Produced by Steven Spielberg, Animaniacs was a revival of an old show concept: a collection of cartoon shorts in a half-hour kids' show. Rather than recycling or remaking old theatrical shorts, Animaniacs relied on original stories featuring original characters (though it did indulge in a bit of self-referential cliché-riding at times). This approach was unique in the 1990s, since goofball/slapstick-type shows (think Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies) were being systematically driven out by Moral Guardians who thought that slapstick was too violent for children's TV (something that was frequently a target of the show's humor).Animaniacs was also unique production-wise: Spielberg gave the writers complete creative freedom over the direction of sketches (just like with Tiny Toon Adventures and Freakazoid!), which is why many fans hold such fond memories of it. Viewers don't love it because of Nostalgia Goggles — it was a genuinely creative and well-written show (its Emmy awards attest to that). Kids even learned from it; most of Generation Y will fondly remember trying to memorize "Yakko's World" and "Wakko's America" for geography tests. Raise your hand if you learned about the conquistadors because of "The Ballad of Magellan". Who says educational shows can't be fun?Unlike other Saturday Morning Cartoons, Animaniacs didn't air on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network (at least not initially; it has been on both of those since the series ended as syndication reruns). It originally aired on Fox Kids (on the Fox television network), and (later) Kids' WB!, both of which were programming blocks on broadcast network stations, making Animaniacs a godsend to kids without cable. On January 7, 2013, the show began airing on The Hub. The entire series is now available on DVD as well.Shorts were generally self-contained, though they frequently crossed over with each other without much warning. Each had a cast and premise of their own:
The Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister): Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wakko (Jess Harnell), and sister Dot (Tress MacNeille) were cartoon characters that resembled anthropomorphic dogs or cats (at least within the show they were occasionally referred to as "puppy children", "kiddies", or "kidsies"). Their Backstory indicates that they were created in the 1930s by the Warner Studios animators, then leapt off the page and ran amok through the studio. The Warners' cartoons ("which made absolutely no sense") were put in the studio vault, never to be released. As for the Warners themselves ("who made even less sense"), they were locked in the studio's water tower and the studio publicly disavowed any knowledge of their existence. The Warners eventually escape and Hilarity Ensues. (No, really, it actually does.) Studio psychiatrist Dr. Otto Scratchnsniff (Rob Paulsen), his exceedingly-hot female assistant (Tress MacNeille), dimwitted studio security guard Ralph (Frank Welker), and blustering studio president Thaddeus Plotz (Frank Welker again) suffer more from the trio's antics than anyone else. Some of the shorts involving the Warners were their "classic" cartoons, which played with different animation styles and tropes based on the cartoons of the time they were said to be from. When not following classic formulas, the Warners engaged in well constructed parodies of pop-culturenote which became much more frequent in later episodes of the Creator Kids WB run (of bothkinds) or inserted themselves into history (wherein they would simultaneously both annoy and inspire famous figures like Abraham Lincoln and Ludwig van Beethoven). It was something of a Running Gag to have the Warners briefly show up in non-Warners shorts on a regular basis; these cameos would often consist of the Warners being chased by Ralph.
Pinky and the Brain: A pair of lab mice named Pinky (Rob Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) live in a laboratory. The highly intelligent Brain is constantly thinking up plans to Take Over the World overnight, but his schemes always end in spectacular failure, usually due to the interference of the dimwitted Pinky. Nevertheless, he resolves to come up with a new idea for the next night. These shorts became popular enough to warrant a Spin-Off series (which has its own page).
Rita and Runt: Two stray animals — a cat (Bernadette Peters) who sings showtunes (with changed lyrics) and a dopey (Rain Man-inspired) dog voiced by Frank Welker — try to find a home throughout time and space. These shorts had a tendency to be a bit more melancholy than the others.
Slappy Squirrel: A washed-up old cartoon star from "the good old days" (voiced by production writer Sherri Stoner) works through modern-day problems with old-school cartoon techniques (that is to say, violence — preferably of the extreme and/or explosive kind). Her personality is based on being old and cranky (with the occasional menopause joke), and (in typical "senior citizen" fashion) she thinks all the modern cartoon stars are no-good punks. Most of her shorts center around her being Genre Savvy (if not outright Medium Aware), and she is often accompanied by her nephew Skippy (voiced by producer Tom Ruegger's son Nathan), who helps to balance out her cynical attitude with his bright-eyed child-like optimism. Her opposite number is the equally elderly Walter Wolf.
Minerva Mink: An oversexualizedmink (Julie Brown) who used her feminine wiles to get what she wanted (although in one case she had the tables unexpectedly turned on her). She only starred in two shorts, but she showed up in others and Wakko's Wish as a background character and got a few dedicated comics in the Animaniacs comic book series (all of which basically followed the same formula as the shorts). Minerva also spawned a million pages of Furry fanart, which was one of the main reasons why the creators stopped making cartoons featuring her as a main character.
Goodfeathers: A direct parody of Goodfellas and other gangster films. Three New Yorker pigeons named Squit, Bobby, and Pesto (Maurice LaMarche, John Mariano and Chick Vennera), try to run the streets under the watchful eye of the Godpigeon; the trio lives on a statue of Martin Scorsese.
Chicken Boo: A giant rooster whose lame attempts to pass as a human incomprehensibly succeed, one person's protests notwithstanding. A minor accident (losing a baseball cap, for instance) inexplicably reveals Boo's true nature to everyone around him, wherein he is shunned and kicked out, but he always brushes himself off and walks away to find the next big opportunity.
Katie Kaboom: A girl (Laura Mooney) who literally develops into a monster and then explodes with rage (causing massive damage to the house and landscape) over minor, stereotypical teenage problems, such as her boyfriend being late to pick her up. She was based on the teenage daughter of one of the writers.
