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Animaniacs
Animaniacs Title Card
Genre Comedy, Satire, Slapstick
Format Animated Series
Created by Tom Ruegger
Starring Rob Paulsen
Jess Harnell
Tress MacNeille
(see characters)
Country of Origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of Seasons 5
No. of Episodes 99 (List of Episodes)
Production
Executive Producer(s) Steven Spielberg
Running Time 22 minutes (approx.)
Production Company(s) Amblin Entertainment
Warner Bros. Television
Broadcast
Original Channel Fox (Fox Kids) (1993-1995)
The WB (Kids' WB) (1995-1998)
First Shown 1993
Original Run September 13, 1993 – November 14, 1998
Status Ended
Wiki
Wiki-wordmark.png
Animaniacs Opening01:14

Animaniacs Opening

Animaniacs is an American animated television series, distributed by Warner Bros. Television and produced by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. Animaniacs is the second animated series produced by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The studio's first series, Tiny Toon Adventures, was a success among younger viewers, and attracted a sizable number of adult viewers. The Animaniacs writers and animators, led by senior producer Tom Ruegger, used the experience gained from the previous series to create new animated characters that were cast in the mold of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery's creations.[1]

The comedy of Animaniacs was a broad mix of old-fashioned wit, slapstick, pop culture references, and cartoon violence. The show featured a number of comedic educational segments that covered subjects such as history, mathematics, geography, astronomy, science, and social studies, often in musical form. Animaniacs itself was a variety show, with short skits featuring a large cast of characters. While the show had no set format, the majority of episodes were composed of three short mini-episodes, each starring a different set of characters, and bridging segments.

Animaniacs first aired on Fox Kids from 1993 to 1995 and new episodes later appeared on The WB from 1995 to 1998 as part of its Kids' WB afternoon programming block. The series had a total of 99 episodes and one film, titled Wakko's Wish. Reruns of the show have aired on Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, the Hub Network and Teletoon Retro.

PlotEdit

Animaniacs had a large cast of characters, separated into individual segments, with each pair or set of characters acting in its own plot. The Warners, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, were three cartoon stars from the 1930s that were locked away in the Warner Bros. water tower until the 1990s, when they escaped. After their escape, they often interacted with Warner Bros. studio workers, including Ralph, the security guard; Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, the studio psychiatrist, and his assistant Hello Nurse. Pinky and the Brain are two genetically altered laboratory mice that continuously plot and attempt to take over the world. Slappy Squirrel is an aged cartoon star that would easily outwit antagonists and educate her nephew, Skippy Squirrel, about cartoon techniques. Additional principal characters included Rita and Runt, Buttons and Mindy, Chicken Boo, Flavio and Marita (The Hip Hippos), Katie Ka-Boom, a trio of pigeons known as The Goodfeathers, and Minerva Mink.

The Animaniacs characters interacted with famous persons and creators of the past and present as well as mythological characters and characters from modern television. Andrea Romano, the casting and recording director of Animaniacs, said that the Warner siblings functioned to "tie the show together," by appearing in and introducing other characters' segments. Each Animaniacs episode usually consisted of two or three cartoon shorts. Animaniacs segments ranged in time, from bridging segments less than a minute long to episodes spanning the entire show length; writer Peter Hastings said that the varying episode lengths gave the show a "sketch comedy" atmosphere.

CharactersEdit

Yakko Warner (voiced by Rob Paulsen) — the oldest of the Warners, Yakko is a fast-talking smart alec, reminiscent at times of Groucho Marx.

Wakko Warner (voiced by Jess Harnell) — the middle child of the warner siblings, Wakko has a huge appetite, a gag bag filled with tricks and often has his tongue sticking out. He speaks with a scouse accent modeled by Harnell after a younger John Lennon.

Dot Warner (voiced by Tress MacNeille) — the youngest Warner sibling, Dot is cute and sassy, and uses her apparent innocence to manipulate and torment those who stand in her way as well as chasing Leading Men from Hollywood (like Mel Gibson) around.

Dr. Otto Scratchansniff (voiced by Rob Paulsen) — The German-accented studio psychiatrist, who attempts to force the Warners to be less "zany." The all-but-invariable result of his efforts is that he himself loses patience with the Warners and goes insane, pulling all his hair out. He eventually starts to grow fonder of them and takes up more responsibility over the Warners, occasionally even acting as a substitute father figure to them.

Hello Nurse (voiced by Tress MacNeille) — The buxom blonde studio nurse (though she has a habit of appearing in various other occupations as well), over whom Yakko and Wakko continually fawn. Her appearance almost always prompts the boys into lustfully exclaiming "Hellooooooo, Nurse!" and (usually) jumping into her arms, while the poor nurse mutters "Uh-oh" or "How did I get myself into this?". Although stereotyped as a typical dumb blonde, in Wakko's Wish, it's revealed that her "mean IQ is 192" (compare to Albert Einstein's IQ of 160). In the latter characterizations, she laments that she is respected only for her looks and not her mind.

Ralph (voiced by Frank Welker) — A dim-witted Warners Studio security guard charged with recapturing the Warners and confining them to the water tower. He first appeared in Tiny Toon Adventures known as the Fat Guard, that made cameos here and there. In the movie Wakko's Wish, Ralph is referred in the opening credits as "Ralph T. Guard."

Pinky and the Brain (voiced by Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche respectively) — An imbecilic white mouse and his genius companion. Despite the name of the pair placing Pinky first, the Brain is clearly the leader; he continuously launches attempts to take over the world, accompanied by Pinky, but something always goes wrong with their plans (usually, it is at least partially Pinky's fault). In 1995, their adventures were spun off into a dedicated series.

Slappy Squirrel (voiced by series writer Sherri Stoner) — Slappy Squirrel is a grumpy cartoon veteran squirrel with an New York accent, who starred in metafictional Looney Tunes cartoons as Slappy, The Slap-Happy Squirrel. Today, she lives in a tree with her cute and chipper nephew, Skippy Squirrel. Often, she faces old enemies from her past, like Walter Wolf. Other situations see her facing common nuisances, like annoyingly perky neighbors ("I Got Yer Can") and Skippy's emotional traumas ("Bumbie's Mom"). Usually she solves her problems with exaggerated cartoon violence, ending the cartoon with her famous line, "Now that's comedy!" The music played during the title card of her segments is an excerpt from Antonín Dvořák's "Humoresque."

Skippy Squirrel (voiced by Nathan Ruegger) — Skippy is Slappy's young nephew, whose chipper personality is the polar opposite of his aunt's. His characterization varied from appearance to appearance, from slightly naive ("Slappy Goes Walnuts") to completely innocent ("Bumbie's Mom") to complicit partner in Slappy's classic cartoon tactics ("Critical Condition"), but his idolization of his famous aunt remained constant. His catchphrase is "Spew"!, usually said when he sees something disgusting. In later episodes, Ruegger's voice had noticeably changed, in which it was digitally edited to a more higher pitched tone.

Goodfeathers (voiced by Maurice LaMarche, John Mariano and Chick Vennera respectively) — An Italian American trio of cartoon pigeons: Squit (gray), Bobby (turquoise), and Pesto (lavender), influenced by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci from the movie Goodfellas. As they try to get food and earn respect from other birds, Pesto frequently loses his temper at an innocuous remark by Squit and starts beating him up, with Bobby standing by and laughing at both of them. This gag in itself grew from Goodfellas; it was based on the film's famous exchange between Pesci and Liotta: "How am I funny? Like a clown? I amuse you"? Squit also narrates the series, like Ray Liotta's character from Goodfellas did. Many episodes begin with the line "As far back as I can remember," which are Liotta's opening narrative lines in Goodfellas.

