Produced by Steven Spielberg, Animaniacs was a revival of an old show concept: a collection of cartoon shorts in a half-hour kids' show. Rather than recycling or remaking old theatrical shorts, Animaniacs relied on original stories featuring original characters (though it did indulge in a bit of self-referential cliché riding at times). This approach was unique in the 1990s, since goofball/slapstick-type shows (think Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies) had been driven out by Moral Guardians in the 1980s.
Animaniacs was also unique production-wise: Spielberg gave the writers complete creative freedom over the direction of sketches (just like with Tiny Toon Adventures and Freakazoid!), which is why many fans hold such fond memories of it. Viewers don't love it because of Nostalgia Goggles -- it was a genuinely creative and well-written show (its Emmy awards attest to that). Kids even learned from it; most of Generation Y will fondly remember trying to memorize "Yakko's World" and "Wakko's America" for geography tests. Raise your hand if you learned about the conquistadors because of "The Ballad of Magellan". Who says educational shows can't be fun?
Unlike other Saturday Morning Cartoons of its time, Animaniacs didn't air on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network (at least not initially; it has been on both of those since the series ended as syndication reruns). It originally aired on Fox Kids and (later) Kids WB, both of which were programming blocks on broadcast network stations, making Animaniacs a godsend to kids without cable.
Shorts were generally self-contained, though they frequently crossed over with each other without much warning. Each had a cast and premise of their own:
- The Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister): Yakko, Wakko, and sister Dot were cartoon characters that resembled anthropomorphic dogs or cats (at least within the show they were occasionally referred to as "puppy children", "kiddies", or "kidsies"). Their Backstory indicates that they were created in the 1930s by the Warner Studios animators, then leapt off the page and ran amok through the studio. The Warners' cartoons, which made "absolutely no sense" -- and the Warners themselves, who "made even less sense" -- were locked in the studio's water tower for sixty years. The Warners eventually escape and Hilarity Ensues. (No, really, it actually does.) Studio psychiatrist Dr. Otto Scratchnsniff, his exceedingly-hot female assistant, dimwitted studio security guard Ralph, and studio president Thaddeus Plotz suffer more from the trio's antics than anyone else. Some of the shorts involving the Warners were their "classic" cartoons, which played with different animation styles and tropes based on the cartoons of the time they were said to be from. When not following classic formulas, the Warners engaged in well-constructed parodies of pop-culture or inserted themselves into history (wherein they would simultaneously both annoy and inspire famous figures like Abraham Lincoln and Ludwig von Beethoven). It was something of a Running Gag to have the Warners briefly show up in non-Warners shorts on a regular basis; these cameos would often consist of the Warners being chased by Ralph.
- Pinky and The Brain: A pair of laboratory mice plot to Take Over the World. These shorts became popular enough to warrant a Spin-Off series (which has its own page), and -- Pinky Elmyra and The Brain notwithstanding -- it is one of the few examples of such to actually be good.
- Rita and Runt: Two stray animals -- a cat (played by Bernadette Peters) who sings showtunes (with changed lyrics) and a dopey (Rain Man-inspired, definitely Rain Man-inspired) dog -- try to find a home throughout time and space. These shorts had a tendency to be a bit more melancholy than the others.
- Slappy Squirrel: A washed-up old cartoon star from "the good old days" works through modern-day problems with old-school cartoon techniques (that is to say, violence -- preferably of the explosive kind). Her personality is based on being old and cranky (with the occasional menopause joke), and she thinks all the modern cartoon stars are no-good punks. Most of her shorts center around her being Genre Savvy (if not having outright Medium Awareness), and she is often accompanied by her nephew Skippy, who helps to balance out her cynical attitude with his bright-eyed child-like optimism.
- Minerva Mink: An oversexualized, big-busted mink who used her feminine wiles to get what she wanted. She only starred in two shorts due to oodles of sexual innuendo, but she showed up in other shorts and Wakko's Wish as a background character and got a few dedicated comics in the Animaniacs comic book series (all of which basically followed the same formula as the shorts). Minerva also spawned a million pages of Furry Fandom fanart, most of which is quite unsuitable for this site (and many others).
- Goodfeathers: A direct parody of Goodfellas in concept, but it parodies other gangster movies as well. Three New Yorker pigeons try to run the streets under the watchful eye of the Godpigeon; the trio lives on a statue of Martin Scorsese.
- Buttons and Mindy: A toddler, voiced by Nancy Cartwright of The Simpsons fame, roams around unsupervised; she is completely oblivious to the dangers around her and asks questions of everyone she meets. The family dog, Buttons, runs himself ragged trying to return Mindy to her parents.
- Chicken Boo: A giant rooster whose lame attempts to pass as a human incomprehensibly succeed, one person's protests notwithstanding (the people around him assume he's calling Chicken Boo a metaphorical chicken -- that is to say, a coward). A minor accident (losing a baseball cap, for instance) inexplicably reveals Boo's true nature to everyone around him.
- Katie Kaboom: A girl who literally explodes with rage (causing massive damage to the house and landscape) over minor, stereotypical teenage problems, such as her boyfriend being late to pick her up. She was based on the teen-aged daughter of one of the writers.
- The Hip Hippos: An exceedingly heavy hippopotamus couple whose nouveau-riche lifestyle and utter reliance on luxury leaves them helpless in situations where money won't make a difference. They also have a tendency to get into dangerous situations, even though their heavy frames generally protect them from any actual harm. Occasionally shadowed by a naturalist named Gena Embryo who tries (unsuccessfully) to return them to the jungle or protect them from harm (which usually ends up befalling her instead).
Other supporting cast members included Mr. Skullhead (in the "Good Idea, Bad Idea" shorts), a nameless disaster-prone mime, a nameless kid who is the friend of another (never shown) kid named "Randy Beeman", and Mr. Director (a crazed movie director based on Jerry Lewis).