The Hip Hippos: An exceedingly heavy hippopotamus couple, Flavio and Marita (Frank Welker and Tress MacNeille, respectively), whose nouveau-riche lifestyle and utter reliance on luxury leaves them helpless in situations where money won't make a difference. They also have a tendency to get into dangerous situations, even though their heavy frames generally protect them from any actual harm. Occasionally shadowed by a naturalist named Gena Embryo (whose name is a parody of/reference to San Diego Zoo zoologist Joan Embery) who tries (unsuccessfully) to return them to the jungle or protect them from harm (which usually ends up befalling her instead).
Other supporting cast members included Mr. Skullhead (in the "Good Idea, Bad Idea" shorts), a namelessdisaster-pronemime, a nameless kid who is the friend of another (never shown) kid named "Randy Beaman", and Mr. Director (a crazed movie director based on Jerry Lewis and voiced by production writer Paul Rugg).A Direct-to-Videomovie, Wakko's Wish, was created following the show's run; rather than being a compilation of various shorts (old or new), it was a film with a self-contained plot which saw all of the show's main characters (and several background characters) interacting with one another. See The Resolution Will Not Be Televised below.
Animaniacs contains examples of:
Absurdly Long Limousine: At Slappy Squirrel's "Lifetime Achievement" award ceremony, Slappy and Skippy arrive in one.
Slappy: Oh. The bowling-in-a-limo gag? (turns to the camera) We're stretchin' for the comedy here, folks.
Ambiguously Bi: In Raging Bird, Squit admits to thinking Prettyboy Robin is cute, and also attempts to kiss Pesto in celebration of Bobby's victory.
Ambiguously Jewish: Yakko, who is obviously modeled on Groucho Marx, especially the voice and the eyebrows. (And, of course, Yakovis the Yiddish version ofJacob, which was the real first name of studio co-founder Jack Warner) Interestingly, Yakko's sister Dot came off as only very vaguely Jewish (she was reportedly inspired by the Jewish actress Fanny Brice), while little brother Wakko had no identifiably Jewish traits at all. (However, the cartoon "Little Drummer Warners" reveals that the kids celebrate Christmas.)
Animated Actors: The Warners are an unusual example of actors playing actors. In other words, they are actors who live on the Warner Studio Lot and perform skits, in-universe. But even this premise about them living in the tower, tormenting Dr. Scratchansniff, etc. is scripted, as the theme song makes clear. On top of that, they know they are cartoons.
The theme song also, however, mentions that "the writers flipped/we have no script/why bother to rehearse?", so whether or not anything is scripted at all within the confines of the show itself is debatable. It is still all an act, though.
Artistic License - Religion: In the episode "Home on De-Nile", Rita runs the risk of being sacrificed in Ancient Egypt. Cats were sacrificed TO in Ancient Egypt. Killing a cat incurred the death penalty.
Aside Glance: Yakko and Slappy are prone to giving aside glances (when they don't just start snarking to the audience directly.)
Awesome, but Impractical: Subverted by "Wakko's Gizmo," which seems pretty pointless at first but turns out to be successful in helping Wakko order a pizza. Then double-subverted when it's revealed that ordering the pizza was just another step in the process, and that the real objective of Wakko's machine is to cause an action figure to sit on a whoopee cushion, making a farting noise and causing Wakko to laugh hysterically.
Say the word "cat" around Runt, and he'll suddenly be alert and exclaiming, "CAT?? WHERE'S THE CAT??" Despite the fact that his partner Rita is a cat to begin with. This usually leads to Dogs Are Dumb.
"A cat? Oh no, Rita is a dog, she's definitely a dog."
"Definitely, definitely a dog!"
Never give Wakko an "F." Especially on his hat.
Never give Pesto any kind of compliment, because he'll just twist it into a bad thing and go into an Unstoppable Rage.
Yakko: Tokyo wa totemo omoshiroi tokoro desu ne? <Tokyo is an extremely interesting place, isn't it.> Investor: Zehi irasshite kudasai. <Please go there.> Yakko: Mada iki basho ga areba ne. <If there's still a place to go, eh?>
Of course, this can refer to the overpopulation in Japan, or... well... you know...
For Spanish/French, there's a few lines in the song Macadamia Nut...
Example: Hola que pasa you grande sack o' grainia <Hello, what's up, you big sack o' grainia?> Qui a coupé le fromage, we abstainia <Who cut the cheese? We abstainia.> Lava tus manos, por favor, Macadamia. <Wash your hands, please, Macadamia.>
There was also one episode with a Buttons and Mindy short, as well as the theme song for that episode, done entirely in French.
Miles Standish: Begone, pests, and give me the bird! Yakko: We'd love to, really, but the FOX censors won't allow it.
Yakko: It's that time again. Dot: To make the Fox censors cry?
Another instance, blink and you'll miss it, but during "Phranken-Runt", we get a shot of Phrankenstein's brain-in-a-jar shelf. The jar which contained by far the smallest is labeled "TV Network Executive Brain."
Made even funnier by the fact that a few bars of We're InThe Money can be heard when the camera lingers on it.
Boot Camp Episode: One of the Warner Siblings has them discovering boot camp (Dot thinks it has to do with fashionable footwear), which they mistake for summer camp. Hilarity Ensues. (No, this time in the usual ironic sense).
Bottle Episode: "Ups and Downs", featuring Wakko and Dr. Scratchnsniff stuck in an elevator for the majority of the short.
Reruns of "Moon over Minerva" edited Minerva's low-cut outfits to show less cleavage.
"Broadcast Nuisance" had a lot of content that didn't make it to the final airing; for instance, Dan Anchorman's name was originally Slam Fondlesome. Also, there was another minute worth of the Warners tormenting him, as well as several other altered lines (like calling him a "big fat dope"). Most of the latter edits were done to make the Warners seem less hostile. However, the edited version only airs in America, and the original uncut version still airs overseas.
