Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's time for the Tiny Toons and Animaniacs to graduate

Hasbro's cable TV network, The Hub, has recently started showing the 1990s cartoon, Animaniacs. And it's still brilliant.

For those who somehow missed out, Animaniacs is an animated series from Warner Bros.  Each episode is a half-hour long and contains cartoons featuring a stable of characters. The primary characters are the Warner Brothers (and Sister), Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, who live in the water tower on the Warner Brothers movie lot. 

In addition, there's:

  • Pinky and the Brain - a pair of laboratory mice who are plotting to take over the world (and who got a spin-off series),
  • Slappy Squirrel - A (for lack of a better word) misanthropic squirrel who lives in a tree and often endures the presence of her sunnier-disposed nephew, Skippy,
  • Buttons and Mindy - Buttons is the protective family dog and Mindy is the reckless toddler who - somehow - gets in and out of scrapes without harm to herself (Buttons is never so lucky), and
  • Goodfeathers - A pigeon parody of Goodfellas
The show also featured dry comedy bits like "Good Idea / Bad Idea" and entertaining songs, like ones listing all the nations of the world. 

Animaniacs, of course, followed from the success of Tiny Toon Adventures, in which the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, et al) instructed the next generation of merry melody makers in the art and science of absurd animated antics. And don't get me wrong - Tiny Toon Adventures was great. This is one of my favorite cartoons of all time: "Going Up" featuring Baby Plucky Duck (who, as you might expect, is Daffy Duck's protégé):

That said, Tiny Toon Adventures could be rather didactic at times. And I don't know about you, but there are few things I dislike more on television than feeling like I'm being beaten over the head with some sort of moral or lesson. Insipid tween shows like Degrassi and family sitcoms / dramadies like Full House and Boy Meets World can be so painfully predictable that they make me want to claw my eyes out.

Protagonist does something stupid → Protagonist suffers consequences of their actions → Protagonist is taught a Very Valuable Lesson™ by an authority figure

Thankfully, Animaniacs was better able to avoid this pitfall. It racked up nearly 100 episodes, plus the aforementioned spin-off and a direct-to-video movie. Both series are clearly beloved - check Google, YouTube and IMDB if you don't believe me. And yet...they're gone.

I remember when the first animation / live-action crossover Looney Tunes movie, Space Jam, came out. I fully expected at least a cameo or two - maybe the Warners dashing across the basketball court, chased by Ralph the inept security guard? Nada. Nothing. Everyone made a big deal out of Lola Bunny - a female analogue to Bugs - even though his young pupil Babs Bunny debuted a full six years earlier! And Babs wasn't a token female jammed into the script to avoid charges of anti-feminism or what-have-you - she was a developed character! And does anyone really care about Lola anymore?

The Looney Tunes keep going - presently on the Cartoon Network series The Looney Tunes Show, which I tried and didn't care for - but no Tiny Toons, no Animaniacs...they're still AWOL. And that's just not right. These great characters shouldn't be languishing in obscurity - thank goodness the Hub is introducing the Animaniacs to a new generation! 

But it's past time that they "graduated" to membership in the Looney Tunes cast. 

Bring 'em back, WB. Bring 'em back.

1 comment:

  1. Update:

    I feel obliged to note that I'm not the first to call for the return of the Animaniacs. See here: