The "Animaniacs" Finally Escape! Onto DVD
Kid, young adult or old fart, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to Animaniacs.
There is something so comforting about seeing these old (to me) cartoons once more, and realizing that I wasn’t wrong all those years ago – Animaniacs really is that good. I can still remember sitting down to new and used episodes of this show, my mom watching with me. Like most Warner Bros. animation pre-2000, Animaniacs knew no age limits.
Riding on the success of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs would come to surpass its predecessor in humor, with one of the greatest casts comedic animation has ever seen.
The Warner Siblings, Goodfeathers, Slappy, Pinky and the Brain, Rita and Runt all appear on this first volume of Animaniacs. Containing some of the funniest moments of Warner Bros. Animation history in this set (other great moments can be found in Pinky and the Brain Volume 1), Animaniacs is an absolute treat to have and to hold. The fast-paced jokes, throwbacks to older Warner toons, sometimes surprisingly beautiful animation, amazing cast of voices and the full orchestra make Animaniacs one of the key cartoons of the ’90s. Hopefully the rest of the DVD releases are as packed with episodes as this one is.
I won’t deny that I was floored when I first saw these sets on the store shelf. The packaging was of a much higher grade than I’m used to from Warner’s animation-on-DVD releases. The box is gritty, flat, yet shiny; its silver cover sports slick character art all around (with the front cover, spine and top containing raised lettering and characters), and the slipcase features a nearly identical shot of the cover art on the interior. Flipping the foldout over, we get a beautiful, full-size picture of the animated cast of Animaniacs. From the hippos, to the mice, squirrels, cats, humans and, well, just what are the Warner siblings anyway? In any case, it’s a gorgeous, possibly new piece of art that makes for a great, unexpected treat.
Folding out the trays, there’s more art that looks new, complete with background images behind the characters and disc trays. After three flips of the flaps, the full five-disc set is finally visible. Two overlapping trays and a single fifth tray hold all five discs, each printed with unique art (Yakko, Dot, Wakko, Goodfeathers, Dr. Otto Scratchensniff and Hello Nurse).
With all this effort going into the packaging alone, you’d think the quality of the actual video would be incredible. Alas, though the audio has been through a complete 5.1 overhaul and sounds absolutely excellent, the video actually looks worse than previous contemporary WBA releases such as Batman: The Animated Series. There is a ton of interlacing, which, although common with cartoon transfers, should not be as prevalent as it is in this release.
The prints themselves are also pretty muddy. It’s possible that Batman: The Animated Series, with its dark colors, simply hit the dirt better, but with Animaniacs comes a bright and varied palette that makes degradation and impurities all too obvious. It’s not a deal-breaker – the transfer is bearable – but we should all hope the later releases are a bit cleaner.
Special features on this release consist of only one featurette, but it’s a 20-minute doozy. Though it doesn’t go behind-the-scenes as much as I’d like, it is full of laughs from the voices of the characters, writers and voice director on the show. And it’s nearly the length of an entire episode itself, so why compain?
One cool thing about the special feature is it’s the first one from Warner Bros. on a television animation release in widescreen. Clips from the show are 4:3 in a 16:9 frame, but the newly shot interviews are all in widescreen. That won’t mean much to anyone, but it is a cool little oddity.
Also welcome rarity for Warner Brothers that is present on this release: chapters! Yes, there are chapters on these discs customized to fit every episode, depending on where the intros/random bits are. But a word of caution: Due to this show’s off-the-wall timing the intros are not always alone in the first chapter, so you’ll want to resist skipping ahead.
The video transfer may be poor, but it’s still the best this beloved show has ever looked, and the episode count (25), fun special feature and beautiful packaging should mollify most curmudgeonly collectors.
So wake up your inner child (and maybe your mom too), shove some baloney in your slacks, and spend some quality time with a few totally insaney old friends.
Animaniacs: Volume One is now available on DVD.
Bird Boy has additionally written a review for the second volume of the series titled “Animaniacs” Vol. 2 on DVD: Wakkorotti and WHV Belch Out Another Great Set.