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Animaniacs is an American animated comedy television series created by Tom Ruegger. It is the second animated series produced by Amblin Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Animaniacs first aired on Fox Kids from 1993 to 1995 and new episodes later appeared on The WB from 1995 to 1998 as part of its Kids' WB afternoon programming block. The series had a total of 99 episodes and one film, Wakko's Wish

Animaniacs is a variety show, with short skits featuring a large cast of characters. While the show had no set format, the majority of episodes were composed of three short mini-episodes, each starring a different set of characters, and bridging segments. Hallmarks of the series included its music, character catchphrases, and humor directed at an adult audience.

Background


The Warner siblings and the other characters lived in Burbank, California. However, characters from the series had episodes in various places and periods of time. The Animaniacs characters interacted with famous persons and creators of the past and present as well as mythological characters and characters from modern television. Andrea Romano, the casting and recording director of Animaniacs, said that the Warner siblings functioned to "tie the show together," by appearing in and introducing other characters' segments. Each Animaniacs episode usually consisted of two or three cartoon shorts. Animaniacs segments ranged in time, from bridging segments less than a minute long to episodes spanning the entire show length; writer Peter Hastings said that the varying episode lengths gave the show a "sketch comedy" atmosphere.

Animaniacs had a large cast of characters, separated into individual segments, with each pair or set of characters acting in its own plot.

The Animaniacs cast of characters had a variety of inspiration, from celebrities to writers' family members to other writers.

Ruegger modeled the Warners' personalities heavily after his three sons.

Sherri Stoner created Slappy the Squirrel when another writer and friend of Stoner, John McCann, made fun of Stoner's career in TV movies playing troubled teenagers.

Production


Steven Spielberg served as executive producer, under his Amblin Television label. Showrunner and senior producer Tom Ruegger lead the overall production and writer's room. Producers Peter Hastings, Sherri Stoner, Rusty Mills, and Rich Arons contributed scripts for many of the episodes and had an active role during group discussions in the writer's room as well.

The writers and animators of Animaniacs used the experience gained from the previous series to create new animated characters that were cast in the mold of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery's creations. [37] Additional writers for the series included Liz Holzman, Paul Rugg, Deanna Oliver, John McCann, Nicholas Hollander, Charlie Howell, Gordon Bressack, Jeff Kwitny, Earl Kress, Tom Minton, and Randy Rogel. Hastings, Rugg, Stoner, McCann, Howell, and Bressack were involved in writing sketch comedy while others, including Kress, Minton, and Rogel, came from cartoon backgrounds.

Made-up stories did not exclusively comprise Animaniacs writing, as Hastings remarked: "We weren't really there to tell compelling stories... [As a writer] you could do a real story, you could recite the Star-Spangled Banner, or you could parody a commercial... you could do all these kinds of things, and we had this tremendous freedom and a talent to back it up."

In an interview, the writers explained how Animaniacs allowed for non-restrictive and open writing.

Animaniacs featured Rob Paulsen as Yakko, Pinky and Dr. Otto von Scratchansniff, Tress MacNeille as Dot, Jess Harnell as Wakko, Sherri Stoner as Slappy the Squirrel, Maurice LaMarche as the Brain, Squit and the belching segments "The Great Wakkorotti" (Harnell said that he himself is commonly mistaken for the role), and veteran voice actor Frank Welker as Ralph the Security Guard, Thaddeus Plotz and Runt. Andrea Romano said that the casters wanted Paulsen to play the role of Yakko: "We had worked with Rob Paulsen before on a couple of other series and we wanted him to play Yakko." Romano said that the casters had "no trouble" choosing the role of Dot, referring to MacNeille as "just hilarious... And yet [she had] that edge." Before Animaniacs, Harnell had little experience in voice acting other than minor roles for Disney which he "fell into". Harnell revealed that at the audition for the show, he did a John Lennon impression and the audition "went great". Stoner commented that when she gave an impression of what the voice would be to Spielberg, he said she should play Slappy. According to Romano, she personally chose Bernadette Peters to play Rita. Other voices were provided by Jim Cummings, Paul Rugg, Vernee Watson-Johnson, Jeff Bennett and Gail Matthius (from Tiny Toon Adventures). Tom Ruegger's three sons also played roles on the series. Nathan Ruegger voiced Skippy Squirrel, nephew to Slappy, throughout the duration of the series; Luke Ruegger voiced The Flame in historical segments on Animaniacs; and Cody Ruegger voiced Birdie from Wild Blue Yonder.

