the kingdom of Warnerstock where this evil king, King Salazar, is oppressing the town folks.

In this story the Warners brothers Wakka and Yakko - and their sister Dot - are orphans. Dot is not well. You see, Dot needs a complicated operation that the siblings can't afford. That sounds pretty brutal, but stay with me here.

One night Wakko witnesses a falling star, and he wishes upon the star.. but the problem is whoever touches the star will get their wish come true! Soon the entire town knows this and it becomes a race for the wishing star!

The King hears about this and he gets his army there first. But the process to get the wish is not as simple as the King thought, so he captures the Warners to tell him how it works...


Wakko's Wish is a really funny, original and unique animated feature.

On the first look it seems fairly more serious and radically different from the show, but it has just as much humor and clever jokes as usual despite the appearances. In fact the wishes the characters wish seem to directly solve some long running questions from the show and Dot's actual reason for the operation takes a much more silly route and it's absolutely not what you'd expect. For example we often got nods to their parents and heritage in the series, and they're finally revealed as heirs to a throne in the film!

The title was originally supposed to be It's a Wakko, Wakko, Wakko, Wakko Wish, but it got shortened for the video release. 

The film was meant to be the first in a series of Animaniacs movies, but those would be scrapped entirely for new projects instead.

The movie is not that long, it's only about 80 minutes long to warrant the feature length.

The show has always been known for its great various musical numbers, naturally the movie has plenty of songs and they're all pretty good and catchy! The movie contains around 10 new songs sing by cast!

All signature elements from the cartoon series make an appearance in the film in one way or another, we even get to see the Wheel of Morality come into play for a quick moral at the end.


The movie sees the return of the entire cast from the animated series! They're all here - Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Sherri Stoner, Nathan Ruegger, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker, John Mariano, Bernadette Peters, Julie Brown, Paxton Whitehead, Ben Stein, Jeff Bennett, Paul Rugg and Jean MacCurdy. The movie itself is narrated by Tom Bodett. Rob Paulsen and Jess Harnell did both a particularly fantastic job, offering great performances as usual and then some! Great work from everyone all around!

All the characters from the different segments in the show get involved together in one big epic storyline. Almost every major and minor character from the series appear in the film.

The movie plays great with tropes and clichés of the genre and the whole film feels like a pretty well thought parody of these sort of Christmas tales.

You see, the story is never truly meant to be taken entirely seriously, the movie breaks the fourth wall constantly and it's pretty self-aware. The characters act like they know they're in a musical feature. The humor is as witty and funny as usual.

Wakko's Wish was always meant to be a theatrical release, and it shows. It's gorgeous to look at. The art direction and animation is even better than usual. Some of the best animation the Animaniacs ever had. And it all simply looks great. By then all animation was digital, and this marked the show's first project entirely done digitally.


What surprised a lot of people is how the film is much more serious in tone compared to the series, but I think it works great in the favor of the film. It actually makes it worth being an actual movie and not just yet another episode in the first place. They add to make some changes to warrant filling an entire movie. The Warners feel slightly more restrained than usual, so they appear slightly less wacky than usual. But there's still plenty of laughs to be had.

The movie has a ton of great jokes for children and adults alike. Like in the show there's a ton of self-aware jokes and references to pop culture. The Warners are even seen burning a sled with the word "Rosebud" on it in the beginning of the film! There's some pretty obscure references only people familiar with animation history will get like some of the background characters (keep an eye out for Chuck Jones characters!).

Like I wrote above, the original plan was for this film to get a proper big screen release. It even received some great reception in test screenings, but Warner Bros. ultimately decided to release it direct-to-video instead to avoid having to bother with an expensive marketing for a wider release. That's why it got pushed from 1998 to 1999 finally on VHS. It would take Warner decades to re-release the film on streaming services and DVD.

The musical score saw the return of all of the show's composers, Richard Stone, Steven Bernstein, Julie Bernstein, Gordon Goodwin and Tim Kelly. While some fans saw the later seasons of the series didn't receive as good and memorable musical numbers, the movie saw a return to form with very inspired and catchy music led by the series' first iconic composer Richard Stone.


Overall, Wakko's Wish is a fantastic Christmas animated feature! Featuring some of the Animaniacs finest' animation, writing and some fantastic voice acting performances.

For me it's a timeless classic! With a really smart tone, a ton of inside jokes, broad humor for children to enjoy as well as great slapstick and clever humor for adults too. The film should appeal to everyone, if you ever liked the cartoon or animation in general you should have a look at it, this one comes Highly Recommended for the season! Never boring nor cheesy, it's a clever Holiday special with all the heart but none of the forced aspect.

Even if you're not familiar with the Warner brothers (and sister Dot) or Looney Tunes in general, it's a must watch! It's that good!
 
I give it:
3 / 3 Felixes!
 

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