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Taken Up to Eleven in a cartoon in which Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are accosted at the mall by two elderly women with Midwestern accents who are stopping random passersby to ask them poll questions. ("Wouldja like ta take a surr-vay?!" they keep asking.) The first question is "Do you like beans?" The second question is "Do you like George Wendt?" [the actor who played Norm Peterson on Cheers] And then after that come a seemingly infinite number of questions that all combine the themes of beans and George Wendt in various ways. ("Would you like to see George Wendt eating beans in a movie?" "How many George Wendt bean-eating movies would you like to see?" "Do you like to eat beans with George Wendt?", etc.) The poll-takers continue annoying the Warners - and various other characters - throughout the cartoon, and are still rattling off questions as the cartoon ends.
Especially in the Warner shorts, in which one might say there are twomissing/broken fourth walls, with one that fits the premise of the show (that they are children who live on the WB Studio and perform skits) and one that goes even beyond that (such as Dot's profanity-laden rant in Cutie and the Beast, or the cold ending, in which they plan to go out and get cappuccinos, in the same episode). Your mind will explode if you try to make too much sense of it.
Bubble Pipe: Yakko once "puffs" on a soap-bubble pipe while parodying highbrow intellectuals in the scene "Disasterpiece Theater."
But This Is Ridiculous!: "A quake! A quake! / How much more can we take? / We thought that we had seen it all / but this one takes the cake!"
Butt Monkey: Scratchansniff, Rita (to a more sympathetic extent), the Brain, Pinky, Runt, Buttons (again to a more sympathetic extent), The Mime, Mr. Skullhead, Chicken Boo, the Goodfeathers, Charlton Woodchuck, Walter Wolf, Sid the Squid, Beanie the Bison, just about any non-main character... in other words, pretty much everybody (even the Warner Sibs), not surprising given that this is a WB cartoon.
There's also a good deal of Iron Butt Monkey, since these characters are, for all intents and purposes, immortal (although we learn in "Meatballs or Consequences" that the Warners do have souls).
Dr. Scratchansniff: As you know, when nature calls, you have to pick up the phone and say "Hello, I got your message. I've got a package for you." Wakko: "I've got a package for you"? Excuse me? Dr. Scratchansniff: Oh, look who's talking, Mr. Potty Emergency.
Buster and Babs appear in "Noah's Lark". They're also seen in "The Big Wrap Party" song during the line "The Entire Crew came from Acme Loo for big wrap party tonight"
Elmer Fudd makes an appearance in "Turkey Jerky".
Elmyra also makes an appearance in "Lookit the Fuzzy Heads".
Baby Plucky appears in "Guardin' the Garden", "Survey Ladies" & "Les Boutons et le Ballon", repeating the elevator gag from the Tiny Toon episode "Going Up". In a possible Take That, Buttons quickly ties Plucky up.
Used quite often In-Universe where shorts dedicated to one set of characters would find another set of the cast (typically the Warners) running through) - often ending in BLAMs. For example, from the Slappy/Skippy short, "Bumbie's Mom":
[Slappy and Skippy are on a plane, Skippy sniffling from seeing Bumbie's mom killed. Hello Nurse comes by in a stewardess outfit]
Hello Nurse: Would you like anything?
Slappy: Perhaps a sedative?
Hello Nurse: Huh, I don't get it.
Slappy: [shooing her off] Go away.
[Hello Nurse pushes the cart off screen. Suddenly a piece of luggage falls down from the overhead rack, popping open to reveal the Warners...]
Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, Porky, Yosemite Sam & Foghorn Leghorn show up in "The Warners 65th Anniversary Special".
Cannot Tell a Joke: One time, okay see, one time there was a character in Animaniacs who was a small boy who told stories that had happened to his friend Randy Beaman and the stories were always told in a near-monotone and in one long run-on sentence and at the end he'd recite the punchline in the same way and you wouldn't be sure if he'd reached it or not. Okay, bye.
Slappy's jerkass behavior in her old cartoons (which she gleefully indulges any time she meets her old nemeses) gives her an uncanny resemblance to Screwy Squirrel. She also appears to have Barbra Streisland's interpretation of Fanny Brice in her ancestry.
Slappy also looks very similar to Fifi LaFume from Tiny Toon Adventures, who actually makes a cameo in this show.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Somewhat. The Rita and Runt segments were discontinued because they were so expensive to do, between having to hire songwriters to write new songs for Rita each week, not to mention the cost of having someone like Bernadette Peters voice Rita.
Continuity Nod: In the Continuity Snarl entry below, it mentions a cartoon where old vaudeville actors reminisce about the Warners. One of them mentions that 'once they pantsed 'Jimmy Cagney' something had to be done. James Cagney expy aside, later on in the 65th Anniversary episode, Foghorn Leghorn notes that the Warners seemed to favor bothering Jimmy, and it turns out they did in fact pants him.
Continuity Snarl: The original explanation that the kids have been locked in a water tower for 63 years is contradicted in a later episode showing various older Hollywood stars reminiscing about spending nights on the town with them - and these photos are in black and white, meaning those nighttime adventures almost surely took place before 1993. Did the Warners actually escape many times, but the studio succeed in covering up their existence until the '90s? If so, how was that accomplished? Did they massively bribe all the people in those nightclubs?
The 65th Anniversary Special gives it a retcon—the tower had to be cleaned/repaired every few years or so, letting the Warners out for a single day for the work (they just didn't stay in the studio—Plotz says he has no clue where they went and we're later shown them at a disco club, the Berlin Wall, and so on).
Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: The accidental version happens to Mindy and Buttons in "Up the Crazy River". As always, Buttons comes off the worst for it.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: In one episode, Satan threatens to torture the captive Warner siblings by forcing them to listen to "whiny protest songs from The Sixties." They scream in terror.
