This was originally posted to alt.tv.animaniacs.
I arrived Wednesday night after being picked up by Brendan, Bryan/Wilford/wbwolf and spot. We stayed at the residence of Kane/Narfcake that night, and spent much time on IRC confusing people about who was typing when. It was inadvertant at first, but then Nc started purposefully misleading them. There was much laughter.
It was TOODAMNHOT in that place and I couldn't sleep much. Got up in the morning and showered, and played a tape of my piano-roll Animaniacs theme arrangement, and we watched Tiny Toons Night Ghoulery while in shower rotation. Brendan returned (he had stayed at his place) with Andy/DotWarner, Andrew/Snako/KinkyTurtle/LisaSimpson, Jay/Splutter, and Marilyn/Molly/Pinkinia, as I recall... or was Rex/FuzyTiger there too? Oh yeah, Kevin/Kokopelli was there also!
Anyway, we checked into the hotel, and soon were off to meet up with Karen/KJTDot, her mom, and Kim/Yakko'sBabe. We were about 15 minutes late, but they weren't at the meeting place. We hung around for a few hours, though some went off to eat. For the first and only time all weekend, spot told someone (Narfcake) her famous "biteme" and Nc handed me his camcorder to tape him biting her, though she resisted.
After telephone calls, Brendan discovered that our Warner Bros. lot tour had been rescheduled for Friday anyway, so we didn't have to worry about missing it. We gave up and went back to the hotel eventually, and found the missing three already there. They had been at the meeting place early, then left for the lot only to find the tour had been canceled, so went to the hotel but couldn't get into their room, and since it was so damn hot they just got their own room.
My memory of who was met when is fixing itself now, and what I've said isn't exactly right. I remember now that KT was met at the hotel, along with Peter Yu and others. Ah well... doesn't matter.
Everyone happily together now, we went out to the Glendale Galleria and invaded the WBSS there. They had a few cels, from What a Dump and King Yakko, as I recall. After everyone was finished purchasing and browsing, we gathered our forces and terrorized the Disney store. First we stood outside, making signs of the cross etc. at the giant Mickey (and being photographed like that), then we went inside and cringed at the sappy music, tacky kids Pocahontas clothing, high-priced sericels, etc., and photographed ourselves strangling their plushies, putting them into lewd positions and so forth. The employees were brain dead. "Hi! How are you? Welcome to Disney!" the whole time.
So then we went to dinner, then back to the hotel, and a few of us gathered in one room chatting, looking at KT's sketchbook, and telephoning Nat, who was, shall we say, rather excited to hear from us. I began having severe stomach pains and left, doubled over, to go to my assigned room and sleep it off.
I was a little better in the morning, and we were on a schedule today. We almost had to leave without a couple, but they were ready just in time. So it was off to Sherman Oaks with us. The mall there is exactly as pictured in Survey Ladies. We went up that escalator, but no survey ladies attacked, unfortunately. I wanted someone to take a picture of the storefronts, to compare store names with the parodies in the cartoon, but I don't think anyone did.
Just outside the mall is the big Imperial Bank building. We went into the second-floor lobby and then proceeded to the 12th-floor lobby of Warner Bros. Animation. As we learned later, WBA wanted us there earlier than originally planned, so it was good that we actually did get there a bit early.
The stairway going down from the lobby has a lot of panes of etched glass with images of Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Buster, Babs, Plucky, Daffy, Bugs, and Batman (maybe I forgot some too).
Peter Hastings came and introduced himself to us, and we waited for the conference room to clear out, then proceeded inside and seated ourselves (about 20 of us) around the huge WB-shield-shaped marble desk. Peter explained that they had considered giving us a trivia quiz, but then thought it would be more apt for us to give them one. Heh. Such is the way in any fandom. Eventually, other staffers filed in: Kathryn Page, Tom Ruegger, Paul Rugg, Paul Dini, Tom Minton, Audu Paden, Andrea Romano, and others who unfortunately I've forgotten.
Kathryn Page was asked if she really is "Scared of Internet." She kinda blushed and said a little. She has moved up in the world, to become Jean MacCurdy's assistant. Her sister, Bobbie, has taken over her position as assistant to the producer. Hastings mentioned that gag credits are the last to go into a show, and asked for ideas. No one came up with any, but I suggested one to him last night in email -- "Relay racer" since the baton has been passed, as it were, to Bobbie. (Please do not ask for his or any other staffer's address; I won't give it out.)
So we had a bit of a question-and-answer session. As you know, the cartoon `Spell-Bound' was pulled so it could be placed into the P&TB show. What we learned, however, is that they are giving it a new cut, to put in some previously unused footage. So don't touch that remote -- or that VCR -- when that one comes on.
[Turns out they didn't make a new cut after all, despite commenting on having looked at the old material and thinking, "Did I write that?"]
Then Ruegger decided to show us some animation that had just come in that morning. It was the first segment of a wraparound where Yakko sings all the words of the English language (to the Mexican Hat Dance, just like in Yakko's World). Excellent stuff, particularly the way the segment concludes.
Later, we were shown Super Strong Warner Siblings (previously referenced here as Mighty Morphin Power Warners). Absolutely hilarious.
Then, with some trepidation, they wondered if they should show us The Please Please Please Get-A-Life Foundation. We all said do, so they did. Hastings mentioned as he put the tape on that we'd recognize stuff from the CRGA. Even stuff from the POIT is in there, actually. Again, we loved what we saw. Hastings told me later that this cartoon will never get a better reception than it did that morning. I agree. I think the casual readers of the group will be far more offended than the regulars -- the actual targets of the cartoon. Proving his place in the cartoon, Jay pointed out an error immediately after it ended, but I'm not convinced that that `error' wasn't intentional to see how quickly people would notice.
No quotes from me were in PPPGALF, but Ruegger did mention one of my posts from here. He was talking about how someone had posted to a.t.a about Skippy's voice changing from early cartoons to the later ones, and someone else (me) pointing out that Nathan Ruegger is getting older, so the voice is bound to change. To that end, he said, the voice of Skippy will be pitched 5% in the new season.
He also said that his kids don't really like doing the work, but he tries to encourage them. Indeed, later that day, as we parted, I told him to give our regards to the kids, and he said he had asked them to come meet us, but they were shy. He did give each of us a picture of Skippy (with various outfits on) signed by Cody, Luke and Nathan, however, and had us sign one for them.
So, after most of the staffers filed out (and, by the way, yes, the Brain does look like Tom Minton, as Tom himself pointed out), we went down to the 8th floor, lead by Peter Hastings and Kathy Page (gee, and "Tour Guide" was never one of her gag credits, was it?).
First we went into Peter's office, with its giant Win Big mechanical suit, an Emmy, and all the cartoon/skit titles in the current production schedule (there are still a couple leftovers from before, such as the one Sherri Stoner-penned Slappy story, which has been retitled `Give Me A Break', and apparently has finally been given the go-ahead). There are no Rita & Runt cartoons (Paul Rugg -- or was it Dini? -- joked, "We were paying her (Bernadette Peters) in chocolate, but now she wants money or something"), but they do appear in cameos. There also are a few Mindy & Buttons cartoons, apparently, despite the lack of any new voice recording by Nancy Cartwright. There are no new Goodfeathers cartoons, either.
Pinky & The Brain cartoons are in the same production cycle/codes as Animaniacs. P&TB episodes have I believe nine full-length episodes, with the rest being comprised of shorts. If someone else remembers differently, by all means say so.
There were some Chicken Boos, I think, and something that looked like a Lion King parody. We're not sure how much we should blurt out to the world, so I'll leave it at that.
Then we went around the corner into Tom Ruegger's office. On his wall was the episodes' shorts arrangement, assigned variable verses and end tags. There are new ones of each of those, and Tom tried to stand in the way of us being able to see them after I read one of the end tags aloud. We still got a good look at those, but we won't spoil 'em. I wish, though, that the what-shorts-are-in-what- episode list could be told to us, so we can know what to look for in upcoming episodes. I think PPPGALF is slated for the third episode, and Super Strong Warner Siblings for the second...?
By the way, we were told that "episode 70" with its shorts Amusement Park and Bad Hair Day was "a vapor episode; it never existed." Makes one wonder why Paul Hendry was given those titles, then, and by whom. What really were 406-657 and 406-735B, hmm?
So, then we toured the cubicles. Most of the folks were gracious, and let us see what they were drawing. One character designer went into great detail about the P&TB episode he was designing characters for, and the actor who plays one of those characters. (It seems that A and P&TB are attracting a few more "big name" actors to do voices.) I won't spoil the episode beyond saying that it has flashbacks to the Brain's childhood.
The cubicles were far too small for more than a few people to get inside, so many of us saw different things at this point. There were many empty cubicles "reserved for Warner Bros. Classic Animation," and a few WBCA cubicles already occupied. There's an ad in the latest Animation magazine from WBCA, looking for people to hire, too, hence the reserved empty cubicles.
Audu Paden was working on a storyboard, and we noticed it was of the Hello Nurse Song we had heard about. He said, "Oh!" and put in a cassette of the song, flipping through the storyboard pages as it went, at least until it got to the point where he was currently working on the storyboard. A very nice song, and rather amusing. The tape stopped right before the line where Wakko says he's "only seven," which made some of us chuckle and groan at the bad timing, but Audu confirmed that the line does in fact say he's seven.
