Hello, Nice Warners!

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I Guess He Hasn’t Seen Our Act!: Episode 94

This episode has an interesting broadcast history. When it first aired in the Fall of 1997, the first cartoon (“Magic Time”) was not ready due to production delays. So “Brain’s Apprentice” aired with “Hercule Yakko” from episode 25 with additional material that would later appear in episode 98. The completed show wouldn’t actually be broadcast until the following year. The only other all-Startoons episode of the season, it isn’t an exceptionally strong show, but it definitely has its moments.

Newsreel of the Stars

Yup, they actually brought “Newsreel of the Stars” out of retirement in order to kill some time in this episode, a sure sign that they’re desperate for filler material to pad out the last batch of shows. And this isn’t even the only time they do it.

Extended Theme Song

Variable Verse: Pinky and the Brain-y!

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Schnitzel and Floyd are a pair of highly unpleasant Las Vegas magicians who delight in abusing the lion and elephant they use for their act. On stage, they ask for three volunteers from the audience and get the Warners, who rush up to them begging to be part of the show. They snub Dot’s advances, and pull eggs from behind Yakko’s ears when he asks if they’re any good. Wakko gets into the act and tells the magicians to reach behind his ears, only for lobsters to snap at their fingers. Schnitzel and Floyd use the Warners for the traditional “saw a person in half” box trick, which goes nowhere. Next, the magicians place the lion and elephant in one box, and the Warners in another, attempting to have them switch places. Nothing happens, with the exception of the kids appearing in their box wearing nothing but shower caps.

Having had enough of them, Schnitzel and Floyd belittle the trio and tell them to get lost. When they try to transform the lion “into what is a pretty girl”, they instead get Yakko and Wakko, dressed as hideous cheerleaders. Their next trick, turning the elephant into a men’s chorus, results in Dot appearing with the Dover Boys, who insult the magicians in song. For the finale, the Warners give the abused animals some weapons, allowing them to take revenge on their tormentors. The kids pack what’s left of the magicians into a crate and mail them to Africa, where they find themselves at nature’s mercy. Back in Vegas, Schnitzel and Floyd have been replaced by the insult comedy of Ron Pickels, who is amused when the Warners volunteer from the audience. “I guess he hasn’t seen our act”, concludes Yakko.

One thing I really like about “Magic Time” is its simplicity. It doesn’t parody anything, it doesn’t break the fourth wall, it just gives us a classic Warners plot featuring the trio doing their best to humiliate and antagonize two guys who are entitled to every single thing they get. Their arrogance and rudeness already begs someone to cut them down to size, but the fact that they also delight in torturing animals means they probably deserve the Warners’ brand of karmic justice more than anyone else the kids have ever been up against. That said, the kids go rather easy on them for the most part, and embarrass them far more than they actually physically injure them. If anything, I really think the Warners could have been much more aggressive here, because it’s not like these two morons didn’t have it coming. That said, letting the animals deliver the final blow to the magicians is pretty appropriate, since it’s nice to see these poor, beaten down creatures get their shot at revenge. The cartoon isn’t exactly memorable, but there are some decent bits here and there. Most notable is the “pretty” girl scene with Yakko and Wakko, which is great due to McClenahan’s animation and Paulsen and Harnell’s performances. To be honest, I don’t want to be too hard on this cartoon, but if it was wasn’t for the fact that it features Startoons animation, it wouldn’t really be anything too special. I appreciate the basic season one feel to the story, but there isn’t much here that sticks with you once the short is over, unlike the best “Warners annoy someone” cartoons like “Plane Pals” and “O Silly Mio”.

Startoon’s animation is all over the place. Watching the finished cartoon, I’m not surprised that production issues delayed it for as long as they did. Jon McClenahan’s work is fantastic as always, while we get a longer look at David Pryor’s style. The more I see it, the more it brings to mind Jeff Siergey’s animation, with really loose movements and mouthless expressions. If McClenahan and Pryor had been able to handle more of this short, the visuals would have been able to compensate for all of its other weaknesses. Unfortunately, a good chuck of this cartoon features very below average to mediocre animation. The Warners generally look all right no matter who is handling them, but Schnitzel and Floyd get the worst of it, and are animated in scenes that are among some of Startoons’ worst. For every really great scene, we get another one with some truly cringe-worthy animation. With the exception of “It” and “Dot-the Macadamia Nut”, Jon McClenahan has never been very happy with the material his studio worked on in season five, and “Magic Time” seems to be the primary offender. It’s hard to shake the feeling while watching it that it could have been so much better, but suffered thanks to inexperienced animators and a difficult production. I don’t think it’s terrible (it’s easily better than the Warner cartoons in the previous episode) but it’s very far from Startoons’ best.

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"Call your wife". It’s a quick gag that might be easy to miss, but even the slot machine has taken pity on this guy. Check out those massive, bloodshot eyes.

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So here our are antagonists, ready to stick a pin in a poor lion in order to get him to act ferocious. Floyd was voiced by Jeff Bennett and by the sound of it, Paulsen voiced Schnitzel. The Schwarzenegger voices get a little tiresome after a while, but I do like the line, “Be quiet and also hush!” It almost became the title for this post.

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The magicians ask for volunteers from the audience, explaining that they won’t be paid, “so don’t ask.” Almost immediately, the Warners race up the aisle, screaming to be chosen. Great timing in this scene, as if (for some reason) the promise of NOT being paid was the motivation they needed to go up there.

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The animation switches to Jon McClenahan when the Warners introduce themselves. Nothing too expressive in these shots, but Jon was always able to make even simple poses look fantastic. I especially like the shot of Dot sizing up Schnitzel and Floyd.

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If I didn’t know that Jeff Siergey was no longer working on the show, I’d swear this was his stuff. But from the look of it, I’d say David Pryor was most likely responsible for this. This is really the most character Yakko has had in a long time.

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Two great moments courtesy of Jon McClenahan. The first image is just really silly, but I love the second scene. Paulsen and Harnell really sell the old lady voices. Yakko says, “Hi, I’m a pretty girl. How’s it goin.?” Adds Wakko, “I’m her sister. I came along ‘cause I couldn’t get a date.”

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Normally, I’d complain about one-shot first season characters showing up this late in the game. But since these guys appeared in another Startoons cartoon, it feels more like a shout-out than a cheap reference.

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Here’s something she’s never done before. For her “solo”, Dot screeches so intensely that Floyd becomes a sound wave and ends up exploding. That’s certainly different.

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Here’s one of the weirdest scenes in the cartoon. The Warners look very off here, especially Dot in the foreground The angle of the eyes, the size of the highlights, the mouth…very, very strange.

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Here’s another shot that I’m positive was animated by David Pryor. There’s some great energy and attitude in this scene. Yakko, especially, looks incredible as he dances around and pops from pose to pose. I would have loved to see even more of Pryor’s work with these characters.

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We end on one last McClenahan shot, the last time we’re going to see him work with the Warners. Unless he actually did do something in “Brain’s Apprentice” (though he says he didn’t), we’re not going to get any more of his animation. 

Pinky and the Brain intro (Wang)

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Brain has built a machine at Acme Labs in order to create his own army, but when Pinky comes over to investigate the small robot he’s created, he unknowingly unplugs the machine when he trips over the cord. Confused as to why his robot isn’t responding, Brain grabs his plans and heads into another room to work things out. Pinky discovers what happened and plugs the machine back in, causing the robot to come to life and copy everything he does. While dancing with Pinky, the robot accidentally hits a switch that sets the machine on “mass produce”. The lab quickly fills up with little robots, and in his attempt to shut the machine down, Pinky activates the “commence world domination” command. A large group of robots then proceed to file out of the lab, hijack a tank and drive it to the White House. There, they hold the president hostage with a pen and attempt to force him to sign a paper that surrenders power to Brain. Just as things really get out of control at the lab, Brain returns and shuts down the machine, de-activating all the robots in the room. When Pinky goes to watch TV, he sees a news report about the White House takeover: those robots are still active! He tries to warn Brain, who refuses to listen and shuts off the world domination command seconds before the president is about to sign power over to him. When Brain sees the news and realizes what’s just happened, failure hits him hard. Pinky hands Brain a flyswatter, shrugs and is then hit over the head with it.

The final Pinky and the Brain cartoon to air on Animaniacs, “Brain’s Apprentice” has an awful lot going for it. Despite some schizophrenic Startoons animation, it’s one of the most enjoyable cartoons of the season. It’s surface appeal is obvious: this is the first and only cartoon of the entire Kids WB era that features Pinky and the Brain operating out of Acme Labs for a modern day, take over the world story. But what really brings it to a different level is the fact that it’s a truly entertaining take on Paul Duka’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, featuring an authentic musical score with no dialogue or sound effects, along with some elements from the Disney version seen in Fantasia. The music is what really makes this work, as it’s very close to the actual “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” piece, and isn’t a warped version that only kind of sounds like it, as was done in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode “Tiny Toons Music Television”. Elements of the Pinky and the Brain theme are also incorporated into the score, which really ties everything together. There’s nothing too funny or clever about the short, but it’s forgivable considering that it’s more concerned with moving the story along to the music. One thing I do really love about this cartoon is how Brain comes so close to taking over the world and would have succeeded if he had only listened to Pinky for a second. His expressions, as he processes his failure and realizes one flip of a switch robbed him of his goal, are absolutely perfect.

This is Startoon’s only other Pinky and the Brain cartoon. As in “Meet John Brain”, it’s certainly a big switch from Wang, or Rough Draft, who had been animating the mice on their spin-off show. Like the previous cartoon, the visuals range from spectacular to terrible, giving this entry a true bi-polar feel. The opening and closing scenes with Brain are definitely the most well done, with the end of the cartoon featuring some fantastic animation as Brain re-enters the room and pushes the robots aside on the way to his machine. McClenahan claims to have not worked on this short, and his style really doesn’t appear to be present at all. On the other hand, he’s stated that Spike Brandt returned briefly to work on a few scenes, and it looks like some of the later moments with Brain might be his work. But the stuff that’s poor is very, very poor, and this cartoon contains some of the most off model Pinky drawings I’ve ever seen on this show.  In fact, the entire middle section is plagued with mediocre animation, which does bring things down a little bit. But the concept is a lot of fun, the music is great and when the animation is good, it’s really damn good. And hey, it stars Pinky and the Brain, so how bad could it possibly be? I’ll give my final thoughts on these characters, with details on their less-than-fortunate post spin-off career when I discuss “Star Warners”, the Pinky and the Brain finale that doubles as a crossover with the Animaniacs cast.

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The opening sequence features some animation that’s nothing special but still gets the job done. Brain looks pretty good, although the animator working on him here seems to have a slightly hard time keeping him on model, giving him very large feet in some shots, and an oddly squat lower body in others.

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The animator for this lengthy sequence has a very hard time with Pinky, and the animation is very rough, despite a few good poses. He’s having a tough time with the corners of Pinky’s mouth and those large white highlights in his eyes shouldn’t be there. Still, it’s not the worst thing in this cartoon.

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This little bit of animation flies by pretty fast, but it’s very well done. Again, I’m not sure at all who animated this, but I wouldn’t be shocked it was Pryor or Spike Brandt. I love the way Pinky runs into the shot.

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Not too much to say about this. It’s just a really good wild take

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There’s some really nice walk cycles on the robots as they march out of the machine, arms swinging forward and back and their heads swinging back and forth, with some terrific follow-through on the antennae.

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If this crazy bit of animation looks familiar to you, you’re in good company. This is taken from a 1951 Tex Avery cartoon called “Droopy’s Double Trouble”. Oh, you’ve never seen that cartoon? Then maybe you recognize it from the 1989 Roger Rabbit cartoon “Tummy Trouble”. All three cartoons use the exact same wild take.

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This is definitely the weirdest-looking Pinky in the whole short. What’s up with those messed up ears?

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Holy holy holy cow. This is some unbelievably animation of Brain. Especially great is the shot of him angrily walking towards the camera. But all of these scenes are amazing. Look at the poses, the expressions, the body language. It’s been a while since Brain has looked this great. I’m positive this is a scene that Spike Brandt animated. It’s too good to belong to anyone else.

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This is such an atypical Pinky expression, but I still really love it.

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I’m not sure who handled the last minute and a half of this cartoon, but I really like his style too. Whoever it was absolutely nailed every single one of Brain’s expressions. They’re all total knockouts. Wang usually was the master at great Brain expressions, but these shots give them a run for their money. Look at that third screenshot and try not to laugh.

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My absolute favorite bit of animation in this episode is timed to the last four notes in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. The shrug and big grin on Pinky is funny, but wow, check out some of these powerful drawings of Brain. There’s so much confidence in this final shot. I would love to know who animated it.

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And if that final shot wasn’t already great, they get incredibly ballsy by pulling out of the lab immediately afterwards. It quickly hooks onto a slightly re-tooled version of the original TMS intro, but something like this still takes a lot of effort. It’s nice that we got to go back to Acme Labs one last time, at least on this show.

Joke Credit: If At First You Don’t Succeed: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite

Tower Outro: “Lather.” “Rinse.” “Repeat.”

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What A Fabulously Cheap Cartoon!: Episode 93

Variable Verse: Chicken Chow Mein-y!

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This cartoon picks up where the traditional Snow White story leaves off. After being rescued from her eternal sleep by the prince, Snow White throws the evil queen off a cliff and takes over her castle. She keeps the queen’s magic mirror around, so that it can tell her how cute she is. But when she discovers that her cuteness has been eclipsed by Dot Warner, she has her two dwarves (well, this is a fabulously cheap cartoon) capture and imprison Dot in the castle. Her prison guard is none other than the Dennis Hopper caricature from “Hearts of Twilight”, so Dot uses her cute weirdness on him and manages to escape. The confrontation with Snow White ends when the clueless prince knocks them both out a window, and Snow White winds up falling to her death in a crocodile-filled moat. Dot then proceeds to take over the castle, covering the magic mirror with furniture when it has the audacity to tell her that the Olsen twins are cuter than she is.

It would be hard for any Warners segment to be much worse than “Anchors A-Warners”, but this awful little short actually manages to scrape the very bottom of the barrel. Between the Koko animation (which we’ll get to in a minute) and the character designs, it actually feels much more like a Freakazoid cartoon. A terribly unfunny Freakazoid cartoon, but a Freakazoid cartoon nonetheless. There’s an air of meanness to how the human characters are portrayed, with Snow White especially coming across as an embarrassingly shrill little shrew. The short is also pretty frank in the way it kills off the characters, as the evil queen is casually dropped off a cliff and Snow White herself is eaten with a very audible off-screen “chomp” after being tricked by Dot into falling into the castle’s moat. The “two dwarves” nonsense is incredibly lame, and pointing out how stupid it is doesn’t make it better either. And the fact that the most memorable thing about this cartoon is the way it rips off the best gag from a season one short is unbelievably sad. They couldn’t think of anything better than bringing back the whole Dennis Hopper thing again? This barely feels like a Warners short, since Yakko and Wakko have absolutely nothing to do aside from the business about the “chunnel”, which would have been much funnier in a better directed short. But hands down, the very worst part of this cartoon is the obnoxious narration, which is just painfully grating. They’re going for something that sounds like a Robin Leach parody, but it just hurts to listen to. And since this voice is the very first thing we hear, it sets the tone for the rest of the short.

This is also the first Animaniacs cartoon to feature animation from Koko Enterprises in South Korea. A relatively new studio at the time, Koko had already provided animation for Warner Brothers on shows such as Freakazoid and The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, and had a style that was a little more simplistic and angular than the studios that had worked on Animaniacs in the past. They really don’t bring anything new or distinctive to the show, and their animation just hangs there, with really nothing appealing to latch on to. In fact, their work really just recalls a smoothed over Akom, and I’m willing to bet that anyone going into this cartoon without realizing who was animating it would probably think Akom actually did work on it. Coming off the Startoons segments in the previous episode, Koko’s work in this show is just boring and lifeless. They didn’t really end up doing too much for the series - though episode 97 is entirely animated by the studio - but that’s probably just as well.

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The queen takes Snow White to a fast food joint called Quick Nix, and poisons her with an apple in a hamburger. Right next door to the restaurant is a cemetery, with an open plot for Snow White. Wow, that’s…really dark.

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The opening shots of the theme song are re-created, doing nothing more than making me miss how great TMS’ work used to be. Way to go, Koko Enterprises. This isn’t terrible, but it does beg the question: in the context of the show, do they re-film the theme song for every episode?

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Says the narrator, “Meanwhile, Dot wondered how long she’d have to endure this horrible torture.” “Actually”, explains Dot, “I was wondering how long I’d have to endure this horrible narrator.” Pointing it out isn’t exactly clever, but in this case it’s pretty funny. Definitely agree with Dot on this one.

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Who’s bright idea was it to go back to this joke? It worked in “Hearts of Twilight” because the situation called for the Hooper caricature, and Wang really sold the fantastic poses and expressions. It doesn’t work at all here and, unbelievably, they copied the same scene again in Wakko’s Wish. WHY??

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Yakko and Wakko propose building a tunnel connecting Britain to France. Snow White explains that it’s already been done and it’s called a “chunnel”. After explaining that it sounds like a chocolate bar, Wakko shouts “Hey, who wants a chunnel?!” and then says that hey had planned to call it “Mister Timmy’s Big Underwater Tube.” In a cartoon that wasn’t so absolutely awful, this whole exchange might have been so much funnier than it is.

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The Warners are Russian immigrants who have just arrived at Ellis Island. After the trio is kicked clear to Manhattan by the Statue of Liberty, we learn this opening is only a set-up to get the kids into NYC to attend the Emmys. Yakko announces that he knows some “acquaintances” they can stay with, so the Warners move in with the cast of Friends, and begin to drive them crazy. Dot begins shoving food into Monica’s mouth - causing her to fall off the wagon and gain weight again - and later smashes tone-deaf Phoebe’s guitar. Yakko meanwhile, interrupts a romantic moment between Ross and Rachel by asking if anyone wants to play Scruples. Finally, the cast is tossed out of their own apartment, with Yakko telling them that they can come back in if they can actually do something, as opposed to nothing. When the group finally re-enters, they discover the Warners have made a shambles of the apartment and proceed to kick them out for good. Needing a new group of trendy New Yorkers to hang out with, the Warners head down to the diner and harass the cast of Seinfeld.

