Merry Day After Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time yesterday and you got everything you wanted. Since most of us are spending the day relaxing (and/or recovering) I’ve spent most of the day enjoying one of my Christmas presents. Sure, you could be watching a House marathon on USA or doing post-Christmas shopping on any of a dozen networks, but I have instead spent today hosting my own marathon thanks to what I got from my sister and brother-in-law: Animaniacs Vol. 1.
If you never saw Animaniacs when it was on the air… well, you’re insane. The show starred the Warner Brothersand their sister, Dot, three cartoon characters from the 40s who were deemed too zany for public consumption and locked away in the studio water tower until present day. Alongside the Warners, the show gave the world the would-be world conquerors Pinky and the Brain, the pre-Sopranos mob parody Goodfeathers, the magnificent Bernadette Peters in Rita and Runt and a half-dozen other cartoon superstars. This was Steven Spielberg’s second cartoon with Warner Brothers (the studio, not the characters), having cut his teeth on Tiny Toon Adventures. As good as Tiny Toons was this blew it away.
Yakko, Wakko and Dot Warner were the spiritual successors to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the other great Looney Tunes. Sure, the Tiny Toons had a more direct link to the classic characters, but the cartoons you saw on Animaniacs had the same tone, the same feel, the same sense of barely restrained insanity. The cartoon had levels upon levels of comedy, sneaking in political humor right next to a potty joke, or doing an entire episode (King Yakko, one of my favorites) to parody the classic Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup, a joke that went right over the heads of 90 percent of the audience, adults included. This wasn’t just funny, this wasn’t just wonderfully animated, this was a smart show, probably the smartest cartoon ever made for kids’ television.
Remember a few days ago when I complained that none of the cartoons of my childhood hold up today? Well, this is a cartoon of my teen years, not of my childhood… and this bad boy holds up. Even with a few dated references to then-popular actors or TV characters (an Urkel cameo, or a joke about Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg), the majority of the humor is timeless and as entertaining today as it was when it first came out 15 years ago. I love this cartoon as much today as I did back then.