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'Animaniacs,' 'Pinky and the Brain' Draw Huge Crowds

21 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

SAN DIEGO — A raucous crowd of “Pinky and the Brain” and “Animaniacs” lovers greeted an equally raucous panel of writers, creators and voice talent from the beloved Warner Bros shows.

At long last, Volume 1 DVDs for each of the shows street July 25 from Warner Home Video.

“Finally, now people can stop asking me when the hell these are coming out on DVD,” hollered Rob Paulson (voice of Pinky and Animaniac Yakko), to the cheering crowd — about 1,000-strong.

Paulson was joined by fellow voice talent Jess Harnell (Animaniac Wakko) and Maurice La Marche (The Brain) as well as the shows' voice director/casting director, Andrea Romano, and Earl Kress, Peter Hastings and Gordon Bressak (all writers for both shows).

The audience got a glimpse at some of the DVD extras for both releases, interview footage hosted by La Marche, talking to his fellow cast and crew about the creation of “Animaniacs” and its wildly popular spin-off.

“It's such a thrill to get to watch this in a room like this with all of you,” Paulson told the exuberant crowd. “As voice actors, we are fairly anonymous, and when we were making these shows we knew we were doing fun stuff and we were making ourselves laugh, but it's so great to see it with all of you.”

Writer Bressak pointed out that one “Animaniacs” episode actually spoofed Comic-Con, “The Please Please Get a Life Foundation,” using a rabid Internet base of “Animaniacs” fans not only as subject fodder, but creating part of the script from the group's “The Cultural Reference Guide for Animaniacs.”

The DVD footage, and July 20 panel discussion were chock-full of banter, intermittent character voices and impromptu “AYWIP” sessions. (That would be the standby “Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?” query from Brain to Pinky, which always yields a punish non sequitur from the less-brainy character.)

Paulson got up and performed Yakko's “Nation Song” from “Animaniacs” to a standing ovation from the audience. Harnell followed suit with Wakko's “States and Capitol's” song from the show — but he had to use a crib sheet.

“Unlike my more talented brother, I'm using a lyrics sheet, because I'm not that intelligent,” Harnell punned.

La March also got up to perform, with a profound and lengthy belch; he was the “stunt belcher” for the Wakko character on “Animaniacs.”The casting came easy for both shows, Romano said.

Animaniacs debuted 13 years ago, produced and spawned in part by Steven Spielberg.

“We knew we wanted Rob [Paulson] for the voice of Yakko,” she said. “We submitted five different voices to Steven Spielberg for the character. What he didn't know is that three of them were Rob.&quo;&quo;Pinky and The Brain” grew out of “Animaniacs” and the voice of The Brain grew out of a compulsion veteran voice actor La Marche had.Whenever there was dead air on a mike or a pause during a recording session, La Marche would launch into an impression of Orson Welles outtakes from a War of the Worlds radio show recording session, which he recreated again for the gleeful Comic-Con crowd.

Romano, who has seven Emmys for animated shows — which, her fellow panelists revealed, she keeps dressed in Barbie clothes — said there was nothing like working on these two shows.

“Every once and a while, it all aligns, “Animaniacs” and ‘Pinky and the Brain' were those times,” she said. “I remember we would sit in recording sessions and say ‘it may never get better than this, and that's OK because this is so, so great.”

Her fellow panelists agreed, especially the writers who noted they had a minimal level of intrusion or censorship from producers or the network, something not found in TV today.

“We were lucky,” Harnell said, giving a nod to classic Warner cartoons that came before, such as “Bugs Bunny.” “We got to ride the second wave, we got to be a part of Warner's second golden age of animation.”

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