"Acquaintances" is the ultimate "throw the Warners into a pop culture parody and let it write itself" cartoon, and is really only funny if you think Friends references are hilarious in and of themselves. The short gets off to a weird start with the immigration opening, and really has trouble shaking off this bizarre feeling that hangs over it the whole time. The cartoon isn’t really parodying Friends - this is Friends, right down to the characters’ names and the design of the apartment. The Warners are just there to cause trouble and be goofy, and the story really just regresses them down to a trio of obnoxious little house crashers with no personality. For the most part, the cartoon acts as if the viewer is going to laugh simply because they’re familiar with the show. Haha, Phoebe can’t sing. Haha, Monica is really fat. Haha, Ross has a monkey. Haha, Joey is an idiot. Haha, Chandler is sarcastic. With the exception of Dot smashing the guitar (which does make me laugh quite a bit) just pointing out stuff from the TV show isn’t funny. The team of Gordon Bressack and Charles M. Howell IV has had a hit or miss track record with Animaniacs over the years, writing some fantastic entries but oftentimes turning out some less than stellar work. I wouldn’t say this is their weakest cartoon, but it’s close.

Adding to the strange nature of this entry is the offbeat animation by a studio called Phillipine Animation, who has a style that resembles Akom, Freelance, Toon City and Walt Disney Television Animation-Australia if all four studios were tossed into a blender. There are moments that contain some terrific, fluid movement, and the caricatures of the Friends cast are generally handled very well. But more often than not, the animation completely falls apart, becoming incredibly off model and sloppy, almost painful to watch. Like Akom before them, Phillipine has no idea how to work with the Warners, giving them the same dead, soulless eyes we always get from studios who have no clue what they’re doing with these characters. There are things here you’re not going to see in any other Animaniacs cartoon, including airbrushed props (check out the couch that Yakko flips over) and a realistically rendered Statue of Liberty. I don’t know what else this studio has done, but there’s potential here, and there are some glimmers of really amazing, almost theatrical-quality work hidden amongst the mediocrity.  We’re never going to see this studio ever again, but as far as I’m concerned their work makes this cartoon a must watch just for curiosities sake.

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Okay seriously, what’s up with the Ellis Island opening? It just seems so out of place with the rest of the cartoon, and is totally disposable. There’s only one joke - that the immigration officer takes their long Russian names and turns them into “Yakko”, “Wakko” and “Dot”, but that’s not enough to justify it’s existence.

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Yakko asks, “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego staying?”, allowing the character to glide past in the foreground. Not a bad joke, but like everything else in this cartoon, it just feels off.

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The Friends theme song parody features Ross’ monkey leaping on a man in a contamination suit. The explanation? The exact same monkey who played Marcel also appeared in the movie Outbreak. So, you know, this is funny because they referenced it.

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Yakko asks to kill the laugh track, and we get this hideous drawing which lasts a couple seconds longer than it has to. Like most lower-tier studios, Phillipines just couldn’t get those eyes right.

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Although the character models are a little off, this shot features some really great, fluid animation, especially of Wakko popping out of the fridge and leaping to the floor. It’s very well done, and if the whole cartoon had looked this good, it would probably be a season five standout.

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Some more really fluid animation of Wakko flailing around as he jumps on the bed. I like that they went the extra mile to animate the bed sheet and pillows as well.

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Dot throws herself at Joey. Again, the animation here is really nice and expressive, and I really like the face Dot settles on when she finishes her line.

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This is easily my favorite moment in the short. Gail Matthius does a really funny vocal performance as Phoebe, singing yet another stupid song. Dot walks in with this terrific puss on her face and offers to tune her guitar. She then smashes it off screen and hands the remains back to Phoebe. Hands up if you wished that someone (anyone) would have done that on the show. “Smelly Cat” was only funny once, people.

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This couch isn’t part of the background painting. It’s actually a piece of cel animation. They never did anything like this on the show, so this really stands out.

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Some decent dialogue occurs when the characters get tossed out of the apartment. Says Chandler, “This is so what’ll we do. Could this be even more so what’ll we do?” Everyone then just looks at him and says, “Huh?” in unison. So what do they do? “Try to take over the world? No, that’s Pinky and the Brain”, thinks Phoebe. The soundtrack plays a little bit of the Pinky and the Brian theme during this bit, a nice touch.

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This quick Brady Bunch parody gives us a change to see all the Friends caricatures in one shot, including skinny Monica. The Warners don’t look all that great in this cartoon, but the human characters have very strong likenesses to the actual stars of the show. In fact, the designs aren’t very typical “WB comedy show”, another thing that makes this short unique.

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The worst piece of animation occurs when the Brady Bunch opening segues into a parody of Hollywood Squares. Wakko looks terrible, and it only gets worse when Ross enters and pulls him out of the shot.

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Character Cameo: here are some mis-colored Goodfeathers. Squit is purple and Pesto is blue. They usually didn’t make mistakes like that, so something like this really stands out.

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Ignoring how terrible Wakko looks, where is Kramer? You’d think they’d include the most popular Seinfeld character.

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The Warners sing a song about Attila the Hun, packing as much info as they can into only a minute and a half and three verses. The fact that Attila liked to steal pillows is a running joke, while Dot explains that he died after gorging himself on three oxen. Though most of the lyrics in the chorus end with words that rhyme with “Attila”, we learn the Hun’s favorite ice cream was strawberry. “What can I say? It’s not a perfect world”, says Yakko. The song randomly ends with a reference to Magilla Gorilla…for some reason. There have been a whole lot of standalone musical sequences on this show over the years, and although this one is basically harmless, it’s also probably the most forgettable. I can’t even think of anything to say about it. Koko’s animation is the same as before and there’s nothing clever visually here, since it’s really just illustrating what’s being sung without any flair. As it’s less than two minutes long, the song ends as quickly as it starts. There’s a lot of Animaniacs segments that leave you saying, “What was that about?” when they end, and this is probably the most notable. And that’s a shame, because this is the very last standalone musical sequence to air. It’s certainly not the last Animaniacs song, since the “Hooray for North Hollywood” two-parter is crammed full of them, but it’s still the end of an era.

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I really need to look for things to talk about here. It’s weird that Attila is fighting with a pair of clowns I suppose. Weird for the sake of being weird isn’t always funny.

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Attila doesn’t speak, but the laughing is familiar. That’s Jim Cummings. He’s uncredited, but it’s definitely him.

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Every so often Koko surprises me with some really on-model Warners. This shot goes by very quick, but I really like it. That’s a fantastic Dot.

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I get that Magilla Gorilla (or “Attila Gorilla” as he’s called here) fits the rhyming scheme, but still…that’s a strange non sequitur ending.

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Millionaire playboy Spruce Wayne (Adam West) isn’t exactly thrilled when his butler accuses his loyal sidekick, the Boo Wonder, of being a giant chicken. But more importantly, the Caped Crusader’s arch nemesis, Punchline, has taken over the local TV studio, and is threatening to program endless reruns of She’s the Sheriff if the heroes aren’t brought to him. Arriving at the TV station (with Wayne assuring the commissioner that his sidekick is NOT a giant chicken), the pair head inside and confront Punchline. Like everyone else, the villain is certain that the Boo Wonder is a giant chicken, and plans to unmask him. A fight breaks out, and the heroes are able to defeat the bad guys without incident. Unfortunately, when the Caped Crusader slaps Boo on the back for a job well done, he knocks off his wig and mask and reveals him to be Chicken Boo, much to Punchline’s delight. As always Boo is kicked clear across the city, and sadly wanders off to his theme music once again.

While it really can’t save the entire episode, on its own “Boo Wonder” is a lot of fun. In terms of Batman spoofs, this one blows away the lackluster “Cranial Crusader”, and then some. While it does make a point of dodging the names “Batman” and “Robin”, it’s still an incredibly loving tribute to the original 1960’s Batman TV show. This was right around the time that Adam West started lending his voice to all manner of animated series, and his performance here gives the short a feeling of authenticity nonsense like The Caped Opossum couldn’t possibly have. The Batmobile is straight out of the TV series, punches and kicks are all accompanied by the appropriate on-screen sound effects, and the heroes even climb the side of the building they way they did on the show. Although he’s just an amalgam of The Joker and Riddler, Punchline is still far more interesting than Johnny Badnote, helped tremendously by Rob Paulsen’s remarkably goofy voice work. On top of everything else, this is one cartoon that’s actually helped by Koko’s angular style, and is easily the most visually interesting short they did for Animaniacs. As I’ve said before, it’s incredible to think that not only are they still churning out Chicken Boo cartoons, they’re actually putting some real effort into them. There’s only one more Boo entry left, folks…

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These designs would look out of place on any other Animaniacs cartoon. But they really fit the Batman parody. All three of these characters are very well designed, but Paulsen steals the show with the demented Jim Carrey voice that Punchline gets.

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Ladies and gentlemen: our heroes. Batman and Colonel Sanders’ worst nightmare!

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Character Cameo: Whenever Batman and Robin were walking up the side of a building, some other character (sometimes a random celebrity) would pop out a window and comment on what they were doing. So here’s Dot, commenting on how she loves men in uniform.

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And of course, you couldn’t do a Chicken Boo/Batman parody without some of the sound effects being chicken related.

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What happened here? Throughout most of the cartoon the Caped Crusader’s chest clearly displayed the Batman logo. But at the end of the short, it becomes a big, black W. I wonder why.

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And the cartoon closes with one final Batman joke: Chicken Boo silhouetted against the moon like the Bat Signal. Funny stuff.

Joke Credit: Insert Funny Joke Credit: (Here)

Tower Outro: Sayonara!

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Oy, Macadamia!: Episode 92

Startoons had a good thing going with Warner Brothers Animation in the early ’90s. Taking a chance on Jon McClenahan’s Chicago studio, producer Tom Ruegger initially gave Startoons a handful of Tiny Toon Adventures and Taz-Mania episodes to animate, before giving them a much bigger workload on Animaniacs. Although they couldn’t turn out work as fast as the Asian studios, many of the cartoons Startoons worked on (especially several of the Slappy Squirrel shorts) are among the series’ all time best. But when FOX didn’t order any new episodes of Animaniacs for the 1994/95 season, there was no longer any material to send Startoons’ way, and McClenahan could no longer afford to keep paying a full staff. In the end, his best animators (including Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone and Jeff Siergey) left for jobs on the West Coast, leaving Jon to put together a new crew when Warners finally sent more Animaniacs work his way in 1997. The resulting cartoons  - including a mix of Warners, Slappy, Pinky and the Brain and Chicken Boo shorts, not to mention a handful of musical numbers - are hit or miss, with this episode featuring one of the greatest pieces of animation Startoons ever created.

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Written by Lenord Robinson and Lennie K Graves, Directed by Jon McClenahan

This short segment finds Wakko being chased around a house by something terrifying that the audience can’t see, with the camera located behind Wakko as he runs in and out of rooms attempting to escape whatever is following him. Finally, he’s cornered in the basement, the music builds and…it’s just Dot, who was playing tag with him the whole time.

Startoons animated several really great cold openers and bumpers during the first production season, and “It” is right up there with “Warners’ World of Baldness” as one of their absolute best. From the very first second Wakko appears in screen we know this is undeniably Startoons’ work, and the animation is a huge breath of fresh air after two seasons full of Akom and Wang cartoons. McClenahan shared animation duties with David Pryor for this segment, and the resulting minute-long sequence is easily on par with anything the studio did during the first season. But what really brought this cartoon to the next level was Jon’s decision keep the backgrounds stylized and animate them on cels, rendering everything a monochromatic blue, with the exception of Wakko’s red nose and hat. This works incredibly well, as even the full-color, animated backgrounds seen in many Akom cartoons would have looked terrible here. The simplified backgrounds allow the first person perspective animation to get pretty daring, including a scene where the camera follows Wakko as he bounces up and down on a bed. The comically intense chase music also brings everything together wonderfully. A fantastic opening to this episode, “It” is only a warm up to the unbelievable musical number to follow…

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The establishing shots really help set the mood and go a long way towards getting us used to the unique background style of the cartoon. The opening is deliberately slow as it moves from the shot of the earth, to a neighborhood, to an open window to a door knob, before the door is flung open and the chase begins.

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I’m not too familiar with David Pryor’s animation style, but if he’s the only one who contributed to this cartoon aside from McClenahan, the first half of the chase sequence must have been animated by him. It’s distinctly Startoons, but it’s clearly not Jon’s work. But it still looks great, though.

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The animation appears to switch to McClenahan when Wakko leaps on to the overhead light. The curves of the head, the teeth…it’s definitely Jon. Pryor’s Wakko looks a bit like this, but he was clearly going off McClenahan’s storyboards.

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The last shot is terrific, swinging around Wakko to reveal Dot, who dances up the stairs leaving a creepy, ghostly shadow behind. Wakko’s  expressions here - as well as the body language on Dot - are so wonderfully Startoons.

Variable Verse: …ehhh…

Dot - The Macadamia Nut

Written by Tom Ruegger, Directed by Jon McClenahan

In one of the most overt pop culture parodies in Animaniacs history, the entire cast gathers together to spoof the mid-90’s phenomenon “Macarena” by one-hit wonder Los del Rio. The song takes place against a white backdrop, with characters gleefully dancing along to the tune that by 1997 most of America had gotten sick of hearing. At the forefront is Dot, wearing a variety of outfits and flanked by Hello Nurse and Minerva Mink, who sings, “I act like a nut so they call me Macadamia, I dance like a klutz on a show called Animania.” Meanwhile, Yakko and Wakko sway back and forth next to a microphone, dressed in black suits and explaining, “Dot is a nut so they call her Macamania, she’s cracked in the head and kooky in the brain-ia. Each line in this song sounds pretty much the same-ia.” “Oy, Macadamia!” is a constant refrain, along with nonsense Spanish lyrics and words that end with “…ainia”. Dot sings of her brother “Wakkarino”, who she had to throw out of the tower when he wouldn’t stop burping. The only character not enjoying herself through the whole thing is Slappy, who can do little more than glare at the camera as everyone else seems to get a little too into the music. Finally Dot clarifies, “But you can call me by my other name-ia, Lousia Franchesca Banana Fana Bo Besca. Or just plain Dot, the name I flirt to. But if you call me Dottie I’ll have to hurt you!”

A true labor of love, “Dot-the Macadamia Nut” was not only Jon McClenahan’s pet project but unquestionably one his greatest masterpieces. He laid the entire cartoon out himself and claims to have done a good 60% of the animation in it, if not more. His work in this short is incredible, with the sort of attitude, life and energy that’s been missing from the show for a long time. Helping immensely is the blank canvas the white backgrounds gave him to truly be expressive with the poses and dance animation. The characters pop right off the screen and almost every second is chock full of expressive animation and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos from the rest of the cast. Just about every character that you could possibly name is here, from Pinky and the Brain and the Goodfeathers all the way down to the Mime, Colin, Walter Wolf and Newt. Even characters that are specific to older Startoons-animated shorts like Pip Pumphandle and Wally Llama show up. It must have been a daunting task to handle so many cast members in such a short amount of time, all dancing in sync with the music and many that Startoons had never worked with before. Luckily, McClenahan had some top talent helping him out in this short, including David Pryor (who did phenomenal work on all the scenes of Yakko and Wakko by the microphone) and Neal Sternecky, whose style is unmistakable in some scenes toward the end of the cartoon. There was such a large commitment to making this sequence look as good as it possibly could that, after its initial airing, animation and coloring mistakes that had slipped by the first time were corrected, something that rarely happens in television cartoons, especially in the pre-digital age.

Additionally, thanks to Warner Brothers going out and actually purchasing the rights to “Macarena”, it was possible to do a parody that was still very true to the original music video without having to twist the music in such a way to turn it into a weaker sound-alike.  If you’ve ever seen the Los del Rio music video, you’d know just how close this segment is to the real thing. It’s authentic even down to separate layers of film that scroll up and down like a slot machine in some shots, which this cartoon mocks by tossing cherries, lemons and bar symbols into the mix. It’s impossible to get tired of watching this cartoon, and I know very few people who don’t absolutely love it. It’s easily one of the most well known segments from the Kids WB years, and includes some of the very best animation in any Animaniacs episode since the first season. If you’re a fan of this show, you’ve probably already seen “Dot-the Macadamia Nut” countless times. But if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go watch this right now. I promise that you won’t regret it. It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite cartoons, and it set  a standard that was way too high for Startoons to ever meet again in terms of their work on this show.  The rest of the material they turned out this season is certainly interesting, but nothing touches this short in terms of animation and entertainment value. Oy, Macadamia!

(Instead of posting images in chronological order the way I usually do, I’m going to arrange them in a way that makes them easier to talk about, grouping them for the most part according to animator and/or character)

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All of these shots are the work of McClenahan. I can’t believe how nice all of this animation is. He certainly hasn’t lost his touch with these characters despite spending some time away from them. His animation on Dot is nothing short of perfect. It’s all amazingly on model while still retaining all the hallmarks of his personal style. Just sit back for a minute and imagine what Animaniacs would have been like if Startoons had stayed on for the later seasons. It’s almost criminal that it didn’t happen.

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As previously mentioned, all the scenes of Yakko and Wakko by the microphone were done by an animator named David Pryor. His work is beyond fantastic, and he handles the pair with an almost theatrical precision. These are definitely my favorite bits of animation that Startoons ever did, and I was blown away when I first saw it, especially the last image, as Yakko and Wakko sing, “Cuts and bruises you will sustain-ia!” I’m convinced that Pryor must have done work with these characters for the Animaniacs commercials that featured new animation (such as the ones for Kraft and McDonalds) because the styles are so similar.

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These shots look like they were all done by Neal Sternecky, another animator whose style was unmistakable. Anyone familiar with the DC Animaniacs comic will recognize his stuff right away. There’s a looseness to it that’s different from the usual Startoons look, but still has a ton of character.

