The humor in Animaniacs was top notch. In fact, many of the jokes and allusions littered throughout the show have gotten better with time. Or maybe it's just that those who grew up with the show only understand the intelligent, high brow humor nestled within the outlandish zaniness of the show now that they're adults. Besides sex jokes that went right over young heads, Animaniacs riffed on philosophy, literature, politics, celebrities, history, and more.
To forewarn you - you might not laugh out loud at every single reference on the list. Some of them are pretty dated, stretching back in time from peak '90s Bill Clinton to old Hollywood of the '30s and '40s. But even if these classic Animaniacs allusions don't have you slapping your knee and howling with laughter, it's impossible not to appreciate how clever they are.Which of these references have best stood the test of time? Which were the most daring? And, most importantly, how many did you catch when the show was still on TV?
The Blue Danube for Picasso's Blue Period
Not all kids shows have the wherewithal to make allusions to Picasso, let alone connect a specific period of Picasso's career to a famous piece of classical music. Animaniacs did just that. Watch the clip, and take note of the music during Picasso's mention of his Blue Period. That's An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314, more commonly known by us English speakers as The Blue Danube. Very clever, Warners.
The Animators Were Obvious Fans of Mystery Science Theater
Take a look at this still from Animaniacs - you can see "MST3K" written in the wall above the window. That stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a Comedy Central show in which mad scientists force a janitor to watch B-movies. The janitor builds robots to keep himself company, and together, they give a running commentary on whatever they're watching. It was a Youtube reaction video 15 years before Youtube. The Animaniacs reference is especially fun because it's meta -- in the sequence in which MST3K appears, the Warners are watching a ridiculous old B-movie.
Mighty Wakko at the Bat References an Old Poem
If you missed the reference, you probably wondered why everything in the "Mighty Wakko at the Bat" sequence is spoken in rhyme. Well, it's because the segment is a reference to the poem "Casey at the Bat," by Ernest Thayer. The poem is an important and, at one time an extremely famous, piece of Americana. The plot of the sequence closely mirrors that of the poem, apart from its ending. It's worth noting that Tiny Toons, another animated show by these same folks, also did a version of the poem. They must really like baseball.
Dot Does Casablanca
If you don't know Casablanca, you won't get this segment from Episode 40. Even so, you might recognize a few of the more famous lines from the movie that have passed into popular lore. If you do know Casablanca, this parody is blatant and delicious. Also, if you haven't seen Casablanca, there's something wrong with you. See it now.