2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Animaniacs, one of Warner Bros. biggest cartoons. This show featured the Warner Brothers Yakko and Wakko and sister Dot as well as characters like Pinky and the Brain. Animaniacs Live! took place at the Grammy Museum on Sept. 6 to a sold-out crowd. This special event was in conjunction with the museum’s music and animation exhibit sponsored by Warner Brothers. For three weeks on the second floor at the Grammy Museum this special exhibit featured the Jetsons, Flinstones, Looney Tunes, Space Jam, Scooby Doo and Animaniacs.
Animaniacs Live! brings together the show’s composer Randy Rogel and the voice of Yakko Warner Pinky (Pinky and the Brain). There were many great things about Animaniacs but the music was my favorite part. In this evening Rogel and Paulsen performed many of the shows original songs like “Yakko’s World,” “Yakko’s Universe” and “Variety Speak.” Maurice LeMarche voice of The Brain joined in for Pink and the Brain’s songs and reciting some of their infamous lines from the show.
A few days after the event I had the honor of interviewing Paulsen to discuss the show, upcoming events, the show’s legacy and his other famous voices such as the original Raphael on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Carl Wheezer on Jimmy Neutron and Hadji on the Real Adventures of Johnny Quest.
AK: What type of audience come to you shows?
RP: What is so wonderful to me is that the audience is children and their parents and often grandparents. What we’re finding is that it’s your generations Looney Tunes utterly that appeals to people on several levels. It’s supposed to give kids and adults equal laughs. When kids get to be 25 or 30 they watch it again and go oh my; I get the cultural references and songs, cues that I didn’t understand when I was 8 or 10 years old then it continues to make it relevant. As you can imagine we’re having a blast and anything you saw onstage that appeared to be enjoyable for Randy and I was not contrived. I can assure you.
AK: What was different about the show at the Grammy Museum compared to past shows?
RP: We’ve been getting a huge amount of bookings of just Randy with the piano and I. As much as I like the extravaganza or rather the spectacle of a big orchestra and a giant screen which is really fun, but the 200-300 seat venues with a piano are really great. What we couldn’t do Thursday night due to time constraints was a Q&A for an hour or so, sign stuff, and do all that. That was why we couldn’t come out after the show. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was the museum’s curfew but generally that is part of the equation and I loved the intimate setting where you can interact with the crowd.
AK: What did you think of Animaniacs Vocal Booth at the museum?
RP: The karaoke thing! Randy was there for the opening of the exhibit, but I couldn’t make it. He called me after and said, “I wrote all the songs in it.” I said does that surprise you and he said “Kinda.” I told him look you wrote all the songs well not all the songs, but the songs most people know from Animaniacs are ones he wrote. I think that is evident to the audience when you go and see our show which has 20 songs. Most people know each one of them, and even if you don’t you would know “Yakko’s World,” and those songs. He’s so modest and I get the best seat watching the audience react to Randy’s genius especially when he gets to play songs that didn’t make it and we look at each other and go “What the hecks wrong with that song. It’s a total labor of love and I appreciate your support and covering it. It’s a major deal and we’re really grateful.
AK: The animations and the music were synched well.
RP: Thank you buddy I appreciate that. How was that when the door slammed and The Brain came up on the screen? Wasn’t that cool? I have to have a significant volume on my monitors, because often what happens is the audience starts to clap and sometimes they can get a little ahead or behind the meter. Especially For the countries of the world song I have to be spot on to match that. That’s really fun to watch isn’t it?
AK: I would think “Yakko’s World” was the hardest song to remember all the words to.
RP: That was initially the most difficult one, but I love that song for obvious reasons and it’s an iconic song with that little 2.5 minute piece of animation. It’s a brilliant piece. The thing that I love telling the story about it as I said the other night was because of Randy’s work we often have performers and songwriters in the audience. I love relating that story of what I’m about to tell you as a songwriter will either inspire you for greatness or make you want to work at Starbucks. That song was the first song I ever did and the first one Randy wrote for Animaniacs. People around the world know it and it still is an incredible piece and what’s even more remarkable is that it was the bar that Randy set for himself. Then the rest of the songs we did that night were songs that came after that. In our town the world genius gets thrown around a lot, but it’s absolutely applicable in his case. That was the trickiest one, but like anything else if you do it everyday 100 times you get it down and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now. Whether acapella or with an orchestra or with a piano It’s just a gas to do it and the audience enjoys it.
AK: What do you think of Animaniacs having a reboot 25 years later?
RP: Let me back up a little bit. I am by any measure an incredibly fortunate fellow specifically in Hollywood. I’m not a film star and I’m not a celebrity. I get it, the characters are the famous ones in my context and I’m fine with that. I don’t draw them, write them, or produce them. I’m just a singer and an actor, I’m good at my job but I ought to be. I’ve been doing this 40 years. I’m in my 3rd iteration of Ninja Turtles. I was Raphael when you were a kid. I was Donatello the last five years on Nickelodeon. Now I’m directing the new show that’s coming out Monday (Sept. 17th). I’ve been directing it the past year for Nickelodeon. I’m voice director on it and it’s my 3rd run [pun intended] of that evergreen franchise. That for a lot of actors would be a pretty remarkable thing, but then you throw in Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. Both of which appeal to an audience of children and their parents and often their grandparents. We were celebrating last Thursday (Sept. 6th) a show that has not had a new episode written in 20 years. The fanbase is exponentially larger than when it was launched in 1993. Moreover, here we are 25 years later and Steven Spielberg at 71 “I know my legacy is intact, but I’m going to do more Animaniacs and Pinky & The Brain. Now when you look at that as a journalist in the context of an actor’s circumstances that’s a big deal man. It’s Steven! It’s not like he’s saying you can put my name on it, he’s totally involved. He went to all the pitches and Hulu bought it. That’s just crazy to me. It not only makes me incredibly proud, but the fact that the once and future unabashed king of Hollywood and nicest man in Hollywood says “This is important, I’m going to be involved,” and he totally is and totally hands on. That says a lot about the franchise and what a big deal it is to Hollywood.