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Slappy spends most of the short glaring at the camera, obviously wishing she wasn’t there. At one point, several of the characters begin laughing at nothing in particular, so Slappy shouts at them, “I don’t get it, what’s the joke?!” No one has an answer for her, so again, we get an exasperated look to the camera.

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Most of the shots of Pinky and the Brain are among the weakest bits of Animation in the cartoon. Pinky especially, looks terribly off-model and rat-like. McClenahan attributes this animation to John Griffin and explains that he wasn’t aware he had to inbetween his own work. The first shot was one that had to be fixed after the cartoon first aired.

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Pinky and the Brain look much more on model in this shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if - judging by Brain’s mouth - this was a McClenahan shot.

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It’s really nice to see Walter, Sid and Beanie together again. Beanie is spared Slappy’s wrath, as the squirrel takes her frustration out on Walter and Sid, crushing both of them with mallets.

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Mindy, Buttons, Rita and Runt are characters Startoons had never gone anywhere near before, and for the most part the foursome keep getting paired up together in different ways. I definitely like the combination of Runt and Buttons, a natural idea that they’d go back to briefly in Wakko’s Wish.

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Speaking of characters that Statoons had never handled before, here are the Goodfeathers, complete with the only Godpigeon appearance since season two. A little bit later in the song, Pesto pounces on Squit and attacks him, for reasons that aren’t shown. Again, this is the first time anything like this has happened since season two. Startoons is going to work with the Goodfeathers again in episode 98 for a slightly longer appearance.

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Flavio and Marita’s contribution to the cartoon is mainly slapping their hips together, which they seem to do constantly. Reaction shots from Skippy seem to indicate that he’s weirded out by it, especially the way their tails wiggle whenever they do it. SPEW!

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Pip Pumphandle must have been one of McClenahan’s favorite one-shot characters. He keeps appearing whenever Jon directs a cartoon with a lot of characters in it.

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Here’s an example of the scrolling film layers, complete with the slot machine symbols. According to McClenahan, the Mime was animated by Sternecky in this shot.

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"NUTS!"

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Slappy, Skippy and the Warners have been dragged into a congressional hearing. There, Federal Television Agency chairman Reef Blunt (a parody of FCC head Reed Hundt) introduces a new legislation that limits TV violence and requires three hours of weekly educational programming on every station across the country. Furthermore, he expects everyone to adhere to its strict guidelines - “Especially you, Miss Squirrel!” To that end, a “non-violent and educational” problem solver is delivered to Slappy’s tree, a huge, complicated, nondescript piece of machinery that she ends up spending the entire cartoon attempting to assemble. Unfortunately, poor Skippy has bigger problems, as he’s being tormented and beaten senseless by a bully at school named Duke. Slappy’s immediate solution to that problem is to hand Skippy a mallet, but Skippy explains that he’d rather try a non-violent solution and take the advice of his guidance counselor Miss Buttley. However, Buttley’s advice - which includes ignoring Duke, befriending him and appealing to his sense of empathy - gets Skippy brutally manhandled, punched in the face and tossed into a bus. And each time, he comes hobbling home babbling in a daze, but still determined to find a non-violent solution. But eventually, he agrees to do things Slappy’s way…

Playing off the fact that Duke steals everything Skippy brings to school, the young squirrel arrives with a metal helmet, which the bully immediately takes. Using a lifting magnet, Skippy allows gravity to beat his tormentor to a pulp. Next, Skippy blows up Duke with dynamite stuffed inside a boombox, and then sends him to kingdom come with a rocket pack hidden inside a school bag. By fighting fire with fire, the squirrels are actually able to reform the bully, who Slappy puts to work building her non-violent problem solver. Just as they finish, who should arrive but Reef Blunt and Miss Buttley, who have been watching the cartoon and are furious at the lessons Skippy has been taught by his aunt. When asked what she’s been trying to prove, Slappy turns on the problem solver, which nabs Blunt and Buttley and tosses them inside, where they’re mangled, pulverized and shredded in a way that the viewer can’t see. Slappy explains that she made a few modifications to the machine, allowing for problems to be solved with violence, but for it to happen off screen. “And besides, it’s government approved, so ya know it’s good for you!”, explains Slappy. With that, the defeated pair give Slappy their full approval. “Now that’s, edu-tainment!”, concludes Slappy.

"Bully for Skippy" is a bit of a bi-polar cartoon, but it’s weak points are far outweighed by everything it does right. Where it really succeeds is with the way it completely trashes the FCC, specifically their "Children’s Television Act", which was revised in 1996 with guidelines along the same lines of what is described in the short. Says writer Ruegger in a 2013 interview with mental_floss, "This one was, maybe, the most political thing I ever wrote. It was in reaction to the FCC mandating that there be a very specific and heavy amount of hours per day in the TV schedule that’s educational for children, which ultimately impacted the kinds of cartoons that channels could put on the air." The opening and ending sequences, with Slappy dealing with these issues head-on, are definitely the strongest part of this cartoon. Blunt comes across as a smug jackass, seemingly proud of himself for putting a figurative straightjacket over Slappy and limiting what she’s able to get away with. The old squirrel’s headaches continue with the obnoxious problem solver machine, which refuses to stay in one piece no matter how hard she tries to put it together. The final scene is also well done, with Slappy’s "solution" to her problem being genuinely clever. Also working in this cartoon’s favor is the fact that it’s the first Slappytoon in a long while in which an enemy character - namely Duke - is dispatched with a healthy dose of violence, something that really hasn’t been done since Slappy attended Walter Wolf’s funeral in episode 73. Duke (voiced by Corey Burton) is truly a despicable creation, the sort of deplorable, brain-dead, moron we were all unfortunate enough to run into at school at one point or another. It’s fun to watch Skippy get the better of him, and it’s great that, even though the squirrels reform him, they still don’t treat him very well afterwards. The scenes in Miss Buttley’s office are also pretty funny, as she clearly doesn’t give a fig about what happens to Skippy, and by the end is robotically telling him what to do with barely any eye contact.

On the other hand, the cartoon is also incredibly long, much longer than it needs to be in my opinion. We get three sequences of Skippy being tortured by Duke, three more sequences of him getting even, three scenes in Buttley’s office and multiple scenes in Slappy’s tree of Skippy coming home injured. The pacing of the bulk of this short is very lethargic, and all this material could have easily been combined and shortened a bit without hurting the flow of the cartoon at all. Additionally, the animation lacks the polish of the rest of the segments in the short, which is understandable with something that runs a full fifteen minutes long. Most of the scenes with Slappy feature some very strong Startoons animation, with the opening sequence being solidly animated by McClenahan himself. We also get a clip of an old Slappy cartoon entitled “Whap Whap Whappy Slappy”, featuring the squirrel going up against a German military dog, which includes more great animation. But the scenes with Skippy and Duke are all over the place, especially in the second act, which is uncharacteristically sloppy for Startoons. While Ruegger has stated that this short is one of his favorites, McClenahan has gone on record as saying that he didn’t think it ended up being very good. Still, it’s a very enjoyable comeback for Slappy, and her last really decent cartoon in the series. Startoons only handled four single-narrative cartoons for the fifth season, but “Bully for Skippy” is probably their best one. It’s not perfect, but I really like it.

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Great faces on the squirrels and Warners as they listen to Blunt drone on about the new legislature. “We’re ruined”, remarks Slappy. “It’s the end of civilization as we know it”, agrees Yakko. I do have to question Yakko’s perfectly round eyes though.

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The “media watchdogs” keep a close eye on Skippy and Slappy. I remember being a little shocked at how deep Nathan Ruegger’s voice had gotten by this point, as it really had been a while since he had a speaking role on the show. The voice was pitched up a little bit more in later cartoons, and never ended up sounding as deep as this again.

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The vintage Slappy cartoon we see gives us another peak at the squirrel in her younger days. I’m surprised they never thought to do a full-length classic Slappytoon like they did with the Warners. I would have liked to have seen one.

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In a scene with terrific timing and some great voice work by Stoner, Slappy freaks out when Skippy explains he wants to try non-violent solutions to his problems. “Give me back my nephew you little ET” she screams, shaking Skippy violently.

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Skippy’s attempts to ignore Duke go nowhere. The bully grabs him and twists him into a pretzel. “You now have my undivided attention”, moans Skippy. You really do feel bad for him in this cartoon. Luckily Duke gets what he deserves.

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Much like “Soccer Coach Slappy”, the script called for Skippy to come home crying each day. Nathan Ruegger wanted nothing to do with it this time, and recommended that Skippy come home babbling various commercial slogans. Here he says, “It’s two, two, two mints in one!”. Other slogans used include, “It’s strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” and “If it doesn’t get all over the place it doesn’t belong in your face.” I’ll admit, it’s definitely funnier than hearing him cry. Even Nate’s dad had to agree on that one.

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Voiced by MacNeille, Miss Buttley is a colossal waste of a guidance counselor. The last time Skippy goes to her office, she advices him to appeal to Duke’s sense of empathy. After a fantastic, incredulous sneer, Skippy asks Buttley is she’s sure she’s a doctor. Buttley then cracks up with that patented MacNeille cackle, immediately snaps back into seriousness and says, “Why of course I am, Skippy.” Check out the second screenshot. She’s not even looking at the poor kid.

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The staging in this shot is really great. Duke looks very imposing in the foreground, while Skippy looks like a pathetic deer in headlights. It’s so sad the way he’s looking over his shoulder like that.

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It happens in “Macadamia” as well but it’s far more pronounced here. Just what the holy hell is up with Slappy’s eyebrows in this episode??? This is the most extreme example.

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I know we’re supposed to feel really sorry for Skippy, but I think this particular scene goes a little too far. The poor kid looks like he’s about to die. Ouch.

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Great timing here. Duke opens the battery compartment on the boombox, sees the dynamite, reacts, tries to replace the compartment door and BOOM! I like how he’s in such a hurry to replace the door that he tires to put it back on sideways.

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McClenahan has stated that Spike Brandt lent his services to “Brain’s Apprentice” in episode 94. But doesn’t this look a LOT like his work? His Slappy model looks awfully close to how it did when he was animating for Startoons full time. This version of Slappy is the only one without the eyebrow issue as well.

Joke Credit: Assistant To The Assistant’s Assistant: Ouchy MacGouchy

Tower Outro: Buenos Noches!

Special thanks to Peter Paltridge of Platypus Comix, whose interview with Jon McClenahan helped immensely in writing this post, not to mention Jon’s own postings on the Toon Zone message board. I’m very grateful for all the information McClenahan has been willing to share over the years with Animaniacs fans.

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We’ve Suffered Enough On Saturday Mornings: Episode 91

Season five of Animaniacs began on September 8th, 1997 (on a Monday no less, a rare weekday premiere) and though you wouldn’t know it from this particular show, the winds of change blew pretty strongly that year as the final batch of new episodes aired. Akom was finally dumped like a bad habit, with Koko Enterprises in South Korea picking up the slack, while Startoons was able to return with over two full episodes of new material. The character variety from the fourth season gave way to mostly Warners and Slappy cartoons again, although a solitary Pinky and the Brain short also made a welcome appearance. And finally, the Warners starred in the series’ only two-part episode. Season five is a very mixed bag, with an interesting combination of good and bad, so let’s begin…

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Variable Verse: Public Domain-y

It’s been a good run, but this is the last original variable verse. From this point onward the remaining episodes start to use older variable verses. It was nice while it lasted.

Bumper: Moosage in a Bottle

Out at sea in a rowboat, the Warners discover a message in a bottle. “Fan mail from some flounder?”, asks Wakko. It’s a note from their lawyers: “We never should have stolen this bit”, explains Yakko. At least they didn’t steal the next cartoon. Or did they? Yeah, we get it, it’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle reference. There’s not much to say about this bumper. Wang’s animation is nice, but there’s nothing else to talk about here.

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A few shots from this bumper. The style is still undeniably Wang, but the confidence in the drawings that was apparent even early in the previous season is no longer there. Granted, it’s still much better than Akom, but they definitely seem to be losing their edge.

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In 1962, the Termite Terrace studio closed its doors for the last time, putting animators and cartoon characters alike out of work. Thaddeus Plotz, meanwhile, bets the studio’s fortune on a film titled “Youngblood Squawk” starring Tab Boo (yes, it’s Chicken Boo) which turns out to be a colossal failure. Needing some quick money, Plotz decides to loan out the Warners - the only cartoon characters he has left - to Phil and Shmoe (parodies of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera), who are producing limited animation for television. There, the Warners find themselves paired up with Calhoun Capybara, a Yogi Bear wannabe who steals lunch boxes from school playgrounds. The Warners proceed to aggravate Calhoun and eventually march him off a cliff and into a geyser. Next, the trio make a guest appearance in an episode of “Uhuru, Where Are You?”, where they ride the show’s canine star like a horse, play a “cheesy fake rock song” and injure the rest of the cast. Phil and Shmoe return Yakko, Wakko and Dot to the Warner lot, but with Plotz losing a costly gamble on yet another film starring Chicken Boo, the Warners learn their loan-out days are far from over.

Desperate for cash, Plotz has the Warners guest star on an episode of “Thunderdogg”. Thanks to the trio’s interference, Thunderdogg is crushed by a heavy weight, while the show’s heroine, Polly Dognose, is dropped into a tank of seawater and fed to a hungry seal. After that, the Warners are loaned out to Phlegmation, where it’s explained that they fouled up that studio’s stock animation system something awful. They find themselves in an episode of “Obese Orsen”, a show which limits itself to three new scenes of animation per episode. The kids are the only characters on the show capable of any real movement and learn that the cast is too busy preaching pro-social value to have any fun. By this point, Plotz has turned the studio’s fortunes around, but has neglected to tell the Warners, who continue to appear in other people’s cartoons. When they get wind of what’s going on, the Warners return to the studio and beg Plotz to stop loaning them out. When the CEO explains that he’s preparing yet another film starring Chicken Boo (“Shamboo”), the Warners tear up their contract and head for the water tower, announcing that they’re not coming out until they get their own network. “That oughtta be good for about ehhhhh twenty years”, explains Yakko. “Oh yeah, like that could ever happen”, concludes Dot.

"Back in Style" is generally considered one of the highlights from the later period of the series. It’s easy to see why, since it gleefully stomps all over the limited animation style that became prevalent in the 1960’s and 70’s. The cartoon is stuffed full of references animation aficionados would recognize, from the closure of Termite Terrace (Bugs and Daffy head off to star in a flavored beverage commercial) to parodies of shows like Underdog and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Much like the “65th Anniversary Special”, the cartoon is treated like a documentary. We get several interviews with people who worked behind the scenes at the studios the Warners were loaned out to, many of them well past the point of senility. One animator at a nursing home proceeds to draw all over the walls with his feet, while another ends his interview by asking who the current president is. The clips are remarkably true to the shows they’re riffing on, and it’s been said that even Akom (of all studios) had trouble to keeping the animation limited enough to mimic what Hanna-Barbera and Filmation used to do. The Calhoun Capybara cartoon has the appropriate simplistic backgrounds (which Wakko eats) and nonstop stock library music, while the Thunderdogg clip is particularly choppy and nonsensical. But the best is easily the Obese Orson sequence, which is a scathing commentary on just how terrible Filmation was as an animation studio. The entire segment is nothing but Orson and a group of Cosby Kid parodies sitting around a clubhouse talking, without moving anything but their eyes and mouths. None of the characters can do anything to stop the annoying Warners, since they’ve used up all the new animation (all three shots of it) just to get Orson to the clubhouse in the first place. A running gag involves someone named Hooked-Nose Harold, who is constantly choking on his own nose in a tight close-up. It’s all unbelievably random and cheap, but that’s true of just about everything Filmation did. Writer Tom Minton had worked as a storyboard artist at Filmation (not to mention Hanna-Barbera and Ruby Spears) in the ’70s and ’80s, so all of this material must not only have been easy for him to write, but cathartic as well.

But unfortunately, there’s one element that, at least to me, doesn’t work all that well. While the joke is that the Warners don’t belong in any of these low budget cartoons, they appear incredibly bored and lifeless throughout the whole thing. Very little of what they do is actually funny - Wakko eats some background overlays, they steal Thunderdogg’s magic feather and laminate it (why?) and bring “Todd AO” into Orson’s club house because he has a funny name. While the writing for the Warners definitely seems weak, what really hurts them is the animation. Akom does a great job on the parodies, but their Warners are as bland as they usually are, when they really should be full of life and energy in order to contrast against the limited animation of the other characters. Instead, they tend to come off as flat as everything else they’re interacting with. Even a lot of their dialogue seems phoned in. Just imagine what this cartoon would have looked like if Wang had animated it, treating the parodies the same way they’re handled here, but working with the Warners in their usual snappy, fuller style. Fortunately, this cartoon is also the very last one animated by Akom, and even with its faults, it’s still miles ahead of their previous batch of awful Warners cartoons. Despite how the Warners look, the studio really went the extra mile to make the limited animation parodies as authentic as possible. It’s nice that the studio was able to go out on a decent cartoon like this, as a good chunk of their work on this show usually ranged from average to terrible. During the first season, it seemed as if the producers were afraid to send major characters to Akom, instead putting them on Buttons and Mindy, Goodfeather, Chicken Boo and Rita and Runt cartoons, not to mention most of the forgettable one-shots like “Wings Take Heart” and “White Gloves”. But when the Kids WB seasons rolled around, it was impossible to keep the Warners away from the studio anymore, and the end result really dragged down the overall quality of the series at that point. While Akom eventually got the hang of many of the secondary characters they were working with, they never seemed comfortable with the Warners, and could barely keep them on model. On the other hand, their replacement - Koko Enterprises - wasn’t really all that much better, as we’ll see very soon.

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Bugs explains to Daffy that there’s a flavored drink commercial with their names on it, referencing the fact that some of the Looney Tunes characters started appearing in Tang and Kool Aid ads in the 1960’s, some directed by Tex Avery. This explains why Daffy shouts, “Wait up, Tex!” as he runs off. By the way, check out just how off model Bugs is in this shot. On top of that, take a look at that terrible poster in the background painting. There’s so many things wrong with it. Is that Chicken Boo?

