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"Animaniacs" Vol. 2 on DVD: Wakkorotti and WHV Belch Out Another Great Set

Not only did the first Animaniacs volume come out to extreme praise (by me, at least), but it was also one of the fastest selling animation DVD sets that Warner Home Video ever put out. With well over half of the product sold in the first week alone, both of the first volumes of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain were swallowed up by ravenous fans that had been waiting years for the series to finally arrive on DVD. It’s no wonder, then, that just under five months later we receive a second volume of the series that is as robust and packed with episodes as the last.

This five disc volume contains twenty-five episodes split across five discs. There are real classics in here that I absolutely loved seeing again after all of these years. “The Good, The Boo, and The Ugly,” “Hiccup,” “Spellbound,” the season appropriate “Twas the Day Before Christmas” and “Potty Emergency” (Yes, I still love potty humor) are just a handful of the stand outs on this release. As with the first volume, not every single episode in this set is a winner, but I dare you to sit through a disc without your sides hurting.

With the rapidity that these volumes are arriving on DVD, it’s not hard to imagine that we’ll have this entire DVD collection on our shelves in a year or two. Both Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain remain examples of the prime decade of Warner Bros. Animation that was the 1990s. Fans of the show or fans of animation in general owe it to themselves to pick up this set.

The DVD
Sure there are twenty-five episodes of hilarity on this set, but does that mean that the entire package is perfect? Hardly. Starting off with the package itself, Volume 2 is presented in the same dual-layer digi-pak tray fold outs as the first volume. The fifth disc sits alone in a single layer tray and the outer packaging has embossed characters and lettering. The only difference you’ll see on your shelf is the text on the spines is slightly off (those who have purchased the Samurai Jack sets will know how odd this can look), which is just a minor gripe unless you’re super anal about the appearance of your sets.

Colorful and clean character art graces the package both inside and out and makes for a very attractive looking set on the outside. The art extends to the discs as well which manages to stand out more than the first volumes, if that is even possible.

The menus are all static with music remaining only on the main menu. All discs feature a special features menu, although only the fifth disc actually features any extras. Each menu has clear, clean and colorful character art that looks wonderful on each. The interface is easy to navigate for even those who don’t have too much experience with DVDs.

The video, I’m sad to say, is a bit of a mixed bag. Contrast is set far too high in some instances, particularly with “Skullhead Bonyhands” where the lines on Skullhead’s face are nearly indistinguishable because the white washes it out. This will vary on setups of course, but either way you cut it, the lines are not clearly visible. Aside from the contrast issue, there is a small bit of interlacing/aliasing and general cel distress that can be seen on some episodes, though it starts cleaning up towards the end of the sets as the prints get newer.

Audio is once again a surprising 5.1 surround sound mix. No doubt this is continuing due to Steven Spielberg’s name on the set, though I wish they would have focused more on the video cleanup and less on the audio, as this isn’t a show that absolutely needs a surround track when the stereo does its job well enough. Still, the live orchestra, superb voice actors and overall feel of the show comes through great in 5.1, even if the satellite speakers aren’t used as much as I feel they should be.

Chapters are present in episodes with multiple stories, though those without are simply one lump without navigation. It’s not something to be too concerned about, but it is a curious omission as to why they couldn’t throw them in at the commercial breaks at least.

The special features are a clump of trailers and a twenty-minute featurette hosted by Maurice LaMarche. This featurette follows over a dozen writers as Maurice interviews groups of them together to discuss their experiences, thoughts and favorite episodes of the show. There is some great behind-the-scenes information given here about the writers and where they got inspirations for stories and characters (and why some characters didn’t come back). It runs nearly the length of a full episode and is informative and probably about as in-depth as we’ll ever get, but it’s still well worth watching.

My only concern is that with the speed these sets are coming out, we’re going to end up sacrificing any commentaries or other special features (deleted scenes, storyboards, animatics—whatever they have laying around) simply to get new sets on the shelves. Again, as with all DVDs you’re buying it for the core content (the episodes or films), but it’s still nice to get a bit extra once and awhile. Still, these special features have been well-produced and directed, so there is certainly nothing to complain about so far.

Overall if you picked up volume one then you have no reason not to run out on December 5th to pick this one up as well. The features may be sparse, but the content is all there and aside from some sketchy video at times, it’s all very nice to look at. Highly recommended!

Animaniacs Volume 2 will be released on DVD December 5, 2006. Toon Zone News has additionally reviewed Pinky and the Brain Volume 2, which will be released on DVD the same day.

Bird Boy previously wrote a review of Volume 1 titled The “Animaniacs” Finally Escape! Onto DVD.

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