These Are the Facts: It’s 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Animaniacs’
As a follow-up to Steven Spielberg’s successful Tiny Toon Adventures, the 1993 Warner Bros. cartoon Animaniacs was an instant hit with audiences young and old alike. It leaned hard into the wackiness of the Looney Tunes while also cramming in more pop-culture references and social commentary than any children’s cartoon show that came before it. As Jess Harnell, the voice of Wakko, once said: “Animaniacs is a subversive satire about pop culture and political events disguised as a musical kids show, and it was that then, and it’s that now.”
So, folks, just sit back and relax, add some baloney to your slacks, and enjoy these facts about the Animaniacs...
An Ode to ‘The Bugs Bunny Show’
Creator Tom Ruegger, who also wrote the lyrics for the show’s opening theme, said there’s a homage to The Bugs Bunny Show in the song. “We see the Animaniacs cast marching/dancing across the stage. In The Bugs Bunny Show main title, from the 1960s, the cast of that show did a similar march/dance across stage with Bugs and Daffy out front,” he explained.
The Warner Siblings Have a Long Lost Cousin
Only ever appearing in the Animaniacs comic, Sakko Warner is a Rip Taylor copy who left Warner Bros. Studios because he was over the whole cartoon business. He briefly joined the British pop-rock group Herman’s Hermits but later returned to the movie business.
A fourth Warner Brother, Lakko Warner, was also created for the movie Wandering Warners We, but the character and the film were ultimately scrapped.
The Creator’s Sons Voiced Some of the Characters
Not only did Ruegger’s three boys, Nathan, Luke and Cody, serve as the inspiration for Yakko, Wakko and Dot, but they all voiced different characters in the cartoon. Nathan voiced Skippy Squirrel, Luke voiced both Flame and Bumpo Basset, and Cody was the voice of Little Blue Bird.
Profiling the ‘Animaniacs’ Fan
According to deep dive data from Ranker, Animaniacs fans are nine times more likely than non-fans to dig DuckTales, Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin. Yakko lovers are seven times more likely to fan out over Futurama, four times more likely to enjoy Rick and Morty and three times more likely to follow Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
As for the movies, fans of the Warner Brothers siblings and company are five times more likely to enjoy Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and are mostly mega fans of 1989’s Batman, Spaceballs, Office Space and The Princess Bride.
The True Story Behind ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’
Ruegger said that the whole bit where the Little Blue Bird sings a ridiculous rendition of the famous Christmas song came from his kid. “So, one day, my little son Cody comes home from school, and he says, ‘I learned a Christmas carol today,’” Ruegger has explained. “So I say, ‘Oh, let’s hear it.’ And he sings it exactly the way it is in this cartoon. I immediately said, ‘Well, I’m picking you up from school tomorrow because we have a recording session.’ So the next day, I picked him up and brought him into the recording booth, put him in front of the mic, and said, ‘Sing me that song you sang.’ There was no thinking or writing or any intellectual exercise. We just said, ‘Let’s just record this and do it.’ And that’s how the episode came about.”
The Characters Were Inspired By the ‘Looney Tunes’
In the cartoon’s production bible, Yakko is described as “the gang lender, the glib, fast-talker and sly wise-guy in the Groucho (Marx)/Bugs Bunny mold.” Wakko is “Gogo (Dodo) plus Daffy plus Harpo (Marx).” As for Dot, the description says that she “for all practical purposes is a Warner Brother.” But, you know, please call her Queen Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana-Fanna Bo Besca The Third.
Pinky and the Brain’s Influence on ‘Schindler’s List’
Pinky and the Brain were Spielberg’s favorite animated characters of the lot, and he would play recordings of the production to his cast and crew while they were filming Schindler’s List in Poland to boost everyone’s spirits.
The Three Main Characters Were Originally Going to Be Ducks
Since the show was inspired by the Looney Tunes — of which Bugs and Daffy are the two main stars — it makes sense that Ruegger would be inspired to create his new characters based on either of those species. The original concept was three duck brothers named Yakky, Smakky and Wakky, and they were all based on a cartoon Ruegger made back in his film school days called The Premiere of Platypus Duck.