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Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng leave Termite Terrace. Taking out his sketch pad, Freleng alters a drawing of Bugs Bunny and creates a new character that looks suspiciously like the Pink Panther. Gloating that he’s got a great new idea, Freleng races off. Yosemite Sam - who many have said was very close to Freleng in terms of voice and attitude, exits the building, saying, “I just looooves the way he talks!”

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For most people, this reference would probably fly right past them, but “Treg Green” is named after Treg Brown, the sound editor for the Looney Tunes cartoons at Warners.

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Voiced by Tress MacNeille, this usherette has one of the cartoon’s best lines, “Some pictures I’ve seen over two hundred times, no problem. Youngblood Squawk I take for ten minutes and my life implodes!

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Calhoun Capybara was voiced by Jim Cummings, who does a ton of voices for this cartoon. I liked the way they flipped the costumes here, giving Calhoun Boo-Boo’s bow tie, while his little pal Loo-Loo gets a Yogi Bear-type necktie.

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Some of the Warners best lines occur when they first appear in the Calhoun cartoon. Yakko is puzzled by the script, while Dot asks, “Hey, did someone suck all the life out of the universe?” Holding a piece of cake so that it’s solitary dimension becomes obvious, Wakko explains, “No, they just figured out how to draw things really flat.”

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This guy looks like he knows what he’s talking about, but then the camera pulls back to reveal him sticking toothpicks into a hunk of jello. This is the same guy who finishes his interview and asks, “Who’s president now?”

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They got the Scooby Doo design style down pretty good, including the eyes that are colored the same as the rest of their heads. And for good measure, Frank Welker voices the “Fred” character.

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Cartoon Network seemed to really like this dance footage. If I recall, they used it a lot in their bumpers when they were airing Animaniacs.

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It’s explained that after their stint with Phil and Shmoe, the Warners were off model for months. We then get this fantastic off-model drawing of the Warners as they try to get out of the net Ralph tosses on them. What crazy expressions!

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Every one of these titles in a parody of a Hanna-Barbera show, except “Riddsville”, which is a parody of a Sid and Marty Krofft show called Lidsville.

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The evil Simon San Simeon - voiced by Cummings - makes a comment that I’m shocked got past the censors: “Watch out or I’ll lower the drawbridge!” Please don’t.

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This guy sums up Filmation pretty well - “Humor? Forget humor! We never did their type of film! At Phlegmation, we had rules. Everything had to happen off-stage. You hear ‘Oh boy, a comet just fell on my head!’ But you never see the comet,”.  Man, working at that studio must have been a real bitch.

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Obese Orson (another Cummings voice) announces that he’s “going to chant a message to you!” Yakko moves his hand away and pleads, “Please don’t.” Says Dot, “We’ve suffered enough on Saturday mornings!” They certainly did. Since it was syndicated, not everyone got the WB Network, so automatically the show’s ratings were below what they ever were on FOX. On top of that, the show wasn’t treated all that well either. Cartoons broadcast randomly, long breaks with no new episodes, etc. Pokemon hasn’t even started airing yet, and when it does, things are going to get a whole lot worse for the comedy shows on Kids WB.

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And for visual reference, here’s Hook-Nose Harold, voiced by Rob Paulsen. “Hot chocolate and three cows!” Oh, I get it. I get jokes.

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The Warners also appear on a take-off of the King Features Beatles cartoon, wearing wigs on their heads. Except Wakko, who’d rather wear a wig over his HAT.

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One has to wonder WHY Chicken Boo is living in the tower in the first place, but the Warners are quick to kick him out. “It was our coop first!”, shouts Wakko. The final gag, with the Warners playing cards inside the tower and talking about the possibilities of a TV network being named after them, is pretty funny.

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The Warners, Mr. Skullhead and an old prospector are sitting around a campfire one night having a barbeque. The prospector offers Yakko some beans to sing them a song, and when he refuses, he’s told he won’t be given some beans if he sings. That’s good enough for Yakko so, using Skullhead as a visual aide, the Warners sing about all the bones in the body. From the toes all the way up to the cranium, the kids sing about each and every bone, finishing with, “The skeleton is really great. It helps your body stand up straight. Without it all your brains and guts would fall out on the floor!” With the song over, the prospector asks if Yakko knows any other songs, but Yakko claims it’s the only one he knows.

Recalling many of Randy Rogel’s classic educational “list” songs from the first season, “Bones in the Body” is enjoyable enough, and is a big improvement from the last standalone musical number we got. The intro sequence is cute (there’s even a cameo by Runt) and the song itself is very catchy. It’s also really great to see Mr. Skullhead again. Aside from the leftover “Good Idea, Bad Idea” segments that aired in season three, this is the only time we see him during the Kids WB era. So that alone make this song worth watching. Wang’s animation is just fine, but it’s also the last we’re going to see of this studio until episode 95. There’s only a handful of their cartoons left between now and the end of the series, but in terms of their overall quality, it’s all downhill from here.

Between the animation, Skullhead’s appearance and the really entertaining song, this is pretty much the last segment of the series with a solid season three/four feel to it. In retrospect, it’s really the calm before the storm, as the next episode brings back a certain Chicago studio, while later shows play around with animation studios that had never worked on the series until now. It’s going to be an interesting, if bumpy ride, so hang on.

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Character Cameo: “Good bone! Yeah, definitely a good bone!” Hey, good to see you too, Runt. Nice that you can show up for a cameo every now and then.

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"Nah" I like this ambivalent face on Yakko after he’s offered some beans.

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Right before he begins to sing, Yakko looks at the audience and says, “At least it’s not the bean song!” Yeah, thank goodness it’s not.

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This is the only substantial appearance Skullhead has during the Kids WB era. He has only one more cameo left, in the background of the Cantina scene in “Star Warners. He doesn’t even appear in Wakko’s Wish, and everyone showed up in that one.

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Am I the only one who cringes when Dot grabs Skullhead’s arm and pulls the forearm bones apart? Ouch!

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No matter what happens with the animation, the one thing Wang-animated cartoons always had going for them was fantastic backgrounds. I like Yakko picking at his teeth, too.

Joke Credit: none, surprisingly, though apparently when aired overseas the joke credit is “We Don’t Loan Out: We Buy Out”. I have no idea why the US version of this episode didn’t get it.

Tower Outro: Auf Wiedersein!

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Goo. Take Me To My Money: Episode 90

Season four comes to a close with this bizarre episode, which almost comes across as an unintentional follow-up to “Animaniacs Stew” (episode 35). Here, Brain finds himself at the mercy of the Hip Hippos, Rita makes an appearance in the final Mindy and Buttons cartoon, and two well-loved characters finally tie the knot. Or do they…?

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Variable Verse: High Octane-y!

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Friz Freleng’s goofy stork character (depicted as being really stupid as opposed to really drunk) drops off a baby at what he assumes to be the house of the Rockefellers, but instead has delivered it to the penthouse of the Hip Hippos. The “baby” is actually Brain, who has no idea that the hippos aren’t the Rockefellers (whose money he wants in order to take over the world), while Flavio and Marita are clueless to the fact that the little mouse isn’t a baby hippo. They name their new baby “Alfredo” and take him to the doctor, where Brain is crushed when his blood pressure is taken, slammed with a mallet when his reflexes are checked, and is pumped full of a disgusting amount of hippopotamus vaccine. Back at home, Brain is shocked to learn of his mistake, as the TV news reports that a baby hippo has been delivered to the real Rockefellers. After being force fed his dinner and following an escape attempt, Brain’s luck turns around when the stork returns. Realizing his error, the stork hands Flavio and Marita their real baby and takes Brain to the Rockefeller home. Unfortunately, the Rockefellers leave for a vacation, putting Brain in the care of their aggressive servants. It’s then that Brain wakes up from his nightmare, only for Pinky to inform him that they’ve gotten a delivery - the Rockefeller baby!

As ridiculous is this cartoon is, I find it to be incredibly enjoyable.  The last cartoon to star Flavio and Marita, and the first time we’ve seen Brain in quite a while, “The Pitter Patter of Little Feet” mixes characters we’d normally never see together to give us something so stupid that it actually works. Although a lot of the gags consist of Brain getting slammed, crushed, scalded and engorged, his hilarious expressions combined with Maurice LaMarche’s terrific voice-over work makes a lot of the physical stuff funny instead of unpleasant. Brain’s baby disguise shouldn’t fool anyone (“Goo. Take me to my money.”) but Flavio and Marita are so caught up in their own little world that they don’t even realize he’s not a hippo. They’re not really fit to be parents in the first place, as seen in the careless way they bathe little “Alfredo”. “The babies, they love the bath”, says Marita blissfully as she plops the mouse into the water and scrubs him vigorously, while Flavio doesn’t even notice the rinse water he’s about to use is so hot it turns the faucet bright red. Later, when Brain stays up all night screaming, the hippos wake up, simultaneously say, “It’s the baby. You take care of him” and go right back to sleep. When they finally rush into the bedroom to check on “Alfredo”, Flavio falls right on top of him. Part of the fun of most Pinky and the Brain cartoons was always seeing Brain’s pretension and superiority complex deflated by the indignities heaped upon him in his pursuit for global domination. Up against the Hip Hippos, he really doesn’t stand a chance. Additionally, for an Animaniacs cartoon airing this late, Wang’s animation is incredibly strong, nailing every humiliated expression on Brain and doing some great work on the hippos as well. Out of the six cartoons these characters star in, this is easily the best one, and the only one I really find myself going back to with any regularity.

I don’t think Flavio and Marita are awful characters, and they certainly don’t deserve the hatred they seem to get from most Animaniacs fans. But they definitely weren’t all that interesting on their own, and wound up starring in some of the very worst cartoons in the series. It was clear that the Hip Hippos was an idea that someone thought had potential, only for the characters to be abandoned completely in the first season when they weren’t working out. “La Behemoth”, “A Moving Experience” and “Can’t Buy a Thrill” are easily some of my least favorite cartoons from season one, and are shorts I only watched again because I had to talk about them for this blog. It’s amazing that they decided to take a chance on the hippos again in the fourth season, and I really have to admit that “Amazing Gladiators” and “The Pitter Patter of Little Feet” aren’t bad at all, and I get quite a bit of enjoyment out of both of them. These two shorts redeem the characters somewhat in my eyes, and make me wish they were used a little better in the earlier days of the show. The hippos won’t disappear completely, but will remain background characters from this point on and (excepting Flavio’s out-of-character appearance as “Flabby the Butt” in “Star Warners”) they’ll never speak another word of dialogue ever again.

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This stork doesn’t have a very good track record. This is the same guy who lost a baby gorilla, knocked out Bugs Bunny and delivered him to a bunch of apes. He’s performed by Rob Paulsen here, using the same voice he used for Concord Condor on Tiny Toon Adventures.

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As the hippos would say, I made a faux pas back when I said we’d never see those little oxpeckers again. They don’t say a single word, but they sit on the hippo’s shoulders throughout the entire cartoon. No sign of Gina Embryo though, thank God.

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There’s some great drawings of Brain during this shot, especially the weary look in the first shot right after he pops out of the water. This whole sequence, which includes Marita violently scrubbing him with a brush, is very well animated.

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Brain isn’t expecting a pitcher of scalding hot water to suddenly be dumped on his head. LaMarche’s scream is absolutely perfect, not to mention that great “clang” sound effect heard when Brain leaps up and slams into an overhead light.

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Here’s a fat joke that I like. Flavio and Marita are just so casual about smashing through the wall as they enter the doctors office. The other patients don’t even react to it. Check out the kid with an entire skateboard in his mouth.

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Recognize this guy? It’s “the little man from the draft board” from the classic 1945 Bob Clampett cartoon Draftee Daffy. “Drafty, isn’t it?” he says as he enters, referencing a 1957 Chuck Jones short starring Ralph Phillips.

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"My, that’s a lot of zeros!" That’s a bit of an understatement.

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"As soon as I lay my hands on my trust I’m out of here to take over the world!" I love the expression Brain settles on when he finishes this sentence.

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As Brain watches TV and realizes the mistake he’s made, the camera cuts closer to his face as he eyes suddenly quiver and grow smaller. Another well done shot, emphasizing his horrific realization.

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I love the dainty way Flavio gently plops Brain into the stork’s hand, thrilled to finally be rid of him.

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Hey, look who it is. It’s Scratchy’s date from “Drive Insane” and “The Party”. I guess this is her day job. She’s named Frau Hassenfeffer here. Could that be her real name?

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I like the design of the Rockefeller baby in this shot, as well as the great animation as Brain passes out. But who I am I kidding, I just wanted an excuse to get a shot of Pinky in here. We’re a few episodes away from one last Pinky and the Brain cartoon.

Buttons and Mindy intro

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Mindy’s mom heads off to the “Mother of the Year” grand finals, putting Buttons in charge of Mindy and telling him to stay out of her rose bushes. As soon as she leaves, the White Rabbit shows up in the yard, claiming to be “tardy to a party”. The rabbit, Mindy and Buttons enter an opening in the trunk of a tree and end up in Wonderland, right in the middle of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Deciding he’d rather have espresso than tea, the Hatter tosses all the plates and cutlery into a huge espresso machine, followed by Mindy. Buttons saves her just in time but falls into the machine himself. Entering a house, the White Rabbit and Mindy eat some cookies and shrink to only a few inches high, while Buttons drinks a glass of milk that causes him to grow so big he destroys the house.

Next, Mindy encounters Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber (caricatures of Jeff Bridges and Jim Carrey, because references to that movie will never be painfully dated) followed by the Cheshire Cat, played by a bizarrely off model Rita. The cat enjoys it when Mindy pets her, but decides to maul Buttons when he rushes in and steps on her tail. Finally, Mindy comes across the playing cards, who are painting the Queen’s roses red. When the Queen of Hearts arrives, she becomes furious when Mindy calls her “lady” and snubs her, and demands the toddler’s head. Buttons meanwhile, is sliced apart by some ax-wielding cards and is slammed around by people playing croquette. After a short trial scene that goes nowhere, a chase breaks out, and Buttons and Mindy soon find themselves back at home, where Buttons makes a mess out of the rose bushes. After mom scolds Buttons (though she calms down when he hands her a rose), Mindy gives him a hug, saying, “Fuzzy bunny good. Fuzzy Buttons better!”

Out of the three Buttons and Mindy shorts to be produced during the Kids WB years, “Mindy is Wonderland” is unquestionably the weakest. Granted, there are many season one entries that are far worse, but this cartoon really seems below average compared to “Buttons in Ows” or “Night of the Living Buttons”, two shorts that used good writing and really strong Wang animation to their advantage. Unfortunately, this cartoon - the final Mindy and Buttons segment ever made - finds the characters back with Akom. However, bland animation isn’t really the biggest problem this cartoon has. Some of the rhyming dialogue is exceptionally lame, and the Dumb and Dumber sequence is probably the most embarrassing movie reference I’ve ever had to sit through on this show. While it’s nice to see Rita again (and indeed, that is Bernadette Peters doing the voice) she looks so off that one gets the impression that Akom forgot how to handle her. This short is so obviously using the 1951 Disney classic as its inspiration, but the Mad Hatter is a little too uncomfortably close to the Ed Wynn version for me, as if they couldn’t think of any other way of interpreting that character. In general, this whole short seems primarily occupied with Mindy meeting the various Lewis Carroll characters, so there’s not much for poor Buttons to do but stumble around and get injured again and again. True, that happened in the previous two cartoons as well, but the Wang animation was able to make that stuff funny. There are a couple of isolated moments that work (I like Jim Cummings as one of the cards, and Buttons giving Mindy’s mom a rose is cute) but overall, this is probably the most forgettable Buttons and Mindy cartoon since “Mermaid Mindy” in episode 63, at least for me.

And as previously mentioned, this is the very last Buttons and Mindy segment. Although they weren’t headlining characters, the pair was still relatively popular, despite the oftentimes mediocre nature of their cartoons. As I’ve said many times before, the premise practically demanded strong animation in order to work, yet the majority of these cartoons were tossed to second string studios such as Akom and Freelance. On top of that, many of the writers for these cartoons were never able to move past the “dumb dog gets pulverized” shtick to really elevate them to a higher level. The shorts that really try to shoot for something above merely adequate (such as “Les Boutons et le Ballon”, “Whistle Stop Mindy”, “Buttons in Ows” and “Night of the Living Buttons”) show that there was a hell of a lot of potential in this series that was very rarely tapped. More often than not, we ended up with forgettable duds like “Up the Crazy River”, “Mesozoic Mindy”, “What a Dump”, “Super Buttons” and “Mermaid Mindy”, which regurgitate the same tired gags again and again with nothing interesting visually to make up for it. For the most part, when I was younger the Buttons and Mindy intro was usually pretty good incentive to change the channel. With the exception of one quick cameo a couple of episodes from now, these characters don’t appear at all in season five. In fact, they’re going to more or less remain MIA until Wakko’s Wish where, paired up with some TMS animation, they come off a lot better than many of the other characters in the movie.

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As Mindy travels down the rabbit hole, she encounter several items she’s chased after earlier in the series, including the lollipop from “Operation Lollipop”, the clown car from “The Mindy 500” and the train from “Whistle Stop Mindy”. Nice group of callbacks, although it’s interesting that two of them came from the “season two” leftover episodes.

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Visually, the Mad Hatter doesn’t recall the Disney version all that much, but the voice is clearly modeled after Ed Wynn. Jim Cummings performs the voice, although he’s uncredited for this episode.

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Honestly, this scene just hurts to watch. The movie was all right. but I’m not sure why they needed to reference it here. It definitely doesn’t hold up all that well. And Buttons getting nailed by two logs? That hadda sting!

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The voice and the basic design clearly mark this as Rita, but at the same time, the whole character just feels off. If this is supposed to be Rita, why isn’t there a notch taken out of one of her ears. Additionally, her suddenly burst of anger is really out of character. Even more interesting, Peters is credited as “The Cheshire Cat” in the credits, when she’s always credited as Rita separately from the rest of the cast. So is this Rita or not?

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Mindy has a “why” conversation with the cards, allowing us to hear Cummings use something close to his Negaduck voice as one card as the usual back and forth with her.

