(Voting Poll for Tiny Toons VS Animaniacs at bottom of post)
As I’m sure many of you reading this are fans of either one of these shows, I wanted to voice my personal opinion on them so as to lay the proper ground-work before my reviews of both Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation and Wakko’s Wish.
I’ll start off by being rather blunt: I… am not a big fan of either show.
No, that doesn’t mean I don’t love these shows, it just means I don’t love the “entirety” of them. I’m pretty picky with just about everything I watch. I’ve even stated a few times that I enjoy just about every genre of film and television there is and every style of music. But in the end that only means that each film or song has to meet a very specific set of personally enjoyable qualities for me to like them, and even then, only the very best make it on my favorites list.
So when it comes to these particular shows, there are things that I like and things I don’t like. I know that’s seems pretty obvious. I mean, what person doesn’t have things they don’t like about something? However, I can say, with no hyperbole, that every episode of 30 Rock, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, andGravity Falls is Amazing and incredibly entertaining (you should totally watch them). I cannot say the same for Tiny Toons and Animaniacs.
And since this is a Versus post, I’ll just come right out and say that I prefer Animaniacs to Tiny Toons for 3 distinct reasons:
1. The variety of circumstances and opportunities for humor are greater in Animaniacs than in Tiny Toons.
The two shows may seem similar and may seem like they could exist in the same world, but I don’t think they do. Here’s why. Animaniacs is built on the premise that three cartoon characters were created in 1940 on an animator’s drawing table, and began to run amuck, causing all sorts of havoc and producing the most ludicrous and terrible animated shorts ever seen. Thus they and their films were locked away, never to be seen again; until they escaped in the modern day. So Animaniacs is a world where cartoon characters are created when they are drawn, and yet they exist among human beings with their own sense of self, their own minds, and personalities. It’s actually the 2nd animated series to be based off the popularity of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (both of which we must thank Steven Spielberg for helping create); and is far and away better than its Disney cousin, Bonkers.
Tiny Toons, on the other hand, works on the principle that the main characters, Buster and Babs are anthropomorphized animals that talk and act like human beings, but are otherwise naturally born into families like anyone else. They also go to school at ACME Looniversity, where I can only assume then that the original Looney Tunes are also naturally born into the world and have simply decided to become comedians in certain types of Hollywood productions. And of course they are now serving their fellow up-and-coming actors as their acting coaches.
Yes, the pilot episode showed that they were creations of an animator too, but the rest of the show doesn’t acknowledge this fact: it’s entirely a self-contained universe. The characters themselves even dabble in an animated short film competition at the Looniversity.
Now because of this difference in world structure, the dynamic of each show is also drastically different. In Tiny Toons, the episodes normally surround the antics of our main adolescent heroes as they deal with school life, life around Acme Acres, or the occasional exploratory adventure outside of town. But rarely do these characters ever partake in an adventure to “far off lands” or to a different time period. Thus they don’t have as wide of a scope of possibilities for storylines. Animaniacs, on the other hand, can go anywhere and do anything because it is established from day-One that the Warner’s old cartoons were locked away in a vault, never to be released. And yet periodically, we get to watch said “old cartoons.” The other half of the time, we either watch the Warners deal with life on the Warner Studio lot, under the guidance of Doctor Scratch’n’Sniff; or we watch one of the numerous other side cartoons: such as the fan-favorite, Pinky and the Brain; Rita and Runt, Slappy Squirrel, The Goodfeathers, Flavio and Marita, Katie Kaboom!, Buttons and Mindy, the lovely Minerva Mink, Chicken Boo, that Skeleton guy with another Good Idea/Bad Idea, or that little kid who tells weird awkward stories whenever he dashes out of the house. So clearly there is a HECK of a lot more variety to be had.
2. The humor is stronger.
If you go back and watch Animaniacs and then Tiny Toons, you may notice that there is a distinct lack of good humor or great timing in the latter. There were less in-jokes, there were less references to current films and actors, less bizarre circumstances; and the show was overall less abrasive and critical: never taking enough opportunities to poke fun at things that the writers disliked or thought was ridiculous. This is probably due to the show being aimed at a younger audience than Animaniacs and perhaps having a tighter leash on the script writing requirements. But even so, both shows were being watched constantly by the same group of people, and both were written and created and produced by the same crew. So it’s seems clear enough that the writers were slowly building their skills with one show and perfecting them on the other. Even so, I can’t say that their early work is “quite” as fun to watch.
3. I prefer Animaniacs to Tiny Toons for the simple reason that there is a vast majority of more episodes that I like.
After renting and purchasing some of the full seasons of both shows, I came to the conclusion that Tiny Toons was much more frequently hit and miss than Animaniacs. It had way too many game-show/clip-show/telethon styled episodes, way too many episodes focused on the side characters, and just an enormous lack of good animation.
As I had stated in my discussion of the Japanese company, Tokyo Movie Shinsha (TMS), the best looking episodes of both Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, as well as both opening title-sequences, came from the drawing boards of TMS.
Leaving the majority of both shows to be animated by about 4-6 runners-up; who simply couldn’t represent the gags, dialogue, and comedic timing as well as TMS had. But in the end, Animaniacs comes out on top again by having more episodes handled by TMS, as well as more episodes handled by a few other rather talented animation teams.
Now if I could change gears towards something hopefully a little less polarizing, and talk about the characters.
There are literally dozens of characters to cover, so I’ll try to keep it to just the ones that stand out to me for one reason or another.
Straight up, Buster and Babs should be the gold standard for the male/female cartoon duo.
Their complicated relationship with each other, their enduring friendship beyond their romance, their foolish antics and childish on and off rivalry, and the sheer beauty of their comedic partnership when they perform together and play off each other, is absolutely brilliant.
