The original run of Animaniacs premiered in September of 1993 during my junior year of high school and ended in 1998 while I was in college. I discovered it the way I usually find out about things even now: some of my friends were really into it.
When Animaniacs started, it was an after school weekday show, airing at 4:00 P.M. I was a bus rider but my bus usually didn’t get to my stop until a little after 4:00. By the time I walked all the way up my cul-de-sac, the show was already half-over.
(My Hallmark Animaniacs Christmas ornament)
Eventually, I convinced my mom to tape Animaniacs instead of Oprah. Once my brother (who was in middle school at the time and came home even later than I did) had a chance to see it, he really liked it too. My mom even used a tape recording of Wakko singing the state capitals to help my brother and his friend learn them for a test.
Late last year, on November 20th, a new series of Animaniacs premiered on Hulu and picked up right where they left off. The central characters of the original series, (siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner) are back along with the show’s most popular spin-off characters, Pinky and The Brain.
Here are my favorite Animaniacs Characters:
1. Wakko Warner
Even though I feel a close kinship with Warner Sister Dot, my favorite Warner sibling has always been Wakko. I’m not sure if it’s his British accent, his blue turtleneck shirt, his generally cheerful demeanor, or his cute catchphrase (“Faboo!”). There was just something about that little guy I’ve always found amusing.
2. Mindy and Buttons
This was a take off on “Lassie”, with a dog rescuing a young human child from dangerous situations. The funny thing about this is that I had a dog named Buttons while Animaniacs was on, but our Buttons was a Yorkshire Terrier. My mom told me when I was little, I was a lot like Mindy: friendly but very easily distracted. It’s a good thing we got our Buttons when I was ten because I doubt she would have been able to protect me.
3. Slappy Squirrel
Slappy was in several of my favorite shorts, “Bumbie’s Mom”, “Woodstock Slappy”, and “Little Old Slappy from Pasadena”. Slappy was a middle aged to elderly squirrel and her shorts were often throwbacks to the days of the classic Looney Tunes, often putting new twists on old jokes. Slappy usually had her young nephew Skippy in tow.
4. Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain is the most successful of the Animaniacs’ recurring segments. In fact, they were so successful, they managed to get their own spin-off series and are the only characters aside from the Warners to return in 2020. Pinky and The Brain were laboratory mice and The Brain always has a scheme to take over the world.
The same actor who provided the voice of Yakko Warner, Rob Paulsen, also voiced The Brain’s assistant, Pinky. Pinky’s most frequent catchphrase was “Narf!” Sometimes he also said “Poit!”
The late science fiction author Harlan Ellison was also a fan of Pinky and The Brain. My mom taped Ellison’s appearance on The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder and on the show, Ellison shared his love for the shorts.
These were pigeons in a segment based on “Goodfellas”. Squit was based on Ray Liotta (voiced by Maurice LaMarche, who also voices The Brain), Bobby is based on Robert DeNiro, and Pesto is based on Joe Pesci. The hosts of the podcast Animanicast do a great job explaining a lot of the references for all of the segments on the show.
Honorable Mention: Collin (“One time, Randy Beaman.”)
Collin was a little boy who would run out of his house and tell a story, usually about someone named “Randy Beaman” and/or a member of Randy Beaman’s family. Usually these stories are what used to be called urban legends. Other times they came from the kinds of jokes little kids tell.