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DVD Review: The Animaniacs Season 3

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I grew up on The Animaniacs. My mom always let homework wait until after The Animaniacs. We would always watch it together, and we both enjoyed it. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time, so I wasn't particularly young, but young enough to enjoy cartoons without the guilt.

When I heard that The Animaniacs was on DVD, I was thrilled, but then worried. What if it didn't hold up after all these years? What if all those cheeky in-jokes were truly only funny to a precocious pre-teen? I was pleased to find out that The Animaniacs is just as funny to an adult, nearly 15 years later.

For the uninitiated, The Animaniacs came at the height of the Warner Bros. animation renaissance (along with Tiny Toons, Histeria, and Animaniacs spin-off Pinky & the Brain). The Animaniacs themselves are the Warner brothers Yakko and Wakko, and their sister Dot, characters of unknown species who were too crazy to star in any cartoons and therefore locked inside the iconic Warner Bros. water tower. The Warners scamper through short cartoons annoying studio personnel, with other segments including characters such as a grouchy squirrel and her peppy nephew; an annoying toddler whose Lassie-like pup saves her from innumerable near-death accidents; a diva cat and her stupid but lovable dog companion; and the genius lab mouse whose plans to take over the world are always thwarted by his stupid but lovable mouse companion.

Season three includes a wide variety of cartoons featuring all the above-mentioned characters as well as one-or-two-offs like Katie Ka-Boom and Minerva Mink. One of my all-time favorites is included in this season: "Woodstock Slappy." In that short, we are back in the 1960s and Slappy the Squirrel is going to Woodstock. She is trying to describe Woodstock to her young nephew, Skippy, and the two of them become embroiled in a lengthy "Who's on First" routine with Woodstock band names that rivals the original routine for hilarity.

The extras on this disc are somewhat lackluster, but the series is old enough that DVDs were not even being sold commercially, let alone on the minds of producers. There is a tribute to Richard Stone, the composer, and interviews with character designers, storyboard artists, and art directors from the series. Some interesting anecdotes are offered, such as the story behind the newsreel intro that accompanies many seemingly random episodes. However, the production values are so poor it looks like they handed a camera to the child of one of the producers, and let him have a go. Low quality film stock and poor audio quality hinder many anecdotes.

If you are buying The Animaniacs you are not buying it for the special features. You are buying it to relive your childhood, or to share with your own children, or to simply enjoy in a world where smart animation had its time and is now slowly disappearing. The Animaniacs proves that cartoons are not just kid stuff.

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