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  05-17-2008, 08:32 PM
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It’s that time again!

Time to write mean things about a Time Warner executive?

Time to watch another anime company declare bankruptcy?

No, it’s time to review another Animaniacs DVD set!

Volume 3 to be specific: Five discs loaded with over 25 episodes of one of the greatest comedic series in the history of US television. Yes, I said one of the greatest in US television history. Name another show produced for US TV with an equally solid record of making you laugh till you spew. It’s a very short list. There must have been some kind of incredible magic running through the Warner Brothers backlot in the 1990's as they produced an incredible run of properties, with Animaniacs being the crowning achievement. I just wish they cared a little more about it. Don’t get me wrong, I am exceedingly glad that the show is on DVD when so many shows for so long, including this one, mouldered in the vaults, never to be seen again.

Unfortunately Warner Home Video seems to regard the show more as a cash cow than as something to be truly proud of. The extras on this volume are fairly paltry: two sets of rambling interviews about the music of the show and about designing the characters. Worse, the video quality is rather substandard for this point in the life time of the DVD medium. It really shouldn’t be hard to make sure that the colors on your discs don't bleed into each other, and to do some rudimentary cleanup on the video itself. There’s a lot of dirt and dust in some spots.

On the other hand, the discs themselves and their gatefold package look great. While it is slightly annoying to have to pull some of the discs out from under other discs, the holders are strong, so nothing is going to go flying inside the box.

Of course, the content itself is by far the most important part of the package. It's Animaniacs: pretty much a guarantee of superb quality. The first disc contains a few stinkers, as does the fifth one if you don't like the Goodfeathers, but everything else will at least make you chuckle if not fall off the couch laughing. Compared to a lot of contemporary productions that go for the same kind of thing—jokes that kids and adults will understand—even the clunker episodes tend to have a much defter touch. It's not screaming "THIS IS A PARODY!!!!!!!!!! LAUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". It's not even always obvious that something is a parody until you look back on it. Helping as well is that not everything is a parody of things that have been parodied to death before. Of course, Animaniacs was one of the first programs to parody a lot of the things that have been beaten to death in the years since it went off the air.

In no particular order—as what would be the use of having order in the Warner sibling's universe?—some of the best segments from Volume 3 include "The Warners and the Beanstalk"; "Schnitzelbank"; "Baloney and Kids"; "Take My Siblings Please"; all of "Mime Time" and "Good Idea, Bad Idea"; "Meet John Brain"; "Ragamuffins"; "Woodstock Slappy"; "Super Strong Warner Siblings"; "Cranial Crusader"; "Nutcracker Slappy"; "A Quake, A Quake!"; "The Warner's 65th Anniversary Special"; "Lookit the Fuzzy Heads"; "Mermaid Mindy"; "Variety Speak"; "A Hard Days Warner"; "Gimme a Break"; and "Please Get a Life Foundation." Quite a few of them only really make complete sense if you know what they're parodying, but they're still funny even if you don't. But some of the other segments, like most of the Good Feathers, Katie KaBoom and some of the totally random bits that involve characters never seen again in Volume 3 at least, are duds.

This third volume in particular does have some issues related to the fact that a couple of the episodes use story boards from earlier in the Fox Kids run, while the last six episodes are drawn from the first part of the Kids WB third season order. The four episodes made out of the old story boards in particular are really scatter shot. (They're all on the fourth disc.) The Warners only show up one of the segments, and the Good Feathers have an entire episode to themselves.

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