Animaniacs

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Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs (1993 to 1999) was the second animated series produced by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the 1990s. The studio's first series, Tiny Toon Adventures, had proved to be a big hit among younger viewing audiences, and it had attracted a sizable number of adult viewers as well. Tiny Toon Adventures had drawn heavily from the classic Termite Terrace cartoons of old for inspiration, as well as plots and characterization. The modern Warner Bros. writers and animators used the experience gained from the previous series to create brand new animated characters that were cast in the mold of Tex Avery's and Bob Clampett's creations, but were not slavish imitations.

Animaniacs premiered on September 13, 1993. New episodes of the show were aired during the 1993 through 1999 seasons, and episodes of the show were rerun in syndication for several years after production of new episodes ceased. One feature-length direct-to-video Animaniacs movie, Wakko's Wish, was released on VHS only (there was no DVD release) in 1999. The series was popular enough for Warner Bros. Animation to invest in additional episodes of the show past the traditional 65-episode marker for syndication; a total of 99 episodes were finally produced. One theatrical cartoon short film starring the Warner siblings, "I'm Mad," was produced and released to theaters in 1994 with the feature Thumbelina.

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[edit] Popularity of Animaniacs

While episodes of the show did have their share of flops (by Chicken Boo and Katie Ka-Boom), a surprisingly high number of well-written, outrageously funny cartoons were aired during the series, as the new madcap Warner Bros. animators merrily poked fun at everything and everyone, including their own fans ("The Please Please Pleese Get A Life Foundation", which directly took from the alt.tv.animaniacs FAQ for its material).

While the show was very popular among younger viewers (the target demographic for Warner Bros.' TV cartoons), a great deal of the show's sly, subversive humor was definitely aimed at an adult audience. In fact, one character, Minerva Mink, was soon deemphasized as a feature character on account that her featured episodes were considered too sexually suggestive for the show's intended timeslot. Adults responded in droves, giving the show cult-hit status and leading to one of the first Internet-based fandom cultures. During the show's prime, the Internet newsgroup alt.tv.animaniacs was an active, popular gathering place for fans of the show (most of whom were definitely adults) to discuss the latest antics of the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister. The online popularity of the show did not go unnoticed by the show's producers, and several of the most active participants on the newsgroup were invited to the Warner Bros. Animation studios for informal get-togethers.

[edit] Reputation and legacy

The show introduced the popular cartoon characters Pinky and the Brain, who were subsequently spun-off into their own TV series in 1995.

Animation fans consider Animaniacs the high point of the Warner Bros. revival of the 1990s that was inspired by the original Termite Terrace. After Animaniacs, Spielberg collaborated with Warner Bros. Animation for a third time to produce the short-lived series Freakazoid, along with the Animaniacs spin-off series Pinky and the Brain. Warner Bros. also produced two additional "zany" and "madcap" series in the later half of the decade entitled Histeria! (much like Animaniacs, but focusing on American history) and Detention (an animated sitcom of several quirky junior high kids trying to get out of after-school holding), but neither of these series found a sizable audience, and they were both swiftly cancelled. Warner Bros. cut back the size of its animation studio (the high cost and relatively low profit of its animated feature films of the period also had an effect on the studio), and production on further Warner Bros. animated comedy series ceased. Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures continued to rerun in syndication through the 1990s into the early 2000s. In 2005, it was removed from the NickToons network, and is not currently airing on TV in the states, but in the United Kingdom, it currently airs on Boomerang.

[edit] Animaniacs and furry fandom

At the peak of its popularity (especially during the first and second seasons), Animaniacs was wildly popular among furry fans, and its popularity spilled over into the fandom. Many of the denizens of alt.tv.animaniacs were furry fans, and they expressed their enjoyment of the show in true furry fashion: through fan artwork, fan fiction, and furry role-playing. Many characters from the show were imitated on FurryMUCK, from the Warner Brothers and Warner Sister to Pinky and the Brain. (Even Slappy Squirrel made an appearance on the MUCK!)

In addition to MUCK characters, many members of the newsgroup also gathered on IRC, leading to the birth of the #watertower IRC community.

[edit] Animaniacs on DVD

Warner Bros. has announced Animaniacs may be released on DVD in the summer of 2006[1].

[edit] Music

Animaniacs was a very musical cartoon, with every episode featuring an original score (and in many cases, several original songs). Each group of characters had its own sub-theme in the score, and the Hip Hippos and Pinky and the Brain even had their own full theme songs.

The three Warner siblings often performed songs, including parodies of classical and folk music, often with an educational twist, listing, for example, U.S. states or American presidents. Pinky and the Brain occasionally got songs to sing as well, and the most complicated songs in the series usually went to Rita, voiced by singer Bernadette Peters (poking fun at Broadway shows in general, and Stephen Sondheim's works in particular). Rita and Runt even took on Broadway directly with a parody of Les Misérables called Les Miseranimals, which aired early in the first season.

Three albums of music from the series were released: Animaniacs, Yakko's World, and Variety Pack, and the sing-along videos, especially "Yakko's World", remained some of the best selling skit compilation VHS tapes.

The final bars of the Animaniacs theme (as well as Bugs Bunny and the WB shield) are commonly used by Warner Bros. to begin various animated series.

The song Yakko's World is perhaps their most famous.

[edit] External links

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Ursa Major Awards winners
2000
Best Live Action TV Series: The Muppet Show! · Best Animated TV Series: Animaniacs · Best Live Action Feature Film: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? · Best Animated Feature Film: Fantasia
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