It's been a historic year for anniversaries, among them is Steven Spielberg's immortal “Animaniacs” cartoon recently turning 20. Yes, this year marks two decades since the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) began escaping from the watertower to wreck havoc on the Warner movie lot. While the show's given countless memories of celebrity skewering, social irreverence and general absurdity the generations of children since, another important aspect of the show is its original music. Largely composed by Richard Stone, who took home four Emmy awards during the shows run and died of pancreatic cancer in 2001, the music of “Animaniacs” managed to transcend the realm of children's programming and wind up in classrooms, allowing kids to laugh and learn at the same time. It is with great anvils that we look back at our top five favorite songs from “Animaniacs.”
5) “The Senses”
The average kids shows that wanted to teach you something would take a fact or idea, find a melody and repeatedly beat you over the head with it until you changed the channel to something more satisfyingly violent. “Animaniacs” knew how to keep an act moving, interesting and sneak in bonus tidbits along the way. Case in point, “The Senses,” where the first verse easily explains the five senses, but THEN continues to define seemingly every colloquial variant of “sense” in the English language. The Warners stay dropping jewels.
4) “Wakko's America”
Revisiting the show, a lot of the more adult references on “Animaniacs” really stand out. That's not solely referring to the subtle innuendo of the show (which does exist) but the jokes that absolutely no child would get at the time. Believe my surprise when the segue into “Wakko's America” begins with a joke about Valerie Bertinelli. Following that, we get Wakko breaking down each of the 50 states and their capitals without forcing a rhyme or missing one, leading up to a pretty great gag that, thanks to the perpetual relevance of “Jeopardy,” remains funny even today.
3) “Pinky and the Brain” Theme
The beauty of theme songs, even truncated 30 second ones, are their ability to quickly introduce a character and set a tone for a narrative. Their catchiness can also lead to the plots being more memorable. Case in point, the “Pinky and the Brain” theme. When the lovably psychotic laboratory mice duo landed its own spin-off show on the WB, the theme song was kept, even when the lyrics were translated as it was brought to other countries. Are you pondering what we're pondering?
2) Theme from “Animaniacs”
No matter what happened at school, you were promised a solid half-hour of laughter once you heard “it's time for Animaniacs.” Along with effectively catching the wacky fun vibe of the show into one quick unforgettable tune, we get a brief-but-effective glimpse at the cast of characters as well as a scale of jokes for all ages. An Emmy Award-winning tune with lyrics by Tom Ruegger, it's remained among the most instantly recognizable themes in children's television.
1) “Yakko's World”
An absolute triumph of children's music, “Yakko's World” has become one of the most popular children's songs of the 90s. A hit on the show, demand for it became so big that Fox Kids began airing the segment in-between other programs, further increasing its popularity, eventually leading the the music from the show being released on an official soundtrack. Rob Paulsen, the voice of Yakko, still gets asked to perform the song at public appearances, proving no matter how old you get, there's nothing like hearing all the nations of the world sung to you in under three minutes. Those are the facts.