A Direct to Video movie, Wakko's Wish, was created following the show's run; rather than being a compilation of various shorts (old or new), it was a film with a self-contained plot which saw all of the show's main characters (and several background characters) interacting with one another. See The Resolution Will Not Be Televised below.
In 2020, Animaniacs finally received a long-awaited revival on Hulu, developed by Wellesley Wild and Steven Spielberg. The new series sees the return of the Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko and their sister Dot (voiced respectively by their original voice actors, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille), and of Pinky and the Brain (voiced by their respective original voice actors Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). Two seasons were ordered to be produced by Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation; the first season premiered on Hulu on November 20, 2020, and the show's second season will premiere in 2021.
- Hello, Nurse!: Trope Namer. ...plus that's actually her name.
- Potty Emergency: Trope Namer, for the Season 2 episode where Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are at the movies and Wakko drinks from an insanely large cup of soda and spends the rest of the short desperately looking for a bathroom.
- Affectionate Parody: Quite a few shorts were done in the style of the cutesy, musical cartoons of the 1930s.
- All Men Are Perverts: Around Hello, Nurse!, anyway. This was also the premise of the Minerva Mink cartoons.
- All Women Are Lustful: Minerva herself and Dot weren't any better.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: See Dr. Scratchnsniff.
- Alter Kocker: Walter Wolf.
- Animated Actors: The Warners are an unusual example of actors playing actors. In other words, they are actors who live on the Warner Studio Lot and perform skits, in-universe. But even this premise about them living in the tower, tormenting Dr. Scratchansniff, etc. is scripted, as the theme song makes clear. On top of that, they know they are cartoons.
- The theme song also, however, mentions that "the writers flipped/we have no script/why bother to rehearse?", so whether or not anything is scripted at all within the confines of the show itself is debatable. It is still all an act, though.
- Animated Anthology: An extremely good example.
- Animation Bump: There were eight, count them, EIGHT animation companies that worked on the show; all had different drawing and animation styles (and that does not even count the studios that TMS used under contract However, almost all of them used TMS's style).
- Anvil on Head: It even has a theme song.
- Appeal to Obscurity: Combined with Who's on First? in "Piano Rag":
Yakko: Very Pete Townsend-esque.
- Attack! Attack! Retreat! Retreat!: The army from the cover of A Few Good Men wind up doing this against the T-Rex from the cover of Jurassic Park during "Video Revue".
- Attention Deficit Ooh Shiny: Quite a few characters, but Pinky and The Brain gets special points.
Pinky: (distracted by a parody of Jeopardy!) What is "Narf"? What is "Poit"?
- Art Shift: The entire episode "Back in Style" is full of this: The Warners keep being inserted into various Saturday morning cartoons throughout the '60s-80s, so we get visual parodies of Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, Underdog, and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, none of which are drawn or animated in the usual Animaniacs style.
- Badly-Battered Babysitter: Buttons the dog, almost to Butt Monkey status.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animals: Minerva Mink, and Howard Stern parody Howard Tern.
- The Warners themselves can cross between this and Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal.
- Berserk Button:
- Say the word "cat" around Runt, and he'll suddenly be alert and exclaiming, "CAT?? WHERE'S THE CAT??" Despite the fact that his partner Rita is a cat to begin with.
- "A cat? Oh no, Rita is a dog, she's definitely a dog."
- "Definitely, definitely a dog!"
- Never give Wakko an F. Especially on his hat.
- Never give Pesto any kind of compliment, because he'll just twist it into a bad thing and go into an Unstoppable Rage.
- On second thought, just don't say anything to him.
- Never call Dot 'Dotty'. Call her Dotty and you die.
- But Yakko got away with this in "The Three Muska-Warners".
- Katie Ka-Boom. Nuff said.
- Say the word "cat" around Runt, and he'll suddenly be alert and exclaiming, "CAT?? WHERE'S THE CAT??" Despite the fact that his partner Rita is a cat to begin with.
- Big Eater: Guess who "packs away the snacks"?
- Bilingual Bonus: "Taming of the Screwy" has one in Japanese:
Yakko: Tokyo wa tottemo omoshiroi tokoro desu ne? <Tokyo is an extremely interesting place, isn't it.>
- Of course, this can refer to the overpopulation in Japan, or... well... you know...
- For Spanish/French, there's a few lines in the song Macadamia Nut...
Miles Standish: Begone, pests, and give me the bird!
Yakko: It's that time again.
- Another instance, blink and you'll miss it, but during "Phranken-Runt", we get a shot of Phrankenstein's brain-in-a-jar shelf. The jar which contained by far the smallest is labeled "TV Network Executive Brain."
- Boot Camp Episode: One of the Warner Siblings has them discovering boot camp (Dot thinks it has to do with fashionable footwear), which they mistake for summer camp. Hilarity Ensues. (No, this time in the usual ironic sense).
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Good Idea, Bad Idea".
- Breaking the Fourth Wall. Well, more like Pulverizing The Fourth Wall.
- Especially in the Warner shorts, in which one might say there are two missing/broken fourth walls, with one that fits the premise of the show (that they are children who live on the WB Studio and perform skits) and one that goes even beyond that (such as Dot's profanity-laden rant in Cutie and the Beast, or the cold ending, in which they plan to go out and get cappuccinos, in the same episode). Your mind will explode if you try to make too much sense of it.
- Bubble Pipe: Yakko once "puffs" on a soap-bubble pipe while parodying highbrow intellectuals.
- Burning with Anger: Katy Kaboom.
- But This Is Ridiculous: "A quake! A quake! / How much more can we take? / We thought that we had seen it all / but this one takes the cake!"
- Butt Monkey: Scratchansniff, Rita (to a more sympathetic extent), the Brain, Pinky, Runt, Buttons (again to a more sympathetic extent), the mime, Skullhead, Chicken Boo, the Goodfeathers, the woodchuck, Walter Wolf, Sid the Squid, Beanie the Bison, just about any non-main character... in other words, pretty much everybody (even the Warner Sibs), not surprising given that this is a WB cartoon.
