Animaniacs, Vol. 1
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Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: Vol. 1
Three inseparable, crazy siblings have been locked away in the Warner Bros. water tower for a very long time. But they have found a way to escape, and escape they do--every day! Causing chaos and comic confusion, Yakko, Wakko and Dot run loose in the city, turning the world into their very own personal playground in this mix of cartoon shorts, musical numbers, and comedy blackouts.]]>
As a splendid homage to the legacy of Warner Bros. animation, the Emmy and Peabody award-winning Animaniacs was arguably the most inventive and deliriously entertaining cartoon series of the 1990s. The series' appeal is at least two-fold: kids will enjoy the wacky characters and easy-to-follow comedy, and grownups raised on "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons will love the show's knowledgeable movie spoofs, witty satire, and spontaneous lines of dialogue aimed squarely at an older audience with an appreciation for Hollywood history. Cartoon lovers and film buffs will benefit the most from repeated viewings of Animaniacs since the series was conceived by head writer Tom Ruegger (under the supervision of executive producer Steven Spielberg) as an affectionate tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, with its wild and wonderful cast of cartoon characters led by "Warner Brothers" Wakko and Yakko, and their ever-so-cute Warner sister, Dot, a playful trio of indeterminate species who were (fictionally) created in the early 1930s by the overworked animators of "Termite Terrace" (the actual name given to Warner's animation studios) and wreaked havoc on the Warner Bros. backlot until they were caught and captured in the studio's water tower. Every episode begins with their clever escape, leading to wacky adventures involving the entire cast of Animaniacs, a menagerie of colorful characters worthy of cartoon immortality.
This five-DVD set offers 25 beautifully preserved episodes (out of a five-season total of 99), mostly from the first season (1993), when Spielberg was also enjoying the success of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. Premiering on the Fox Kids network, the series introduced delighted viewers to Pinky and the Brain; Slappy the Squirrel (a curmudgeonly veteran of decades in show-biz); the Goodfeathers (a pigeon-trio spoof of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas); Rita and Runt (a dog and cat duo often featured in musical spoofs, the former voiced by Bernadette Peters); and a wide variety of peripheral characters who randomly appeared as part of the series' multi-segment format. Some segments are brief and brilliant (including many original songs that qualify as mini-masterpieces of educational entertainment), while others are cartoon-length adventures like the unforgettable "Bumbie's Mom," a riff on Bambi (and Disney animation) that's one of many first-season highlights. Smart, literate, and totally irreverent, Animaniacs benefited from all the prestige that Spielberg's involvement could bring, including a once-in-a-lifetime voice cast (honored here by disc 3's special featurette "Animaniacs Live," hosted by "Annie"-award-winner Maurice "The Brain" LeMarche) and amazing musical scores (many written or supervised by the late, great Richard Stone) that were recorded in the very same Warner studio where the legendary Carl Stalling scored most of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. With creative and comedic highlights too numerous to mention, Animaniacs is must-see TV for those who missed it the first time around, and a welcome treasure for established fans who will cherish these DVDs for many years to come. --Jeff Shannon
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I could write a dissertation on the above mentioned cartoons but seeing a as how this is an Animaniacs review, I'll keep it on point.
Animaniacs was way ahead of its time, and arguably still is for a cartoon. The quality of animation, hand drawn animation (gasp!) is unmatched by today's cartoon series. The writing on the show was Primetime sitcom worthy. The comedy chock full of sight gags, innuendo, puns, pop culture references, and self aware dialogue was the sharpest and had the widest appeal of any cartoon of that time and since. I mean really, how many cartoons can say that they were silly enough to make kids laugh, yet make references to Citizen Kane and Shirley McLaine to crack up adults? And in the same episode!
Thanks to Amazon Prime, I can watch all the seasons commercial free. And I will also buy these on DVD. Though I sure would love it if WB released a remastered BluRay collection. This series deserves it. As Wakko would say "Fabu!"
I've always believed that The Animaniacs was produced to entertain the people writing, scoring and voicing it, who were having a good time being clever and showing off their talents to their peers. So if the funny stuff sailed over your head, either because you were a kid watching a kid's show, or because you were an adult and thought you were watching a kid's show, or maybe because you just weren't quick enough, well, that was hardly their problem, was it?
The other thing that has always amazed me was the ability of the artists and writers to tie in amazing musical numbers into a half an hour show. The amount of work that must have gone into producing these episodes astounds me to no end. My personal favorite being the episode "King Yakko", nothing better than the Anvilanian National Anthem.
I recommend this show to anyone who enjoys classical cartoons at their best.
One thing worth noting: These appear to be the syndicated episodes, not the originals. The Minerva Mink and Katie Kaboom shorts are missing. This doesn't personally bother me, as they feel somewhat out of place compared to the rest of the show, but it's something for purists to be aware of. If you want the original episodes, you'll need to buy the DVD sets.