Warner Bros. Discovery’s recent decision to strip HBO Max of dozens of popular animated series and a number of series in development was a sting. Regardless of whether it made financial sense (and the jury is certainly out on that), it was clearly a disappointment compared to the treatment Warner Bros. has given animated series in the past. There was an era when the company produced an excellent series of television cartoons that were good enough to rival any other in history.
Thirty years after the debut of Batman: The Animated Series, perhaps the most consistently acclaimed American animated series of all time, we take a look back at Warner Bros.’s animated renaissance in the early ’90s. Buoyed by confidence and resources after an uneven couple of decades, the studio quickly turned things around with a string of hits like…
Little Toon Adventures
When it comes to animation in America, Disney has always been the company to beat. However, not even Disney was safe in the ’60s and ’70s, the same years that Warner Bros. saw their Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck drop off the payroll. But by the late ’80s/early ’90s, the Disney revival had started in earnest, with films like The little mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and the Disney afternoon block with duck stories and TaleSpin giving Disney its powerhouse status once again. That’s what Warner Bros. wanted to compete with… and it had Steven Spielberg’s help.
The merger with Spielberg’s Amblin Television division gave Warner Bros. additional resources and clout. Spielberg worked alongside tireless producers and executives like Tom Ruegger and Jean MacCurdy to reinvent the Looney Tunes brand Little Toon Adventures. New characters were introduced, although they were obviously based on previous symbols. As such, we were treated to Acme Looniversity students like Buster and Babs Bunny, Plucky Duck, and others. The idea of afternoon cartoons as a cheap way to sell toys is instantly brushed aside here at first glance: the animation is lively, the writing is fun and energetic, and it all sounds wonderful, since Spielberg successfully requested the use of a full orchestra Rate the cartoon.
Little Toon Adventures is available for viewing Hi.
Frequently forgotten during this time, despite its four-year existence, Taz mania is no revision like Little Toon Adventures but rather a starring role for Taz, the whirlwind of slobbering energy that first appeared in 1954. Not everything works out, and the characters invented for the show, like Bushwhacker Bob and Digeri Dingo, have mostly been lost in the sands of animation time. It’s important, however, because it was the first in this new series of cartoons to appear on Fox Kids, a programming block created specifically to duel with The Disney Afternoon in the early ’90s and home to many Warner Bros. Serial should be going forward.
Taz mania is available for viewing Boomerang via Prime Videoor for digital purchase on Amazon and Google Play.
Batman: The Animated Series
No series, animated or otherwise, has summed up why any particular superhero works the way it does Batman: The Animated Series. Lavishly animated, beautifully scored (the late Shirley Walker is one of the most underrated female composers of all time), and written in a “mini-movie” style that allowed each episode to play with heavy themes and compelling pathos. Batman: The Animated Series is the bar that every incarnation of the Dark Knight since has been challenged to overcome. Although it came after the breakthrough success of 1989 Batman movie, it’s far more than a simple box office or a lazy riff on Tim Burton’s megahit.
Created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, it was the first superhero cartoon in 50 years to present its title character and her world with the majesty they deserved. Emmy Award wins and two films followed, with the first Mask of the Phantasm, often recognized as the greatest Batman film of all time. since 1992, Batman: The Animated Series‘Place in the pantheon of comic book adaptations has remained unchallenged and along with X-Menco-produced by Marvel Entertainment and Saban and also debuting on Fox Kids this fall, would herald a new age for capes and hoods on screen.
Batman: The Animated Series is available for viewing HBO Max.
Warner Brothers’ second cartoon collaboration with Spielberg would result animaniacs. Created by Ruegger, this series would offer non-stop comedy with fast-paced sitcom delivery while unleashing a barrage of tongue-in-cheek innuendos and fourth-wall breaks. The trio of main characters Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were introduced as characters heralding the origins of Warner Bros. Animation in the 1930s, who had recently escaped from the water tower on the Warner Bros. compound and were now free to unleash their savagery on of the world. Numerous musical segments and a sketch-show format give it an air of unpredictability often absent from gag-based cartoons, and the original series is refreshing to this day.