(Someone asked Peter and Tom about the ages, and the answer was that there's no set age for the Warners other than "below dating age.")
Oh, that reminds me of something else. They mentioned how difficult it was for them to find the voice of Wakko. They had no idea how he should sound, and Jess Harnell was the last auditioner. They asked Jess to do various impressions, one of which was Ringo Starr. They liked that, and when Jess did the voice with a higher pitch, since Wakko is a kid, voici Wakko! So, that settles the argument over who the voice is modeled after.
Oh, I'm also reminded of Bryan asking them about the prototypes, Yakki, Smakki, Wakki and their little girl friend. They didn't mention if the girl friend had a name, but mentioned how the three cousins were modeled after the Ruegger boys. Tom said that Luke was at a stage then where he was ready to hit anyone at any time, which explains why Smakki looks like he's ready to smack someone.
On the walls were model sheets of Freakazoid! characters, Animaniacs characters, and even staff caricatures for use as extras. After they get the pictures of us, who knows -- maybe they'll have caricatures of us for use as extras. I know I'll be watching for myself in the later episodes!
Biggest laugh inside of WBA was seeing one artist's cubicle wall. It had a picture of Minnie Mouse on her knees, pulling on Wakko's shirt, saying, "I want to have your baby! Mickey'll never know!" Next to that was a picture of their offspring, Wakky Mouse.
Another artist had a Jeff Gordon trading card clipped, and an actual Jeff Gordon nameplate just like all the other cubicles had nameplates. I blinked. "What's Jeff Gordon doing with a cubicle here!" The resident of the cubicle, whose name I've forgotten (his own nameplate was on the other end of the cubicle wall), came out when hearing this, apparently glad to see another racing fan (and another Jeff Gordon fan too I presume). He had an interesting "for fun" picture of a Pinky & The Brain logo with little finger puppet heads on a toon hand.
A wall with fan mail had mostly stuff from kids, but also had an a.t.a post from Jay B. Parker. I can't remember what the subject was now, though... a particular part was bracketed, I remember.
We spent too much time in that department, so had to breeze quickly through the ink & paint area. Then it was time to head out to Burbank and the Warner Bros. lot.
Once there, the first order of business was lunch in the commissary. I ate mashed potatoes, rice, and a half chicken. An MGE line was spoken by Peter Hastings went he came to my table seeing the chicken: "That's quite a hunk of meat you have there." Mwah! Goodnight, Everybody! Peter seemed really excited about everything, and visited every table to say hi to everyone. All he ate was a cracker the whole time, I think!
After lunch we congregated just outside the commissary, where the orchestra recording studio is. We practiced the song we were to sing with the orchestra once, and KT says Maurice LaMarche went by us, but I never noticed. [Maurice has since reported that he was not there that day.] After our first practice (outside in full earshot of everyone eating in the outdoor part of the commissary), Jess Harnell came out and lead us through a couple more rehearsals, and talked a bit. We mentioned how the IRC members of us sometimes roleplay in the characters, and he was amused by that. He said he has the Internet connection on his AOL account, but doesn't know how to use it yet. We promised to help him out however we could. It turns out that some parts of that on AOL are only available for PC users at this time, and Jess has a Mac. Anyway, I should see him again this weekend, so I'll give him an update on that.
After a couple more rehearsals, Tress MacNeille arrived, and we went inside. The orchestra was tuning up there, and the E! crew was there. The Warner Bros. PR agent, who arranged this "Animaniacs Press Event," let some of us go in to meet Richard Stone, but we were ushered right back out so the TV crew could conduct their interviews. Tress introduced herself to me while in there.
The TV crew interviewed those who came farthest: Kim, Kevin, Bryan, and others, while the rest of us hung out in the control room's lounge chatting with Jess, Tress, Tom Ruegger and Peter. Jess was excited about being able to see a cartoon getting scored, as was I.
So then we all went inside and we believed we were going to rehearse once with the orchestra, but as it turned out it was the one and only take. So sang we did, as the E! camera wandered around. I was on the end, and the camera pointed right at my face for about 10 seconds. I'm the bespectacled, buck-toothed skinny guy in the gray fedora. [That part of the song ended up not being used on the E! news piece.]
Then we filed out and witnessed the orchestra score `Bingo', written by Peter Hastings. It's a cartoon featuring just Wakko and Dr Sns. If you hate puns, you'll hate this one!
