This is my thing now. Making lists. This is what I do.
Submitted by Shaenon Garrity on June 9, 2009 - 03:27
In retrospect, "Animaniacs" was not that good a show. If you remember it being brilliant, I do not recommend watching it now, because there is a strong chance it will make you sad. It seemed great at the time because the only other options were "Captain Planet" or watching the Disney Afternoon and turning into a furry.
Nonetheless, there are moments I remember fondly. And so here, in no particular order are:
Shaenon's Top Five Animaniacs Cartoons
1. The extended parody of "Apocalypse Now" where Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are sent by the studio to stop a rogue director who's gone over budget. The director turns out to be Jerry Lewis making "The Day the Clown Cried," because ten-year-olds are totally going to get that reference. And jokes about "Apocalypse Now."
Dialogue I can still quote fifteen years later: Cartoon Dennis Hopper raving about Mr. Director: "You know who he is, man? He's the thinker, the tinker, the plotter, the planner, the GENIUS, man. What in France they don't know... he's king there, man. Comedy is his crown. He rules with, with funny words, funny words like FROYNLAYVEN! He doesn't have his ending, man. And you're gonna stay in there until he FINDS his ending." I just typed all that from memory, and I don't know how to feel about that.
2. "Bumbie's Mom," easily the best Slappy Squirrel cartoon. I'll admit that's not saying a lot, but I always had a soft spot for Slappy Squirrel. Anyway, this is the one where Slappy's nephew Skippy is traumatized by the death of the mama deer in the beloved animated movie "Bumbie, The Dearest Deer," so Slappy takes him to meet the actress who played Bumbie's mom and prove she's not really dead. The actress turns out to be an elderly chain-smoking deer who lives in a trailer park, which is arguably much, much sadder.
Dialogue I can still quote fifteen years later: The theme song to the movie: "Bumbie, the dearest deer / Deep in the darkest forest he grew / Bumbie, the dearest deer / His mother the only friend he knew." After that, most of the dialogue is Skippy howling, "Bumbie's MOM is DEAD!" over and over.
3. To the surprise of no one who's read anything I've written or drawn, ever, I fell in love with Pinky and the Brain from the very first "Animaniacs" promo and watched all their appearances with uncritical adoration. It's hard to single out a favorite, but I'm going to go with the one where Pinky and the Brain are lab mice in Dr. Jekyll's laboratory, and the Brain Hulks out into a giant green monster every time Pinky angers him. I'm picking this one because it has one of the better plans for world domination (stop the clock in Big Ben at "infinite teatime," thus causing the British Empire to collapse), there aren't too many dated pop-cult references, and I remember the animation being unusually good by the standards of the day. I taped it and used to watch the clock-tower sequence late at night, over and over, just rewinding and replaying. I wish I were making this up for comedy and/or pity-inducing purposes, but this really was how I spent my Saturday nights until I figured out how to have sex.
Other good Pinky and the Brains: the one where they're Pavolv's mice and react with bizarre preprogrammed dances when they hear different sound cues (which of course scuttles their plot to steal the crown jewels of the Czar); the one where they pose as the puppet stars of a 1950s children's TV show so Baby Boomers will grow up to love and worship them; the filmstrip "World Domination and You."
Dialogue I can still quote fifteen years later: Actually, I can't remember any dialogue from the Dr. Jekyll one, so I'll have to quote the 1950s children's show one instead: "I am the Iconoclast, an unconventional eccentric who marches to a different drummer... but you may call me Noodlenoggin."
4. The Brain does animation voiceover work in a short piece lifted almost word-for-word from the infamous tape of Orson Welles bitching about some inane commercial voiceover job, but with the swears taken out. It's easily the best of the many times the writers acknowledged that the Brain's voice was just Maurica LaMarche doing his Orson Welles impression, and, like the "Apocalypse Now" bit, it's brilliant because no one in the target age group was possibly going to get this. It could only be appreciated by viewers who should be ashamed of themselves for being seventeen years old and having nothing better to do than watch children's cartoons and sort their "Star Trek: The Next Generation" trading cards all day.
These viewers, however, appreciated the great animation voice director Andrea Romano playing a cartoon version of herself.
Dialogue I can still quote fifteen years later: I was going to say, "Full of country goodness and green peaness," but that's actually from a takeoff of the same source material on "The Critic," also featuring Maurice LaMarche doing his Orson Welles. Okay, then, Cartoon Andrea Romano: "I can't believe that guy! I Taft-Hartley'd him on his first job!"
5. The Warners' 65th Anniversary Special, a star-studded tribute playing off the show's conceit that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are forgotten characters from old Warner Brothers cartoons. I like this episode mainly for the abuse it piles on actual forgotten old WB cartoon character Buddy, who is revealed to have left show business to become a walnut farmer in Ohio, and who tries to assassinate the Warners by planting a bomb in the theater.
Dialogue I can still quote fifteen years later: Film critic pontificating on a cartoon directed by Wakko in the 1940s: "Wakko worked day and night on the script with Herman Mankiewicz." It's the way he says "Mankiewicz" that has caused this line to lodge in my brain and haunt my dreams. Said cartoon turns out to consist entirely of the Warners making armpit noises to the tune of "Yankee Doodle."
In summation: there was never any need for the Goodfeathers.