The Dark Age of Animation: Mocked brutally in "Back in Style" where the Warners were rented out to tv animation shows after the end of the production of Theatrical Cartoons. The episode made fun of the bad limited animation and poor scripts from studios like Hanna-Barbera and Filmation.
Edutainment Show: Despite Yakko's claim that the Wheel of Morality was the only thing that "adds boring education content to what would otherwise be an entertaining program," Animaniacs regularly took a moment to teach its audience.
How many normal kids' cartoons would bother to do a surprisingly accurate and funny translation from Late 16th Century English to Modern English of the Yorick speech from Hamlet when they could easily make a nonsensical version?
They had songs relating from everything to the solar system to every President of the United States at the time of production (ending with Hillary - uh, I mean Bill Clinton). All this while still maintaining their madcap nature. They have been used as teaching material, and there is even testimony of them aiding history students as far as college-level.
Parodied to the extreme in "A Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show", where virtually every line is Yakko, Wakko, or Dot giving a soapbox on various issues (the dangers of second-hand smoke, walking instead of driving, not littering, not treating women as sex objects, not being violent, practicing a healthy diet and exercise). They were shamelessly trying to win a coveted and lucrative "Humanitarian Animation" award but lost anyway, at which point they immediately did all the things they rallied against.
United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru.... It's a shame that "Yakko's World" does skip a few.
One of the stingers saw the Warner Trio saying goodnight to one another. It ended as such:
Yakko: Good night, Elvis. Elvis: Thank you very much, but I don't want anyone to know I'm here.
And from The Wheel of Morality: "Elvis lives on in our hearts, in his music, and in a trailer park outside Milwaukee."
And he turns up in "Space Probed", hanging out with Amelia Earhart and Bigfoot.
He is also one of the things pulled from Wakko's gagbag in "Potty Emergency".
Enlightenment Superpowers: Wally Llama, a Dalai Lama Expy, attempts to get away from the Warners by meditating, transporting himself up among the clouds with the mantra "Llama, llama, llama..." Unfortunately for him, the Warners reached Enlightenment too.
There's also a really weird instance where a judge points as the Warners and asks, "What is the meaning of this?" Yakko replies, "That's a finger. You have five of them on each hand." In that instant, the judge has five fingers, but is seen to revert to being four fingered afterward.
Averted with King Salazar, who is always shown with five-fingered hands.
Downplayed in "Wakko's America". Their teacher organizes a Jeopardy!-style quiz in-class, where he sings the 50 U.S. states and their capitals. He loses because he doesn't sing it in the form of a question.
In another episode, the Warners ended up on a quiz show, and were constantly guessing "Isaac Newton" for the answers...except for the questions actually about Isaac Newton.
Jeopardy! also figured in one of the Brain's attempts to take over the world.
Heck, this is Slappy's whole shtick. Her thing is that she's been in so many cartoons that she can beat the villains in her sleep. She knows every cartoon trope in existence, and loves taking advantage of them to demolish her less creative enemies.
Yakko: (aside) The stuff they're getting away with on kids' shows these days...
I Am Not Shazam: The three main characters are actually called "the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister"), not "Animaniacs." A first-time viewer might be a little confused because the opening theme song has them repeatedly shouting "We're Animaniacs!" However, this is really just a descriptive term (kind of like a bunch of people shouting "We're human beings!") and applies to all the show's characters, not just the Warners.
There's an arguable in-universe one in "The Panama Canal" (sung to the tune of "The Erie Canal.") Yakko is a ship captain crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and he mentions that his ship is named "Hal" (to rhyme with "Canal," of course). After the ship makes it safely through the canal, the sailors shout "Thank you, Hal!" - and Yakko takes the credit, implying that "Hal" is his name. So either Yakko believes that he and his ship are somehow psychically connected, or he is playing a character named Hal in-universe and named the ship after himself.
Incessant Chorus: The national anthem of Anvilania, which is such a boring dirge that it is used as a weapon later on.
Informed Ability: Played with (for laughs) by Chicken Boo, who has a different one every time he appears. He's a karate champ! He's a master strategist! He's a great ballet dancer! He's the sexiest man in Hollywood! (He did turn out to be a two-fisted dealer of frontier justice, though.)
Ink-Suit Actor: Pip Pumphandle, based directly off his voice actor Ben Stein.
Slappy hates to admit this, but she does care for her nephew Skippy.
Mr. Plotz appears to hate the Warners, but he does harbor some respect for them. He'll even enlist their help on occasion when the pressures of running a major studio become too much for him.
Much of the humor from the "Pinky and the Brain" shorts derives from Brain's constant verbal and even physical abuse of Pinky, but he also takes a paternal stance toward his lesser partner. (And Pinky admires Brain in return, once referring to him as "very honest and hard-working.")
Jesus Was Way Cool: One short in a Christmas Episode features a medley of Christmas carols, with the Warners playing the shepherds in the nativity story. In something of a meta-example, it's about the only time they take the material and play it straight as opposed to their usual irreverence (aside from briefly turning "Little Drummer Boy" into a big band number).
Jury and Witness Tampering: A Slappy the Squirrel short has Slappy accused of cartoon violence against Walter Wolf. Slappy's defense consists of describing how she basically blasted Walter to smithereens, leading the jury to find her...not guilty, at which point it's revealed that Slappy rigged explosives under the jury's seats.
Karmic Protection: The Warners were only truly malevolent to the bad guys, which justifies a lot of the mayhem they cause. Even people who were annoyed by them but otherwise good characters would ultimately get the Warners' help in the end. One episode even lampshaded it and discussed it, when a kid watching at home wondered why the Warners weren't doing more to the antagonist.