- Call Back: The Package conversation from "Sound of the Warners" contains one to Potty Emergency:
- Calling Me a Logarithm
- The Cameo: Fifi LaFume from Tiny Toon Adventures appears as a perfume store owner in "Survey Ladies".
- Captain Ersatz/Expy: The Warners are based heavily on The Marx Brothers, with bits and pieces from other characters: Dot shows roots from Gilda Radner, and Wakko shows influences from Ringo Starr.
- Slappy's Jerkass behavior in her old cartoons (which she gleefully indulges any time she meets her old nemeses) gives her an uncanny resemblance to Screwy Squirrel. She also appears to have Barbra Streisland's interpretation of Fanny Brice in her ancestry.
- Slappy also looks very similar to Fifi LaFume from Tiny Toon Adventures, who actually makes a cameo in this show.
- Slappy's Jerkass behavior in her old cartoons (which she gleefully indulges any time she meets her old nemeses) gives her an uncanny resemblance to Screwy Squirrel. She also appears to have Barbra Streisland's interpretation of Fanny Brice in her ancestry.
- Cardboard Pal: The Warner Brothers (and Dot) create nodding dummies of themselves to allow them to sneak off a boring chat show that they are hosting.
- Cardboard Prison: The WB Water Tower for the Warners.
- Cartoon Creature: Yakko, Wakko, and Dot.
- Cartoony Tail: The Brain has a tail like a real mouse, except it is kinked in a way that it looks like stair steps.
- Truth in Television to an extent; in labs where many mice are handled on a frequent basis, kinks occasionally occur due to careless handling.
- Catch Phrase:
- "Hello, Nurse!!" It is the Trope Namer, after all.
- With other characters, it could be "Hello, X" with the name of anyone. Or "Hello, X Nurse!" X being an adjective.
- "Goodnight, everybody!"
- "Okay, I love you, bye-bye!"
- "You remind me of X!" See below.
- "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
- "Hello, Nurse!!" It is the Trope Namer, after all.
- Cats Are Superior: Rita and Runt, a cats-rule-dogs-drool Odd Friendship.
- Checkers With Death: The Warners can't play chess.
- The Chew Toy: Squit. Even Bobby usually laughs at Pesto's abuse towards him.
- Christmas Episode: "A Christmas Plotz / Little Drummer Warners", "Twas the Day Before Christmas / Jingle Boo / The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert / Toy Shop Terror / Yakko's Universe", "My Mother the Squirrel / The Party / Oh! Say Can You See / The Twelve Days of Christmas Song", "The Christmas Tree / Punchline (Part I) / Prom Night / Punchline (Part II)".
- Cloudcuckoolander: Wakko, on more than one occasion.
- Pinky as well, especially after Brain says "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
- And Runt.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Dot drops a bleeped one during the Beauty and The Beast parody, after screwing up her Overly Long Name gag one too many times.
Yakko: That's my cute little sister who said that!
- Commedia Dell Arte Troupe
- Compliment Backfire: The Goodfeathers Running Gag is that Pesto always takes Squit's compliments as insults and proceeds to beat him up afterwards.
- Composers: Unlike Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs used a comparatively small but stable group of composers: Richard Stone, Carl Johnson, Steve and Julie Bernstein, and J. Eric Schmidt.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: In one episode, Satan threatens to torture the captive Warner siblings by forcing them to listen to "whiny protest songs from The Sixties." They scream in terror.
- Cool Old Lady: Slappy Squirrel.
- Couch Gag: The second to last line of the opening song is interchangeable with several other lines, all of which rhyme with "Animani--".
- Except when it was re-run on Nickelodeon, where the line rotation got changed to "Nickel-any!" for every episode.
- There are actually two during the closing credits - one where someone (usually the Warners) would give a last joke after the credits, and a gag credit mixed in with the real ones.
- Pause every time the screen changes during the credits in episode 65. There's at least one gag on just about every screen.
- Courtroom Episode: "La La Law".
- Crossover: Within itself, and with Tiny Toon Adventures, Freakazoid! and Pinky and The Brain when they ran concurrently.
- Curse Cut Short: In the song "I'm Cute":
Yakko and Wakko: She's becoming a pain in the-
- The Cutie: Played with. Dot takes pride in being "the cute one", but she's hardly the innocent type.
- Cut the Juice: Dot tries this in "Our Final Space Cartoon, We Promise", but it doesn't work.
- A Day in the Limelight: "The Warner 65th Anniversary Special" features the comeback of one of the original Looney Tunes stars, "Buddy"--as a villain, no less! And voiced by Jim Cummings!
- Deadpan Snarker: All the Warner siblings, The Brain, Slappy Squirrel, Rita, Bobby...
- Detective Drama: "This Pun for Hire" and "Hercule Yakko".
- The Ditz: Runt, and the Studio Guard Ralph are the recurring examples. They even had the same voice.
- Dogs Are Dumb: Runt. He even thinks Rita is a dog herself.
- Occasionally subverted in that Runt will sometimes see the danger before Rita, such as when Cleopatra was going to drop her into a bonfire as a ritual sacrifice.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: "Boot Camping".
- Drive-In Theater: "Drive Insane".
- Due to the Dead: Played for Laughs and Hypocritical Humor in a Slappy Squirrel skit where Walter Wolf fakes his death. Skippy's watching Slappy's old cartoons and laughing at Walter's Amusing Injuries, but when he hears the news he does an about-face and verbally attacks Slappy for tormenting him in those toons.
- Educational Song: Lots, including songs for all the U.S. presidents up to Bill Clinton, the 50 states and their capitals, and of course, the famous Nations of the World song. See also the Edutainment Show entry below.
