The original season of Animaniacs was one of the biggest treats a television has ever given me. Imagine coming home from school and getting a smartly written, fully animated, fully orchestrated, infinitely expensive cartoon NEW EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY! I was fortunate to be born when I was and the effort did not go unappreciated (Tom Ruegger himself has been let known of this). Those cheesy Power Rangers could go jump in a lake; Animaniacs was 1993 to me.
I actually taped every single episode from Day 1 so that I'd have them in chronological order.....but I cut out the ads. Pretty stupid move, but it didn't seem that way at the time. Now those tapes are worthless because the entire series can be bought on DVD. That's all well and good. But it's not the FULL EXPERIENCE.....
Fortunately, a reader donated his taping of the first airing of Episode 2, so we'll be using that. This airing turns 20 in a month, which is horrifying. And if you don't feel that way about it, you will eventually feel that way about something.
This year, Fox Kids introduced the most creative series of ad bumpers I'll probably ever see. Instead of sticking to one theme, they made dozens of different ones all at once, from couch-potato aliens to army bulls to a domestic moose. A different theme appeared with every show. But all those bumpers actually didn't begin until Animaniacs' second week, so this episode is framed by Dynamo Duck appearances from 1992. Here is Yakko's now-legendary Nations of the World song. What appeared afterward? You're about to find out....
|It's a Barbie doll ad. Moving on.|
Snap, Crackle and Pop are in Seattle to ask Kurt Cobain what his Rice Krispies are saying to him. "It's...sayin' I should go cut myself, man," was Kurt's reply, and that wasn't usable, so they asked some random kids instead. It's debatable whether these kids were really grabbed off the street, or just actors working from a script. That vintage "NOOOOT!" scene certainly looks faked, but I would argue it's tough to imagine a writer coming up with a kid holding a bowl like it's radioactive and yelling "THE CRISPINATOR!!!" This isn't that ad; you'll have to take my word.
Again I have to ask....what happened to all these dolls? I thought this kind of product was going to be advertised forever. Disappearances aside, this is the umpteenth entry in the "Baby _____" series (34, 578 available; collect them all!) This one's gimmick is that she comes with a watch which randomly tells the little girl which of her bodily functions needs tending to.
Not one to be upstaged by Nickelodeon, Fox Kids had its own Toy Shopping Spree contests. Did you ever watch these and get annoyed when the kid picked $2 action figures or frisbees instead of cramming his cart with Nintendo and Sega machines? There is an unconfirmed rumor going around that children weren't allowed to only reach for the most expensive items, but were required to fill their carts with a variety of products. That would seem to fit what's going on here, but I can't state it as truth.
You had to use postcards to enter these contests. How quaint.
I loved this show from the first minute. The grandiose symphony that opens "Cookies for Einstein" is gorgeous. The twist with "ACME" sort of spelling "E=MC2" backwards caught me by surprise and was brilliant. And of course, today was the first day we met Pinky and the Brain. None of the secondary characters had been introduced yet, and for the next two weeks, part of the viewing experience was watching the theme song again and trying to guess what the unrevealed cartoons were going to be like.
|Some of the very first Power Ranger promos are on this recording. They weren't quite sure how to promote such a weird thing yet. Half the ads played up comedic aspects of the show, while others, like this one, went for the action angle. Ads for the Bandai action figures were the first to appear, weeks before the show even started (don't look so surprised).|
|This was taped in Portland, Maine. The Fox affiliate there was particularly obnoxious, stamping gigantic "FOX 51 KIDS CLUB" brands over nearly everything. Several times during this episode a spot appears where they ask Maine kids on a beach what their favorite show airing on that station was. "I like....err Mister BOOOgus on my Fox 51 Kids Club." Okay, so the Rice Krispies kids were definitely actors. This is how your average real kid looks on TV. And wow, Mr. Bogus? Talk about obscure.|
|This is another subject entirely, one I want to devote an entire article to in the future, so I'll use my words sparingly here. This is one of two Golden Grahams spots asking the question "How do they CRAM all that GRAHAM?" but not providing so much as a hint. Just zany early 90's editing tricks and old stock footage. They would eventually answer this question...and I can say I sure didn't see that revelation coming, but again, it's a tale for another time.|
|Oh boy, a Darkwing Duck promo caps off the break. I wish cartoons today got this dangerous.|
|Here's another doll, ripping off the first doll. Instead of "Baby Needs Me" it's "Baby Get Well." There was also "Baby Checkup" from the same year, which didn't air an ad here. Girls were demanding SICK babies apparently. Imagine if this trend had continued and escalated. "Baby Salmonella," "Baby Polio," "Baby Drug Addiction".....|
|One of the most frequent ads I remember appearing during the first few weeks of Animaniacs was this spot for a short-lived Planters snack called "P.B. Crisps." This ad aired right before the show started, like clockwork, for about three weeks. It was usually followed by a promo for "Bots Master" and then the show began.|
|YEEEEEEES! This ad is so great! It really gets you pumped to buy a remake of three games you already bought. It wouldn't be the last time this trick was pulled, but all the efforts since could be viewed as nostalgia cash-ins. These games were still fairly new in 1993; there was no such market. So why did we buy them again? Because they were just that good.|
|Not only was Animaniacs all-new, so was Batman! And....we'd be in for a long wait after that. Fox only ordered 20 episodes for BTAS's second season and spread them very sparsely over the next four years they held the rights to the series.|
The only other Animaniacs episode I have from 1993 that retained all its advertising was the "Space Probed" episode. I had to be someplace else that day, so as soon as I got home from school, I started recording Fox (which was showing a Tiny Toons rerun) and left. Some of these ads were from the end of Tiny Toons, technically disqualifying them, but I don't think you mind.