Animation work on Animaniacs was farmed out to several different studios, both American and international, over the course of the show's production.

Animaniacs was made with a higher production value than standard television animation; the show had a higher cel count than most TV cartoons. The Animaniacs characters often move fluidly, and do not regularly stand still and speak, as in other television cartoons.

Animaniacs utilized a heavy musical score for an animated program, with every episode featuring at least one original score.

Hallmarks and Humor


The humor of Animaniacs varied in type, ranging from parody to cartoon violence.

Characters on Animaniacs had catchphrases, with some characters having more than one.

Running gags and recurring segments were very common in the show. The end of every episode was closed with a water tower gag similar to The Simpsons couch gag. Director Rusty Mills and senior producer Tom Ruegger said that recurring segments like the water tower gag and another segment titled "The Wheel of Morality" (which, in Yakko's words, "adds boring educational value to what would otherwise be an almost entirely entertaining program", and ends with a "moral" that makes no sense) eased the production of episodes because the same animated scenes could be used more than once (and, in the case of the Wheel segments, enabled the producers to add a segment in where there was not room for anything else in the episode).

A great deal of Animaniacs's humor and content was aimed at an adult audience.

Animaniacs parodied popular TV shows and movies and caricatured celebrities.

Animaniacs had a variety of music types.

The Animaniacs series theme song, performed by the Warners, was a very important part of the show.

Shorts featuring Rita and Runt would also incorporate songs for Bernadette Peters to sing.

Reception


Animaniacs was a successful show, gathering both child and adult fans.

During its run, Animaniacs became the second-most popular children's show in both demographics of children ages 2–11 and children ages 6–11 (behind Mighty Morphin Power Rangers ). [7] Animaniacs, along with other animated series, helped to bring "Fox Kids" ratings much larger than those of the channel's competitors. [29] In November 1993, Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures almost doubled the ratings of their rival shows, Darkwing Duck and Goof Troop , in both the 2–11 and 6–11 demographics that are very important to children's networks. On Kids' WB, Animaniacs gathered about one-million children viewers every week. [38]

While Animaniacs was popular among younger viewers (the target demographic for Warner Bros.' TV cartoons), adults also responded positively to the show; in 1995, more than one-fifth of the weekday (4 p.m., Monday through Friday) and Saturday morning (8 a.m.) audience viewers were 25 years or older.

Animaniacs' first major award came in 1993, when the series won a Peabody Award in its debuting season. In 1994, Animaniacs was nominated for two Annie Awards, one for "Best Animated Television Program", and the other for "Best Achievement for Voice Acting" (Frank Welker). [62] Animaniacs also won two Daytime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition" and "Outstanding Original Song" (Animaniacs Main Title Theme). [4] In 1995, Animaniacs was nominated four times for the Annie Awards, once for "Best Animated Television Program", twice for "Voice Acting in the Field of Animation" (Tress MacNeille and Rob Paulsen), and once for "Best Individual Achievement for Music in the Field of Animation" (Richard Stone). [64] In 1996, Animaniacs won two Daytime Emmy Awards, one for "Outstanding Animated Children's Program" and the other for "Outstanding Achievement in Animation". [66] In 1997, Animaniacs was nominated for an Annie Award for "Best Individual Achievement: Directing in a TV Production" (Charles Visser for the episode "Noel"). [68] Animaniacs also won two more Daytime Emmy Awards, one for "Outstanding Animated Children's Program" and the other for "Outstanding Music Direction and Composition". [70] In 1998, the last year in which new episodes of Animaniacs were produced, Animaniacs was nominated for an Annie Award in "Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Daytime Television Program". [74] Animaniacs also won a Daytime Emmy Award in "Outstanding Music Direction and Composition" (for the episode "The Brain's Apprentice"). [78] In 1999, Animaniacs won a Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition". [84] When Animaniacs won this award, it set a record for most Daytime Emmy Awards in the field of "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition" for any individual animation studio. [86] In 2009, IGN named Animaniacs the 17th-best animated television series. [2] On September 24, 2013, Animaniacs was listed among TV Guide's "60 Greatest TV Cartoons of All Time". [6]

History


Before Animaniacs was put into production in 1991, various collaboration and brainstorming efforts were thought up to create both the characters and premise of the series.