Still, a lot of what the Warners do could be needlessly cruel to the point of making them unsympathetic, such as stripping Otto in the "Schnitzelbank" song or leaving the woodchuck in the toilet in "Kid in the Lid"... until you remember that everyone's an actor; hardly any of what takes place is "real".
One cartoon was cut because they were too malicious.
Karmic Trickster: From a proud Warner Brothers tradition. Both the Warners and Slappy Squirrel enjoy taking the air out of Jerkasses
Kevlard: The Hip Hippos are very fat and also very durable, which comes in handy given their less than stellar common sense.
Yakko: I'm the cousin to the sister / Of son's niece's brother / Of the uncle's daughter's father / Of the nephew's sister's mother / And my grandpa's only cousin / Was the King's daughter's sibling, / But they're all gone,
Crowd: So that is why
Yakko: I am now your king!
Know Your Vines: In "Sound of the Warners" After using the bathroom in a bush, Dr. Scratchansniff gets an awful itch, because he was in a poison oak bush.
Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: In a short where the Warner Bros (and the Warner sister) met Rasputin. They did a pun between "Anastasia" and "anesthesia", and Dot said "Obscure Joke. Ask your parents".
Certain actions warranted their own theme music too. For example, a character eating was usually accompanied by "Shortnin' Bread" and a character cleaning something would be accompanied by "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush". This is an obvious callback to Carl Stalling's work.
Hello Nurse's leitmotif (a sultry drumbeat) is an interesting case, where hers was started by Wakko in the first short ("Dezanitizsed") just to screw with the audience in true Warner fashion, but has since stuck with the character ever since.
Local Reference: When Rita and Runt go to Poland in "Puttin on the Blitz", Rita sings that it doesn't look like Burbank, more like Van Nuys. (Both are cities in the Los Angeles Area. You can guess which one has higher property values).
Lustful Melt: Happens to Minerva in both her cartoons, and to Dot and some aliens in "Space Probed".
Mad Hatter: All three main characters, in the tradition of Looney Tunes and similar cartoons. "We're not monkeys, we're just cuckoo! Don't know what to say the Warners won't do!"
Milestone Celebration: Spoofed by the "65th Anniversary Spectacular!" Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize 1) airing in the mid-90s, it roughly corresponds to when the Back Story claims the Warners were created; 2) it is a 65th - the 65th episode; and 3) it's an actual milestone, as the first season finale.
For the show's 20th anniversary, a fourth DVD set will finally be released containing the remaining episodes.
Monster Clown: A birthday-party clown is viewed this way in-universe in "Clown and Out" (by two characters who are afraid of clowns), but he's actually a very nice guy.
Mood Whiplash: There was one serious Slappy cartoon in which Slappy was put away in an asylum and Skippy was taken away by social services.
To say that this episode was just an example of this trope is an understatement. The mood jumped up and down OVER AND OVER again, to the point of being a highly compressed intra-episode version of Cerebus Roller Coaster. It leads in with a comedic stretch where Slappy is driven mad by watching too many daytime talk shows (Jerry Springer etc.), which she can't stand. Then her madness is played for laughs for a while. Then Skippy takes her to the doctor, and even amidst there being a few gags in the scene, suddenly it starts portraying realistic consequences of her going insane. Then it just keeps REPEATEDLY ALTERNATING between playing it for laughs and portraying the very tragic realistic consequences of a kid's aunt losing her mental faculties. Then she suddenly gets better and escapes the asylum for a happy ending. Then as a Continuity Gag in later episodes she references that now she actually LIKES those talk shows.
Most Rita and Runt segments are emotional, semi-serious stories with only a few jokes or gags.
Mook-Face Turn: Several shorts involved Dot escaping from confinement by convincing the prison guard on duty with her cuteness.
Moral Guardians: One Slappy short involved an obnoxious senator imposing standards on cartoons to make them "safe and educational" for children. That same episode had Skippy repeatedly beaten up by a bully after following ineffectual advice from his guidance counselor. When Slappy and Skippy finally do use violence (cartoon violence) on the bully and it works, the senator and the counselor are both livid. Slappy's response to both their complaints is to use the machine the senator had sent to her, which carries out all cartoon violence off screen. Naturally, they both concede to Slappy's methods when they emerge as charred, beaten wrecks.
Musical Episode: Rita and Runt have at least one song per short. There are also numerous episodes that parody Broadway without those two characters that still act as musical episodes.
Combining the two, one extended Rita and Runt segment is basically a parody of Les Misérables.
Episode 82 consists entirely of episodes based around music: "Wakko's 2-Note Song," "Panama Canal," "Hello, Nurse!," "The Ballad of Magellan," "The Return of the Great Wakkorotti," and "The Big Wrap Party Tonight." It even includes the extended theme song.
My Friends... and Zoidberg: Dot is one of the few inversions in western animation that willingly introduces herself as this trope on a regular basis.
Mythology Gag: Or more of a coincidence that was taken advantage of. Many animated shows only run for 65 episodes, a number deemed large enough for syndication. Animaniacs was originally to be no different, and it turned out that the fictional backstory of the Warner siblings had already established their debut as being around 1929, 65 years prior to the finale's broadcast. The episode thus played up the number, revolving entirely around a "65th Anniversary Special" tribute to the Warners.
In one of Dot's catchphrases: "Call me Dottie, and you die".
In "Meatballs or Consequences", Wakko dies, and his siblings spend the whole time pestering Death. On top of that, the moral of the episode is not to fear death, but rather a life wasted. Yakko has a very pretty speech about it at the end (though if you don't think he lampshades the Glurge, you don't know him very well).
Yakko: Hey mister, are you about to drag our brother off to a bleak nether realm of despair, where the future is nothing but an endless sea of anguish and horrible misery?
Death: Ja..? Dot and Yakko: WE WANNA GO TOOOOO!
In some of the more serious Rita and Runt episodes.