|Here is the "McWorld" campaign, depicting what the ad men believed were wish-fulfillment fantasies of how 90's kids wanted the world to work. These fantasies would, for some reason, always involve McDonalds food. For answering a math question right at school, a girl wins a big pile of toxic waste and a slow death in outer space for her smaller sibling. Ummm...OK. What you want is what you get!|
|Here's another craze that's kinda dead....troll dolls. They got a little nuts by this point. Troll dolls were at an all-time sales peak, but it was mostly girls buying them. The toy companies figured the first one among them to break through to the male market would become stupendously powerful, so around this time we got X-TREEEME TROLLZ that BEAT UP PEOPLE and wore SPIKED BRACELETS and SANG METAL MUSIC (and maybe ate pizza, depending on how close to the Ninja Turtles they were willing to go without risking being sued). We also got Burger King's pathetic Kids Club Kids re-envisioned as translucent troll people. The whole thing was greeted with large yawns and evaporated by '94.|
|It's the EYES OF JUSTICE....BATMAN'S,
that is! Two-Face is on a firing frenzy! BATMAN comes to
spank him good with his ridiculously oversized
grappling-hook firing weapon! It's yellow!
Oh no! With all that extra weight he's carrying, Two-Face easily knocks Batman off the skyscraper ledge! BUT THAT'S WHEN Batman comes back, flying in his gigantic claw-pinching plane he happened to pluck out of his utility belt for just this event! Two-Face is off to serve DOUBLE time! No one comes more ridiculously prepared than BATMAN!
|Rita looks so proud of herself, creating the Green Ranger in the first of what is now a legendary sequence of Power Rangers episodes. Since nothing she does ever works, it's kind of sad to watch her misguided enthusiasm. Maybe if she didn't try the exact same plan every day, she would have had a better shot at leveling Angel Grove. At least making her own Ranger was a little original, though she wouldn't have him for long.|
|This next spot is a leftover from the
summer of '93; I'm not sure why it was still running in
early October, and it feels like a guy should be rapping
about Link's Awakening afterward. Like the kid says, they
put Xes in Cheerios and decorated the backs of the boxes
with two-player board games. It's the kind of dumb thing
you can get away with during the lazy summer months.
There wouldn't be much time for it by school mornings.
After this come Street Fighter action figures, hyped up with some priceless dialogue: "RYU'S ready with a KUNG-FU ONE-TWO! BLANKA'S gonna BONK YA! Vile GUILE and you'll come out in STYLE! And wicked M. BISON comes out SLICIN'!" You really can't add anything to that.
|Here's an adorable kid drawing an adorable stick figure, frolicking in the city. Then he draws two adorable drug dealers who offer him crack and insult him. The adorable figure runs away only to be cornered by four adorable gang members. This one's going on the fridge....|
|Sugar Bear is absolutely unstoppable.
Once he sees your cereal, no force in the universe can
keep him from taking it from you. This "Granny
Goodwitch" has magic on her side and yet she can't
conjure anything Sugar Bear can't simply walk through. It
takes him all of one second to bypass each of her traps
and this included travelling through time. How does he do
it? It's all that SUGAR, obviously.
After this comes Polly Pocket. They actually still sell Polly Pockets today. Kids don't know she was one of many responses to the "make it smaller" toy craze that also birthed Mighty Max and the Micro Machines. Now they're gone, but Polly's still around...and lonely.
I know there's a Brisco County Jr. promo in this batch as well, but I've never seen that series, so any comments I could make would be painfully ignorant.
|And this is what Honey Nut Cheerios was doing; a series of ads where the Bee raced various current cartoon characters to a bowl of HNC, which the Bee always lost. Well, arguably, he won every single one of them, but then the Cartoon Guest Star pulled some cheap trick and yanked him away. You know the race is rigged when you can't even beat a lazy tub of lard like Garfield.|
|Oh, look, Kirk Cameron is on Full
House. You'd think the jokes would write themselves, but
somehow, it never works that way once you're behind
deadline. That is.....certainly a thing that happened.
The SCORCHER 6x6, FROM TYCO BATTERY PACK REQUIRED, is yet another in the long line of radio-controlled 1990s stunt cars with 9.6V Turbo Power. Most kids didn't live in Arizona and couldn't put their RCs though this kind of rocky abuse, but that didn't matter. It's the same kind of psychology trick that produces Chevy ads where a truck is towing an airplane.
|Why am I pointing out this last one?
Because, more than any other ad on this page, this
is the ad I associate with the first season of
Animaniacs. No fooling.
It was on during every episode that fall, even after its November 13 expiration date had passed. Out of all the tens of millions of dollars countless corporations spent on getting images burned into my brain, the biggest success story was this cheap local spot for a charity wine-tasting event. Your guess is as good as mine why it was on Animaniacs to begin with. Sure, plenty of adults became fans of the show, but few were watching it this early in the game.
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