I cannot think of a single other pair of characters (at least right now, lol) that have managed to capture this same dynamic. And you can’t compliment these characters without owing a huge debt of gratitude to voice actors Charlie (Charles) Adler and Tress MacNeille. These two bunnies wouldn’t be half the characters they are without their talent and creativity.
When it comes to the Warner Brothers, I suppose I enjoy Wakko and Dot over Yakko. Yakko is the most talkative; and being the leader of the three, he has the most opportunities to talk. In fact, Yakko’s strength is that he’s able to drive people insane just by talking to them for a few moments; whereas Wakko and Dot are much less verbal in their annoyances.
Wakko tends to cause mischief by either eating too much or disrupting the peace by burping, and Dot constantly tries to hook up with the hottest guys in town, making everybody feel rather awkward in the process. I like Wakko because he’s often sincere and he doesn’t outright try to push people away like his brother does, instead his annoying qualities comes from his natural childish urges and immature nature.
And I like Dot because she really is “cute” and “adorable.” She also harbors enormous strength and has a tougher center than you might think; and I can respect that.
Plucky Duck, just like Daffy Duck, is an endlessly enjoyable character because of his enthusiasm for life. He wants to conquer every mountain, ride every river and rapid, and he never seems to be afraid of making a fool of himself. I know this makes him sound like an upstanding character if you don’t know him.
But trust me, that’s not it at all. Plucky is selfish, he can be rude and pushy just like his idol, Daffy; and he can expect too much from people. But he’s also a geek and a nerd, he’s a cosplayer, a thespian, and a thrill seeker. Even when he does less than likable things, you can’t help but be drawn in by his boundless enthusiasm and determination. And no joke, I love his lisp.
Ah Slappy Squirrel. How can you not love Slappy Squirrel? Not only is she impressive in her old age, but she was dynamite when she was young and in her prime. Unless I just haven’t seen it, I wish there had been an episode where we got to see Slappy in her hayday as the star of the Slappy Cartoons. But as is, Slappy is a fun character not just because she makes interesting references to the cartoon characters she knew back in the day, but also because she proves that not all old folks are incapable of handling themselves. Slappy can kick some serious ass when she needs to.
When it comes to Shirley The Loon and Fifi La Fume, it’s kinda hard not to talk about these two together. The majority of the time, you saw them both together during the school day as part of Babs’ clique: rarely ever having their own short. But Shirley always felt like a stand-out character because of her pseudo psychic abilities and her neo-hippie nature.
You might not like the valley girl voice; but in this case, I do. And I’ll admit, just like a lot of animated females back in the day, I had a little crush on Fifi. Fifi somehow makes that whole Pepe Le Pew gag all the more adorable, and I love her gorgeous purple fur.
Out of the four characters who live and work on the Warner Bro’s lot, I think I enjoy Doctor Otto Scratch’n’Sniff the most because of his unique relationship with the Warners.
His job puts him in a position where he can analyze the Warners to the best of his professional ability, and yet, without going totally insane, he manages to become a sort of surrogate father-figure to them; even coming to care for their feelings and their well-being. So beyond the Warners just driving the old Doc up the wall, I like Scratch’n’Sniff because he understands the Warners more than anybody else could: or indeed, more than anyone ever could.
As for the remainder of the characters, while I like bits and pieces of their individual cartoons and their personalities, I never came to like them very much as a whole. I think the ones I like least are the Goodfeathers, Buttons and Mindy. Minerva is a pretty face, but her cartoons are built around her shallow nature towards others; so I can’t say I enjoy her for her personality. Pinky and the Brain are pretty solid, and each of their individual shorts within Animaniacs are really fun; but beyond that I can’t say I’d enjoy them enough to watch them on their own fulltime show.
And when it comes to the rest of the Tiny Toons, there’s just not a whole lot to talk about. Montana Max is probably the only other character I find entertaining, but not too often; Elmira just scares me; and you never see the Cat, Coyote or Roadrunner enough to know them too well. There is of course Gogo Dodo, who is probably the best character that Frank Welker has ever used his squeaky voice for; and yet sadly you don’t see Gogo enough either. He is totally boss, though.
Before I conclude our discussion, there is one other area that I can cover where the tables are somewhat turned: Music.
Now strange as it may seem, Tiny Toons and Animaniacs handle using music in different ways more often. Yes, both shows were often composed by the same person, Richard Stone; and both had original songs: but Animaniacs had a majority while Tiny Toons utilized copyrighted music tracks quite a few times to create their own music videos in order to play off the still growing MTV scene. I’m sure some of you can remember their video for “Do You Love Me?”
Or how about their video for They Might Be Giants’ cover of The Four Lads’ song, “Istanbul?”
Simply put, I found the Tiny Toons music vids to be more entertaining than the majority of Animaniacs’ original songs because they were less repetitive on my brain. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy “Yacko’s World” like anybody else: I’ve attempted to sing that song in voice quite a few times. And there are about a dozen or so other songs from the first two seasons that are just as fun to listen to: “Macadamia Nut” and “The Cute Song” being two of my favorites.
But all of their little songs that they threw into nearly every episode near the final seasons just got to be too much for me. They didn’t have anything to really like about them for one reason or another. No major hook or hilarious lyrics. Buster and Babs were much more forgiving on that front.
So that about wraps it up.
In conclusion, even though I’ve had my share of high-points and low-points with both series’, there’s no denying that I absolutely love their Direct-to-Video features. How I Spent My Vacation is a seminal film from my childhood, and I also fondly remember watching Wakko’s Wish for the first time over a decade ago. So they are going to be a lot of fun to revisit.
Toon in next time for another look into nostalgic animation.