- Edutainment Show: Traces of it here or there:
- How many normal kids' cartoons would bother to do a surprisingly accurate and funny translation from Late 16th Century English to Modern English of the Yorick speech from Hamlet when they could easily make a nonsensical version?
- They had songs relating from everything to the solar system to every President of the United States at the time of production (ending with Hillary, uh, I mean Bill Clinton). All this while still maintaining their madcap nature. They have been used as teaching material, and there is even testimony of them aiding history students as far as college-level.
- Parodied to the extreme in "A Very, Very, Very, Very Special Show", where virtually every line is Yakko, Wakko, or Dot giving a soapbox on various issues (the dangers of second-hand smoke, walking instead of driving, not littering, not treating women as sex objects, not being violent, practicing a healthy diet and exercise). They were shamelessly trying to win an Emmy but lost anyway, at which point they immediately did all the things they rallied against.
- Ears as Hair: Dot wears her ears in a scrunchie.
- Eldritch Abomination: Dot's "pet."
- Elvis Lives: One of the stingers saw the Warner Trio saying goodnight to one another. It ended as such:
Yakko: Good night, Elvis.
- And from The Wheel of Morality: "Elvis lives on in our hearts, in his music, and in a trailer park outside Milwaukee."
- And he turns up in "Space Probed", hanging out with Amelia Earheart and Bigfoot.
- He is also one of the things pulled from Wakko's gagbag in "Potty Emergency".
- Enforced Method Acting: Whenever Nathan Ruegger (Skippy) had to laugh as part of the script but couldn't laugh convincingly enough, his dad would come into the studio to tickle him.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: Wally Llama, a Dalai Lama Expy, attempts to get away from the Warners by meditating, transporting himself up among the clouds with the mantra "Llama, llama, llama..." Unfortunately for him, the Warners reached Enlightenment too.
- Episode Title Card
- Expository Theme Tune: "To prove their mousy worth, they'll overthrow the Earth..."
- Not to mention the Animaniacs' own theme! (see above right - starting with: "Come join the Warner Brothers and the Warner sister Dot")
- Possibly lampshaded. ("And now you know the plot!")
- Fandom Berserk Button: This attitude is mercilessly mocked with an ad for the Please Please Pleese Get A Life Foundation. In fact, the Straw Fan at the beginning and end of the segment says things reminiscent of what a furious fan would say.
- Female Feline, Male Mutt: Rita and Runt.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: "Hot, Bothered, and Bedeviled".
- Fluffy the Terrible: Most of Dot's "Pets" when she does the "Wanna See My Pet?"
- Foot Focus: One of the Slappy Squirrel segments had Hisskill and Eggbert who rated films by giving them "Toes up" or "Toes down", that is, holding up one of their feet and pointing their big toes up or down. Skippy and Slappy also did this near the end of the segment when rating their adventure.
- While the Randy Beaman shorts weren't really visual, one of the stories had his aunt's feet getting licked by "this crazy guy that did that a lot."
- One of the Dot's Poetry Corner segments had her doing "This Little Piggy".
- The second Minerva Mink segment has her asking the dog hunting her to blow on her toes to dry the nail polish (done in a manner that would make Quentin Tarantino blush)
- Four-Fingered Hands: The entire cast.
- Though hands have been seen to turn five-fingered on a close-up, or sometimes a character will grow a pinky while counting.
- There's also a weird double subversion where a judge points as the Warners and asks, "What is the meaning of this?" Yakko replies, "That's a finger. You have five of them on each hand." In that instant, the judge has five fingers, but is seen to revert to being four fingered afterward.
- Funny Background Event: In other character sketches you can see Yakko, Wakko and Dot being chased by Ralph as a brief "Running Gag".
- Also, in The background of the song "The Ballad of Magellan" when they reach Argentina, there's a sign that says: "Coming soon: Evita".
- Gainaxing: Hello, Nurse! is sometimes animated this way.
- Game Show Appearance: Wakko goes on Jeopardy! where he sings the 50 U.S. states and their capitals.
- But he loses because he doesn't sing it in the form of a question.
- There was also an episode where the Warners ended up on a quiz show, and were constantly guessing "Isaac Newton" for the answers...except for the questions actually about Isaac Newton.
- Jeopardy! also figured in one of the Brain's attempts to take over the world.
"Go ahead, Brian." "That's Brain."
- Gasshole: Wakko.
- Genre Savvy: The entire show, consistently.
- Heck, this is Slappy's whole shtick. Her thing is that she's been in so many cartoons that she can beat the villains in her sleep. She knows every cartoon trope in existence, and is therefore bored with the line of work.
- George Lucas Throwback: To the slapstick and goofball comic stylings of Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, minus the fourth wall.
- Which is really saying something, considering how often those classic shorts broke the fourth wall themselves.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The show is absolutely notorious for it. It has its own page. Examples should probably stay over there.
- Gigantic Gulp: Wakko drinks from a huge cup of soda labelled Abyss Boy at the movie theater, then promptly has a Potty Emergency.
- Grand Finale: Wakkos Wish.
- Groupie Brigade
- Hair Decorations: Dot's flower.
- Hair of Gold: Hello Nurse.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Pesto, for obvious reasons.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Most of the furry characters.
- Hammerspace Hideaway: Dot had a special box in which she keeps a gigantic monster. The Warner brothers themselves can pop out of incredibly small places as well.
- Hello, Nurse!: Trope Namer. That's actually her name.
- Here We Go Again: "Bumbie's Mom" ends with a sendup of Old Yeller.
- Herr Doktor: Dr. Scratchansniff.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Mindy is smack-dab in the middle of growing up under some extremely neglectful conditions, though being a toddler, she's blissfully unaware of it so far. Buttons is the one who takes most of the physical and verbal abuse, though.
- Historical In-Joke: The Warners often interact with figures like Ludwig Van Beethoven and Albert Einstein and become the inspiration for some of their famous works. (E=MC^2 is ACME backwards with Wakko's skewed penmanship of the letter A.)