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This exact same gag happened in “Buttons in Ows”, only it was much funnier there. And just as an aside, “Buttons in Ows" is a really damn funny title. I laugh whenever I recall it.

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Character Cameo: the Warners run past during the climactic chase, pursued as always by Ralph. I don’t believe there are many more of these run-thoughs left, if there are any at all.

Ralph’s Wedding

The big day has arrived! Ralph is finally getting married, and the entire Animaniacs cast (well, most of them) is attending the wedding. But to everyone’s surprise, Ralph’s bride turns out to be none other than Chicken Boo! Just then, Ralph wakes up for his dream and discovers his wife sitting up in bed eating a bucket of chicken, complete with an image of Chicken Boo as Colonel Sanders. Holding up the bucket, Ralph and his wife announce, “Daaahh, we loves chicken!” and the segment ends. Yes, this cartoon really is as stupid as it sounds, and is another one of those weird Ralph appearances that seem to be all over this season. Wang’s animation is good (especially some great drawings of Ralph at the very end) and it gives us another chance to see a whole bunch of characters together. Strangely, while Dot is one of the bridesmaids, Yakko and Wakko are nowhere to be seen, making episode 90 the second show in a row not to include the oldest Warner sibling. “The Pitter Patter of Little Feet” may be the strongest cartoon in this episode, but “Ralph’s Wedding” is probably the most memorable, mainly because of how ridiculous it is.

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We learn a few interesting things from this invite. Ralph’s parents are still alive and his dad’s name is Rudolph, while Ralph’s middle name is Theodore. And his last name really is Guard. “Ralph T. Guard”, get it? He’s actually credited by that name in Wakko’s Wish.

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What’s up with Vena Whaleen making another cameo alongside Miss Flamiel? This is the second time they’ve done this.

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Apart from the Warner cameo in “Mindy and the Wonderland” and the variable verse, Dot is the only Warner to appear in this episode, much like Wakko was the only Warner to appear in the previous one. This is actually going to be the last episode to not include a Warners short, with the exception of episode 98. If anything, the Warners are going to dominate much of the rest of the series.

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Despite how much they appeared in season three, this season is very light on Slappy and Skippy. They haven’t even gotten any dialogue since  episode 85. A two-act Slappytoon animated by Startoons is right around the corner…

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So the hippos got an invite, but Yakko and Wakko didn’t show up? What gives?

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For whatever reason, Pinky extends his hand to Brain, as if expecting a ring. Brain ends that nonsense by bopping Pinky on the head. What exactly did Pinky think he was doing?

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Mindy, Buttons, Plotz and Scratchy comprise the rest of the wedding guests. Scratchansniff is also the one to provide the usual “He’s a chicken, I tell you!” line, the last time he’s going to get dialogue for a long time.

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I love these drawings of Ralph, some of the very last really great work from Wang that we’re going to get on the show. While their work on Pinky and the Brain got even better going into that show’s third season, their work on Animaniacs would never quite be the same from this point on.

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This is oh so strange, but a little bit of me really loves it. It’s like something out of Freakazoid. No credits are given for this cartoon, leaving me to wonder who wrote it.

Joke Credit: On The WB, Big Kids Go First: In Reality, Big Kids Sleep In

Tower Outro: Dot: Goodnight Yakko, goodnight Wakko Yakko: Goodnight Dot, goodnight Wakko Wakko: Goodnight Dot, goodnight Yakko Yakko: Goodnight John Boy John Boy: Let me outta this tower!

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That’s A Dollar! Everything’s A Dollar!!: Episode 89

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Variable Verse: Lake Champlain-y!

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Documentary filmmaker Pomme de Terre introduces the audience to the movie he’s made starring that intensely private Hollywood celebrity, Wakko Warner. Running anywhere from a few seconds to a couple minutes long, the short segments that comprise this film follow Wakko during his usual, day-to-day activities. Lunch With Steven features Wakko sharing a meal with Spielberg. Or rather, he’s sharing a meal with Spielberg via intercom. Volunteerism has Wakko being petted by old ladies at the Nanaland Retirement Home. Wakko Plays Golf With Benny Hill is exactly what it sounds like, with Wakko and the comedian beating each other over the head with golf clubs and chasing Hello Nurse. In Alone Time, Wakko takes a siesta. My Dinner With Wakko has the little guy drinking a soda as Doctor Scratchansniff uses mashed potatoes and dinner rolls to illustrate his long-winded story about visiting the Mayan ruins. After finishing his soda, Wakko’s incredibly long belch robs Scratchy of both his pretension and his dignity.

Rehearsing With Martha Graham features Wakko working out a scene with the famous choreographer, who gets a little too into the scene he needs to perform.  Staring at the Camera is self explanatory, while A Big Duet has Wakko singing “Pop Goes the Weasel” with Frank Sinatra. In The Dollar Store, Wakko shows up at a dollar store (duh) and asks Mitch the cashier what various items cost. Mitch informs Wakko that every item costs a dollar, and is frustrated that he doesn’t seem to get it. Finally, Wakko hands him a dollar and leaves, only for Mitch to turn around and realize that his entire store has been cleaned out. Finally, in That’s Enough of That, Wakko asks Pomme de Terre to stop filming him. When that doesn’t happen, he puts an end to everything with a mallet.

A little better than the previous couple of Warners cartoons (though not by much) “Ten Short Films About Wakko Warner” has its moments but really isn’t anything special. The “short films” concept had already been done by The Simpsons in 1996 (though I’m sure this cartoon was already in production by the time it aired), giving us a fantastic example of how far it was possible to go with an idea like this. Imagine a similar story played out amongst the entire Animaniacs cast, which would have given it plenty of material to be stretched to even a half hour length. With proper writing and direction, something like that could have easily been a series’ highlight. That said, just focusing on the life of one character isn’t a bad idea, but I feel like they chose Wakko and then didn’t really know what to do with the cartoon outside of the longer segments.

The Martha Graham, Scratchansniff and dollar store sequences are the ones that stand out, especially the dinner with Scratchy, which includes the longest sustained LaMarche belch in the series’ history. The Martha Graham bit is all kinds of dumb (did they know she had died in 1991?) but I’ll give the dollar store sequence points for bringing Mitch back along with Jeff Bennett’s great voice work for the character. It’s actually the one and only segment from this short that pops into my head whenever I think of this cartoon. As for the shorter segments, the Benny Hill parody is memorable, even if they couldn’t use the classic Benny Hill Show theme music. Several years earlier they wouldn’t let Wakko strike a vampire with a baseball bat, but here we’ve got him and the comedian brutalizing each other with golf clubs. They could have actually made this segment a little longer and I wouldn’t have minded. Everything else is pretty disposable, with the “Alone Time” and “Staring at the Camera” bits feeling like useless filler. Meanwhile, the duet with Sinatra falls on its face for not only being extremely stupid, but also for ending on another belch so soon after the previous one.

Another reason why this short feels so bland is because of how it handles Wakko. In earlier cartoons, Wakko was depicted as being totally unhinged, an unpredictable spitfire of a character who could do almost anything. Shorts like “Wakko’s Gizmo” and “Go Fish” gave us incredible glimpses of what the middle Warner sibling is like when not interacting with Yakko and Dot. Belches and golf clubs aside, Wakko just seems very neutered here, something that’s been apparent for a while and gets much worse as we continue into season five and Wakko’s Wish. By this point I feel like they’re accentuating how “cute” the Warners are, as opposed to how “totally insane-y” they were in the first season. Akom’s lifeless animation doesn’t help either. Again, we’ve only got a couple of episodes left before Akom is let go, and this is their second-to-last Warners short of the series. In fact, there isn’t a Warners cartoon at all in the next episode, as the show burns off whatever cartoons are left before Koko takes over for Akom, and Startoons makes a return appearance. As for “Ten Short Films About Wakko Warner” - it’s not as bad as “Anchors A-Warners” or “Papers for Papa”, but it’s still pretty mediocre. It’s a shame Paul Rugg’s final Animaniacs cartoon couldn’t have been stronger, but at least Tom Minton gets to bounce back for his final cartoon, which we’ll get to very soon.

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As Terre goes on and on about his film, the picture of Wakko in the portrait behind him comes to life and starting mocking him. Of course, I had to include a picture of the gookie, but the pose in the second image is actually very funny and well drawn. Kudos to Akom for not ruining a great expression.

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The Hawaiian shirt guy shows up on line at the retirement home. Have you ever wanted to hear him talk? Well, we will soon…

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As the only extreme physical gag in the cartoon (aside from Martha Graham throwing herself into a wall, I guess) I really wish Akom had done a better job with this. There’s no power or emotion to any of it. But that’s par for the course with Akom.

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Another plus with the Scratchansniff sequence is Paulsen’s performance. I love the way he pronounces “shtones” and rolls his Rs when he says “rocks”. Some nice pseudo-intellectual dialogue too, but Rugg was great at writing that sort of stuff. Say goodbye to Scratchy for a while, folks. He’s not going to appear again in a substantial role until “Star Warners”, the final Pinky and the Brain episode in late 1998.

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Not a terrible belch, but can you imagine what a better studio could have done with this?

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There’s one really good bit of dialogue in the Martha Graham sequence. As she tries to get into character, she says, “You’re scared?” “Well, I don’t know if I’m…”, Wakko begins before Graham cuts him off, gets in his face, places his hand against his forehead and shouts, “Yes! You’re scared!” “Right, I’m scared”, Wakko agrees, because who wouldn’t be, right?

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Caricatures of engineer Harry Andronis and composer Richard Stone appear during the bit with Sinatra. While Andronis voiced himself in “Yes, Always”, it’s someone else performing him here.

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It’s the same voice, the credits specifically call him “Mitch”, but the design isn’t quite the same one from “Drive Insane”. I wonder why.

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A little wooden bird pops out of his cuckoo clock one day and immediately falls in love with a cute, female canary sitting in a cage hanging in the middle of the room. There’s a mutual attraction, but the cuckoo bird is a slave to the clock, and he’s never able to be with the canary for more than a few seconds before he’s violently pulled back inside for another hour. He serenades her dressed as Liberace, and attempts to escape the clock via rocket, Evil Kaneval style, but to no avail. Finally, he learns he can just step right off his stand and escape, only for the canary to be pulled into the clock when she forgets to let go of the stand. The cuckoo bird pines for her until she pops out of the clock, grabs him and pulls him inside, where they live happily ever after.

Just when you thought you’d never have to see another one-shot cartoon ever again, along comes this weird love story about a canary and a sentient cuckoo clock bird. To be honest, I can’t think of an Animaniacs cartoon I’ve seen as infrequently as this one, nor many I like less. It’s kind of cute, but goes on a lot longer than it needs to. In fact, this should have ended as soon as the canary lifted the wooden bird off his stand for a decent - if predictable - “Why didn’t he think of that before?” sort of finale. And why is she suddenly holding on to his stand when it retracts back into the clock? Why doesn’t she just let go? Was it that important for the cartoon to drag on for another minute? Another scene featuring the cuckoo bird sailing out a window on a rocket and then getting mauled by a cat and various other things off screen goes on way too long and is way too cruel to be even the least bit funny. This is the only cartoon written by the team of Marlowe Weisman and Laraine Arkow, and the small character/pain gag nature of this short made me double check the title card on this one to make sure this wasn’t an old script for the first season written by Deanna Oliver. The cuckoo bird didn’t have much time for love, but I really don’t have much time for this cartoon, so what’s next…?

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The first time the cuckoo bird appears at the cage, he pulls out some chocolates and flowers, only to get slammed by the cage door when the canary opens it. Not very funny, but it’s very well timed.

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The cuckoo bird as Liberace. I’m sure he wishes his brother George was here.

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Oh yeah, they get married too. I kind of like this horny look the cuckoo bird gives to the camera right before he kisses his bride. Or tries to kiss her at least, since he’s pulled into the clock before he can do it. I like his breathless “coo-coo” before he goes to kiss her.

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This scene really goes on too far too long and the cuckoo bird’s pained screams aren’t funny at all. It’s just a mean sequence in general.

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The cuckoo bird tries to blow up the clock with a grenade, only to get blown up himself and thrown in a toaster. Then he pops out and crashes into this can with an image of Sylvester on it. Because, you know, The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries was on the air too at the time.

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Once both birds are in the clock, the cuckoo birds rips off the clock’s hands and goes back inside. Nice look to the camera. You know what’s going to happen now. Lucky bird.

Chicken Boo intro #2

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The WB Network’s ratings are in the toilet, so Thaddeus Plotz holds an emergency meeting to introduce the one person he feels can turn things around: Mr. Boo. The rest of the network employees welcome Boo and his chicken-themed programming ideas with open arms. But Mr. Johnson, the head of programming, is the only one who realizes who he really is. When Johnson calls Boo out on being a giant chicken, Plotz promotes Boo to head of programming and makes Johnson his assistant. Boo’s new shows - including 60 Clucks, The Egg Files, Melrose Coop and David Featherman - are a huge success, putting the network back on top. However, as the employees gather to congratulate boo, they end up knocking off his clothes, revealing him to be the giant chicken he is. Plotz is furious, gives Johnson his job back and asks him to kick Chicken Boo out of the building, which he gladly does. With yet another disguise a failure, Chicken Boo once again walks off to his theme song. Better luck next time.

It’s amazing that they’re still doing Chicken Boo cartoons with the same overall frequency as the first production season. This is the third one to air during the Kids WB era, and we’ve still got two more to go. This is also the longest Chicken Boo cartoon of the entire series, at just over five minutes. The extra run time is necessary for all the TV show parodies that we get, all targeting shows that were highly popular from around this time, including Home Improvement, Full House, Melrose Place and The X Files. Much like Urkel, WBTA just couldn’t get enough of those Olsen Twins. All the chicken jokes are pretty obvious, but since this is a Chicken Boo cartoon, and it’s him whose supposedly writing this stuff, it’s not really as lame as you would think. Another thing worth mentioning is that (“Katie Ka-Boo” excepted) this is the first Boo cartoon that brings in another Animaniacs cast member instead of letting the short stand alone in its own little universe. Of course here, having Thaddeus Plotz come in to handle the TV division of the studio he runs makes perfect sense, while a later Chicken Boo cartoon would primarily exist just to throw established characters at the audience. And finally, we get our mandatory Rob Paulsen appearance, playing Mr. Johnson, which uses a character model that’s been hanging around in the background for years. With his beady eyes and slightly stylized design, Johnson certainly stands out and if anything, this short is just as much about him as it is about Chicken Boo. Finally, Wang’s animation is a nice break from Akom, and they handle Chicken Boo a lot better here than they did in “Yabba Dabba Boo”. So despite being a little longer than a Boo cartoon needs to be, this short is still pretty enjoyable, and probably the strongest part of this episode.

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Chicken Boo’s disguise is one of the weaker ones, mainly because it’s awfully chose to his “Swifty LaBoo” outfit from “The 65th Anniversary Special”.

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Because of this cartoon, every time I see this character design I automatically think of Rob Paulsen. At this point it’s permanently burned into my brain.

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I really like these alien chicken designs on this X-Files parody. Great stuff.

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There’s also a Wonderful World of Disney parody, complete with Sleeping Beauty castle on a chicken coop, a chicken version of Tinkerbell and the appropriate 1960’s text font and color.

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Good lord, those are the scariest Olsen Twin caricatures I’ve seen in my entire life! Wow.

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What would have been REALLY funny is if this cartoon totally defied our expectations by having Plotz not care at all about who Chicken Boo was as long as the network was getting great ratings. Instead, we get the usual ending. Still, I like these poses and expressions on Plotz and Johnson.

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Wang’s animation gets incredibly sloppy in the final shot, and Chicken Boo ends up going extremely off model. I kind of like it though.

Joke Credit: If You Can’t Say Something Nice: We’d Rather Not Hear About It

Tower Outro: Gesundheit!

2 notes

A Twinkle Bun Is A Twinkle Bun Is A Twinkle Bun: Episode 88

For a while now I’ve been talking about how the Hip Hippos would suddenly make a comeback this season. We haven’t seen much of them so far, but this is not only the first of two episodes that include new hippo cartoons, but it also contains a bunch of incredibly strange commercial parodies featuring Flavio. If you really, really like Flavio and Marita, this is the episode for you.

Cold Opener: Flavio Commercial #1

In a segment parodying an old Soloflex ad, Flavio shows off his rear end, elbow fat, multiple chins and various other parts of his chunky anatomy. As he does this, an off-screen woman explains, “This could be your elbow”, “This could be your butt”, “These could be your chins”, etc. How do you get results like that? Why, with Choco-Dot candies of course. If you have no idea what this is a spoof of, this segment (well let’s be honest, all the bumper segments in this episode) has a true “What the hell was that?” quality to it.

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A collection of screenshots from this first segment. I don’t have much to say here. It’s so very, very, very weird…

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Variable Verse: Quiche Lorraine-y!

Bumper: Flavio Commercial #2

Another Flavio commercial, this one a take-off of that old soft drink ad featuring a group of women watching a construction worker drink a bottle of Coca Cola. This is pretty much the same thing, but with Flavio drinking a bottle of something called Soak Cola. Of the three commercial parodies in this episode, this should be the most familiar to viewers. It’s the only one I actually “got” the first time I saw it, at least.

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These commercials take their time to really accentuate how fat and disgusting Flavio is. It does kind of go against the character somewhat to show him slumming it up at a construction site, but at least they’re doing something different with him. Maybe if they had played around with the hippos a little bit more during the first season they might have been more popular. Or maybe not.

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Attempting to write the Great American Novel in his Key West home, author Ernest Hemingway (Jeff Bennett) is suffering from a terrible case of writers block. His frustration soon gets the better of him and he declares that he’s never going to put pen to paper ever again. And of course as soon as Hemingway makes that decision, the Warners show up at his door with a delivery of office supplies. He doesn’t want any of it, but realizes the only way to make the kids go away is if he signs the delivery slip. But doing so means he has to go back on his word, and he snaps when the pressure gets to him. Hemingway makes a run for it, with the Warners hot on his heels. The chase takes them all over the globe, from a bullfighting ring in Spain, to a battlefield in Germany and even to the top of Mouth Kilimanjaro. Finally back in Key West, Hemingway gives up and agrees to sign the delivery slip. It’s then that he gets inspired and begins writing directly on the slip, refusing to give it back. So the Warners do the only thing they can do to scare him off - they bring in Ralph playing Gertrude Stein in a harem outfit. That works like a charm, so Yakko gives Ralph a twinkle bun as payment for his cameo.

