Dec. 9 – Animaniacs in “Twaz the Day Before Christmas

ANIMANIACS IN “TWAZ THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS”
Original Air Date: November 29, 1993

BACKSTORY 

Animaniacs first aired on “Fox Kids” afternoon animation block in 1993. It was the second collaboration with the channel and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin animation division. But even though the characters in Tiny Toon Adventures were clearly inspired by famous Warner Bros. stars, the Warner Siblings – Yakko, Wakko and Dot…

These guys

Are firmly rooted as spiritual successors to the cartoons brought to life by the likes of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery (even though they were designed to look like song-and-dancey, monochrome cartoon stars of the 1920s and 30s like Bosko and Felix the Cat.)

Senor Spielbergo

Animaniacs premiered three years into the Fox Kids animation block and triumphed as the network’s second highest-rated program (right behind Power Rangers.) However, the writing was on the wall – Warner Bros. was embarking on its own affiliate network, and they’d likely take their in-house animated programming with them.

Previously in Warner Bros. reinvention

As such, Fox opted not to fund a show they’d eventually lose – no matter how popular – ordered a paltry four episode second season, and reran Animaniacs for two years until they eventually made the jump to Warner Bros. own network in the “Kids WB” block.

What the duck?! The Warner sibs were originally a different beast

Given that Animaniacs was heavily influenced by the older WB theatrical shorts, the show spoofed decades’ worth of pop culture that would often go over kids’ heads. It was reported in 1995 that a fifth of the show’s one million weekly viewers were over 25-years-old, and unfortunately, that wasn’t an audience that jibbed with the Kids’ WB block, so the network’s interest in the show lessened. Funding was cut for new episodes of the still immensely popular show, and a large portion of those episodes drew from unused scripts and storyboards from the first Fox Kids season. (To put that in perspective, over 65 of Animaniacs 99 episodes, airing over five years were produced during the Season One.)


See what jokes sailed over your young heads 

The last new episode of Animanics aired in November of 1998, and went on to enjoy successful syndication on both Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. During the height of their popularity, the Warner Siblings would star in one theatrical short (“I’m Mad” premiering before Thumbelina) and one non-theatrical film (direct-to-video Wakko’s Wish.) The series also won a Peabody, multiple Daytime Emmys, and an Annie Award for Best Television Program.

BREAKDOWN

Jesus Christ, I had no idea how much I missed Animaniacs. While there is a new Looney Tunes Show on the air right now, this 1993 show is the last animated endeavor to fully embody what made those old Warner Bros. cartoon shorts ultra-special.

The title sequence gets some added snow!

As hyper-kinetic monsters of mischief, the Warner Siblings alone arguably remain animation’s most worthy spiritual successors to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck that I can recall.

The gang’s all here

Add to that, a lot of the zany, totally-insaney action was scored with original compositions by a 35 piece orchestra, giving it that good old Carl Stalling flavor. There’s even a direct Looney Tunes musical tribute in this episode, but I’ll get to that later…

“Citizen Kaney” – one for the kids!

With that said, I suppose I should apologize to hardcore Animaniacs fans for skipping the first Xmas special. The season 1 episode that was produced first was also Holiday themed. However, it was yet another A Christmas Carol spoof. And hey, we’ve written plenty of those up here already. (Hello, Mr. Magoo, Uncle Scrooge and Bugs Bunny.)

Deceptively begins a Slappy Squirrel cartoon

Besides, this episode featured far more variety, and I love how it takes ALL of the characters, the show had only recently established, and essentially sets up an original Christmas sketch show.

Trimminz

The episode, somewhat falsely starts out as a Slappy Squirrel short. Skippy can’t sleep, so his cantankerous steward reads him a bedtime tale entitled “The Day Before Christmas.”

Somebody must tend to the Warners’ Xmas needs

Thing is, the story takes place on the Warner lot in the present day. Somebody’s got to deliver the Warner Siblings their Christmas gifts, or it’s expected they’ll go ape shit.

Flavio and Marlita Hippo and Mr. Mime

This rhyming poem parody is pretty fucking great, and is little more than a wonderful excuse to gather all the characters from Animaniacs together, playing themselves, in one quick Christmas short!

An appearance by Rita, Runt, and an uncredited Micheal Keaton

Yep, everyone makes a brief cameo. Such as Pinky and The Brain!

“NYARF!”

The GoodFeathers are also here, whose existence only now strikes me as amazing! Imagine that pitch meeting: “Who are these kid-friendly birds based on?” “Umm… three foul-mouthed, murderous mafiosos from an R-Rated Martin Scorcese film.” “My kids love Joe Pesci – let’s do it!”

“You callin’ me festive?!”