- Hollywood California: The water tower and the surrounding area are a nod to Burbank.
- Humiliation Conga: Downplayed:
(to Ralph) We're so sad we've got no time together
- Hyperspace Arsenal: By all of the Warners quite often, but it's pointed out specifically in "I Am the Very Model of a Cartoon Individual":
Yakko: From this bag here why I can pull most anything imaginable.
- Hypocritical Humor: Yakko and Wakko's "Hello, Nurse!!" is often followed with a disparaging "Boys - go fig." from Dot. And then comes a muscular man...
Yakko: (aside) The stuff they're getting away with on kids' shows these days...
- I Have Boobs - You Must Obey!: Minerva Mink.
- Incessant Chorus: The national anthem of Anvilania, which is such a boring dirge that it is used as a weapon later on.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Several, during "This Pun for Hire".
- Ink Suit Actor: Pip Pumphandle, based directly off his voice actor Ben Stein.
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Yakko's Universe, which seems to be a Homage to the Universe Song from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
- Insistent Terminology: Whenever someone addresses the Warner brothers, Dot (or someone) will pipe in, "And the Warner sister."
- Also, "Call me 'Dotty, and you die."
- Is This Thing Still On?: An episode from 1996 ends with the Warners badmouthing the people in the end credits, not realizing until the very end that we've just heard them saying all that.
- Especially amusing in that some of the people they badmouth are their own voice actors.
- "I Want" Song: Every time Rita sings a song, it's about how much she wants a home or thinks she's found one.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Slappy hates to admit this, but she does care for her nephew Skippy.
- Kangaroo Court
- Karmic Protection: The Warners were only truly malevolent to the bad guys, which justifies a lot of the mayhem they cause. Even people who were annoyed by them but otherwise good characters would ultimately get the Warners' help in the end. One episode even lampshaded it and discussed it, when a kid watching at home wondered why the Warners weren't doing more to the antagonist.
- One episode had them frustrated because a character they wanted to get rid of (a Sound of Music style Julie Andrews Expy) did nothing to invite retribution. In the end, they sicced Slappy Squirrel on her. Problem solved.
- Still, a lot of what the Warners do could be needlessly cruel to the point of making them unsympathetic, such as stripping Otto in the "Schnitzelbank" song or leaving the woodchuck in the toilet in "Kid in the Lid"... until you remember that everyone's an actor; hardly any of what takes place is "real".
- One cartoon was cut because they were too malicious.
- Know Your Vines: In "Sound of the Warners" After using the bathroom in a bush, Dr. Scratchansniff gets an awful itch, because he was in a poison oak bush.
- Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: In a short where the Warner Bros (and the Warner sister) met Rasputin. They did a pun between "Anastasia" and "anesthesia", and Dot said "Obscure Joke. Ask your parents".
- Late to the Punchline: Most people who saw the show as kids. See the Getting Crap Past the Radar entry. Then find video of this show. Embrace the revelations.
- Leitmotif: Just about every character had one.
- List Song: "Yakko's World", among others.
- Literal-Minded/Suckiness Is Painful: In "Video Revue", bad movies were treated as weapons grade ordinance and would explode after falling off the shelves. Yes, names were named.
- Little Guy, Big Buddy: Rita and Runt; also arguably Pinky and The Brain and Buttons and Mindy.
- Local Reference: When Rita and Runt go to Poland in "Puttin on the Blitz", Rita sings that it doesn't look like Burbank, more like Van Nuys. (Both are cities in Los Angeles. You can guess which one has higher property values).
- Mad Hatter: All three main characters, in the tradition of Looney Tunes and similar cartoons. "We're not monkeys, we're just cuckoo! Don't know what to say the Warners won't do!"
- Bertha In The Attic: Yakko, Wakko and Dot were locked in a water tower for decades for being too zany.
- The Mafia: The Goodfeathers are an Affectionate Parody of Goodfellas and mob films in general.
- And, naturally, are The Family for the Whole Family.
- Make a Wish
- Mars Needs Women: All three of the Warner siblings. Although they seem to see themselves as more or less human-ish.
- Mary Sue: Parodied Trope (in-universe) in the musical number "Hello Nurse".
- Meaningful Name: Dr. Scratchansniff's German last name is Freudlos, a double pun; it literally means "joyless", but it's also a reference to yet another psychiatrist...
- Yakko and Wakko. Wakko, a play on "wacko", as in someone who is a little whacky (strange or crazy), and Yakko, a play on "yakking away" or talking incessantly. Yakko almost never shuts up.
- Medium Awareness: Mostly Slappy and the Warners.
- Slappy beats the Warners here:
Skippy: But that was in a cartoon!
- Mickey Mousing
- Milestone Celebration: Spoofed by the "65th Anniversary Spectacular!" Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize 1) airing in the mid-90s, it roughly corresponds to when the Backstory claims the Warners were created; 2) it is a 65th - the 65th episode; and 3) it's an actual milestone, as the first season finale.
- Misplaced Wildlife: There are tigers substituting lions in Africa.
- Mood Whiplash: There was one serious Slappy cartoon in which Slappy was put away in an asylum and Skippy was taken away by social services.
- Mr. Exposition: Lampshaded by Slappy.
"Doug the Dog!? But he hates you, Aunt Slappy! He's been trying to eat you for years!!
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: Was specifically designed for this. Kids will laugh at the potty jokes and the slapstick, but there's still plenty of Parental Bonus in the form of Getting Crap Past the Radar and No Celebrities Were Harmed to keep the adults entertained.
- Musical Episode: Rita and Runt have at least one song per short. There are also numerous episodes that parody Broadway without those two characters that still act as musical episodes.
- Combining the two, one extended Rita and Runt segment is basically a parody of Les Misérables.
- The Napoleon: Mr. Plotz, the WB CEO.
- Never Say "Die": Averted. As with the massive Getting Crap Past the Radar, the show got away with saying the d-word in some of the more serious Rita and Runt episodes.