Jess said it was his favorite of the new season. We couldn't tell what the dialogue was while the scoring was going on, but once the scoring was finished, they added the dialogue. Absolutely bloody hilarious! Akom drew this one, whereas all we had seen before was by Wang. The Akom art was pretty good, and I said as much to Tom Ruegger. He said, "This is after a lot of retakes," and made a face to explain the huge upper lips a lot of the first takes from Akom had. He also said there were some retakes yet to be done.
I mentioned `The Jupiter Conspiracy' to Peter Hastings in email last night (since we all forgot to ask about it in person), and he said "We don't actually remember this happening in John Brain," but that it being a retake that simply hadn't been received in time for first airing was the explanation, and that it has happened a few times. It's still odd that that shot would be changed, but the hair-color change on the Nurse in the same cartoon wouldn't be.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to see the sound effects being added. That would have been interesting. I wonder how many canned sounds are used, as opposed to live sounds. [I've since been told that it's all canned sounds and not very interesting to witness.]
Anyway, everyone then got a lot of autographs. I asked Tom, Jess and Tress to sign my shirt. Tom wrote "Keeper, stay toony!" Jess wrote "Keeper, you're faboo!" and Tress wrote (in two colors) "Are you your Dot's keeper? Yes, always!"
Amusing part here was when Andy, who roleplays as Dot, mentioned this to Tress. Tress said, in Dot's voice, "I just have more estrogen." Jess signed Andy's shirt with "Funny, you don't LOOK like Dot..." Tress signed, "Dot to Dot: We've never looked so good!" After being requested to and told why, Tom Ruegger signed, "I take NO responsibility for any of this!"
Then people began filing out, but I stayed behind a little bit for a brief chat with Richard Stone. I missed a story Jess told to people outside, but was told it later by Andy. The story goes that Jess was with his family at Disneyland, and saw a kid wearing an Animaniacs shirt. He asked the kid if he liked Wakko, and the kid said yeah, so he said, "I do the voice of Wakko." The kid blinked and said, "So do I." Jess explained that he does it on the show, and demonstrated. The kid said, "You don't sound anything like him" and walked off.
So Jess had to go to work, singing backup for Tom Jones, and we all went to the WBSS on the lot. As much as I pestered the employees, I couldn't get any of them to give me one of their Kids' WB buttons (which have the Warners on them, since, as you know, the Warners will be hosts of the whole lineup). [I did get one of those buttons a week later at an Animaniacs Voice Tour event. Thanks to Linda Tindall for the acquisition!]
Oh yeah, I saw that KT asked Paul Rugg to sign "Freunleven," and, as I recall, that is how he signed it. We can take that as the official spelling, I think.
Then everyone left, leaving three of us behind in the store as we bought things, and we wandered to the water tower, thinking that that was where they were going. No one was there, so we went back to the WBSS, and they called the VIP Tours area to report that we had become separated, but at the same time Bryan arrived to retrieve us. Apparently people were at the water tower and had just left by the time we got there. So it was back to the tower with us, and beyond there to the tour area, sitting in a little cinema there with the promo movie in progress.
We received an on-foot tour of the lot, with a really great host. He had his own opinions on how the studio should be run, and what's wrong with how it's run today, and how some directors are rather uncooperative (after a failed attempt to see the set of Friends). But we did get into the Daily Planet set from Lois & Clark, after apparently he told the L&C crew that we actually were WB employees (animators). Heh... We saw a big white tent in one parking lot, and he explained that inside it is the floor of a basketball court (from the L.A. Coliseum or something) and the accomodations for Michael Jordan, as they're filming the live-action parts of Space Jam there. Live music could be heard occasionally from inside, too -- Mr Jordan's personal entertainment. Tons of air conditioners were outside. Our guide ("Call me Cubby again and I'll kill you") said he wished we could peek inside.
Anyway, we got really warm after our walk through the backlot, including some cordoned-off areas no one was guarding, so he led us into the commissary for drinks, but the commissary was closing. He said to the commissary manager, "You do know I'm Jack Warner, don't you?" Heh. Ah well. We had to go to a couple vending machines.
So then it was back to the tour central to recover our belongings, which we weren't allowed to take on the backlot, and we returned to the hotel. Everyone was left to fend for themselves in the food department. Six of us went to a Subway. At the hotel, amusing pictures were taken of plushies, all of which ended up in one room. Spot was buried in them a couple times!
Saturday was the video marathon, watching six hours of Animaniacs episodes -- mostly those which were pulled from the Fox lineup (Peter Hastings said he wondered if even Fox knew they had pulled them). Pizza was consumed, then many of us congregated in the room with the plushies again, but this time just calling more people, looking at KT's sketchbook and general hanging out. There were some more big laughs late, late that night. Sometimes I'm too damn silly.
Ron O'Dell "Keeper"