Animania IV
The Animania IV Report

by Rex Wheeler and the participants of Animania IV

This day started out at WBA headquarters (sort of our Mecca.) We meet with most if not all of the Animaniacs production staff and had a wonderful Q&A session. Although a bit hesitant at first, both parties seemed to become comfortable with each other. I think we learned quite a bit about each other.

We were initially met by Peter Hastings and had our meeting in the WBA conference room. The room has a huge marble table shaped like the WB shield. This table, by the way, will appear in an upcoming piece (CRGA alert!)

We were shown three of the new pieces in various stages of production. We saw a close to finished version of "Please, Please, Pleese Get a Life Foundation". I think that the WB folks were hesitant to show it to us, however, we were all ROTFL. The piece definitely hit the mark. It is full of material pulled directly from CRGA. Jay, won the "Get a Life" scholarship award by pointing out an error in the new short directly to Peter Hastings. In this short the Warners bring the ultimate weapon to the table.

We also saw rough versions of "Super Strong Warner Siblings" and "Yakko's Dictionary". In SSWS the Warners trash on what needed to be trashed. I haven't ever laughed out loud so much during a cartoon.

If what we saw is an indication of the season to come, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, we are in for a great season.

Tom Ruegger gave each of us a picture of Skippy autographed by his three sons. Later in the day he had us autograph one for his kids also.

We then got a tour of WBA were we saw the offices and work areas where Animaniacs is created.

We stopped at Audu Paden's office and he played a tape from a new piece where Wakko sings a love song to Hello Nurse. While playing the tape he flipped through the accompanying story board that he was working on. It was fun to see how all of this stuff gets created and put together.

Peter Hastings had life size Mr. Brain (from Win Big) in his office.

We saw character model sheets for Freakazoid! characters.

We saw how they track the progress of the season; it is sort of interesting. Each short gets a 3x5 index card that is color coded by character group. The card also has the current status of the piece. (Storyboard done, voices done, animated, scored...) The cards are stuck to the wall with push pins and arranged one row per show. This way the shorts can be moved around and the producers can see the whole season at a glance. In addition there are cards for the variable verse and ending tag line. There are some fun new tag lines coming.

While wandering around we saw the P&B title cards, and quite a bit of other stuff in progress (story boards, background art, pencil sketches, ...)

Also seen was an outrageous cell that never made it into "King Yakko" -- Yakko was a bit too close to the prime minister.

As an interesting note, there was also quite a bit of Disney stuff on the walls.

There were a lot of funny "underground" versions of characters on the walls of peoples offices. Just walking through WBA, one can tell that the staff doesn't take themselves too seriously. There is a reason that the Warners are so zany and irreverent.

After the tour we went over to the WB lot and had lunch in the commissary with Peter Hastings, Tom Ruegger and Jean MacCurdy.

After lunch we were interviewed along with Tress and Jess by the E! network. Part of the interview included us singing Jay Maynard's Animania IV theme song, with Jess and Tress doing the variable verse. We were, of course, backed by the full studio orchestra. Rumors are that the interview will air on September 3.

After the interview we sat in on the scoring of a new segment titled "Bingo." Tress and Jess along with other Animaniacs executives hung around and visited, and signed autographs. I was most impressed by the quality and professionalism of the whole operation. It only took a few takes to get the music right. The orchestra does not watch the video while playing, they read their sheet music and watch Richard Stone, the conductor.

We finished off the day with the WB VIP studio tour.

Stuff we heard / learned:

Wakko's voice is modeled after Ringo Starr's. Jess Harnell was the last person interviewed for the role and when going through a list of voices to try he was asked to imitate Ringo Starr -- That voice got him the role.

Why they changed the theme song: "Bill Clinton is a dated thing.", said Peter Hastings when asked about it.

The dance Yakko does in Yakko's World is based on a dance that Groucho used to do.

Episode 70 was never made, did not, and does not exist in any form.

At the original pitch meeting for the series, the Warners were still ducks.

There will be a P&B Christmas special animated by TMS.

According to Peter Hastings, Wang has gotten its act together. The sample of Wang's work we saw seems to prove his point.

Tom Minton looks just like The Brain, and was the model for the character.

Tom Ruegger's kids are not especially enthusiastic about their voice acting work and do it more or less at the encouragement of their dad. Skippy's voice will be pitched up next season to make it sound more like 'Slappy Goes Walnuts'.

In summary, we had a great trip! WBA was wonderful to us. Peter Hastings and Tom Ruegger basically spent a half day with us. Tress and Jess easily spent an hour with us. Most everyone else took plenty of time out of their schedules to meet with us. I want to emphasize that this was no simple "make an appearance in front of the fans" sort of thing. It was a genuine effort to make available to us the people that make Animaniacs happen. That effort definitely succeeded.