Nigh-Invulnerability: Baloney the dinosaur just laughs off anvils much to the horror of the Warners.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Buttons goes to enormous lengths, risking his own hide to keep Mindy from harm. Every episode ends with Buttons getting in trouble over some (Generally minor) misbehavior he performed in the course of his duties.
Of course, it's not like teens don't have a tendency to overreact regardless of the time of the month (or their gender).
Not Allowed to Grow Up/Older than They Look: The Warners' in-universe backstory states they were drawn in 1930, essentially making them all 80, and yet, none of them are geriatrics. It's particularly odd in that the Skippy and Slappy Squirrel segments make it quite clear that cartoon characters do age.
Maybe it's because cartoon characters come from their creators' imaginations, so it depends on whether they were imagined as characters that age. The Warners come from the era of monochrome, where cartoon characters were kind of simple/crude, while Slappy seems like she's more from the 40's, as a more realistic character.
Slappy throws a bit of a grim skew on it though in the short 'Rest in Pieces'. Though she and her old co-stars are clearly getting on in years, she tells Skippy that she knew Walter wasn't dead because 'there is no dying in the world of cartoons'.
Nuns Are Funny: The infamous candy store episode had the Warners tormenting a stuck-up store proprietor named Flaxseed after he refused to donate candy to a orphanage run by nuns. After driving him nuts, Flaxseed finally gets hold of Wakko and Dot... only for the nun from before to come back with reinforcements. They're about to kick his ass before Flaxseed points out that nuns aren't supposed to resort to violence. So, the nuns proceed to pray, and the Notre Dame college football team shows up to pummel the living crap out of Flaxseed.
Head Nun: Our prayers have been answered!
Obfuscating Stupidity: The Warners can perform and explain Shakespeare; name every country, as well as every American state and capital, and every President, from memory; and generally make frequent references to science, history, literature, politics, and a host of other subjects. They are completely insane, but they are geniuses.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other is insane. But which is which? The one who tries to take over the world every single night? Or the one who "accidently" foils his mad schemes every night with his convenient mask of idiocy?
StarToons tended to dip into this, as well with the Slappy the Squirrel intro and "Wakko's America", though not to the extreme as Freelance, as well as tending to make the animation even more expressive. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about shorts like "The Big Candy Store" or "Wally Llama".
AKOM, of course. Though it's the more bland and uninteresting animation and sometimes horrific expressions, as opposed to poor drawings.
Happened occasionally with TMS's episodes as well, as several of their shorts went though numerous subcontractors.
For instance, "Taming of the Screwy" was given to Actas and the result wasn't prettynote Some examples - animation that was not as lively and in one scene, an object (a plate with a lobster claw, in this case) teleports. "Roll Over Beethoven", "Home on De Nile" and "H.M.S. Yakko" are also guilty of this.
Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Dot briefly fantasizes about going on one with Dr. Scratchansniff, and creeps herself out, in "De-Zanitized".
Old Shame: The Warner trio themselves, in-universe; The company sealed them (and the cartoons which featured them) away in the early 20th century, refusing to release them because they (both the characters and their films) were nonsensical. Even in present time, they're trying to keep them locked up.
One Steve Limit: Averted with Kiki the Girlfeather and Kiki the gorilla from the Rita and Runt episode, "Kiki's Kitten."
Only Sane Man: Whoever is the one person that knows Chicken Boo is a giant chicken.
Inverted in a Batman parody, where one person was the only one who DIDN'T know he was a chicken.
Parental Neglect: Mindy's parents, which is probably why she never calls them "mom" and "dad" like they want her to (except in Wakko's Wish) and instead calls them "Lady" and "Mr Man", something she might refer to a stranger as.
Witches: Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. Yakko: Loosely translated, "Abracadabra". Dot: Fillet of a fenny snake, in the cauldron boil and bake. Yakko: "Let's cook a snake." Start with my agent.
Raiders of the Lost Parody: An early episode wound up with Yakko directing Mr. Director through a few movie parodies. In one, Mr. Director was "Illinois Smith" and utterly failed with the whip - first he ends up tying himself up with the thing, then when he gets free he cracks it and it gets caught on the set rafters, bringing them down on him.
"I think it's a not-working whip."
Real Life Writes the Plot: The "Please Please PLEASE Get a Life Foundation" was written using actual nitpicks from a newsgroup-made reference guide (the Cultural Reference Guide for Animaniacs) verbatim. The show's writers even e-mailed the people who wrote that guide for permission to use their quotes. The show's run coincided with the early days of wide Internet access, and in those days (early to mid 1990's) most online discussions were done in newsgroups.
Will Bell: (founder and maintainer of the CRGA) Several months ago I received email from [writer] Peter Hastings asking for copies of the CRGA by email and snail mail, which I provided.
After the short was screened for the fans, one fan pointed out an error in the short's quoting of one of the nitpicks. From memory. This was met with incredulity by the staffers and no surprise at all by the fans.
During the brief point in time when it looked unlikely that Bill Clinton would serve a second term, the creators hedged their bets by changing the theme song lyrics from "While Bill Clinton play the sax" to "We pay tons of income tax".
In "Hot, Bothered and Bedeviled," the Warners take a wrong turn at Kennebunkport and end up in Hell, tormenting Satan. The same episode features Saddam Hussein plunging into a lake of lava and three demonic stand-ins for The Andrews Sisters singing a jazz tune about eternal damnation.
An in-universe example in the "Baghdad Cafe" portion of the Animaniacs Stew episode, the villain-of-the-week is "Sodarn Insane" - presumably the same guy. The Warners mistake him for the headwaiter, but the part of Dot is being played by Slappy, who sees no reason not to cut directly to Comedic Sociopathy:
Slappy: And I'm Princess Louisa Francesca... y'know what: forget it. Here. Have some dynamite down yer pants.