Buttons (voiced by Frank Welker) — a dog that takes care of Mindy. He will follow Mindy where ever she goes trying to keep her out of trouble, which she is always getting into. Buttons tries desperately to keep Mindy safe and he always succeeds, usually at the expense of his own safety.

Mindy (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) — a little girl who is always getting into all kinds of trouble. She finds some way out of her harness when her mom is not looking and goes running after something. If it was not for her loving dog Buttons (who keeps her out of trouble) she would have been a goner long ago. Mindy is a cute little three or four-year-old girl with blond hair and overalls. Often she would try asking grown-ups questions, and for each answer they gave, she would ask "Why?", get another answer, and then ask "Why?" again. Once the adult was fed up with her, she would say "Okay, I love you, bye-bye," and leave. She refers to her mother as "Lady." She also called her father "Mr. Man".

Rita and Runt (voiced by Bernadette Peters & Frank Welker respectively) — A singing cat and a loyal but stupid dog who thinks Rita is a dog, who travel together looking for a place to call home. Rita has a world-weary, cynical attitude, and a stereotypical New York twang, while Runt speaks with the vocal mannerisms made famous by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. His catchphrase is to describe something twice, the second time with "Yup, definitely ..." added, as in "You're a good dog, Rita. Yup, definitely a good dog."

Minerva Mink (voiced by Julie Brown) — An attractive anthropomorphic young mink, with the ability to seduce and charm any and every male creature around her into the state of a babbling idiot, often inducing Tex Avery-esque wild takes. Just as every male creature lusts after Minerva, she lusts after every handsome looking male she sees and goes crazy when she sees one. She has a loose attitude and behaves like a primadonna. She starred in the least number of shorts of all the ensemble cast, allegedly because the content of her shorts was so overtly sexual that it was decided that it would be inappropriate for the intended predominantly young audience.

HistoryEdit

Pre-ProductionEdit

Before Animaniacs was put into production, various collaboration and brainstorming efforts were thought up to create both the characters and premise of the series. For instance, ideas that were thrown out were Rita and Runt being the hosts of the show and the Warners being duck characters that Senior Producer Tom Ruegger drew in his college years. After the characters from the series were created, they were all shown to Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, who would decide which characters would make it into Animaniacs (the characters Buttons and Mindy were chosen by Spielberg's daughter). The characters' designs came from various sources, including caricatures of other writers, designs based on early cartoon characters, and characters that simply had a more modern design.

Fox Kids Era: Episodes 1–69Edit

Animaniacs premiered on September 13, 1993, on the Fox Kids programming block of the Fox network, and ran there until September 8, 1995; with new episodes airing from 1993 through 1994. Animaniacs aired with a 65-episode first season because these episodes were ordered by Fox all at once.[2] While on Fox Kids, Animaniacs gained fame for its name and became the second-most popular show among children ages 2–11 and children ages 6–11, second to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (which began that same year). In 1994, Yakko, Wakko and Dot also starred in the theatrical short "I'm Mad". New episodes were aired on Fox Kids until the 65th episode aired; Fox then ordered no more new episodes, with the exception of a short, four-episode long second season that was quickly put together from unused scripts during the Animaniacs syndication period on Fox Kids. After Fox Kids aired Animaniacs reruns for a year, Animaniacs switched to the new Warner Bros. children's programming block, Kids' WB.

