ANIMANIACS, VOLUME 1
So just sit back and relax
Coming from executive producer Steven Spielberg, ANIMANIACS was and is definitely one of the best animated kidís shows to ever hit the airwaves. Silly, irreverent, with occasional flashes of brilliance that take it over the heads of its intended demographic, itís easy to understand why ANIMANIACS has a strong following with an adult audience. ANIMANIACS harkens back to the glory days of Termite Terrace where the animated characters known as The Warner Bros.: Yakko & Wakko, along with their cute sister Dot were created. Unfortunately, the Warnerís animated films made absolutely no sense to studio executives, so Yakko & Wakko and Dotís cartoons were locked them away in the vault never to be seen. As for the Warner Bros and the Warner Sister themselves, they had been locked away in the studio water tower, never to be seen, that isÖ until now.
The basic premise of ANIMANIACS finds that The Warners have broken loose from the studio water tower and now run amok on the movie lot, not to mention other locations. Look for studio psychiatrist Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, studio CEO Thaddeus Plotz, Hello Nurse and Ralph- the dim-witted studio security guard to be on hand, while the Warner are up to their usual antics. ANIMANIACS supplements the adventures of Yakko, Wakko and Dot, with those of a number of supporting characters. The best know of these are Pinky and the Brain, the lab mice with aspirations of world domination, who were rightly spun off into their own series.
Of the remaining supporting animated players, Slappy Squirrel is the most amusing, an elderly curmudgeon of a toon, whose glory days are decades in the past, but still she gets big laughs with her old school "cartoon violence" antics. Other supporting players arenít quite as successful, but they do get a few laughs- the most notables are: Goodfeathers, which is a running send up of Martin Scorsese movies featuring pigeons; Buttons and Mindy, which makes one think Lassie rescuing his child master, but with a lot of cartoon violence induced pain for our poor canine hero; Rita and Runt is a story of a cat and a dog looking for a home, with Bernadette Peters' singing as a musical enhancement. Additional vocal talent behind ANIMANIACS includes Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, John Mariano, Chick Vennera, Maurice LaMarche, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Tom Bodett, Julie Brown, Jack Burns, Corey Burton and Nancy Cartwright.
ANIMANIACS, VOLUME 1 ($45) comes to DVD in a five-disc set that features the series first twenty-five episodes. The twenty-five episodes are as follows: De-Zanitized / The Monkey Song / Nighty-Night Toon, Yakko's World / Cookies For Einstein / Win Big, H.M.S. Yakko / Slappy Goes Walnuts / Yakko's Universe, Hooked On A Ceiling, Wakko Projector / Goodfeathers: The Beginning, Taming Of The Screwy, Temporary Insanity / Operation: Lollipop / What Are We?, Piano Rag / When Rita Met Runt, The Warner's Lot Song / The Big Candy Store / Bumbie's Mom, Wally Llama / Where Rodents Dare/ King Yakko, No Pain, No Painting / Les Miseranimals, Garage Sale Of The Century / West Side Pigeons, Hello Nice Warners / La Behemoth / Little Old Slappy From Pasadena, La La Law / Cat On A Hot Steel Beam, Space Probed / Battle For The Planet, Chalkboard Bungle / Hurray For Slappy / The Great Wakkorotti: The Master And His Music, Roll Over, Beethoven / The Cat And The Fiddle, Pavlov's Mice / Chicken Boo-Ryshnikov / Nothing But The Tooth, Meatballs Or Consequences / A Moving Experience, Alfred Hitchcock Presents Parody / Hearts Of Twilight / The Boids, The Flame / Wakko's America / Davy Omlette / Four Score And Seven Migraines Ago, Guardin' The Garden / Plane Pals, Be Careful What You Eat / Up The Crazy River / Ta Da Dump, Ta Da Dump, Ta Da Dump Dump Dump, Yakko's World Of Baldness / Opportunity Knox / Wings Take Heart and Disasterpiece Theater / Hercule Yakko / Home On De-Nile / A Midsummer Night's Dream
Warner Home Video has made all the episodes that comprise ANIMANIACS, VOLUME 1 available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. The episodes as presented on DVD look pretty good, although they certainly are not stellar, but then again, ANIMANIACS is an animated production originally intended to be broadcast to kids, and not designed for the critical scrutiny that DVD allows. Image quality is about average, with the picture appearing reasonably crisp. However, for this type of 2D animated production, there are moments where things appear somewhat softer that one would normally expect. Itís not particularly bothersome, but it evidences my opinion that the presentations are just not stellar. Colors generally hold up quite well, appearing pretty vibrant most of the time, with occasional instances where the hues come across with less intensity. Blacks are accurately rendered and the whites are stable. As an animated series of the early to mid 1990s, ANIMANIACS was produced on film, and the episodes display film based flaws. Scratches and other blemishes crop up, not to an excessive degree, but just enough to be noticeable. Grain is also noticeable, but can be overlooked. Digital compression artifacts are never an issue.
For this release, all of the episodes contained in ANIMANIACS, VOLUME 1 have been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. While the video is not a wow, the 5.1 channel soundtracks add a wow factor the DVD presentations. The soundtracks prove to be quite lively for animated fare of this vintage, with the outlying channels being well utilized for zany sound effects and the seriesí excellent musical component. Speaking of the music, it has a very old school flavor, although at a much higher fidelity than the heyday of Warner Bros. theatrical animated shorts, and is well orchestrated- with a genuine sense of musical presence. The bass channel even has a bit of a punch. Voices are nicely recorded; dialogue is crisp and is easy to understand. An English 2.0 surround track, plus a Portuguese language track has also been included. Subtitles are available in French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as Animaniacs Live! a twenty nine minute interview panel program featuring vocal talent Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille, plus voice director Andrea Romano and composers Steven and Julie Bernstein.
ANIMANIACS is another great animated series making its long overdue debut on DVD. The DVDs look fine and sound even better, so if you have been waiting to get your toon fix, youíll want to add ANIMANIACS, VOLUME 1 to your personal animation library. Recommended.
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