What cartoon defines 90’s animation better than the Animaniacs? Fun, upbeat, slapstick comedy at its best, when cartoons were content to be silly. The show won EIGHT freaking daytime Emmys! But sadly, not all of the segments were winners. I decided to go through the segments of the Animaniacs and line up the worst segments to the best. Please keep in mind, this is my opinion and I would love to hear yours, but please back up your argument.
WORST–Rita and Runt. This segment sent me the opposite way of the rest of the series. It wasn’t funny. In fact, it was grating. I don’t even really know any of the plots other than the recurring theme of stupid Runt not getting the fact that Rita is a cat. Runt’s Rainman impersonation gets old very fast and Rita is ALWAYS singing. I always skipped these segments as a kid.
12. Minerva Mink. That’s not some naughty fan picture you see on the right. That’s an actual screen shot. Minerva had one joke: she was drop-dead gorgeous (Literally. This is Animaniacs, after all). The humor of this segment was all the boys going gaga over her luscious body. Minerva was way to sexualized for a kids show, so they ended up shoehorning her into various other segments, taking away her own. I mean come on, in her first episode, she put up a screen, stripped naked, and went skinny dipping in silhouette. I remember nothing else about that episode.
11. Katie KABOOM. Here’s another one-trick pony that failed to satisfy. Katie was a teenage girl who always wanted to do something Mommy and Daddy didn’t approve of. So she’s always whining, but to make matters worse, when she’s really ticked, she transforms into a rage-fueled Hellspawn. Then the family puts on combat gear and tries to reason with her, usually coming to some sort of compromise, but only AFTER she’s destroyed the house. I think it was a take on raising real teenagers, but it was the same gag every time.
10. Chicken Boo. This is one of the weirdest segments. Chicken Boo was a giant chicken (surprise!) who would dress up like someone important, such as a tough cowboy or a martial artist. He is always revered as a master of whatever he’s doing, but some person always sees that he’s a chicken. The townsfolk kick that person out, then fawn over Chicken Boo until his costume comes off. Horrified, they kick him out of the town. A bit brutal, don’t you think? I mean he’s obviously good at what he does. So what if he’s a chicken? Another one-trick pony, but the theme was kind of cool. You wear a disguise to look like human guys, but you’re not a man, you’re a Chicken, Boo!
9. Buttons and Mindy. All right, now to the shows that actually got regular laughs. This was a story about the most committed dog ever, constantly getting Mindy out of mortal danger, but getting himself in trouble every time. Even though this, too, is a one-plotter, there was some really good slapstick in this segment, almost akin to Tom and Jerry.
8. The Hip Hippos, Flavio and Marita. This one wasn’t on very often, but it was unusually funny. I don’t even know why, probably because the Spanish/Italian (I don’t know) flavor of them added some charm and the fact that they were simply two love-struck hippos trying to have some fun, but always causing trouble. Odd, but I remember laughing.
7. The Goodfeathers. What says “kids animation?” That’s right! An R-rated crime drama! That’s what this segment was based on: Goodfellas, bloody, cuss-laden affair that was never intended for kids. But the Warner Brothers did it anyway, basing an entire cartoon around mimicking the three characters. They always ended in fights, and there were some good gags, mostly mafia related. The best of all was the Godpigeon, a Marlon Brando-like bird whom only one of the birds could translate. Great for adults.
6. The Wheel of Morality. This was a short, common segment that ended a dozen Animaniacs episodes and it was always a hoot. Obviously, it was a wink at the people who think cartoons should teach kids good lessons, instead of being mindless entertainment. The morals were always bogus and there were even times when they won prizes instead of learning anything.
5. Slappy the Squirrel. This was some high-quality slapstick entertainment that was always funny. Slappy was also an old cartoon star, so you got to have a lot of in-jokes and winks to old cartoons, like Slappy saying that a haunted house looked like the opening to Scooby Doo. The best part was, of course, Slappy herself, a snide and oft-irritated squirrel who you always knew would get the last laugh, mostly because she’d tell you halfway through the gag. And does anyone remember the episode where Slappy got hurt and Skippy was taken off to Child Services? Messed up!
4. Colin, the Randy Beeman Kid. Sometimes, the shortest jokes were the best. Colin had only one thing to do: walk outside of his house, tell a story about Randy Beeman, and then march back inside like nothing happened. The stories were hit and miss, but there was always something about the way, no matter how horridly the story ended, Colin would just shrug and say, “Kay, Bye.” And off he went.
3. Pinky and the Brain. The only segment on this list great enough to earn its own TV show. Like many on this list, it was a single gag played over and over: Brain and Pinky try to take over the world, fail miserably, and try again tomorrow. These characters were simply hilarious, but one episode stood out: the Christmas Special. It was funny enough, but it stands out because Brain actually succeeds in mind-warping everyone in the world. But he changes his mind after he reads Pinky’s letter to Santa, and finds that all he wants is for Brain to be happy. It’s an adorable tear-jerker that melts even the stoniest heart. But whether they were serious or funny, these characters gave you an unending answer to anyone who ever asked you what you want to do tonight.
2. The Animaniacs. The namesakes themselves, Yakko, Wacko, and Dot. The reason I placed them above Pinky and the Brain was sheer variety. These guys could do anything: horror humor, period pieces, even musicals. Who else could do an operatic belch? Or sing about the states and their capitols, or every single word in the dictionary? Who else could make “Hel-looooooo, Nurse!” NOT creepy? With a cast of hilarious side characters, it was easy to see why the Animaniacs were the stars of the show. All together, now! “United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru…”
BEST: Good Idea/Bad Idea. This 30-second segment always, always, always, always, ALWAYS made me laugh. They were short, sweet pieces of completely stupid advice made even funnier by the absurdity of the bad idea, like giving a child a handful of balloons will make them float away, so their mother beans you over the head with her purse. Or going Trick-or-Treating on St. Patrick’s day will get you an Irish fist to the face. Simplicity at its finest, this segment is the best because never once did it fail to get me rolling.
What are YOUR favorites?