The first episode of the first season of Animaniacs disappoints. But of course. Like comic strips, and blogs, and dim sum, any television series is an accretive and an incremental experience. The greatness you remember after it’s over is hardly ever obvious at the beginning. And that’s setting aside the nostalgic shimmer and shine that the years can add to anything we used to love a long time ago, and haven’t looked at since. Disappointment was a given.
I’m not talking total disappointment, here, though. It’s not like that time I went back as an adult and tried to read A Wrinkle in Time (not, by the way, recommended). Even though Animaniacs would get better over time, there’s already a lot of great stuff here. Within the first twenty seconds, for example, we get the first Easter Egg for Warner Bros. Animation history buffs:
That was the kind of thing that would culminate with the re-appearance of little-known pre-Porky Warner Bros. character Bosco in a future episode. I personally love that shit. It may be a sign of something bad — of naval-gazing and fanboy pandering or whatever. But I don’t care. And I don’t think so.
On to the shorts.
Ron Paulsen’s vocal performance of Dr. Scratchansniff is a major, and under-praised highlight of the series. The funny and precise German accent is as far as most actors would go. Paulsen kicks it up a few notches with his strange cadences, foreshadowing the good doctor’s coming insanity just by attacking a line rhythmically in a particular way, sort of making the character interrupt himself, or get ahead of himself, or fall behind himself, or be overly pleased with himself, or whatever, from time to time. Difficult to describe, and not nearly as noticeable as I’m making it sound. Sorry. I mean: it’s not Robin Williams hamming it up as the genie in Aladdin. It’s much more subtle than that, and much better.
The Monkey Song
This is the first musical set-piece (if you don’t count the theme song), and also the first time the Warners tell us emphatically that they are not [x], where [x] is some kind of animal. I never understood why it was so important to keep making sure we knew that we didn’t know what they are supposed to be. I mean: I understand why we weren’t supposed to know. I just don’t understand why they had to keep reminding us that we didn’t.
This short is just an excuse to show us a bunch of the characters we’re going to get to spend more time with later (Slappy the Squirrel, Pinky & the Brain, etc).
So. Yeah. Not the best. But not bad, for a first episode.