- Also that whole "Call me Dottie, and you die" bit.
- Not to mention the episode where Wakko dies eating Swedish meatballs, and then the other two spend the whole time pestering Death because they want to go with him.
Yakko: Hey mister, are you about to drag our brother off to a bleak nether realm of despair, where the future is nothing but an endless sea of anguish and horrible misery?
- It's actually kind of touching how they don't want to be separated. And the moral of the episode is not to fear death, but rather a life wasted. Yakko has a very pretty speech about it at the end (though if you don't think he lampshades the Glurge, you don't know him very well). You know, for kids.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed... at least not by name.
- Several notable public figures of the period were hilariously parodied in the show with such gems as Codger Eggbert and Lean Hisskill, as well as the Iraqi dictator Sodarn Hinsane.
- No Fourth Wall: Was central to its humor, and is some of the best Post Modernism ever put in kids' comedy TV.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Buttons goes to enormous lengths, risking his own hide to keep Mindy from harm. Every episode ends with Buttons getting in trouble over some (Generally minor) misbehavior he performed in the course of his duties.
- Non Sequitur Thud: Happens a lot, this being a cartoon.
Slappy: *waking up suddenly* I'd like to buy a vowel!
- And in another episode:
Death: *after falling off a cliff* I'll have the linguine with clams...
- No Periods, Period: And that's why the writers created Katie Kaboom to explain to innocent little children why their big sister chucks a psycho for NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON WHATSOEVER once a month. Basically, their explanation was Teens Are Monsters.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend
- Nuns Are Funny: The infamous candy store episode had the Warners tormenting a stuck-up store proprietor named Flaxseed after he refused to donate candy to a orphanage run by nuns. After driving him nuts, Flaxseed finally gets hold of Wakko and Dot... only for the nun from before to come back with reinforcements. They're about to kick his ass before Flaxseed points out that nuns aren't supposed to resort to violence. So, the nuns proceed to pray, and the Notre Dame college football team shows up to pummel the living crap out of Flaxseed.
Head Nun: Our prayers have been answered!
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The Warners can perform and explain Shakespeare; name every country, as well as every American state and capital, and every President, from memory; and generally make frequent references to science, history, literature, politics, and a host of other subjects. They are completely insane, but they are geniuses.
- Off-Model: Mostly with segments animated by Freelance Animators New Zealand. Star Toons tended to dip into this, as well with the Slappy the Squirrel intro and "Wakko's America", though not to the extreme as Freelance, as well as tending to make the animation even more expressive. AKOM too, for obvious reasons.
- Oh God, with the Verbing!: Mr Director speaks like this.
- Old Shame: The Warner trio themselves, In-Universe; the company sealed them (and the cartoons which featured them) away in the early 20th century, refusing to release them because they (both the characters and their films) were nonsensical. Even in present time, they're trying to keep them locked up.
- Older Than They Look: The Warners' in-universe backstory states they were drawn in 1930, essentially making them all 80, and yet, none of them are geriatrics. It's particularly odd in that the Skippy and Slappy Squirrel segments make it quite clear that cartoon characters do age.
- Maybe it's because cartoon characters come from their creators' imaginations, so it depends on whether they were imagined as characters that age. The Warners come from the era of monochrome, where cartoon characters were kind of simple/crude, while Slappy seems like she's more from the 40's, as a more realistic character.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Kiki the Girlfeather and Kiki the gorilla from the Rita and Runt episode, "Kiki's Kitten."
- Only Sane Man: Whoever is the one person that knows Chicken Boo is a giant chicken.
- Inverted in a Batman parody, where one person was the only one who DIDN'T know he was a chicken.
- Overly Long Name: Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fana Bo Besca III - but you can call her Dot. Call her Dotty and you die.
- Poor Wakko. He's the only Warner sibling who's not royalty by birth. (Although, being the only brother of King Yakko, wouldn't he have been a duke, or something?
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Exaggerated with Chicken Boo.
- Parental Bonus: To the point where watching this show as a child and watching it years later as an adult are completely different experiences.
- Parody: Anything from The Sound of Music to Power Rangers to Barney to Godzilla (naturally, Barney was far more frightening).
- Parody Magic Spell: From their Shakespeare "translation":
Witches: Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.
- Pimped-Out Dress: In the episode "King Yakko", Hello Nurse plays the prime minister of the kingdom, and she wears a magenta dress with ermine trim and a blue cloak.
- Pin-Pulling Teeth: In "I Got Yer Can", an Escalating War with Slappy Squirrel causes Candie Chipmunk to do this; terrifying a pair of nuns before blowing herself up.
- Platonic Life Partners: Rita and Runt.
- Potty Dance: See below.
- Pro Wrestling Episode: "Fake"
- "Previously On...": The first episode aired on Kids' WB! opened with a parody of this trope.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I! AM! SATAN!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The "Please Please PLEASE Get a Life Foundation" was written using actual nitpicks from a newsgroup-made reference guide (the Cultural Reference Guide for Animaniacs) verbatim. The show's writers even e-mailed the people who wrote that guide for permission to use their quotes. The show's run coincided with the early days of wide Internet access, and in those days (early to mid 1990's) most online discussions were done in newsgroups.
Will Bell: (founder and maintainer of the CRGA) Several months ago I received email from [writer] Peter Hastings asking for copies of the CRGA by email and snail mail, which I provided.
- During the brief point in time when it looked unlikely that Bill Clinton would serve a second term, the creators hedged their bets by changing the theme song lyrics from "While Bill Clinton play the sax" to "We pay tons of income tax".
- Recurring Extra: The Hip Hippos.
- Reference Overdosed
- Refuge in Audacity: So much. Such as the episode where the Warners ended up in Hell. And met an annoyed Satan.
- This episode also featured Saddam Hussein plunging into a lake of lava and three demonic stand-ins for The Andrews Sisters singing a jazz tune about eternal damnation.