Right Behind Me: In one episode the Warners proceeded to trash talk the people working on the show note including their own voice actors as the credits rolled, not realizing that their microphone was still on.
Roommate Com: The Warners appear in in-verse show Acquaintances, which is a parody of Friends (a prime example of Roommate Com).
Rule of Funny: A given on this show in general, but lampshaded in the Slappy short "I Got Yer Can", when Skippy drops an anvil on Candie Chipmunk apropos of nothing, justifying it to his aunt with a nonchalant "Who cares, anvils are funny."
Running Gag: Again, too many to count. Notably "Wanna See My Pet?", the Warners being chased by Ralph in the background of other shorts, and Yakko announcing "Good Night Everybody!" if something even remotely suggestive was said.
A short-lived one was used in both "This Pun For Hire" and "Anchors A-Warners": A character says "No no no." Yakko in the first instance and Dot in the latter instance asked the character to repeat that. The character again said, "No no no." Then each replied, "I love that!"
What about the dragon!? The dragon! The dragon! The dragon! The dragon! The dragon!
Would someone please stop this man from saying "Dragon"?
"One time Randy Beaman was alone in his bed, and he was in the dark, and he saw some shadows and thought it was Dracula, but his mom said it was the coat hanging on the rack, and he turned on the light and it really was Dracula."
The Scottish Trope: In "Sir Yaksalot", Yakko get so annoyed by people saying the word "dragon" that everytime somebody says it, an anvil will be summoned to drop on their heads.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Dot's feeling out of it in "Gimme the Works," so the Warners decide to walk off the set and end the thing early. She's not feeling any better in their second short that episode, "Hercules Unwound," but in that case the cartoon goes on without them.
Sealed Chaos in a Can: The Warners were created in The Thirties, but their cartoons were nonsensical, they caused havoc all over the studio and they drove their creator insane, so the bigwigs locked them in the Water Tower until FOR-E-VER. The series starts in The Nineties when they finally make their escape, and as the theme song suggests, numerous attempts to lock them back in there are foiled time after time, to the point where most people seem to just leave them to their business, give the tower a wide berth and hope they don't cross their path.
Second Episode Introduction: "The Monkey Song", the second total short in the series, introduces literally every single secondary and minor supporting character in the series, some pantomiming what they'll be doing for the rest of the series. The third short, "Good Night, Toon", slightly fleshes out some more of their personalities.
Shockingly Expensive Bill: In "Anchors A-Warners", The Warners run up Dr. Scratchansniff's room service bill to $26,590. He screams and starts swimming to China.
Soap Punishment: In "Roll Over, Beethoven", Yakko, Wakko and Dot do this to Beethoven after he describes himself as a 'pianist'.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: As revealed in the comics, Minerva has an extremely hard time doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and filing taxes, because every male of every species in the area is panting and hooting at her.
Something Completely Different: Some of the sketches featured none of the usual cast. One notable example is "The Flame", a mostly-serious cartoon entirely about a candle flame watching Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence.
Even the "regular" cast can do this, such as the Rita & Runt segment "Puttin' on the Blitz", set in World War II Poland.
Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn! Yakko: ...If you can't say anything nice, you're probably at the Ice Capades. Early to rise, Early to bed, makes a man healthy but socially dead! You can teach an old dog new tricks, but you can't teach Madonnato act. "Don't chew with your mouth full."
Strictly Formula: The Buttons and Mindy shorts, oh so very much. The French episode shows that the formula doesn't need to be in English to work, and the caveman episode proves that it doesn't even need an intelligible language.
Suddenly Voiced: The Mime can be seen singing along with everyone else in the opening credits when the characters shout "We're Animaney, totally insaney!" (Of course, he could just be lip-synching.) We also see him move his lips in Wakko's Wish.
The Mime actually says something in "Les Boutons et le Ballon". "Le Owwwwww".
Chicken Boo is also shown singing in the opening, even though he can only make chicken vocalizations in the actual show.
So is Buttons, although he can only make dog noises in the actual show.
Take That: If it's in public media, it's a target. Nothing, NOTHING is safe (not even the fans), though Disney and network censors are choice victims.
In 'A Hard Day's Warners', The Warner's escape their screaming fans by putting on some masks from a 'The Mask' booth. They pull some Maskish stunts, and after taking off the mask, Yakko says, "And we did all that without computers!"
One really obscure take that is aimed at a vintage Disney short, "Playful Pluto", specifically the famous flypaper sequence that it's known for. The skit involved the Warners in one of their early works, "Flies in the Ointment" , where they get flypaper stuck to their butts, and the film ran for eight hours.
Throw The Pin: There's a short where the Warners are being put through military training, and their sergeant is instructing them about grenades with the line "Pull the pin and then throw it". Wakko, naturally, throws the pin.
Too Hot For Tv: In a rare case of self-censorship, the staff retired the Minerva Mink shorts after only two episodes because all the sexual undertones were too blatant.
Toothy Bird: The Goodfeathers. Chicken Boo often averts this, except in some cases when he shows expressions.
Trailer Park Tornado Magnet: There was a short called "The Brave Little Trailer", in which the title character battles a tornado that always attacks the trailer park he inhabits.
Truth in Television: A lot of skits, especially of the Warner trio, mimic real-life situations that happen to real people (some, even, on situations that happened to the writers themselves). Though they're incredibly exaggerated, there's always that one line where you hear it and think, "Oh, that is so true."
"Would ya like to take a survey?"
Nanny: You must be Dit. Dot: That's Dot. Nanny: Dot. Right. Wikkie! Wakko: Wakko. Nanny: And you must be... Yakko: (deadpan) This oughta be good. Nanny:Petey-pie!
