A classic show, though not without its flaws.
I remember when the hype for Animaniacs started in early 1993. I was already a big fan of Tiny Toon Adventures, but I saw the ads for this back then I had to know what was going on. I became a fan of it almost immediately. Now, it's been almost 18 years since A! premiered, and I can look on it with less of a fannish eye. It's still a great show, but it's far from perfect. As you probably know, Animaniacs was devised as an anthology, with characters rotating in and out as needed. As such, this review will focus on each set separately.
- The Warner siblings. They were my favorite characters back when the show started, and if you like snarky, rapid-fire Marx Brothers-style humor, you'll love them. However, their shtick was that they easily wore out their welcome, and I have to wonder in hindsight if making characters who were intended to be obnoxious the headliners was a good idea.
- Pinky And The Brain. Probably the best characters on the show, and the natural choice for a spinoff. A classic straight-man and comedic foil duo, combined with a premise that allowed for a lot of creativity, made these two mice a joy to watch every time.
- Slappy Squirrel. A grizzled old veteran of The Golden Age Of Animation who deals in Tim Taylor Technology (specifically dynamite), while dealing with her old foes as well as her cute lil' nephew? Definitely Better Than It Sounds, as Slappy had great timing and a big mouth. They did take it too far, though. The short where she savages Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel is probably the nastiest few minutes of the entire series. Geez, Tom Ruegger, what did Ebert do to you? :P
- Rita and Runt. Character-wise, they're about as thin as it gets (Rita is a cat who can sing, and Runt is a blatant expy of Rain Man's lead character). But they also got some of the best songs in the series, and their shorts were almost always well-done.
- Everything else: Mindy and Buttons tried, but really, I get the feeling this was here because they didn't want to put in Elmyra. The Hip Hippos were probably the worst of all, with a paper-thin premise (hipster hippopotami move to the rainforest to be cool? What fun!) and little to do outside the occasional song. There were also a few bonus shorts like A Gift of Gold and Toy Shop Terror, but those were generally well-done Golden Age throwbacks.
The best. Period.
Animaniacs is without a doubt one of the best cartoons ever. Amazingly well-written, unbelievably funny for all ages, able to get away with possibly more than any other kid's show, Animaniacs redefined Warner Bros. for nearly a decade. The voice talent is wonderful. (Rob Paulsen of course being a fan fave as Yakko, Pinky, Scratchansniff and countless others) Jess, Tress, Frank Welker, Bernadette Peters and so many others helped breathe life into some of the funniest characters on television. The animation wanes over the course of five years, but the humor never gets old. The songs are some of the cleverest music ever, period. From "Yakko's World" to "Wakko's America" to "The Presidents" to the iconic theme song, Richard Stone's music team made learning fun for so many children, which is why they are so fondly remembered today. (Paulsen still has "Yakko's World" memorized, and sings it at all of his public appearances.) For five years, and now thanks to DV Ds and the Net, far longer, Animaniacs will always be remembered as a show that truly broke ground....mostly from the Warners jumping on it and going "Boingy! Boingy!"