If you enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons back in the 1990’s, chances are you’ve seen an episode of two of the Steven Spielberg produced Animaniacs. The 22-minute cartoon follows the misadventures of The Warner Siblings, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, as they distract and destroy their way across Burbank California and the unsuspecting world beyond. The show was fluid of location, point in history, and just about any constraints of reality that most cartoons tend to stay within the limits of. The writers, voice actors, and producers successfully created a cartoon that was smart, fun, and hysterically funny. Over twenty years later, The Animaniacs seems to have only gotten funnier with age as their original audience revisits the laughs as young adults. It just goes to show that perhaps our toddler selves didn’t quite deserve the masterpiece of a show we got.
[Photo credit: Bleeding Cool]
So just what made the show so phenomenal?
- The Sometimes Educational Songs
If you ever wanted an easy way to recite all the countries of the world or advice on how to drive your psychiatrist insane, The Animaniacs came complete with a beautifully composed soundtrack full to the bring with puns, gags, jokes, and occasionally useful information. While Wakko, Yakko, and Dot were far from educational characters, they presented audiences with catchy tunes chock full of informative verse. Furthermore, Warner Brothers spared no expense at creating full musical episodes parodying such famous plays as West Side Story and Miss Saigon.
2. The Hidden Jokes for Older Viewers
I’m sure by now most 90’s kids have gone back and found some of the more adult aimed jokes in their old favorite shows, jokes written to fly right over the heads of innocent kids and get a good chuckle from unsuspecting parents and babysitters. Animaniacs took exceptional risks to deliver these jokes, which make re-watching as an older viewer twice as delightful. Without divulging some of the best punchlines, try streaming for episodes featuring the siblings dusting for fingerprints or interacting with their psychiatrist’s nurse. The hidden gems of this show are many, and very well executed.
3. The Flawless 4th Wall Breaks
In recent T.V. and film (hello, Deadpool) breaking the fourth wall has gone from a scandalous risk to one of the more surefire ways to get a laugh from your audience. As shows become more meta, it’s important to appreciate children’s programming like The Animaniacs that was decades ahead of its time in terms of humor. The Warner siblings and other characters often address the audience, camera, writers, and producers shamelessly- and with excellent payoff. The theme song itself offers a fourth wall break when stating “The writers quit, we have no script, why bother to rehearse?” The writers on this show must have been a collective group of geniuses for finding such smart ways to use age appropriate humor. They even address Steven Spielberg himself in several episodes by saying “Spielberg eats this stuff up” after a sappy ending.
4. The Rich Cast of Characters
Animaniacs is a skit style show; think Saturday night live but animated and 90’s, and better. The creators spared no expense at making each segment as creative and well planned as possible. Do you remember Pinky and The Brain or Slappy the Squirrel? Both were segments of the Animaniacs that managed to build a life of their own beyond the show by being drop dead funny. There are dozens of other side characters, each seemingly plucked from some great tree of creative comedy.
If you’ve never seen the Animaniacs, now is a great time to get started on the series (I mean, who doesn’t want to see animated Bill Clinton play the saxophone?) Watch alone, with your family, or friends. This timeless show is a guaranteed good time!
[Photo credit: Indiewire]