Dr. Scratchnsniff: Hello, we are stuck in an elevator, and we are late for an appointment with Mr. Plotz. Voice on Intercom: Ooh, that's bad. Okay, you sit tight and we'll get you out in a minute. Ten hours later... Voice on Intercom: You still in there? It was our indication that you got out. Dr. Scratchnsniff: Really? What gave you that indication? Voice on Intercom: That's...just the indication we had.
And of course, the entire premise of "Bumbie's Mom."
The absurd event that triggers Slappy's antics in "I Got Yer Can" ("Please don't throw your trash in my trash can.") came from that exact thing happening to one of the writers.
"Drive Insane" Wakko and Dot lay on Frau Hassenfeffer; Dot even tells her she's comfy.
"Hollywoodchuck" Charlton Woodchuck reads a book while lying on a grizzly bear's stomach while shooting a movie.
Unexplained Accent: Wakko has a Liverpudlian brogue for absolutely no damn reason — at least not one ever explained on the show.
He was actually based specifically on Ringo Starr. Still, that's not an in-universe explanation.
Given the nature of the Warners (cartoon characters come to life) that may very well be an in-universe explanation.
Interestingly, he's the one that sings the states and capitals. He's the only Warner that does not have an American accent.
Unintentional Period Piece: Less so than other '90s shows, but the 1994 episode "Baloney & Kids" includes two separate references to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding altercation from earlier that year.
Universal-Adaptor Cast: Cartoons take place anywhere and everywhere. The Warners bugging Einstein, Picasso, or Beethoven? Pinky and the Brain as Pavlov's mice? Slappy vs. Daniel Boone? Mindy and Buttons in Prehistoria? The Goodfeathers as WWI carrier pigeons? Chicken Boo as a Civil War general? Rita and Runt in ancient Egypt? Yes, all those and more!
Unusual Euphemism: The Goodfeathers often use "coo" as a swear word, such as "coo you" or "coo off".
Vertigo Effect: Occasionally done with Buttons the moment Mindy escapes.
Very Special Episode: "The Little Drummer Warners" has Yakko, Wakko, and Dot go back in time to first-century Bethlehem to witness the birth of the baby Jesus (religion always a controversial subject for kids' cartoons, for various reasons). You'll notice they are unusually low-keyed and respectful - at least until they start performing "The Little Drummer Boy" and suddenly turn it into a 1940s-style swing number. (Hey, they had to dosomethingwacky.)
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock" as well, in which Slappy Squirrel suffers a nervous breakdown after watching too much daytime TV and has to be sent to a nursing home. This eventually results in Skippy being taken away by a CPS agent. The whole thing reminds one of an older relative going senile, seeing how it was based on Tom Ruegger's memories of visiting his aunt in a nursing home.
Victoria's Secret Compartment: Ms. Flameil keeps a red marker in her bra, apparently. Also a rare example of a not particularly attractive woman making use of this trope.
Vocal Evolution: All three Warners went through this. Yakko originally had more of a "tough guy" sound; Wakko originally sounded more like Ringo Starr; and Dot was higher-pitched. Also, Skippy's voice got deeper as Nathan Ruegger aged, to the point that some of the last Skippy/Slappy segments have him pitch-shifted.
Wasn't That Fun?: Wakko in the episode "Ups and Downs", after the maintenance men raise the elevator he and Dr Scratchansniff are trapped in and drop it really quick:
"Wasn't that neat?"
Weaponized Landmark: The Warners weaponized the Warner Bros. water tower in "Super Strong Warner Siblings."
Dr: You've got to get us out of here! Do something big and silly from your gaggy bag! Wakko: I didn't bring it! Dr: (Searching Wakko frantically) "But you ALWAYS has your gaggy bag!! Where iz it?!? GIVE ME YOUR GAGGY BAG!!"
What Are You in For?: Rita asks Runt this when they first meet in the city pound. Runt's answer is "peeing on the floor".
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The number of times Chicken Boo has been ostracized just for being a chicken, regardless of whether he was any good at his job before being unmasked...
Reminiscent of the Chicken Boo shorts, Brain running a successful campaign to become president only to be ridiculed when the people find that he is a mouse.
Wheel o' Feet: Subverted in "Draculee, Dracula" — at one point the Warners rev up with this to start running, but then just walk off instead of darting.
Wrong Parachute Gag: In a Boot Camp Episode, while plummeting towards the ground with their Drill Sergeant, the Warners tell him that they took the liberty of washing the sheets he stores in his backpack. He pulls the cord and a duck headed flotation device comes out.
Wunza Plot: "Boo Wonder": One's a human, the other's a chicken. Together, they fight crime!
Yank the Dog's Chain: "Yippy kai yai yo, dear ghost of Magellan, the East Indies islands were right over there!"
Chicken Boo. Just when you think he's about to succeed, his disguise comes undone at the worst possible moment.
Yet Another Christmas Carol: Starring Mr. Plotz in the Scrooge role, Ralph the Guard as Bob Cratchit with his son Ralph Jr. in the Tiny Tim role, Slappy as Jacob Marley and the Warner siblings as the three ghosts. The main difference from the original A Christmas Carol is that rather than having the Tiny Tim character die, Ralph Jr. vows revenge on Plotz for firing his dad and in the hypothetical future grows up to take over the Warner Bros. studio, with Plotz working as the security guard. Ralph Jr. fires Plotz in a similarly callous manner to the way Plotz fired his dad.
You're Cute When You're Angry: Yakko says this to Dot after he and Wakko piss her off during "I'm Cute". Considering how seriously she takes her cuteness, it works.
You Sexy Beast: In the Minerva Mink short "Moon Over Minerva". A geeky wolf, named Wilford B. Wolf, would turn into a hunky Fabio-like wolf when exposed to the full moon. Minerva won't give his geeky self the time of day, but she goes crazy for his moonlit self. Needless to say the short is pretty heavy on the Fanservice for both the male and female audiences.