Two new cartoon collections — the first season of Animaniacs and four discs of selected Pinky and the Brain episodes — offer a delightful overdose of animated insanity. The disastrous brainchildren of 1930s Warner Bros. employees, Animaniacs‘ Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner escape from their studio water-tower prison to unleash years of pent-up shenanigans: reducing psychiatrist/nemesis Dr. Scratchnsniff to an embattled babysitter and torturing adults with perfect puns, deliberate misunderstandings (when a teacher asks Yakko if he can ”conjugate” a verb, he replies, ”I’ve never even kissed a girl”), and naturally, the occasional anvil.
Though they’ve been isolated for 63 years, the Warners are the only characters who aren’t anachronisms. The bumbling out-of-touch studio boss, for example, seems more like an old Hollywood caricature than a present-day power player. While the series parodied Tinseltown, the Warners themselves satirized the precocious, attention-deficient modern child, playing brilliantly to that audience (though their dead-eyed, serotonin-overdose look grows uncomfortably creepy after a while). If their hyperactive antics — references to Regis Philbin and Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse alike come at a rapid-fire pace — begin to grate, skip to shorts featuring the series’ supporting players, such as ”Bumbie’s Mom,” a hilarious Disney parody, or one of the bouncy musical numbers.