And these poor pigeons have the most unfortaunte task of pulling the studio-appointed Santa…

That sleigh will have to be returned

Yep, Ralph “Duh-Durr” the Security guard is tasked with getting the Warners their presents. And wouldn’t you know it? Mild shenanigans ensue!

Can’t even take receiving free presents seriously

Next up, you’ve got the first of two “Good Idea, Bad Idea” Christmas shorts starring the Mr. Skullhead (who originally appeared as a decoration on Elmyra’s bowtie in Tiny Toon Adventures!) Fortuantely, the jokes are so brief and simple I can pretty much just show you my favorite.

“Finding Easter Eggs on Easter morning…”

“Finding Easter Eggs on Christmas morning…”

lol

Okay, can you name the one Animaniacs character who didn’t show up during “The Day Before Christmas?” No, Buttons and Mindy appeared briefly at Ralph’s security gate…

Can you see him?

I’ll give you a hint, the short is titled “Jingle Boo.” Yep, it’s Chicken Boo, quite possibly my least favorite Animaniac, and his holiday short unfolds out in the same quick, one-note fashion. Chicken Boo is posing as a mall Santa, completely fooling everyone. Eventually, one person catches onto the ruse…

A kid, I believe, based on Ralph Phillips, star of two celebrated 1950s Chuck Jones shorts, who appeared several times in Animaniacs

As always, the humans eventually catch on to Boo’s inexplicably scheme (usually just offering a simple service) and kick his ass right the hell out of the mall. But since it’s Christmas, Boo gets a happy ending for once…

That’s a helluva ride home

After that, Wakko belches out a stirring rendition of Jingle Bells…

Belch-belch-BLEEEEEEEETCH

“The Great Wakkorotti” sketches were clever reuses of existing Animaniacs animations, with frames and timing slightly altered to fit whatever song Wakko’s burping. You could call lit halfassed, but I never get tired of it.

And the crowd goes wild!

Okay, now it’s time for my favorite piece from the episode “Toy Shop Terror.” In this speechless short, we find the Warner siblings making mischief in a toy shop after dark…

Yakk-in-the-box

First of all, the piece contains several breathtaking animated sequences (for TV anyway) with the environment moving along with the characters…

“Not on my watch!”

But the real star of the show is Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” – the old Looney Tunes staple composition! Trust me, you know this song. Think of every factory sequence you’ve ever seen in a Warner Bros. short and you’ll probably be humming it instantly.

Buh-Bum-Bah! Banana-na-na-na!

The toy shop owner’s sercurity robot is, of course, foiled in the spirit of fun and we move on to a song I’m fairly certain many of you will remember.

I recall Yakko’s “Universe Song” almost verbatim, although, I don’t remember it being part of a Christmas episode…

Nothing to say, really. Just love this pic

But it’s oddly appropriate, as it reminds us how tiny we are in the scheme of the universe. Like special little snow flakes… the size of Mickey Rooney (another reference for the kids!)

And FIN

None, really. Which isn’t surprising, however, the previous Christmas episode featured a rather risky retelling of the story of Jesus Christ.

Hello, nurse! Seriously, can we get a nurse?!

I don’t care, it’s getting full Santa points for this image alone:

Like The Rocketeer, but fat and jolly

Just wonderful. Perhaps I’m a tad biased towards the classic characters Animaniacs are paying reverence to, and/or shockingly surprised by how well this 90s cartoon holds up, but I love that this is a wall-to-wall Christmas show packed with music, humor and variety. Furthermore, it’s not cynical, overly sweet, and conveys no moral lessons whatsoever. It simultaneously traditional, yet a radical departure from other Christmas specials… Far better than that semi-terrible Bugs Bunny one Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng worked on in fat. Throw it on with “The Classics” and I guarantee it’s feel like a breath of fresh air.

Tragically, Animaniacs is suffering the same fate of other fun 90s cartoons: A lack of interest. Like Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin, a handful of chronological DVD volumes were released, then discontinued before completion. It’s all the more sad once you consider these shows aren’t even played on TV anymore. Anyhoo, the first two seasons of Animaniacs are comiled into three DVD volumes, with the Christmas episodes contained on Vol. 2. Be buyin’!

Yesterday’s Christmas Special
CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST

 

2010’s Dec. 7 Christmas Special
MICKEY’S GOOD DEED

 

2009’s Dec. 7 Christmas Special
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER 

6 thoughts on “Dec. 9 – Animaniacs in “Twaz the Day Before Christmas

  1. Wheel of morality turn, turn, turn; Tell the lesson that we should learn. Moral No. 3. And the moral of today’s story is. . .you can get anyway with anything as long as you make it vague enough.

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