- Baghdad Cafe. Sodarn Hinsane. That is all.
- And then Slappy Squirrel shoves dynamite down his pants.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: The Direct to Video movie Wakkos Wish, an Alternate Universe medieval fantasy with a semi-serious plot that ultimately gave all of the characters in the series resolution despite the fact they were all removed from their traditional settings.
- One could also consider it a Massive Multiplayer Crossover -- while the characters were all in the same show, they rarely all interacted in the same place.
- Retraux: The "lost" shorts.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense: The hippos.
- Right Way, Wrong Way Pair: The "Good Idea, Bad Idea" shorts.
- Rule of Funny: A given on this show in general, but lampshaded in the Slappy short "I Got Yer Can", when Skippy drops an anvil on Candie Chipmunk apropos of nothing, justifying it to his aunt with a nonchalant "Who cares, anvils are funny."
- Running Gag: Again, too many to count. Notably "Wanna See My Pet?", the Warners being chased by Ralph in the background of other shorts, and Yakko announcing "Good Night Everybody!" if something even remotely suggestive was said.
- A short-lived one was used in both "This Pun For Hire" and "Anchors A-Warners": A character says "No no no." Yakko in the first instance and Dot in the latter instance asked the character to repeat that. The character again said, "No no no." Then each replied, "I love that!"
- The Scottish Trope: In "Sir Yaksalot", Yakko get so annoyed by people saying the word "dragon" that everytime somebody says it, an anvil will be summoned to drop on their heads.
- Screwy Squirrel: Slappy Squirrel and the Warner Brothers both waver between this trope and being Karmic Tricksters.
- Sealed Chaos in a Can: The Warners were created in The Thirties, but their cartoons were nonsensical, they caused havoc all over the studio and they drove their creator insane, so the bigwigs locked them in the Water Tower until FOR-E-VER. The series starts in The Nineties when they finally make their escape, and as the theme song suggests, numerous attempts to lock them back in there are foiled time after time, to the point where most people seem to just leave them to their business, give the tower a wide berth and hope they don't cross their path.
- Self-Deprecation: "The Warners' 65th Anniversary Special". The crux of this episode is Warner Bros. acknowledging just how awful cartoons featuring the character Buddy were.
- Shout-Out: When Yakko "Sings the Entire English Language", he makes a "slight error at the F's."
Frankincense, frankincess, franchncss... shoot! Yadda yadda yadda flambé.
- See also the CRGA, mentioned above under Real Life Writes the Plot. It's basically a huge repository of these.
- In the episode Potty Emergency, when a character looks out of a window into space, above the window the letters Mystery Science Theater 3000 can be seen.
- "A clown is not is not a giant spider.
- This show provided probably the one and only spoof of The Day the Clown Cried in the short, Hearts of Twilight. Surprising since the movie was never released.
- On the other hand, Steven Spielberg has seen the movie, one of the few people Jerry Lewis has shown it to.
- A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example: In "Sir Yaksalot", a background cart driver looks exactly like a medieval version of Daisuke Jigen. Not too surprising as TMS worked on the episode.
- In one of the "Good Idea, Bad Idea" segments ("Bad idea: having the circus come to you") the theme from Monty Python's Flying Circus plays in the background.
- Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Dot, on occasion.
- Soap Punishment: In "Roll Over, Beethoven", Yakko, Wakko and Dot do this to Beethoven after he describes himself as a 'pianist'.
- So Beautiful It's a Curse: As revealed in the comics, Minerva has an extremely hard time doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and filing taxes, because every male of every species in the area is panting and hooting at her. Much like fans.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Tear-jerkingly averted in the Slappy cartoon "One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock".
- Spin-Off: Pinky and The Brain (and to an extent, Histeria! - two of that show's characters debuted on this show).
- Spoof Aesop: An especially brilliant use, an almost Once an Episode gag using the Wheel of Morality.
Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn!
- Straw Fan: Of the Affectionate Parody version, in the "Please Please Please Get a Life Foundation"
- Strictly Formula: The Buttons and Mindy shorts, oh so very much. The French episode shows that the formula doesn't need to be in English to work, and the caveman episode proves that it doesn't even need an intelligible language.
- Stupidity Is the Only Option: When going to Dracula's Castle.
Yakko: We're not that stupid. We just know the plot.
- Take That: If it's in public media, it's a target. Nothing, NOTHING is safe, though Disney and network censors are choice victims.
Yakko: It's that time again.
- Talking to Himself: Notably Rob Paulsen, who voiced Yakko, Dr. Scratchansniff, and Pinky.
- Teens Are Monsters: Katie Kaboom literally turns into a monster Once an Episode, and spends most of it as one.
- Terrible Trio: Dr. Scratchnsniff and Hello Nurse join Ralph in chasing the Warners in one episode.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Marita of "The Hip Hippos" segments is a perfect example.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: The end of "I'm Cute", where Dot expresses anger over her brothers for ruining her song.
- That's All Folks
- Theme Tune Roll Call
- Throw the Pin: There's a short where the Warners are being put through military training, and their sergeant is instructing them about grenades with the line "Pull the pin and then throw it". Wakko, naturally, throws the pin.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The Warners themselves, repeatedly.
- Also Baloney (a Barney Captain Ersatz), a Captain Ersatz of Maria from The Sound of Music, and the dangerously affectionate Elmyra from Tiny Toons Adventures have proven too much for the Warners. Notably, the Warners escape Elmyra by enticing her to follow Mindy, due to Mindy's cuteness. Cue Amusing Injuries, and Button's relief.
- Toothy Bird: The Goodfeathers. Chicken Boo often averts this, except in some cases when he shows expressions.
- Truth in Television: A lot of skits, especially of the Warner trio, mimic real-life situations that happen to real people (some, even, on situations that happened to the writers themselves). Though they're incredibly exaggerated, there's always that one line where you hear it and think, "Oh, that is so true."
