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Animaniacs: Vol. 1

Manic, pop-culture savvy, and with slacks full of baloney, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner (aka the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister) originally stormed the TV airwaves in the early 1990s as part of a Warner cartoon resurgence that began with Tiny Toon Adventures. Even more irreverent than Babs and Buster Bunny and pals, the Animaniacs gang swiftly found a following beyond the after-school set, with their timely parodies and subversive, fast-paced humor garnering plenty of adult fans. Fast-talking Yakko (voiced by Rob Paulsen), goofy Wakko (Jess Harnell, doing an excellent Ringo Starr), and cute-as-a-button Dot (Tress MacNeille) — who, according to show legend, were originally confined to the Warner Brothers water tower in the 1930s because their cartoons were too crazy — aren't any clear species, even though some other characters call them dogs, monkeys, cats, and bunnies. Basically, they're pure id, always speaking their mind (and then some) and wreaking havoc wherever they go, whether it's to visit a famous scientist ("Cookies for Einstein") or to solve a shipboard mystery ("Hercule Yakko"). The trio forms the heart of the series, but — in true Warner style — Animaniacs is an ensemble show, and each episode features three segments starring different members of the group. Other regular characters include Pinky and the Brain (voiced by Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, the lab mice with delusions of world domination were the only Animaniacs to get their own spin-off series), Mobster pigeons the Goodfeathers (LaMarche, John Mariano, and Chick Vennera), Golden Age cartoon vet Slappy the Squirrel (Sherri Stoner), wandering cat-and-dog duo Rita and Runt (Bernadette Peters and Frank Welker), nervous Dr. Otto Scratchandsniff (Paulsen again), trouble-prone toddler Mindy (Nancy Cartwright) and her savior Buttons (Welker), and many more. Segments vary from educational (the classic "Yakko's World") to spot-on pop-culture spoofs ("Les Miseranimals"), but all share the zany sensibility that made the show such a fan favorite. The five-disc Animaniacs: Vol. 1 includes the show's first 25 episodes in all their wacky glory, introducing Yakko, Wakko, and Dot in a brief "Newsreel of the Stars" clip and then getting straight to the action. Some particularly memorable segments (in addition to the ones already mentioned) include "Hooked on a Ceiling," "Temporary Insanity," "Bumbie's Mom," "King Yakko," "Garage Sale of the Century," "West Side Pigeons," "Hello Nice Warners," "La La Law," "Battle for the Planet," "Chalkboard Bungle," "Hurray for Slappy," "The Great Wakkorotti," "Meatballs or Consequences," "Four Score and Seven Migraines Ago," "Wakko's America," "The Flame," "Hearts of Twilight," "The Boids," "Opportunity Knox," and "Disasterpiece Theatre." The only extras are a collection of trailers on Disc Five and the delightful "Animaniacs Live with Maurice LaMarche" featurette on Disc Three, which offers half an hour of retrospective interviews with the likes of Paulsen, MacNeille, Harnell, Stoner, and others. All episodes are presented in strong-full screen transfers, with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio options (a Portuguese mono track and Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles and also available). Fold-out digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Betsy Bozdech

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