Monday, March 27, 2006

Helloooooo Nurse!

TLA Video has posted cover art for "Animaniacs: Volume 1" and Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1, both to be released on July 25.

"Animaniacs" has the first 25 episodes (there were 99 in all) and "Pinky and the Brain" has the first 22 episodes (of 65), so we can presumably expect three more volumes for "Animaniacs" and two more for "Pinky," if the first releases sell well enough, that is. The "Animaniacs" set (which I think will be four discs rather than the five mentioned in the listing) will have at least one new special feature: "Animaniacs Live!": Comic Maurice LaMarche [voice of the Brain] hosts an in-studio style interview via satellite big screen TV with Animaniac friends as they comment on this historical [sic] show. "Pinky and the Brain" should have special features too, but they're not identified on the listing.

I have been an unwavering "Animaniacs" fan since that day in 1993 when I happened to look at the old slot of "Tiny Toons" (which I liked, but didn't love) and found it replaced by a show that was similar in style, but faster, sharper and wittier, with the kind of amoral, aggressive humour you just didn't see on TV anymore -- particularly not "kids' TV." The segment was "Meatballs or Consequences" (part of episode 19 on the DVD set), a parody of The Seventh Seal where Yakko, Wakko and Dot meet Death, play checkers with him ("chess is unknown to us"), jump on his back and ride him off a cliff, and offer up some terrific lines of dialogue by John McCann:

SWEDISH GUY: I better go. Gotta help the wife export some iron ore.

YAKKO: Hey, Mister, are you about to drag our brother off to a bleak nether realm of despair, where the future is nothing but an endless sea of anguish and horrible misery?
YAKKO & DOT: We wanna go too!

YAKKO: All is strange and vague.
DOT: Are we dead?
YAKKO: Or is this Ohio?

DOT: What's it like to be dead, Wakko?
WAKKO: Pretty boring. I've already hummed all the songs I know.

The first volume of "Animaniacs" will include many of the best cartoons of the series' run (the first 65 episodes are consistently excellent). They include song sequences like "Yakko's World," featuring all the countries of the world set to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance, and with Yakko doing a dance (storyboarded by Brian Mitchell) based on a dance Groucho Marx used to do; two confrontations with Mr. Director, the vicious Jerry Lewis parody written and voiced by Paul Rugg ("Hello, nice people in the TV!!!"), and great supporting-character cartoons like the first Pinky and the Brain cartoon and Slappy Squirrel in "Bumbie's Mom."

There's also some great animation from two great and very different animation studios that worked on the show: Tokyo Movie Shinsha, the great Japanese studio that created some of the best-looking cartoons ever made for TV, with their uniquely broad and jerky way of making characters move, and Startoons, the Chicago-based studio run by the terrific animator Jon McClenahan.

The "Pinky and the Brain" set will include the first 13-episode season, the best of the series, and some other fine episodes.

In conclusion: buy these sets. But them as soon as they come out. Pitch a tent outside your local store the night before the release date and jump on the clerk first thing in the morning and demand that you be allowed to buy a copy.

That is all.

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