"Would ya like to take a survey?"
Nanny: You must be Dit.
Dr. Scratchnsniff: Hello, we are stuck in an elevator, and we are late for an appointment with Mr. Plotz.
- And of course, the entire premise of "Bumbie's Mom."
- The absurd event that triggers Slappy's antics in "I Got Yer Can" ("Please don't throw your trash in my trash can.") came from that exact thing happening to one of the writers.
- Unexplained Accent: Wakko has a Liverpudlian brogue for absolutely no damn reason -- at least not one ever explained on the show.
- He was actually based specifically on Ringo Starr. Still, that's not an in-universe explanation.
- Universal Adaptor Cast: Cartoons take place anywhere and everywhere. The Warners bugging Einstein, Picasso, or Beethoven? Pinky and the Brain as Pavlov's mice? Slappy vs. Daniel Boone? Mindy and Buttons in Prehistoria? The Goodfeathers as WWI carrier pigeons? Chicken Boo as a Civil War general? Rita and Runt in ancient Egypt? Yes, all those and more!
- Unusual Euphemism: The Goodfeathers often use "coo" as a swear word, such as "coo you" or "coo off".
- Uranus Is Showing
- Vertigo Effect: Occasionally done with Buttons the moment Mindy escapes.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Ms. Flameil keeps a red marker in her bra, apparently. Also a rare example of a not particularly attractive woman making use of this trope.
Yakko: Ooh, what else do you have in there?
- Visual Pun: "It's not a joke, it's a visual gag."
- Wasn't That Fun?: Wakko in the episode "Ups and Downs", after the maintenance men raise the elevator he and Dr Scratchansniff are trapped in and drop it really quick:
"Wasn't that neat?"
- Weaponized Landmark: The Warners weaponized the Warner Bros. water tower in "Super Strong Warner Siblings."
- We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum:
Dr: You've got to get us out of here! Do something big and silly from your gaggy bag!
- What Are You in For?: Rita asks Runt this when they first meet in the city pound. Runt's answer is "peeing on the floor".
- Whole-Plot Reference: Far too many to count. Among those that haven't already been listed, A Christmas Carol and Disney's Beauty and the Beast are some of the most notable examples. They also did an entire parody on Disney movies in general, and Pocahontas in particular.
- Who's on First?: Just with 1960s band names instead of baseball players. i.e. "Who's on stage?" "Yes." "So Yes is on stage?" "No, Yes isn't at this concert."
- They also get a bit more mileage out of the same gag in "Piano Rag":
Yakko: Very Pete Townshend-esque.
- The Witch Hunter: On one "Rita and Runt" segment set in Colonial Salem, Massachussets, a witch hunter is after Rita, claiming she's a witch's familiar.
- Wraparound Background: Seen in the Yogi Bear parody of "Back in Style".
- Wrong Parachute Gag: In a Boot Camp Episode, while plummeting towards the ground with their Drill Sergeant Nasty, the Warners tell him that they took the liberty of washing the sheets he stores in his backpack. He pulls the cord and a duck headed flotation device comes out.
- Wunza Plot: "Boo Wonder": One's a human, the other's a chicken. Together, they fight crime!
- Xylophone Gag: Subverted and lampshaded, here.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: "Yippy kai yai yo, dear ghost of Magellan, the East Indies islands were right over there!"
- Chicken Boo. Just when you think he's about to succeed, his disguise comes undone at the worst possible moment.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Starring Mr. Plotz in the Scrooge role, Ralph the Guard as Bob Cratchit with his son Ralph Jr. in the Tiny Tim role, Slappy as Jacob Marley and the Warner siblings as the three ghosts. The main difference from the original A Christmas Carol is that rather than having the Tiny Tim character die, Ralph Jr. vows revenge on Plotz for firing his dad and in the hypothetical future grows up to take over the Warner Bros. studio, with Plotz working as the security guard. Ralph Jr. fires Plotz in a similarly callous manner to the way Plotz fired his dad.
- Yodel Land: "Schnitzelbank".
- You All Meet in a Cell: Rita and Runt first meet in the pound.
- You Have to Believe Me: The entire point of the character Chicken Boo.
- You Remind Me of X: Pretty much Slappy's Catch Phrase.
- Aside from her actual catchphrase?
- You Say Tomato: Mr. Director discusses this trope.
Take the word 'animal'. Transpose the letters 'n' and 'm' and you get 'aminal'. That, in a nutshell, is comedy.
- You're Cute When You're Angry: Yakko says this to Dot after he and Wakko piss her off during "I'm Cute". Considering how seriously she takes her cuteness, it works.
- You Sexy Beast: In the Minerva Mink short "Moon Over Minerva". A geeky wolf, named Wilford B. Wolf, would turn into a hunky Fabio-like wolf when exposed to the full moon. Minerva won't give his geeky self the time of day, but she goes crazy for his moonlit self. Needless to say the short is pretty heavy on the Fan Service for both the male and female audiences.
Goodnight, Wakko. Goodnight, Dot.
- Clockwise from left, foreground: Yakko, Dot, and Wakko; left to right, background: Chicken Boo, Ralph, Mindy, Buttons, Pinky, Brain, Hello, Nurse!, Skippy, Slappy, Runt, Rita, Dr. Scratchansniff, Bobby, Squit, Newt, Marita, Minerva Mink (hidden behind Dot), Pesto, and Flavio.
- Those studios are Tokyo Movie Shinsha, AKOM, Wang Film Productions, Star Toons, Koko Enterprises, Freelance Animators New Zealand, Philippine Animation Studio Inc., and Varga Studios.
- These included Nakamura Productions, Actas, Kyoto Animation (yes that Kyoto Animation), Anime Spot, Tokyo Kids, Mizo Planning, Spectrum, Flying Dragon, Studio Jungle Gym, and Far Eastern.