Animaniacs premiered on September 13, 1993, [9] on the Fox Kids programming block of the Fox network, and ran there until September 8, 1995; new episodes aired from the 1993 through 1994 seasons.

The series was popular enough for Warner Bros.

Despite the series' success on Fox Kids, Animaniacs on Kids' WB was only successful in an unintended way, bringing in adult viewers and viewers outside the Kids' WB target demographic of young children.

The Chicago Tribune reported in 1999 that the production of new Animaniacs episodes ceased and the direct-to-video film Wakko's Wish was a closer to the series.

After Animaniacs, Spielberg collaborated with Warner Bros.

Animaniacs, along with Tiny Toon Adventures , continued to rerun in syndication through the 1990s into the early 2000s after production of new episodes ceased. In the US, Animaniacs aired on Cartoon Network, originally as a one-off airing on January 31, 1997, and then on the regular schedule from August 31, 1998 until the spring of 2001, when Nickelodeon bought the rights to air the series beginning on September 1, 2001. [58] [59] Nickelodeon transferred the series to its newly launched sister channel Nicktoons on May 1, 2002, and aired there until July 7, 2005. Animaniacs aired on Hub Network from January 7, 2013 until October 10, 2014. [63]

Paulsen, Harnell, and MacNeille have announced plans to tour in 2016 to perform songs from Animaniacs! along with a full orchestra.

Wakko's Wish


The Warners starred in the feature-length, direct-to-video movie Wakko's Wish . The movie takes place in the fictional town of Acme Falls, in which the Warners and the rest of the Animaniacs cast are under the rule of a greedy king who conquered their home country from a neighboring country. When the Warners find out about a star that will grant a wish to the first person that touches it, the Warners, the villagers (the Animaniacs cast), and the king race to get to it first. [38] [52] Although children and adults rated Wakko's Wish highly in test-screenings, [75] Warner Bros. decided to release it direct-to-video, rather than spend money on advertising. [75] Warner Bros. released the movie on VHS on December 21, 1999; [38] the film was then released on DVD on October 7, 2014. [85]

Merchandise


Episodes of the show have been released on DVD and VHS during and after the series run.

VHS tapes of Animaniacs were released in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Beginning on July 25, 2006, Warner Home Video began releasing DVD volume sets of Animaniacs episodes in order of the episodes' original airdates. [88] Volume one of Animaniacs sold very well; over half of the product being sold in the first week made it one of the fastest selling animation DVD sets that Warner Home Video ever put out.

An Animaniacs comic book, published by DC Comics, ran from 1995 to 2000 (59 regular monthly issues, plus two specials). Initially, these featured all the characters except for Pinky and the Brain, who were published in their own comic series, though cameos were possible. The Animaniacs comic series was later renamed Animaniacs! Featuring Pinky and the Brain. [28] The Animaniacs comic series, like the show, parodied TV and comics standards, such as Pulp Fiction and The X-Files

Animaniacs was soon brought into the video game industry to produce games based on the series.

Because Animaniacs had many songs, record labels Rhino Entertainment and Time Warner Kids produced albums featuring songs from the show. These albums include Animaniacs (1993), Yakko's World (1994), A Christmas Plotz (1995), Animaniacs Variety Pack (1995), A Hip-Opera Christmas (1997), The Animaniacs Go Hollywood (2003), The Animaniacs Wacky Universe (2003), and the compilation album, The Animaniacs Faboo! Collection (1995).

Potential Reboot


According to IndieWire in May 2017, Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation are in the early stages of developing a reboot of Animaniacs. The interest in the reboot was driven by a surge of popularity for the show when it was made available on Netflix in 2016, plus numerous successful projects that have revived interest in older shows, such as Fuller House . [48]

See Also


Notes


a. Sources vary on the size of the Animaniacs orchestra.

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