Although it’s not very common, segments like “Deduces Wild” and “Anchors A-Warners” prove that the “Warners annoy someone” formula wasn’t totally abandoned with the move to Kids WB. But cartoons in which the Warners bother and inadvertently inspire some of history’s biggest names? Wow, we haven’t gotten anything like that since season one. I can understand why, since the idea ran its course pretty early on, and “Papers For Papa” just feels like a tired retread. It’s a very mediocre cartoon, one that actually goes out of its way on a couple of occasions to point out just how lame it is. In fact, if it wasn’t for “Anchors A-Warners” I’d rate this as the worst short of the season. It isn’t cruel or mean-spirited, but it’s unbelievably boring and humorless. Although nothing they do is really very funny, the Warners aren’t even the problem here, since their motivation is to just finish their delivery (Dot explains that they work on commission) and they really don’t mean any harm. It’s the whole business with Hemingway being so dead set on not signing his name that he’d rather flee clear around the world that makes absolutely no sense. Are we supposed to sympathize with him in any way? Because if he’s going to be this irrational he deserves to have the Warners pursue him like they do. We get it - Hemingway ran with the bulls, climbed Kilimanjaro, knew Gertrude Stein and so on, but this stuff is paraded in front of the viewer with very little imagination. The bulk of this cartoon actually feels like a lifeless Tex Avery Droopy Dog short, just without the great timing and terrific animation. There are a few things that stand out for me (Hemingway procrastinating at the beginning, Ralph’s creepy cameo) but otherwise this is yet another substandard outing, not helped at all by Akom’s lackluster animation. There are only a handful of episodes left that feature their visuals, after which they were finally let go. Like Freelance before them, I don’t think anyone really missed the studio when it was gone. They had their moments, but their work in cartoons such as this one really hurt the overall quality of this season. In general, “Papers For Papa” is mainly memorable for being incredibly bland.

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I think we can all relate to something like this. While racking his brain trying to begin his novel, Hemingway procrastinates by twisting a paper clip into the shape of a bunny and thinks it’s adorable. This was totally me in college.

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Character Cameo: when Hemingway tosses the paperclip bunny aside, Brain gets a hold of it and uses it to unlock his cage so that him and Pinky can escape.

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Hemingway takes a TV break and turns on Lamb Chop. The dangling eye is a nice touch. Hemingway cracks up at it, saying, “I love that dag-gum sock!”

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The first two jokes with the Warners involve pointing out how lame the jokes actually are. The first one features an on-screen countdown to a lame joke about “Florida pocket lint and the Florida spare change.” Groan. Yakko points out the second lame joke when their plane runs out of gas and stops in mid-air. Double groan.

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Hemingway tries to distract the Warners by spotting John Tesh, then makes a break for it. Turns out it isn’t John Tesh at all, explains Dot. It’s just a block of wood. “Your point is?”, asks Yakko. Good lord, why are these jokes so terrible?

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Here’s a really weird sequence. Hemingway and the Warners end up on a pier, where they begin posing for friendly photos with a swordfish for absolutely no reason. After laughing and having a good time, Yakko reminds Hemingway that he wouldn’t have had this much fun if he had signed the delivery slip. Then the chase begins anew. I…don’t get it.

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Here’s something else I don’t get. Ralph as Gertrude Stein says, “A twinkle bun is a twinkle bun is a twinkle bun.” I get that much - it’s parodying “A rose is a rose is a rose”. But what’s up what’s up with Yakko telling him, “Come on, man. This is a family show”? Did I miss some sort of adult joke here? Anyone?

Bumper: Flavio Commercial #3

In this last commercial spoof, an off-screen woman asks Flavio to unbutton his shirt. But when he does, what the woman sees scares the bejesus out of her. This might be my favorite of the three commercial parodies from this episode, just because of how short and random the whole thing is.

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I really have to admit. I love the expression on Flavio here. Look at that face. Tress MacNeille’s scream in this segment is perfect.

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Our setting is an episode of the American Gladiators parody “Amazing Gladiators”, where the reigning champions, the Petersons, are hoping for their thousandth consecutive victory. Their opponents are none other than the Hip Hippos, whose appearance on the show is a birthday gift from Flavio to Marita. The hippos lack the Peterson’s athletic prowess, but their weight and immense bulk make winning many of the show’s challenges remarkably easy. Although the Petersons are constantly finding themselves flattened and nailed in the face by heavy objects, they do manage to score their fair share of points. For example, the jeans-buttoning competition is a breeze for the in-shape couple. At the end of the game, the score ends up being dead even, necessitating a tie-breaker challenge. Both couples are required to eat their way across an Olympic-size swimming pool filled with franks and beans. While the Petersons go to work gorging themselves, Flavio and Marita recoil in horror at the very idea of eating such low-class food. The now morbidly obese Petersons are crowned the winners, but Marita cheers Flavio up by telling him that she plans to get them on Baywatch for his birthday.

"Amazing Gladiators" is one of the better Hip Hippo cartoons, with a decent plot and solid Wang animation. That said, it’s not very hard for something to be better than "La Behemoth", "A Moving Experience" or "Can’t Buy a Thrill", so it’s not like this short had a tough act to follow. On top of that, it’s pretty amazing that we’re even getting a new hippo cartoon at all, since the last one aired in episode 42, which feels like an eternity ago. As far as the story is concerned, I totally buy the idea that Flavio and Marita would watch this show just to see middle class people beat on each other. The fact that they’d actually appear on the show is not as believable but it works because they’re not taking any of this seriously. This is a complete lark for them and (franks and beans excepted) they’re having a blast the entire time. When Mr. Peterson gets in Flavio’s face and trash talks him, the hippo casually tells him to lay off the sugar. Physical gags are the heart of this cartoon, meaning there are fat jokes galore. But a lot of them are amusing because of how overmatched the Petersons are in terms of size and weight. Most of the competitions are straight out of American Gladiators, including a take-off on “Atlasphere” called “Rolling Thunder”, in which contenders race around inside large metal spheres. Needless to say, the Petersons are crushed flat the instant the hippos run into them. In a version of the game “Assault”, Marita uses her butt to deflect a bowling ball shot by Mrs. Peterson, which slams her right in the face. Of course, not all of these events are taken from the real-life TV show, as nonsense like “Belly Blaster” and “Pants of Peril” poke fun at how silly some of the games on the series actually were. These characters still aren’t all that great, but the absurdity of this premise, coupled with Jim Cummings’ performance as the announcer, at least make this watchable. This is also true of Wang’s animation, which is cartoony enough to be entertaining. I can’t imagine how this short might have turned out if Akom had gotten a hold of it. Flavio and Marita make a return appearance a couple of episodes from now, only this time, they’re joined by a certain megalomaniacal mouse.

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The hippos are planning to donate their winnings to the Gourmet Chef’s Society of America. Cut to an audience of chefs politely applauding. Interesting variety of character designs here. Look at the guy with the thick black glasses on the top right.

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It’s extremely rare to get this much information on any cartoon character. It’s especially interesting to know exactly how old these two are.

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In “The Circle of Carnage”, Mr. Peterson has the unenviable task of physically moving Flavio out of a circle. The big guy isn’t going anywhere, so Peterson resorts to using a wooden board, a forklift, a steam shovel, a wrecking ball and a tank to move him. None of these work either, and Peterson is soundly trashed without Flavio having to move a muscle. There’s some really good timing to some of this, especially when he gets crushed with the wrecking ball.

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In “Belly Blaster”, Peterson is slammed by Flavio’s belly, which moves into the shot and crushes him in slow motion. Out of everything that happens in this cartoon, this is the scene I tend to remember the most. It’s actually pretty funny.

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There’s this great feeling of pain when Mrs. Peterson gets nailed in the face by the bowling ball. Two seconds earlier, she was celebrating hitting Marita, only for the ball to fly back at her. The timing and animation of this shot is very well done.

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Ok, this is pretty gross. Mr. Peterson proceeds to suck a hot dog up his nose in order to eat it. Wait…this looks familiar? Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, Family Guy did this too a few years later. I’ll admit it was funnier there because Peter followed it up by squirting ketchup into his nose, but yeah, Animaniacs did it first.

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The caricatures aren’t very good, but those are clearly supposed to be David Hasslehoff and Pamela Anderson. Hm, a Hip Hippo cartoon set at the beach. I wonder what that would have been like.

Pinky and the Ralph

"Coming soon to the Kids WB!" says an announcer, as we see that Ralph has taken Brain’s place at Acme Labs with Pinky, his head shoved in their cage. The two of them do nothing but go back and forth asking each other what they want to do tonight. Neither of them have any idea what they want to do, so the segment simply ends and we get the traditional pull-back out of the lab. This time, the standard Pinky and the Brain theme is replaced with, "They can’t think-y, they’re Pinky and the Ralph, Ralph, Ralph, Ralph, Ralph." Dumb for the sake of being dumb, there’s really not much to this one-joke segment. Of course it’s always nice to see Pinky but I think this would be a lot funnier if, you know, we actually got real Pinky and the Brain cartoons on this show once in a while. Ralph sure makes some pretty random appearances in season four, doesn’t he?

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A few images from the cartoon. Nothing special visually, but I do like that last image with Ralph and Pinky’s shadows against the wall. Pinky almost seems to be the smarter one in this relationship. Almost.

Joke Credit: When I Dance They Call Me: Macarena

Tower Outro: Sayonara!

1 note

He Managed To Fit All This Inside A Little Potty: Episode 87

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Variable Verse: Mister Haney!

An appropriate double reference, since the model used for the Haney caricature here was also used in “Of Nice and Men” as Happy Bob.

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After an opening parodying many a James Bond title sequence, we find P briefing Agent 0007 on his next assignment. His arch nemesis, Blowfinger, is planning to steal all the gold from Fort Knox, and since this mission will take Bond to America, he’s paired up with three agents from the White House Intelligence Corps - Yakko, Wakko and Dot. Wakko immediately goes to work labeling everything “top secret” with a giant stamper, while Yakko and Dot make fun of P’s short name. 0007 takes the Warners to Z Branch, where they’re issued all the standard top secret equipment, including a flame pen and a grenade launching tube of lipstick, which both leave Bond shaken (but not stirred). The foursome then fly to America and parachute to the ground in their spy car. The entrance to Blowfinger’s hideout is located inside an outhouse, which 0007 has to drag the reluctant Warners into.

Inside, they meet the villain’s henchman Tempjob, who captures them and suspends them over a vat of acid. That’s when Blowfinger - a man with an unusually tiny head - appears and informs them of his plan. He intends to use a laser in outer space to vaporize the roof of Fort Knox and suck out all the gold with a robot aircraft. The Warners escape the ropes (but leave Bond hanging) and Dot knocks out Tempjob with a mace. Yakko then goads Blowfinger into pushing the button controlling the laser, which Wakko has aimed right at him. With the villain fried and the day saved, the kids tell 0007 that they plan to ask the government to allow them to work as a team full time. Instead, the trio find themselves working with Marshall McCloud. “It was him or Columbo, and we like Columbo”, explains Yakko.

I always forget how enjoyable “From Burbank With Love” is until I sit down and watch it. It’s not the funniest or most memorable Warners short ever made, but it’s still a lot of fun, with some amusing dialogue and a really solid, first season feel. A cartoon written by John P. McCann hadn’t aired since the first production season (the three musical segments credited to him that aired in season three were written no later than 1994) making it clear that this in an older script that’s finally being dusted off and used now. This is a relatively straightforward narrative, without all the fourth wall breaking hallmarks of these later episodes. There’s a really funny scene in P’s office where the Warners are briefed on who Tempjob is, causing them to start throwing stuff at the screen because he looks like their agent, while the government slams (“We’re from White House Intelligence. There’s a contradiction in terms”) are very clever. Yakko gets a hilarious bit where he “helps” Bond back his car into a parking space and right into a tree, and the business with the entrance to Blowfinger’s lair being an outhouse is silly enough to be funny. It also leads to Dot’s best line. As the Warners and Bond enter the lair and take a look around, Dot remarks, “He managed to fit all this inside a little potty.” There’s also a terrific knock at the 1996 Jim Carrey movie The Cable Guy. 0007 and the Warners attempt to bluff their way past Tempjob by saying that they’re the cable guys. Tempjob references the film and chuckles, but we then dissolve to the agents tied up above a vat of acid. Turning to Bond, Yakko explains, “He must have seen that movie.” If this was an old script, this joke must have been added later, but it’s still one of the funnier gags in the cartoon. I also like Blowfinger’s design far more than Doctor Not’s from “The Chicken Who Loved Me” in episode 60. The design and voice are very strong and almost capture the look and feel of Despicable Me's Gru fourteen years before the fact.

Another point in this cartoon’s favor is Wang’s animation, which is snappy and expressive, especially for a Warners short airing this late in the series. It’s important to remember that these cartoons weren’t technically being produced with specific seasons in mind. The crew just kept making these things until the show was cancelled and they were told to stop. It explains why season four is lacking Slappy Squirrel cartoons and strong Wang-animated Warners entries like this one (season three was clearly frontloaded with them) and how it ended with below-par Akom shorts and a surprising amount of Hip Hippo material. As a matter of fact, “From Burbank With Love” turned out to be the last really good Warners short that Wang would ever do. They would work on some segments in season five with the trio (the “Hooray For North Hollywood” two-parter being the biggest example), but in terms of short form, gag-driven cartoons recalling the best the series had to offer, this was very much the end of the line for Wang when it comes to the Warners.

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Of course we get the classic “looking through the barrel of a gun” Bond opening with the Warners. Instead of using guns of their own, the kids fling tomatoes with some slingshots, for the appropriate “dripping blood” effect.

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Here’s a pretty late in the game Weed Memlo reference, most likely due to the age of the script. Who is Moot Peters?

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When P tells Bond that his next mission is going to be a dangerous one, the agent smugly remarks, “Aren’t they all?” “Well I suppose so, Still, there’s no need to fling it back in my face”, is P’s response. What a great line.

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Miss Funnymoney carries in Wakko and Yakko. In a bit that must be referencing West Side Story, Yakko says, “Ah, Funnymoney. Say it soft and it sounds like Springtime. Say it loud and it sounds like…” At that, him and Wakko being screaming, “FUNNYMONEY!!! HEY, FUNNYMONEY!!!" Great delivery from both of them, especially Paulsen.

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Every time I think I’ve seen the end of this “Taming of the Screwy” footage, it keeps popping up. I can’t believe they’re still using it. Still, in this instance, it probably would have been used if this cartoon had been made in season one.

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After the the bit with Yakko and Dot making fun of P’s name, Wakko shouts “Good one! Good one!” and slams the stamper at the screen. This is definitely more in line with the bizarre Wakko behavior from the first season.

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After the Warners toss things at the image of Tempjob, P tries to get back on track by explaining the location of Blowfinger’s hideout. Then a fly buzzes into the shot and the Warners again begin to toss objects at the screen, thinking they’ve been “bugged”. This time, they manage to nail P on the head and knock him silly. Dot’s off camera “Look out!!” before they start to throw stuff is very well timed.

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If I was writing that sign, I would have written, “…and two Pinky and the Brain cartoons.” And what exactly is “blue crass”?

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Yakko hops out of the car and begins to guide Bond into a parking space, with the staging very cleverly putting Yakko in the side view mirror as 0007 backs up. “Come on back…little more…little more…” CRASH!! "…little more…" Easily the most memorable part of this cartoon for me.

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As soon as Blowfinger appears, the Warners start commenting on his tiny head. Yakko: Whoa, where were you when they passed out heads? Wakko: You must have got the last one in the barrel!” Good stuff.

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I love the animation on Yakko and Wakko in this shot, but there’s a pretty big mistake with the background here. Yakko and Blowfinger shouldn’t be in outer space, there should be two different background paintings in this scene.

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There’s a few notable things to point out in this screen. First we get my favorite type of Wang animation on the Warners, with those great, broad, expressive faces. We also have Blowfinger, wearing a sombrero given to him by Yakko for absolutely no reason. Then of course there’s his great line after Yakko tells him to push the button - “That’s very gracious of you. Fine. I will.”

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I love these faces on Yakko and Wakko. As far as I’m concerned, this is the last Wang-animated Warners short to really carry their polished distinctive styles from the first season. By the time we get to season five, their work levels off to the point where it becomes hard to tell the difference between it and Koko Enterprises in South Korea, who would soon begin animating for the show.

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After Wakko tells Bond that they plan to tell their government that they want to work with the agent forever, Dot explains, “Given our record I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem.” She follows it up with this fantastically demented smile.

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Putting this here mainly for the horse’s expression, and the adorable smiles on Wakko and Dot. I generally look at the second half of season four to be a complete washout in terms of Warners cartoons, but I always forget how fun this one is.

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Traveling incognito, Dr, Scratchansniff boards a cruise ship in order to take a vacation away from the Warners. Although they don’t turn up in his room, the trio appear just as Scratchy is lulled into a false sense of security, and things just get worse from there. As he tries to hit on an overweight women by the pool, Yakko and Dot show up and begin asking what he did with “mommy”, causing poor Scratchansniff to get pounded for being a bad father. Next, he takes the kids to play bingo, where they begin shouting “BINGO!” for every number called. While trying to discipline them, Scratchy aggravates an old lady who proceeds to clog dance on his head. Finally, he leaves the Warners in his room while he goes off to get some dinner. When Scratchansniff returns, he discovers that the trio have thrown a party in his absence. When the vacation ends and he’s leaving the ship in a body cast and wheelchair, the p-sychiatrist is given a bill for over twenty grand, thanks to the Warners abusing room service. Scratchy then leaps into the ocean and swims away, as Yakko remarks, “After his swim, I think we’ll meet him in China.”