Kids' WB Era: Episodes 70–99Edit

The series was popular enough for Warner Bros. Animation to invest in additional episodes of Animaniacs past the traditional 65-episode marker for syndication. Animaniacs premiered on the new Kids' WB line-up on September 9, 1995, with a new season of 13 episodes. At this time, the show's popular cartoon characters, Pinky and the Brain, were spun-off from Animaniacs into their own TV series. While on Kids' WB, Animaniacs became successful in an unintended way, by bringing in adult viewers and viewers outside the Kids' WB target demographic of young children. The unintended result of adult viewers and not enough young viewers put pressure on the WB network from advertisers and caused dissatisfaction from the WB network towards Animaniacs.[2] Slowly, orders from the WB for more Animaniacs episodes dwindled and Animaniacs made it through a couple more short seasons, relying on leftover scripts and storyboards.[2] The fourth season had eight episodes, which was reduced from 18 because of the WB's dissatisfaction with Animaniacs.[2] Finally, in 1998, Animaniacs was cancelled by the WB. The 99th and final Animaniacs episode was aired on November 14, 1998. Afterwards, Animaniacs segments were being shown along with segments from other cartoons as part of The Cat&Birdy Warneroonie PinkyBrainy Big Cartoonie Show.[3] On December 21, 1999, a direct-to-video movie starring the Warners, titled Wakko's Wish, was released.

SyndicationEdit

Animaniacs, along with Tiny Toon Adventures, continued to rerun in syndication through the 1990s into the early 2000s after production of new episodes ceased. In the US, Animaniacs aired on Cartoon Network, from August 31, 1998 until the spring of 2001, when Nickelodeon bought the rights to air the series beginning on September 1, 2001. Nickelodeon transferred the series to its newly launched sister channel Nicktoons on May 1, 2002, and aired there until July 7, 2005. Animaniacs started airing on the Hub Network with a 4-hour marathon on December 24, 2012 and started airing regularly on January 7, 2013.

EpisodesEdit

Animaniacs ran for 99 episodes spread over five seasons from September 1993 to November 1998.

Wakko's WishEdit

The Warners starred in the feature-length, direct-to-video movie Wakko's Wish. The movie takes place in the fictional town of Acme Falls, in which the Warners and the rest of the Animaniacs cast are under the rule of a greedy dictator. When the Warners find out about a star that will grant a wish to the first person that touches it, the Warners, the villagers (the Animaniacs cast), and the dictator race to get to it first. Warner Bros. released the movie on VHS on December 21, 1999; there has not yet been a DVD release.

Home Video ReleasesEdit

VHSEdit

Title Released Featured Segments
The Warners Escape August 24, 1994 "De-Zanitized", "Temporary Insanity", "Hello Nice Warners", and "Video Revue"
Animaniacs Stew "Slappy Goes Walnuts", "Operation: Lollipop", "Sir Yaksalot", "In the Garden of Mindy", "Baghdad Cafe", "Yes, Always", and "Bumbie's Mom"
You WILL Buy This Video! "Puppet Rulers", "Win Big", "Battle for the Planet", "Meet John Brain", and "Bubba Bo Bob Brain"
Helloooo, Holidays! "'Twas the Day Before Christmas", "Yakko's Universe", "Little Drummer Warners", "A Gift of Gold", "A Christmas Plotz", and "The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert"
Spooky Stuff August 13, 1996 "Draculee, Draculaa", "Phranken-Runt", "Meatballs Or Consequences", "Scare Happy Slappy", and "Witch One"

DVDEdit

Title Released Episodes Included
Volume 1 July 26, 2006 Episodes 1-25
Volume 2 December 5, 2006 Episodes 26-50
Volume 3 June 19, 2007 Episodes 51-75
Volume 4 February 5, 2013 Episodes 76-99

ReferencesEdit

  1. Carugati, Anna (October 2006). "Interviews: Steven Spielberg ". . WSN Inc.. Archived from the original on May 7, 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/20071011232156/http://worldscreen.com/interviewscurrent.php?filename=Spielberg1006.htm. Retrieved on May 8, 2007. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Weinman, Jamie (August 2002). "When did the Warner siblings jump the shark? A look at the life of Animaniacs ". . Toon Zone. http://wba.toonzone.net/voice/august/animaniacs.html. Retrieved on April 30, 2007. 
  3. "Kids WB! announces fall lineup ". AWN, Inc.. March 12, 1999. http://www.awn.com/news/television/kids-wb-announces-fall-lineup. Retrieved on April 30, 2007. 

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