It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 yeas since the last Animaniacs episode was on the air. I can still recall coming home to watch these zany siblings doing their thing along with the rest of the cast each day after school. It was amusing at first and hilarious soon after but once they were gone it was almost as if the audience kind of forgot about them. I know they made a lasting impression since there have been for many years references to the cartoons that were featured in the show that brought up the likes of Pinky and the Brain, the pigeons that were modeled after the Goodfellas, and many more.
Did you have a favorite on the show? It’s hard to remember them all without looking up old episodes any longer but some of the bits did in fact add a lot to our culture if you can recall. There were some genuine lessons in a few of the shows, particularly when Yakko went off on a geographical rhyming song that listed the many different nations across the world in a singsong voice that never missed a beat. Then there was some genuine hilarity when Wakko met up with a clown that worsened his already horrible coulrophobia, thereby insuring that the clown was pummeled and beaten and eventually rocketed to Mars where he finally got to be a hit without getting hit.
There’s no doubt that the Animaniacs was a violent cartoon in many regards, not unlike the original Looney Tunes that kids loved so much growing up, but they actually added more pop culture into the mix as well. For instance there’s a reference to IT within the same clown episode that was just mentioned. It comes when the good doctor in residence for WB has both Wakko and the CEO of the company on his couch and is having them recite a litany that will help to calm them. Part of it goes, “A clown is not a big spider” or something akin to that. Since IT was distributed by Warner Bros. this was a big reference that a lot of kids most likely didn’t understand but some adults probably managed to hear.
Then there was the matter of the Goodfeathers, Squit, Pesto and Bobby. They’re a parody of both Goodfellas and the Godfather, since their boss is the Godpigeon. The normal content of the two films wouldn’t normally be a good fit for a kids cartoon, so they toned it down and made it more applicable by allowing the pigeons to be flat out silly and even a bit ridiculous. The pigeons are based off of Robert DeNiro, Bobby, Ray Liotta, Squit, and Joe Pesci, Pesto, and are pretty true to character. One time they even recreated the scene of West Side Story, which was pretty cool.
Overall the Animaniacs are an interesting blend of pop culture, educational material, and flat out craziness. They even incorporate a bit of Jerry Lewis type humor that allows them to get even nuttier if that’s possible.
In the words of Pinky….Narf, point.