STUDIO: Warner Bros. Home Video
MSRP: $44.98
RUNNING TIME: 550 Glorious Minutes
"Animaniacs Live!" interview segment with voice actors

The Pitch

Steven Spielburg, and I would like to make a cartoon."


"I’m going to use it to make fun of people like you. And Jerry Lewis."

"Thank you, sir! May I have another!"

The Humans

Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche.

The Nutshell

Once upon
a time, a fledgling Warner Bros. studio set up an animation division to create
new characters. This hapless division ended up creating just three: the Warner
Brothers, and the Warner Sister: Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. They were such alarming
nutcases that they drove the animators away, and caught up the entire studio
lot in a whirlwind of chaos. Having no other way to deal with them, security managed
to catch them and seal them away in the Warner Bros. water tower, where they
remained until one fateful day in the early nineties, when they escaped…

Laissez-faire logo creation.

The Lowdown

and parody, parody and satire. Similar comedic methods with slightly different
ends. Parody is a mimicry of something pre-existing just to cadge a laugh from
the audience. It doesn’t necessarily have any depth beyond the zany and the
out-of-context. Satire, which is often combined with parody, is more pointed,
aimed at jibing a certain piece of hypocrisy or folly of society or humanity. Animaniacs features
enough of both to teach, in context, what I probably don’t need to outline in
boring prose. What better lessons could we teach the children of our future?

remember once reading a comment by Stephen King. However, since the comment was
in an interview that I may have
dreamed reading, it appears here entirely paraphrased. He was (or maybe wasn’t)
ruminating on the methods of writing horror fiction. He said: "If I can go
for terror, I will. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go for horror. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go for the
gross-out." In essence, a sliding scale of effective freaky shit. Animaniacs
does something similar with its humor. If the writers can go for satire, they
will. If that doesn’t work (or isn’t necessary), they’ll go for parody. If that doesn’t work, they’ll go for the
gross-out, too.

"That’s why they call me Dumper!"

It’s a
beautiful situation, especially with writers who are capable of pulling out
some delicious satire when the moment’s right. However, things in nature tend to go
for an equilibrium, which means that the majority of the humor is parody while
the other stuff ends up at the tapering edges of the bell curve.

not really a problem, in terms of pure enjoyment. The parody is, almost without
exception, inspired. The musical numbers deserve special mention. Yakko has a solo in which he lists almost every nation in the world (the 1993 world,
anyway) to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance. The three Warners have an entire
episode full of riffs on classic Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including HMS
and Pirates of Penzance. Whole
characters for the supporting cast of cartoons are parodies, from the
"Goodfeathers," with their Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci
voices, to the unfortunate Lassie character of Buttons.

I almost
feel the need to apologize for being clinical in this review. Almost. See, I
was a young kid in 1993. Ten years-old. Animaniacs were my life’s blood, and
I can’t tell you how many times my brothers and I gave my mother a headache by
bouncing down the stairs shouting, "Boingie! Boingie! Boingie!"
Having not seen an episode since the whole shebang went off the air (entirely
too soon,) I was curious to see if my memories of the show’s humor stand up to
modern estimation. I’m pleased to say that, if anything, the show is even
funnier to my slightly more aged sensibilities. Some of the parodies may seem a
bit stale, but, wonder of wonders, the satire comes through that much clearer.

"Less powder this time, Pinky. You almost hit his hospital last turn."

It’s the cynicism, in combination with the satire, that plays the best for grumpy pseudo-critics like yours truly.
Though the show played for children, it regarded its ostensible genre with something of
a cocked eyebrow. Alongside backhanded educational skits, such as Wakko’s song
about the nation’s capitals, you get the sarcastic "Wheel of
Morality" skits, which poke fun at shows that try to hammer a message home
to the kiddies. Plus, there’s the great Slappy the Squirrel bit in which
Slappy’s nephew Skippy is introduced firsthand to the deaths of
"Bumbie’s" mother and "Old Yellow," complete with the dull roar of rifle fire.

The show
didn’t skirt as closely around the adult-oriented material as its contemporary Ren
and Stimpy
did, but it managed to combine a subversive humor with more
standard fare in a brew that studios continue to pursue. The segments with the
Warners are categorical bliss, though, apart from Pinky and the Brain, the
supporting cartoons don’t quite find their footing until the latter third of
the collected episodes. For successfully mixing the wackiness of the Marx
Brothers with the bite of human/Hollywood
cynicism and self-reflexive humor a la The Player, the show’s creators
ought to be commended. (And were, by authorities greater than me, when they won their Peabody award.)

Finally, though
this isn’t valid criticism, I’m personally grateful to them for compiling a set
of enduring childhood memories that have managed to maintain their gleam. Now,
when the hell do we get our Freakazoid?

Don’t hold it against Wakko. It’s a baffling region by anyone’s estimation.

The Package

disc’s produced remixed the audio in Dolby 5.1, though the original 2.0 is also
available. The show is terrific in surround sound, and the musical numbers
particularly benefit from the treatment. The video is pretty much your standard
transfer from television source, in fullscreen.

The bonuses
are kind of shabby, unfortunately. Actually, it’s not plural. Just a single
bonus. A retrospective interview conducted with the voice actors, sort of a
"where are they now" bit with some nostalgia thrown in. It’s fun, and
I always like to see voice actors given their due, but it’s not particularly

hoping for some more meat on Volume Two.

8.4 out of 10