It's time for Animaniacs...for one last time
The Story So Far
With the writing on the wall regarding the show's future, instead of mailing it in, the creators instead decided to push the show to its limits, giving up on the premise that the show is attempting to entertain kids and focusing almost exclusively on the show's older viewers, frequently via parodies. Volume three's "Variety Speak" segment was inside baseball, but this time around you've got a two-episode special (including a "Variety Speak" sequel) focused on the movie-making business, as the Warners attempt to sell their script, while another parodies classic cartoons like Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Underdog and Fat Albert, right down to the animation style. A cartoon that includes Joe Esterhas and Joel Schumacher, not to mention Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali, as characters is certainly not meant for anyone in grade school.
The other key feature certain to be lost on younger viewers is the continuing flood of references specific to the '90s, like an entire segment dedicated to parodying Friends and Seinfeld, a Rugrats cold-open homage and a Macarena-inspired music video. Half the time references aren't even named, acting only as visual gags. Fortunately, the slapstick-heavy action is normally silly enough, and the characters are cute enough to keep younger viewers without a '90s frame of reference (or a subscription to the Hollywood Reporter) entertained. This is especially true for the show's terrific, catchy songs, which often have some educational value to boot, like the tunes about time, the bones in the body and spelling, or the return of the historical Flame, who observes the writing of America's anthem. Sometimes the musical moments can get out of hand, like the Season Three finale, featuring nothing but songs, but they normally are nice breaks in the show's variety format.
Though there are plenty of cameos for the show's supporting cast, including several appearances by the surprisingly entertaining Chicken Boo, who is disguised as everything from Forrest Gump to a TV executive to a certain dark knight's young ward (with Adam West himself as a knock-off Caped Crusader), Slappy Squirrel getting the entire fourth-season premiere to herself and Pinky and the Brain in a wonderful, wordless final Animaniacs segment, the Warners are the focus this time around. It's definitely a farewell tour for the characters, as the gang is more meta than ever (even stopping scenes at random and commenting on the credits in one episode) while they deliver some truly memorable shorts, like a Disney-tweaking musical joke about their homogenous heroines, a fun take on the Casey at the Bat story and the series finale, featuring a goofy scoring session and the epic best-of musical reel revisiting the show's many brilliant themes, which serves as a fond summation of the show as the spiritual descendent of the original Looney Tunes.
Is there anything bad to say about this set? Sure (anything with multiple appearances by characters like the Hip Hippos deserves some criticism) but when the rest of the show is so tremendously fun, and the series is capable of entertaining such a wide-ranging audience, trying to find negatives is just being nit-picky. Now to get them to make some new episodes...
Episodes 76 through 99 of Animaniacs (the remainder of the third season and the short final two seasons) are collected on three DVDs. The packaging has changed in the years since the third volume was released, swapping out the digipaks of the past for a standard keepcase with a dual-hubbed tray, which arrives in an attractive embossed slipcover. The discs have static, anamorphic widescreen main menus, with options to play all episodes, select individual shows and adjust languages. Unlike the previous volumes, there are no audio options this time, but after leaving out subtitle choices on Volume Three, this time you have either English SDH or French.
Unlike the previous sets, there was no upconversions done to enhance the audio, so we just get the original Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, which are really quite fine, delivering the dialogue cleanly and center-balanced, while the music is nice and strong, and well-separated from the voices.
The Bottom Line
Now about Wakko's Wish...