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Worth the Wait. These Episodes Don't Just Push the Envelope, They Drop an Anvil On It.
on February 13, 2013
I grew up watching "Animaniacs", along with the classic Warner Bros. cartoons that inspired it. I liked the series back then, as well as the other series of the "Silver Age" of Warner Bros. animation helmed by Steven Spielberg. But unlike the classic Looney Tunes, I was never compelled to see EVERY episode. That was until it came out on DVD years later.
Warner Home Video released the first 3 quarters of the series to DVD several years ago, and, viewing it through an adult point of view, I was shocked, enthralled and impressed by the humor that had gone over my head as a kid. Watching the show in chronological order, I noticed that it got better as it went along...the characters were honed, the fully orchestrated music remained brilliant, the voice actors pushed the limit further and further, and the writers didn't just push the envelope, they hit it with a big wooden mallet and dropped an anvil on it. This was a zany, hilarious sketch comedy show for adults that just happened to be animated, and it was cleverly disguised as a "kid's show".
A few years passed, and I figured the final episodes would never again see the light of day on DVD. I figured the hold-up was poor sales, or music rights, or other legal issues. But somehow, the final volume has finally been let out of the water tower. And WOW, these final episodes are MASTERPIECES.
Content-wise, we have the titular characters, the Animaniacs (aka "the Warner Brothers and Warner Sister", Yakko, Wakko, and Dot), picking up where they left off...tormenting people with their mischief. The two lab mice, Pinky and the Brain, still try to take over the world. The hapless dog, Buttons, still protects baby Mindy from danger, only to have everything blamed on him by Mindy's overbearing mother. Aging cartoon star Slappy Squirrel is still a smart ass, and her nephew, Skippy, is still learning. Ralph, the Warner Bros. studio guard, is still an idiot. But we see some refreshing new twists on the formulas here. The Warners heckle explorer Magellan (in a brilliant 3-part harmony musical performance)as well as rip on Rush Limbaugh in the end credits. They borderline molest the shapely "Hello Nurse". They satirize Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". Greek hero Hercules is portrayed as a simpering, whiney crybaby. Pinky meets his mental equal when conversing with Ralph the Guard. Buttons chases Mindy into a graveyard full of zombies. The whole gang does a hysterical parody of the 1990's Latin dance craze "Macarena" (as "Macadamia Nuts".) Slappy and Skippy explore the problem of bullying in a cartoon that is more relevant today than it was then.
I won't give anything else away, because I don't want to spoil anything for you. But I had never seen most of these later episodes, and experiencing them for the first time, at age 29, was a joy. It's also a shame to realize that it's a joy my future children may never have the chance to experience. The very existence of "Animaniacs", sadly, ensured that nothing like it would ever happen again. You can see that happening in these final episodes. The censors and TV executives from Fox and the WB Network pushed creative geniuses like Tom Ruegger, Paul Rugg, Sherri Stoner, Randy Rogel, Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Frank Welker, Richard Stone, (and the list goes on) to be more P.C. and more educational. The creators pushed BACK. Sadly, they lost...but before they did, they were able to unleash some of the funniest and smartest cartoon humor ever made.
If you're reading this review, you know the characters, you know the show, you know a little about its history. But you may not have seen a few of these episodes, and if you haven't, be prepared to consider some of them your new favorites, and see how the series went out on a high note.
"Animaniacs" quit (or was forced to quit) while it was ahead...and it was so far ahead that it's still waiting for others to catch up, even 15 years later.
Those are the facts!