After another Animaniacs discussion on a message board, I thought I would come back here and create another chapter in the story of my ongoing refusal to apologize for liking it. Anyway, one of the differences between the show on Fox and on the WB is that most of the WB episodes presented the characters as less mean, or at least less aggressive. This seemed to be an attempt by the writers to get away from the formula they had created in the year on Fox, where the three main characters would get revenge on some kind of authority figure. The first season on the WB had several cartoons that basically admitted that the writers were tired of this formula or at least felt that it was played out; if the final volume of episodes ever comes out on DVD -- which seems increasingly unlikely -- it'll start with this cartoon:
Breaking away from formula and getting more self-referential had actually helped the quality of Tiny Toons, where the final 35 episodes are generally of higher quality than the first 65. Though "Animaniacs" had a number of good cartoons on the WB, the change in formula seems to have hurt more than it helped, especially when it came to the cartoons with Yakko/Wakko/Dot. Although their cartoons were not "classic" cartoons, they worked better in something resembling a classic cartoon format: simple, strong premise which can give rise to a series of gags that are related to the premise, and a satisfying ending. When they're put in other types of stories -- either long-form stories like the two-part "Hooray For North Hollywood" (originally thought of as a story for an Animaniacs movie) or full-length movie parodies, they wind up standing around and not doing very much. Looking back on it, there are a lot of WB-era "Animaniacs" cartoons where nothing much happens until the cartoon is half over.
But on an up note, here is one of the WB-era cartoons I like the best (and the one which would induce me to buy a vol. 4 DVD if it ever came out). It could have been another static movie-parody cartoon, but as written by Paul Rugg (who really seemed to like these three characters, or at least write them as likable; it isn't easy to avoid making them three smug little assholes, but he usually did it), it abandons the movie premise pretty quickly and becomes a story about cartoon logic: if a cartoon character can only attack when provoked, then what happens when their antagonist never actually provokes them by being mean or rude? The Simpsons did a somewhat similar episode a year later when a Mary Poppins-type nanny came to live with the Simpsons; Animaniacs did it better.