"Warners annoy someone" cartoons generally only work when the person they aggravate deserves mistreatment or needs to be taken down a peg. Furthermore, while the kids often drove Scratchansniff absolutely bonkers in the past, one never got a sense that they enjoyed following him around in order to make his life a living hell. And that’s why "Anchors A-Warners" not only fails, but fails so hard that it shoots to the top of my list of the very worst cartoons in the entire series. It’s a really nasty, mean-spirited short, featuring the Warners playing obnoxious little brats who have no problem ruining Scratchy’s vacation and seem to delight in torturing him. In "Drive Insane" they pulled the "daddy" routine because they’d been kicked out of his car and were being melodramatic, but the scene in which Yakko and Dot beg Scratchansniff to tell them what he did with "mommy" is just too uncomfortably cruel to be funny.

The bingo scene doesn’t make a lot of sense, either.  Yes, Scratchansniff brought the wrath of the clogdancing old lady on himself by shouting “Bingo!” even after being warned not to, but what did the Warners think they were doing here? In “Bingo”, Wakko was annoying simply because he didn’t understand the game and playfully misheard what Scratchy was saying. In this cartoon, they’re being as annoying as possible and refuse to stop even when it’s clear that the other passengers are turning their frustrations on Scratchansniff. To make matters worse, the story isn’t allowing him to bounce back from his injuries in each scene. Instead, the casts he’s wearing stick with him throughout short, so by the time the seven minutes are up and Scratchy is being pushed around in a full body cast and wheelchair, you’ve begun to hate the Warners for how unpleasant they’ve been. Seriously, what did Scratchansniff do to deserve any of this? Writer Nick DuBois doesn’t really seem to understand how to handle these characters, basically turning them into a trio of unlikable little hellions. He got very lucky with Buttons and Mindy, but his Warner and Slappy cartoons are among the worst in the series and bring the overall quality of the tail end of the Kids WB era down quite a bit. Meanwhile, Akom is back with their usual level of blandness, which adds to the mediocre feeling of this cartoon. Their next short in the following episode isn’t quite as bad as this one, but it still gives it a run for it’s money.

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Maybe it’s because I really don’t like this cartoon, but Love Boat and Gilligan’s Island references seem like a really lame way to start things off. I’m already done with this short and it’s barely started. We get it. These shows existed.

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Scratchy’s date from “Drive Insane” hinted at it, but this cartoon makes it perfectly clear: Scratchansniff has a thing for big women. So I guess it didn’t work out with whatshername?

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Okay, I have to come clean. As much as I really detest this sequence, Yakko’s line here makes me chuckle. Panting like a scared little kid, Yakko says, “You mean…mommy’s not on the boat!? Where is she daddy!” The only thing that makes this funny is the way Paulsen says the line, otherwise everything else (including the animation, yuck) about this scene is incredibly mean.

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The Warners beat each other over the head with bingo cards. At least we get a pretty decent gookie out of this cartoon.

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Oh jeez…get a load of this. Just look at this drawing and try not to be horrified. Akom’s animation would have killed this short even if the writing was better. Ouch!

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Raise your hand if you really felt sorry for Scratchy when this cartoon ended? I know I did. He shows up briefly a couple of episodes from now, but outside of non-speaking cameos we’re not going to see much of Scratchansniff until the Pinky and the Brain series final “Star Warners” in 1998.

When You’re Traveling From Nantucket

Music and lyrics by Randy Rogel

Once again wearing a mortarboard and holding a pointer, Yakko sings a song about time, or more specifically, time zone differences throughout the world. He attempts to explain why “when it’s ten o-clock in Maine, at precisely the same second it is three a.m. in Spain”. He also theorizes on what would happen if the Earth was spinning faster or if it were closest to the sun. According to Yakko, “A year would be much shorter and you’d have a lot of fun. ‘Cause by the time you were in first grade you’d be over twenty one. And you’d live to be nine hundred three or four.” It’s also possible to waste time, which Yakko explains is “really what we’re doing here right now.” After some information on the international date line, the Warners wrap up the song by summarizing everything, decide the whole thing is confusing and end with, “…we bet you wish we hadn’t sung at all!”

Boy, this is a really weird segment. We’re used to the Warners singing about educational topics - countries, states, presidents - but time zones? Most of Randy Rogel’s Animaniacs musical numbers are sublime, but this one is pretty out there and really stretches for a song topic. That said, Paulsen’s performance is great as always, and the slow, laid back feel of the music is a nice break from the more fast paced song segments we’ve gotten throughout the series. It’s also worth pointing out that this is only the second standalone song to appear in the fourth season, and we’re not even going to get another one until season five. In fact, we aren’t going to get many more of these at all, as a good chunk of the remainder of the show’s musical numbers are being saved for the unnecessary two-parter that’s going to air a few episodes from now.

But let’s be honest, the weirdest thing about this short is the animation. This is the only Animaniacs cartoon to be sent to a company called Varga, located in Hungary. Their work is incredibly strange, as it features Warner designs that desperately cling to the model sheets while the animation jumps back and forth from being incredibly stiff to looking like it’s on ones. You’d be forgiven if you initially thought this was animated by Akom, but by the time the cartoon ends and we get a hilariously off model Yakko in a shot that lasts over a half minute, you realize this is like nothing you’ve ever seen before on the show. Is it Freelance bad? No, but it’s still pretty odd, and is a sign of things to come in terms of the studios animating the series as we near the end.

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If I could get a hold of a Yakko watch, preferable one that looks this nice, it would probably be the only watch I’d ever wear for the rest of my life.

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Here’s a couple of shots from early in the cartoon. If you were to tell me you thought this came from something animated by Akom, I wouldn’t fault you too much. Much like Akom, Varga had no idea what to do with the Warners’ eyes. Their designs aren’t that complicated, but some studios sure had a difficult time keeping the Warners on model, didn’t they?

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It’s impossible to tell in stills, but here are two shots where I’m certain the animation suddenly goes on ones. Yakko moves nonstop, and he strobes unnaturally, recalling moments in first season Akom shorts (like “Moon Over Minerva”) where they tried to do full animation but crashed and burned in their attempt.

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I’ve seen a lot of strange looking Yakkos in my time, but I think these really take the cake. The eyes have no focus, and what’s with the eyebrow lines? The head-on shots especially are horrendous.

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I do kinda like this drawing as Yakko says, “…and then you will recalllll” but mainly because of how freaky it is. A lot of this short features a Yakko who looks like Varga is using the well-known licensing model sheet for reference, but can’t handle him when they have to give him different poses and expressions. Thank God they never used this studio again.

Joke Credit: The Beaver: Jerry Mathers

Tower Outro: Ahh! Rush Limbaugh’s on your sofa! Ahh!!! Just kidding. (laughter)

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I Feel A Lot Of Love In This Cartoon Right Now: Episode 86

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Variable Verse: Fraiser Crane-y!

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In a vain attempt to win a Humanitarian Animation Award, the Warners go out of their way to be as obnoxiously kind, helpful and politically correct as possible. They rescue a beached baby whale and decide to walk where they need to go instead of taking a bus in order to be environmentally friendly. Dot needs to return a book on Ghandi to the library, while Yakko explains that he’s been helping to plant trees. When they see Plotz nearby smoking a cigar, they educate him on the facts of second hand smoke and the dangers of smoking in general. Dot sees a group of men ogling Hello Nurse and prepares to hit them with a mallet, but Yakko explains to her that violence isn’t the answer. After a discussion about eating healthy and taking care of your body, the Warners gather for a group hug, the music swells and…a special announcement informs them that they’ve lost the Humanitarian Award. With that, they go back on everything they’ve talked about, pigging out on a fattening cheesecake, deciding to take a drive in their gas-guzzling car and to watch TV all day. When Hello Nurse consoles them on losing the award, Yakko rationalizes that there’s always next year.

Some of my least favorite episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures were the “very special episodes”, the ones that preached positive morals or were environmentally friendly. For example, one episode dealt with prejudice, illiteracy and alcoholism, while another concerned Buster and Babs protecting a whale from a woman bent on using it to produce cosmetics. That episode (“Whales Tales”) ended up winning an Environmental Media Award in 1991. While Animaniacs would have the occasional serious or educational cartoon, it stayed far away from preachy, moralistic stories. Tiny Toons doing a cartoon like “A Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show” would have been downright hypocritical, but it works in this episode thanks to how out of character it is for the Warners to do something like this. There are a couple of jokes here and there, but for the most part the majority of the dialogue is played completely straight. But what makes it enjoyable is how bizarre it is to see the Warners do something this lame, and it’s made clear from the very beginning that they’re only in this for the chance to win the Humanitarian Award. Paulsen, Harnell and MacNeille’s delivery of their lines are perfect. There’s a phoniness to all of this that’s readily apparent, but it’s not so obvious that it becomes sarcastic or cynical. Dot’s line, “And if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got a thing”, or Yakko saying, “I feel a lot of love in this cartoon right now” sound like the characters are actually amused with how painfully saccharine some of this stuff is and are trying to keep it together. It’s so amazingly subtle, but it works.

This makes their total change of heart at the end even funnier. The instant the Warners discover they’ve lost, it’s like a release valve has been turned, and the kids have to work overtime to make up for being uncharacteristically good throughout the episode by being uncharacteristically bad. The voice actors seem to relish the lines they’re given here. “Anybody want a piece of really fattening cheesecake?”, asks Wakko, while Dot announces that she’s going to chop down a Christmas tree and put in her house. Regarding their car (I didn’t know the Warners could drive), Yakko explains, “That pig sucks gas like it’s water.” This is the very definition of a “love it or hate it” cartoon, but I definitely get a kick out of it, mainly because of how unique it is. It’s not like they did any other cartoons like this. As an added bonus, Akom’s animation is surprisingly solid and on-model. It’s probably the nicest the Warners have ever looked when handled by this studio. This is to the cartoon’s advantage as, since it’s so dialogue-heavy, terrible drawings probably would have killed anything remotely humorous about it. To be honest, this is the last Akom-animated Warners cartoon this season that’s actually decent, as season four includes some of the very worst Yakko, Wakko and Dot cartoons in the entire series. It’s going to be a little while before the Warners really bounce back from this, while other characters start appearing in shorts that are masterpieces in comparison.

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An example of what Akom’s Warners look like throughout most of this cartoon. It’s clearly Akom (note the pudgy cheek) but it’s very on-model with great shading and eyes that are actually focused and not soulless and scary.

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This Dot is even better than the last one. Usually Dot tends to suffer the most at the hands of Akom, but she turned out really well in this short. This is also a scene from what’s hands-down the funniest bit in the cartoon. Yakko asks how the spotted owl she’s been nursing back to health is doing. Dot responds, “Oh fine! In fact, it’s playing with the white Siberian tiger.” While the line itself is hilarious (that poor owl) the editing makes the joke even better by cutting to Yakko immediately after Dot finishes her sentence. In it’s own way, the editing acknowledges how dark the joke it.

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"We like helping out because it makes us feel good. Not because we’re trying to, you know, win a humanitarian award or something like that…" Great line read from Paulsen, especially with the cocky way Yakko trails off at the end. Not the best drawing, but it still has more character than what we usually get from Akom.

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I love this line from Wakko; “You know, I think it’s really special that we could share this moment together.” The delivery is fantastic. It’s like he’s somewhere between being so happy he could cry and laughing his ass off. This show was really lucky to have the vocal talent that it got.

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"Nah, I think I’m gonna go chop down a Christmas tree and put it in my house to decorate. Then I’m gonna sit on my butt and watch TV all day." Another great line helped immensely by some strong poses and expressions. Why couldn’t Akom always look this good?

Buttons and Mindy intro

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Mindy’s mom leaves to appear on an Oprah episode about overprotective mothers, leaving Mindy alone to play with a toy frog. When a real frog hops past, Mindy follows it out of the yard and into the fog-shrouded cemetery right next to the house. Buttons give chase, but finds himself at the mercy of the living dead, who burst from their graves and attack him. After a few close calls, Buttons and Mindy take shelter in an old, abandoned house. The zombies soon burst in and surround them, and in order to protect Mindy, Buttons channels Michael Jackson and begins to dance with the undead in a spoof of “Thriller”. Buttons leads the zombies into a mausoleum and traps them inside, but Mindy realizes that the frog is also in there and begs Buttons to save it. When he does, they discover that it’s none other than Michigan J. Frog, causing Buttons and Mindy to run off in fright!

I can’t for the life of me think of any Buttons and Mindy cartoon from the first season that was truly the highlight of the episode it appeared in. As I’ve said numerous times before, this series combined a formulaic,  mean-spirited premise with bland visuals, with almost every entry being sent to Akom or Freelance. But much like what happened with episode 76, “Night of the Living Buttons” is easily the very best part of this half hour. The concept is great, the animation is fun and it does what no other Buttons and Mindy cartoon has done before - it gleefully stomps all over the usual formula in a way that’s as refreshing as it is absurd. It’s only a little over five minutes long, but that’s all it really needs with a silly idea like this. Nick DuBois’ Animaniacs resume isn’t the greatest (he wrote perhaps the worst Warners short ever produced) but he really knew what he was doing with Buttons and Mindy.

The set-up alone is terrific, with the cemetery sitting directly adjacent to the house, divided only by a simple wooden fence with a missing slat, making it easy for Mindy to wander away. In the cemetery, Mindy’s sweet nature and her upbeat theme music clash wonderfully with the creepy atmosphere and flesh-eating zombies. Once they get into the house however, the short decides to ditch everything we think know about this series. As the undead back the duo into a corner, Mindy for once actually recognizes she’s in danger, making Buttons’ role as her protector much more important. The whole “Thriller” bit is a little predictable, but the great animation on Buttons and the music make it work. Most importantly, the cartoon ends at the cemetery. They don’t even go back to the house so Buttons can get scolded by Mindy’s mom. Although they’re scared away by the frog (nice to see Buttons AND Mindy on the same page with a reaction like this, though) at least the poor dog gets to end the cartoon as a hero without having to be knocked down a peg.

Wang’s animation is again incredibly enjoyable and cartoony, making Buttons’ injuries and pratfalls actually funny. On top of that, his expressions are often truly hilarious, and the design of the various zombies have a hell of a lot of personality. Even the Warners run-through is genius. Giving the Buttons and Mindy cartoons to Wang is exactly what they should have been doing in the first season, as it would have gone a long way towards making those shorts work. But is there anything in this cartoon that doesn’t work? Well, while it doesn’t really hurt it too much, the Michigan J. Frog appearance at the very end is a painful reminder of how just much this character was shoved in everyone’s faces during the early years of The WB. It doesn’t seem like a tribute to “One Froggy Evening” as much as it just feel like an eye-rolling example of network synergy. Mindy’s line, “Kiss the frog, baby!” (one of the WB’s slogans at the time) is another groaner. Still, I’d rather this short end with a dated reference to a failed network than see Buttons being called a “bad dog” again. There’s only one more Buttons and Mindy short to go, and while it’s nowhere near as good as this one, it’s still pretty enjoyable.

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Mindy’s mom makes an offhand remark about how unusual it is to see fog over the cemetery this time of year. It doesn’t seem to bother Buttons, who rolls his eyes and gestures as if it’s no big deal. He has so much personality in this cartoon and a lot of knockout expressions. I just love how the characters are treating living next door to a cemetery as nothing to be concerned about.

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You can’t have a Buttons and Mindy cartoon without a one-sided “why” conversation. Of course, all “mister zombie guy” does is growl at her, but that’s what makes it funny.

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Buttons rushes in after Mindy, turns, sees the zombie coming right for him and makes this perfect frozen expression of fear before zipping back out of the shot. Check out the ’90s Batman logo on the zombie’s shirt.

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This shot is incredibly well timed. Mindy crosses an open grave on a wooden board as zombies reach up and try to grab her. Buttons runs up and dives towards her, only to land on the board, snap it in half, send Mindy flying and get attacked by the zombies. Again, Buttons’ ordeal in this short is so funny because of how ridiculously zany all of it is. Wang handles him in such a way that erases anything even remotely cruel about this premise.

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After the the previous scene, the cartoon is smart enough to take a quick breather before it gets going again. Buttons and Mindy reconnect for a brief moment before the frog distracts her again. I like the animation of Buttons following the frog with his eyes as it hops past him.

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A jawless zombie attempts to hit Mindy with a shovel, only for a pursuing Buttons to get nailed by it and driven into the ground. Upside down with his head stuck in a casket, Buttons comes face to face with one of the very best comedic zombie designs I’ve ever seen. Seriously, look at this guy and try to tell me that’s not great.

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Here’s something you never really saw Buttons do before - run around on his hind legs like a maniac. They’re not really treating him like a real dog at all anymore. That’s never how they should have been treating him in the first place.

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Character Cameo: oh…my…God, this is probably the very best Warners run-through in the entire series. Look at those designs! We even get a zombie Ralph, who gets tripped and rolls out of the shot. The zombie Warners groaning as they shamble by just makes it even more perfect.

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Another incredible scene. Buttons stands by the front door, terrified to open it. He puts his ear to the door, clutches the knob, puts his fist against his chest, looks back and forth, gulps nervously, turns the knob, opens the door and "BUCKAWWW!!!!!" The way this scene drags out is unbelievable, and I can’t think of a moment in the entire series that makes a better use of the chicken screech sound effect.

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Buttons is much more proactive than usual in dealing with the dangers of this cartoon. He wails on zombies with a wooden board, clobbers them with furniture and - when he accidentally dismembers a zombie - he proceeds to beat on it with it’s own arm. Crisis temporary averted, Buttons then wipes his brow with the arm.

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Ok yeah, “Thriller” is a pretty easy reference, but how would you have ended this cartoon? I just love that it gives Buttons a chance to take charge of a situation in a way that actually outright saves the day. I don’t usually hear people talk about this one much, but with the popularity of zombies these days, I’m surprised it’s so underrated.

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I love this pose and attitude on Buttons, all cocky after saving Mindy. The way he’s looking down at her and tapping his feet, it’s like he’s saying, “Okay, so what else can I help you with kid? I’m on a roll.”

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Oh Michigan J. Frog, I remember back when you were all over the place. As I said, this is clearly supposed to be a network plug and really dates the cartoon for anyone aware of it. Still, I love this short too much to be bothered by it.

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The Warners pop into an ice cream parlor for some milkshakes. Wakko gets more than he bargained for when he drinks his in one gulp and finds himself with the hiccups. Traditional remedies fail to cure him, and the scientific community isn’t much help, so Yakko and Dot resort to more unorthodox methods. Dot tries to scare Wakko with her pet, they try acupuncture, electrocute him like the Frankenstein monster, consult a witch doctor and even have Wakko take an icy swim with the Polar Bears Club. Klaatu and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still arrive on earth and try to cure Wakko, but to no avail. Finally, Wakko appears at a packed medical conference, but when it comes time to hiccup, he’s unable to, thanks to a little performance anxiety. Suddenly, Yakko, Dot, the doctors and eventually everyone on the planet begin to hiccup. “Talk about sharing the joy!”, says Wakko.

"Soda Jerk" is a perfect example of a Warners short that’s just there. The plot has been done before (and was much funnier when the Goodfeathers did it), the animation is about average for Wang, and at almost eight minutes, it’s at least three minutes longer than it needs to be. It’s a cartoon that I never give any thought to (or even remember much of) until I’m actually watching this episode. I will give it points for being one of the very few Warners cartoons from this period that tells a legitimate story without stopping to address the audience or take pot-shots at something else. That alone gives it a very first season feel. This isn’t a bad short (Yakko as Doctor Frankenstein is terrific) but it’s really just a bunch of spot gags, and there really isn’t anything that truly stands out outside of the Day the Earth Stood Still and Clockwork Orange parodies. I honestly don’t have much to say about this cartoon outside of the screenshot captions. It’s cute, and there are certainly much worse Warners shorts out there, but it just seems weird that they’re going back to an idea that they’ve already done.

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The opening scene features the best animation with one of my favorite Wang Warners styles. Dot asks for a low-fat shake, while a gluttonous Wakko asks for one with “extra fat!”

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Toby the ice cream guy is performed by Paulsen using his natural voice. As he’s mixing the shakes, he whistles a little bit of the Pinky and the Brain theme.

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Some really wild drawings as Wakko gets electrocuted at the Center For Advanced Research. The last shot is particularly good. Turns out this piece of equipment is powered by a quarter. “They got one of these at Chuck-E-Cheese!” says Yakko.

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The last time we saw Dot’s pet was when it popped out of Don Pepperoni’s pocket in episode 48. Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Was this an old script, or did someone think it was worth bringing this gag back. Honestly, it was an early first season idea that really didn’t do much for me.

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Paulsen totally sells the psychotic laughter in the Frankenstein scene. I wish we saw this side of him more often.

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I doubt there was any kid watching this cartoon that knew that this was referencing the Ludovico technique sequence from A Clockwork Orange. While that film has it’s main character strapped in, drugged and forced to watch images of violence, Yakko and Dot are simply making Wakko watch Bob Hope stand-up.

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And of course, how many kids knew that this was all from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still? This isn’t even a parody. This is exactly how these characters looked.

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The cute sideways smile…the twiddling thumbs…I swear this is taken directly from a Mickey Mouse cartoon. I know for sure I’ve seen this before. If someone can tell me exactly what old Mickey short this is from please let me know.

Joke Credit: Mr. Merger Mania!: Gerald Levin

Tower Outro: We’re nuts!

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Just The Same Old Heroine!: Episode 85

Cold Opener: Rugrats parody

Rugrats was an enormously popular kids show in 1996, so it was inevitable that Animaniacs would parody it sooner or later. By doing a riff on the opening theme, they were able get a lot of use out of many of their cast members, while doing their take on Rugrats’ art and music style at the same time. Wang’s animation is fine, though the Klasky Csupo versions of the Warners are definitely a little horrifying. There’s nothing particularly original about this, but it’s still a cute way to begin this episode.

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They didn’t play around with this one. The squiggly, animated background, the Mark Mothersbaugh-esque music…it’s as close to the Rugrats theme as you’re going to get with something like this. But holy jeez, look at Yakko’s eyes! That’s beyond scary. But then again, Rugrats was pretty scary too.

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Slappy takes the place of Grandpa Lou. The fight cloud on the TV belongs to Squit and Pesto, who appear for a split second. This means the Goodfeathers appear in three out of four cartoons in this episode.

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Although they do pop up for cameos, this milk carton still feels really appropriate. Even the show itself is acknowledging how badly they’ve neglected Rita and Runt at this point. I still don’t think they deserved that.

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Probably the weirdest thing about the Rugrats opening were those two bizarre robots that Tommy knocked over with his milk. They appear here too, only played by Pinky and the Brain.

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Skippy and Mindy play Lil and Phil, who pass the time playing in toilet water. Those two always were a little off. Lil and Phil that is, not Skippy and Mindy.

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Dot plays Angelica, while Buttons is Spike, of course. Wakko gets a taste of what Dot’s making, then turns around, opens the fridge and throws up in the vegetable crisper.

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And finally we have Scratchansniff and Hello Nurse as Stu and Didi. Even the house in the background looks like it belongs on Rugrats. The parody didn’t need to be any longer than this. They nailed everything they had to.

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Variable Verse: Bangor, Maine-y!

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In this very overt parody of Disney’s Pocahontas, we meet young Wakkoum, who would give anything to become a warrior. He’s brought back several spoils from the hunt, including a buffalo, the cast of Friends and a paddleball. Chief Yakhatan grants him his wish and then tells Wakkoum that he can marry his daughter, Pocadotas. Unfortunately, Pocadotas refuses to get married, since she feels there’s something better out there for her. Then, to the tune of “Just Around the Riverbend”, the Warners sing about just how familiar this scenario is, referencing movies such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. In the end, they conclude, it’s “Just the same old heroine!” Meanwhile, headed to the New World is John Smith (Jeff Bennett), a caricature of Mel Gibson wearing Mickey Mouse pants and mouse ears on his hat. Joined by sidekicks Benjamin and Jerome, Smith plans to travel to the New World not for gold, but for something wonderful.

Confused about what to do with her life, Pocadotas consults the wise Grandmama Maple, played by Slappy with a small tree stump tied to her head. Skippy also shows up, playing the role of Meeko the raccoon. Slappy bails on her musical number and the cartoon, telling Pocadotas to figure everything out on her own. John Smith then arrives, and Dot (it’s just easier this way) immediately falls in love with him and begins painting with the colors of the “passing wind”, to Wakko’s delight. Deciding to give the explorers what they’re looking for, the Warners treat Smith, Benjamin and Jerome to ice cream, singing a song set to the Hungarian Rhapsody. There isn’t a song like this in the movie, Smith argues, but the trio explains that they just got hungry. Benjamin and Jerome take a liking to the ice cream, and demand the recipe. A war breaks out with ice cream being used as weapons, and Smith ends up getting hit. Wounded (just go with it) he announces that he needs to go back to England, but assures Dot that, even though there won’t be a sequel, there’s be a TV series and lots of merchandise. Ben and Jerry (get it?) gorge themselves on ice cream and the Warners decide to sell the recipe after all. Between that and selling “Pocadotas” souvenirs, the trio makes a fortune, “with the same old heroine!”

Even though this is the second episode in a row with a two act Disney musical parody, “Jokahantas” couldn’t be more different than “Cutie and the Beast” if it tried. First of all, as the synopsis indicates, the cartoon is extremely plot heavy. It packs in a lot more content: more characters, a romance, four different songs and a Slappy cameo, not to mention the shots at various Disney films. For example, since Gibson voiced John Smith in “Pocahantas”, there was no way we weren’t going to get a caricature of him here. And since they’ve got Mel Gibson in this cartoon, they also find time to throw in a couple of Braveheart references as well. One gets the feeling that the only reason they decided to specifically target this film was to do as many Gibson jokes as possible. Writer Earl Kress piles as much into this cartoon as he can, but the end result is a story that’s all over the place, with nothing really coming across as very funny. There are no standout scenes, Akom’s animation is merely adequate, and even the songs are pretty forgettable. In fact, for years the only thing I really remembered about this cartoon - no matter how often I watched it -  was the “passing wind” joke, thanks to how crude it is. “Cutie and the Beast” is far from perfect, but at least it’s memorable. This one just takes the Warners, plops them into a parody of a Disney movie and tries to be clever by pointing out how formula-driven and over-merchandised that company’s films had gotten. Honestly, the cartoon isn’t all that bad when it’s just starring the Warners, and the first few minutes are pretty entertaining. It’s when Smith finally meets Dot that the short really loses its way. Story then takes a backseat to Smith missing his cue, the random ice cream song and everyone stopping the short cold so “Mel” can appear on a talk show to discuss where he was born. The ice cream stuff is what really gets everything off track, and all it leads to is that lame “Ben and Jerry’s” joke.

 Like many cartoons around this time (especially those involving the Warners) no one seems to know how to walk that fine line between just telling a story and constantly demolishing the fourth wall. More often than not, things tend to lean in the latter direction. In fact, we’re just about to enter a period where the cartoons featuring Yakko, Wakko and Dot start to really sink in quality, while characters such as Buttons and Mindy and the Hip Hippos begin appearing in cartoons that are stronger than anything they were in during the first season. There are worse Warners cartoons out there than “Jokahantas”, but it’s still one of my least favorites, and as far as I’m concerned it’s indicative of everything that’s wrong with this season.

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You could have divorced “Cutie and the Beast” from it’s Disney parody elements and it still would have worked as a simple Beauty and the Beast story. But this cartoon is far more upfront about what it’s referencing. It begins with a rip-off of the Walt Disney Pictures logo that was used throughout the studio’s renaissance period. And just in case you weren’t sure what they were poking fun at, Dot shows up as Tinkerbell.

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The show would do a full blown Friends parody in season five, but with far better caricatures of the cast. Yakko explains that these guys were everywhere. He wasn’t kidding.

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As Wakko’s voice gets higher, we rarely get that funny, groaning sound we got pretty frequently during the first season. But with this line, “I wanna be a warrior!!” it returns with a vengeance. Pretty funny.

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More direct Disney references, with Ralph as both the Beast and the Genie. Since he appears in the Rugrats opener taking a shower, Ralph becomes the only character to appear in every segment of this episode. And yet, he doesn’t utter a single word. More on that later.

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Character Cameo: Colin shows up as a little boy paying to go see “Pocadotas” in a theater, followed by Wakko grabbing him and shoving VHS tapes of the movie into his arms.

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Slappy gets ready to sing her musical number, “Maple Leaf Ditty”, until Skippy stops her and asks if she’s really going to sing. Her response? “For the sake of the show…no.” That’s fine because, as Wakko’s Wish would eventually prove, Slappy can’t sing to save her life.

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"Did you say passing wind?" Dot is in no mood for a fart joke, and begs Wakko not to go there. She’s almost hysterical. Great performance by Tress.

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Hey. Look. Mel Gibson was in Braveheart. It’s funny ‘cause it happened. Family Guy, eat your heart out.

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Read some of those ice cream flavors. Is it wrong that I’d like to try macaroni and cheese ice cream, even if it’s terrible? I’ll pass on asphalt and gravel, thank you.

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There’s the Hawaiian shirt guy again, without the cast and crutches. Nice to see he’s finally healed and enjoying some time with his wife and…elf-eared…daughter…? What the…?

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The Goodfeathers are enjoying a relaxing afternoon hanging out at the Warner lot (I guess New York was getting boring). Just as they’re about to eat a discarded piece of bread, they’re run over by Ralph, chauffeuring Thaddeus Plotz to the studio in his limo. After being run over a second time, and kicked aside when the CEO enters the administration building, Pesto hatches a plan. As Ralph finishes washing the limo, the Goodfeathers fly in to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries” and begin dive-bombing the vehicle. In an effort to protect the limo from being splattered with pigeon poop, Ralph covers it with his shirt and pants and arms himself with a broom. In his attempts to shoo away the defecating birds (we hear it happen, but we don’t see it), the half-naked security guard proceeds to accidentally destroy the limo. The Goodfeathers make their exit, leaving poor Ralph to be chewed out by Plotz.

Where the fourth season tends to succeed is with really random short cartoons that turn out to be a lot of fun because of how ridiculous they are. And at the center of many of these (for whatever reason) is Ralph, who keeps getting paired up with characters you normally wouldn’t see him with. That said, the real treat here is finally getting to see the Goodfeathers star in a cartoon again. Granted, they don’t get a lot of dialogue, and are stripped of the NYC setting, but it’s a thrill to see this show start to play around with the more forgotten characters after so many of them were left to sit on the sidelines during the third season. Yes, this is a very lowbrow cartoon, but it’s one that’s very easy to enjoy. Seeing Ralph trying to fend off the pigeons in boxer shorts and a hubcap bra is hysterical, and Wang gets a lot of mileage out of shots of the Goodfeathers flying into the camera with funny expressions on their faces. Between the premise, the music, the goofy animation and the chance to see our favorite feathered Italians again, “Boids on the Hood” is definitely the highlight of this episode.

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You can’t have a Goodfeathers cartoon without the boys getting pulverized somehow. What works about this is that it’s what gets the plot moving in the first place, and is the whole reason the pigeons retaliate. Additionally, between the loud “clang” sound when they’re hit, the tire tracks on their asses and this great drawing of Bobby, it manages to also be extremely funny.

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Chick Venerra voices Pesto early in this cartoon and the next one, but this line - “Hey guys. I got a plan!” - is clearly being spoken by LaMarche. Was Squit supposed to be saying this line? Did Venerra miss a bit of dialogue and they asked LaMarche to sub for him?

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This cartoon has a lot of really good animation, but the background artists deserve a ton of credit too. This is an absolutely beautiful painting, with some fantastic colors and a great design. Everything is pulling your attention towards the focal point - the Goodfeathers flying in the background.

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Even though this is the only Goodfeathers cartoon we’re going to get during the Kids WB era, you can still tell they’re having fun with the characters. These drawings are a riot, especially the demented head-on shots of Pesto.

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And come on, how could anyone not find this funny?

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As i said before, Ralph doesn’t say one articulate word in this episode. But what’s really weird is that a lot of his grunts, and especially this final “duh”, don’t sound like Welker at all. The voice actor clearly was around for this cartoon, since that’s obviously him performing Plotz. So what happened to Ralph? He’s even credited for Ralph at the end of the episode. I love this drawing though.

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It’s the last game of the championship, and the Warners baseball team (comprised of most of the Animaniacs cast) are behind only one run in the very last inning. As narrator Yakko explains, Coach Plotz is on edge, and threatens to not pay anyone on the team if they don’t win. Scratchansniff goes up to bat…and immediately strikes out. Pesto makes a hit, but is tagged (well, stomped) out before he gets to first base. Up next is the team’s star player, Ralph the guard, clearly the fan favorite. He ends up getting beaned in the head and knocked unconscious by the ball, allowing Skippy to take his place on first. Unfortunately, the next batter up is little Wakko, who can barely hold up his bat, much to the amusement of the other team. Wakko indeed hits the ball, while Minerva Mink and Hello Nurse provide a distraction to the outfielders, who fail to catch it. Skippy makes it home, but the catcher - ball in hand - stands in Wakko’s way. However, unlike the traditional “Casey at the Bat” story, Wakko makes it safely home, winning the game!

Adaptations of “Casey at the Bat” aren’t too hard to find. Disney did a straightforward version of it in 1946, while Tiny Toon Adventures also did a parody with Buster Bunny. Like “Gunga Dot” and “The Big Wrap Party” from the previous season, the main reason to watch this cartoon is to see so many characters interacting with each other. Some - like the Hippos, Rita, Runt, Pinky and Brain - don’t have anything to do, but the Goodfeathers get a pretty decent cameo. For the first time in forever Pesto gets a chance to lose his temper: he picks a fight with the umpire and has to be dragged away by Bobby and Squit. Also enjoyable is the way Ralph is played up as being the best player on the team, something that seems doubtful considering he needs to be reminded to actually face the pitcher. And much like Homer Simpson, Ralph’s time up at bat ends with him getting knocked unconscious, which results in one of the funniest bits of animation that Wang has done in quite a while. It’s not much of a surprise to see that Randy Rogel wrote this short, with Paulsen doing a great job as always voicing it as Yakko. I greatly prefer this cartoon over the Tiny Toons version, since here Wakko is depicted as an underdog. Both shorts change the ending so that the hero wins, but it’s more fulfilling when that hero is the little guy who can barely lift his own bat. Short, sweet and packed with characters, this is another segment that more than makes up for this episode’s disappointing first half.

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This is part of a longer pan that includes most of the characters that appear in this short. I just chose to include this one since it’s one of the few shots to include Pinky and the Brain and Rita. I wonder how many kids watched this episode and wondered who the random cat and dog were.

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Nice reference to Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng here. This sort of stuff popped up in some classic shorts as well, so it’s a nice little tribute.

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This cartoon proves that you really shouldn’t mess with Pesto. Apparently, he’s strong enough to beat a human being senseless. Watch out for that guy.

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Holy cow, look at some of these drawings. This is some crazy stuff, probably some of the wackiest animation Wang ever did for this show. They weren’t afraid to get extremely loose when they needed to.

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I never understood all the attention Minerva Mink got over the years. They could barely keep her on model half the time. And with Hello Nurse around, what was the point of a character like this? Oh well…

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Another group shot. At this point Wakko is running the bases and tensions are high. Despite this, Marita and Runt seem to be reacting to something else entirely.

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This fat guy with the WB logo on his stomach is funny, but look at the terrified man next to him. That’s probably how I’d react if I was sitting there too. What’s with the slack-jawed woman? And hey, there’s that Dan McQ/Lucky Bob guy as well.

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"Okay, I love you, bye bye!" We iris out on Mindy. Buttons pokes himself into the iris just long enough to pull Mindy away so it can close. It’s really cute. If you’re starved for more Buttons and Mindy, just wait until the next episode.

Joke Credit: Employee of the Week: Jane Fonda

Tower Outro: “Wanna hear me burp the theme song?” “Sure do! And our fans can burp along with you!” “Join us, won’t you?”