However, Spielberg reckoned there were too many ducks in Cartoon Land already, and Ruegger felt that these new characters shouldn’t resemble rabbits outright, either. “We’d been making some Tiny Toons episodes that featured a place called Two-Tone Town,” Ruegger remembers. “And Two-Tone Town had some of the earliest characters in the Warner Bros. portfolio from like 1930, these black-and-white characters, which gave me the idea to take my ducks and put generic little antenna-ears on them, with red noses. We pretty much had Yakko, Wakko and Dot shortly thereafter.”
While many viewers think the siblings have never been assigned an official species, that’s not true. Ruegger himself has labeled his odd-looking creations Cartoonus Characterus which, of course, is pretty self-explanatory.
Why Wakko Sounds British
Voice actor Jess Harnell explained that when he went in for his callback audition, he was asked to do some impressions. One request was Elvis, which sounded silly for the voice of Wakko. However, his Beatles one worked so well that they settled on his Ringo impression (only in a higher pitch). Watch him do the voices below:
The CEO Who Missed the Premiere Memo
Before premiering the show, Ruegger got a company to create a large balloon of Yakko that could sit on top of the Warner Bros. water tower at their studio lot. Unfortunately, the studio’s CEO, Robert Daly, didn’t read the memo and, upon seeing the life-size cartoon character, mistook it for Mickey Mouse and demanded to know how Disney got access to their lot. “He tells us, ‘I was certain it was Mickey Mouse, and I called Disney to yell at them,’” Ruegger said. “‘They said I was out of my mind, and they were right.’ Then he requested we take it down immediately and bring in all of our main models for Yakko, Wakko and Dot. He made us add some whiskers, sort of like a little shagginess to their cheeks, which he thought helped. It didn’t really help, and it just created more work for our animators.”
The Voice of Dot Is a Legend
Tress MacNeille has voiced everyone from Chip in Chip’ n Dale: Rescue Rangers to Agnes Skinner (and others) in The Simpsons to Norma in Garfield and Friends. She’s the voice of Dot, Hello Nurse and a string of other female characters in Animaniacs, and producer Sherri Stoner said that Dot was essentially written for MacNeille because she’s “such a joy to write for.”
The Three Leads Have Been Compared to the Gang From ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’
Decider once wrote about the similarities between the Warner siblings and the characters in It’s Always Sunny, pointing out their propensity for chaos and destruction and their lack of giving one iota about their trails of carnage. They point out that Dennis thinks he’s a smooth operator like Yakko, Wakko’s questionable logic reflects that of Charlie, and Dee’s position as “one of the boys” resembles Dot.
We guess that’ll put multimillionaire Frank Reynolds somewhere between animated Steven Spielberg and Slappy Squirrel.
Rickie Lee Jones Was Originally Going to Play Rita
Casting and voice director Andrea Romano said that the singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones had just released a new album, so when they were casting for Rita the Cat, Romano was told to make her an offer. Unfortunately, a week before recording, Jones’ agent told Romano that the singer had changed her mind. Bernadette Peters instantly became their top choice and, luckily, was available.
Orson Welles’ Frozen Pea Commercial Spoof
As we’ve pointed out before, there’s a gag in Animaniacs involving Brain doing a pea commercial that may or may not have flown over viewers’ heads. In the bit, Brain complains about pretty much everything pertaining to the recording of the commercial, and it mirrors the time Orson Welles did the same thing while getting paid to wax lyrical about tiny vegetables.
The Canceled Revival Series and Killing Off the Characters
In a move that shocked many fans, the Animaniacs revival series was canceled after three seasons, leading to a series finale seeing Yakko, Wakko and Dot seemingly being killed off by a meteor. It absolutely irked viewers, given that Warner Bros. gave the poorly-rated Velma series a new season but not the iconic show that had been successfully revived without a hitch.