I'm glad to have volume 2 of Animaniacs in my hot little hands... well, more accurately, on my hot little shelf. I probably should do a longer post about just how popular that show was in its first season. It was to a lot of us what the first season of Ren and Stimpy was to a lot of others: the TV cartoon that finally got it right. (I know it makes real animation fans very angry to hear people talk about Animaniacs as if it's on a level with Ren and Stimpy. And maybe they're right. But the impact it had on its fans was quite similar.) It was pulling together a lot of stuff that TV cartoons had been slowly trying to do throughout the '80s: get a little funnier, a little more pop-culture-savvy, a little less socially-responsible, a little less weighed down by network standards and practices.
You could see even bad late Hanna-Barbera cartoons at least trying to get some funny stuff through the muck, and it often turns out that those semi-funny episodes were written by people who went to Warner Brothers in the early '90s. Anyway, Tiny Toons came close to breaking through, but a lot of the scripts still had the old '80s Saturday Morning Cartoon problems, especially the need to tell socially responsible stories with uplifting messages. Animaniacs was the first cartoon to do this kind of stuff and be almost totally amoral. It was a heady mix, and for many of us, the first time we saw a good Animaniacs cartoon was a "eureka!" moment.
All that said, I won't feel satisfied that the '90s WB legacy (for better or for worse) has been properly represented until Freakazoid! comes out on DVD. There's been no announcement of that yet. Hopefully it will come sometime, and if you want to know why I want that show most of all, here are two reasons why.
Freakazoid tells the story of an after-school special he saw about what happens when friendships go bad:
And Jack Valenti, former head of the MPAA, explains their fascinating ratings system: