Sunday, February 26, 2017

'Animaniacs' Makes a Christmas Eve Arrival on the Hub

Some animated characters never go out of style, most notably a trio of siblings named Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. The stars of the hit 1990’s series “Animaniacs” will soon be calling the Hub Network home, beginning with a four-hour Christmas Eve marathon.

Locked away for 50 years in a water tower

Often referred to as the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister, these characters brought an inspired lunacy to television. According to the series, the animated siblings had been popular characters during the 1930’s, but their antics prompted executives to lock them inside the iconic water tower on the Burbank studio lot.

Fifty years later, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot broke free, bringing their zany humor to television. Though the show contained educational segments for children, the pop culture references and sly humor attracted adult fans as well.

Inspired by the Marx Brothers

To celebrate the show’s addition to the Hub lineup, the three main voice actors from “Animaniacs” reunited for a special recording session. During an email interview, Jess Harnell, the voice of Wakko, said the Marx Brothers served as the original inspiration for the Warner siblings.

“Wakko was ipso facto Harpo, but [the producers] knew they wanted him to speak. I think when I came in and did the miniature Beatle voice, I think they were like that’s cool because it’s weird enough ‘because it makes no sense that Wakko’s British and the other two are American. So the inspiration was a cross between Harpo Marx and the Beatles,” Harnell said.

The actor went on to say he was immediately drawn to Wakko because he was pure joy, craziness and impulsive. “[Wakko] did whatever he wanted all the time, and that’s kind of like me. He wanted to have fun at all cost, which is indicative of me and my lifestyle, too,” he said.

Life as the Warner Sister

During the original run of the show, actress Tress MacNeille gave voice to 20 characters, but Dot was her favorite. “She’s the star, the cute one, and the Warner sister. I loved all my characters from the show,” MacNeille said via email.

Though “Animaniacs” has been off the pop culture radar for some time, the actress thinks any time is the perfect time to see the show: “It was beautifully done, orchestrated, and was such a joy to do. We all love each other so much that it would be nice to introduce the show to a new set of kids because there’s nothing wrong with the show.”

Outrageous moments in “Animaniacs”

Like his co-stars, Rob Paulsen gave voice to various characters in the series. When asked about his favorite character, he responded that the simple answer would be Yakko, the tall leader of the trio.

But then Pinky was a pretty nice character and I won an Emmy for voicing Pinky. I also did Dr. Scratchansniff. He was also a lot of fun but was a complete rip off of my hero Peter Sellers,” Paulsen added via email.

Sly humor was the norm for this 1990’s show. When asked about the show via email, Paulsen recalled a memorable joke that wasn’t censored.

If you go online to search for popular, outrageous “Animaniacs” moments there’s a joke about fingerprints that I’m surprised wasn’t censored. We were doing a knock-off of Agatha Christie where the characters are looking for fingerprints and one of them says “finger prince” and then Prince comes out and says something about it. So depending on how you put the emphasis on it you might hear “fingerprints” or “finger prince.” People still remember that today,” he wrote.

A Yakko, Wakko, and Dot reunion

Paulsen, Harnell, and MacNeille recently reunited in the studio to record this special Hub promo. Though it seemed like old times, MacNeille said she sees her co-stars on a regular basis, so it’s not like they are strangers.

“Anytime I get to see Jess or Tress, it’s great. They are dear friends. I’ve known Tress since 1979. Tress is the single most talented actress I know and is very gifted. Jess is a life-force with his talent and that hair of his,” Paulsen added.

“Animaniacs” joins the Hub lineup with a four-hour Christmas Eve marathon (4-8 p.m. ET) followed by “Animaniacs: Wakko’s Wish” (8-10 p.m. ET). The show starts its regular 7 p.m. ET timeslot on Monday, January 7.

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