One of his most popular segments would also serve as the launch pad for a successful spinoff show: Pinky and the brain. Halfway through its run, it would move to Kids’ WB, Warner Bros. new block Saturday morning/weekday afternoon. Kids’ WB was begun in the fall of 1995 and became the primary residence for these cartoons, with the Exodus ending in 1997 Batman: The Animated Series finally finished his five-year contract with Fox. To the animaniacsa series so self-referential in nature that it was truly a homecoming (and a chance to use that water tower branding for all it was worth.)
animaniacs is available for viewing Hi.
Pinky and the brain
Not all of the first shows on Kids’ WB are as good as animaniacs (The secrets of Sylvester and Tweety is like Taz mania: fun, but quite overwhelming.) However, is a show that might at times eclipse even its ancestor Pinky and the brain. The story of “two laboratory mice whose genes were spliced” doubles animaniacs‘ vibe and is often so specific in his jokes that we should never again question the ability of interested children to keep up with their favorite cartoons. Do you want sprawling parodies of ’50s actor Raymond Burr, 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, or The company of three Star Joyce DeWitt? If yes, Pinky and the brain is a sweetheart.
his successor, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain? Not as much. The promotion of the Bratwurst Elmyra lasted only one season Little Toon Adventures Making a supporting character into a co-lead was not a fruitful move and reportedly reaped the wrath of its creators. The series would also mark the end of Spielberg and Amblin Television’s 20-year collaboration with Warner Bros. Animation.
Pinky and the brain is available for viewing Hi.
Kids WB would soon fill up with superheroes, with Superman: The Animated Series come 1996 and The new Batman adventuresa follow-up series Batman: The Animated Seriesaired in 1997. However, the first (and the only one to be executive produced by Spielberg) was Crazy! Continuation of the crazy antics in animaniacs, Crazy! wouldn’t last very long (at just two seasons and 24 episodes, it’s the shortest series on this list), but it’s a cult classic thanks to its perpetual weirdness and self-aware parody. The title character’s biggest villain? The Lobe, voiced by the late David Warner, who put on a more serious face than around the same time Batman: The Animated Series‘Ra’s al Ghul.
Crazy! can be streamed for free with advertising on Tubi or purchased digitally on Amazon, Apple and Google Play.
Superman: The Animated Series
With Batman redefined, attacking Superman seemed like the obvious choice for Bruce Timm and co. It wouldn’t be that easy to beat them BTAS Submission via the Man of Steel, though – development Superman: The Animated Series gave the crew the ability to define how their superhero endeavors would look in the future, with cleaner and edgier drawings, simpler designs, and faster editing. So when WB requested more Batman, The new Batman adventures passed the Caped Crusader in this way and the aesthetic would be retained for future shows as is Batman beyond, justice leagueand other.
STAS that’s not quite the revelation for the character BTAS is, but it captures what drives Superman. Intelligent, strong-willed, and lacking the infinite reservoir of strength the character is often criticized for, this Superman retains a sense of humanity that’s easy to lose when you can bench-press a block. And while BTAS Reserved primarily for characters who could easily adapt to its noir themes, Superman’s stories are sci-fi/fantasy-packed, with the stakes only increasing when world conqueror Darkseid comes into play.
With Superman, this new golden age of Warner Bros. animation on television ended. There would come strong offerings (Histeria! is styled like an obviously educational one animaniacs but it is worth a watch, and the above Batman beyond had an absolutely perfect first season and ended the ’90s with a bang), but the number of shows that would have an impact like those on this list would vary widely. Like Warner Bros.’ water tower, the era is emerging as a rare example of animators getting the consistent resources and support they need from a company to, well, create.
Superman: The Animated Series is available for streaming HBO Max.
https://www.polygon.com/what-to-watch/23329094/best-animated-shows-warner-bros-watch-streaming-batman-superman-animaniacs The best animated WB shows to take home