Welcome to a fresh new week of Halloween episode recaps! Last week featured some terrific viewing and, hopefully, this week will produce more of the same.
We’ve recapped Animaniacs on this site before, but today we’ll go back and watch their Season 1 Halloween themed episode. This was always a show that I liked a lot when I was younger even though a lot of the jokes went over my head at the time, but when looking back now, have a greater appreciation for how smart the writing was. There’s a lot in here that makes you wonder how they were able to slip certain lines past the censors and get them into a kids show. It’s terrific.
That’s what I’m looking for today. To be entertained and to find something that I know I sure as shit didn’t understand when I was 12, but an older, wiser me thinks is gangbusters. Hit me with it!
S01E30: Draculee Draculaa/PhrankenRunt
Original Air Date: October 29, 1993
This is another show that features A and B stories so we’ll be breaking them up a bit and watching both since they do both sound Halloweenie.
We open in Transylvania where the Animaniacs have just burrowed through the ground Bugs Bunny-style after seemingly making a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Yakko even makes the comment that they’re not rabbits, but it’s a Warner Bros. tradition. They think they’re in Pennsylvania and are looking to track down their parents who they assume are pencils seeing as how they’re cartoon characters and were drawn. It’s subtle. I like it.
It starts raining so they decide to find a place to spend the night. There’s two hotels and a spooky-looking castle. They obviously choose the castle because as Yakko says, “we’re not that stupid, we just know the plot.”
They ring the bell to the castle and are met at the door by Dracula. Dracula is immediately taken by the neck of Dot thinking of all that good blood he’s going to be able to suck, but he learns real quick that spending even the slightest bit of time around the Warner Bros…and sister is enough to drive a vampire mad. Dracula gets fed up of all their crackin’ wise almost instantly and turns into a bat to show off his superior power. Wakko claims that he too is a bat and when Dracula says, “my man, you are most certainly not a bat,” Wakko pulls a baseball bat from behind his back and states, “but he is,” before teeing off of Dracula’s skull ball like he’s Pete Alonso trying to drop a pearl in the upper deck.
A woozy and battered Dracula shows the Warners to their room. He pushes the boys into one chamber that sounds as if it’s already inhabited by Fluffy from Harry Potter fame, but, of course Yakko and Wakko cling to the back of Dracula’s cape with him being blissfully unaware while he shows Dot to her own room. Dot says she’s going to sleep so Dracula’s hyped he can finally get a taste of that plasma gold, but of course hijinks ensue. Dracula gets punched in the face, has his teeth pulled by a dentist Yakko and then ends up in a slumber party where the Warners give him a makeover. He finally realizes he won’t be winning this one and he takes off running to his coffin to be able to get some peace. The Warners think he’s locked in so they saw it in half with a chainsaw. Dracula thinks the worst is over, but it’s now morning and the Warners have opened all the blinds letting all the sunlight in which – as we know from science – is horribly hurtful to vampires.
Dracula blows his top and the Warners finally scurry out from his castle only to see the sign saying, “Welcome to Transylvania” and realizing that they’ve been in the wrong place this whole time. They burrow back into the ground and when they again emerge, they’re greeted by the Tasmanian Devil who takes one look at them and goes spinning off before Wakko just eats the Warners’ map and Yakko and Dot agree that they needed a new map anyway.
We open with the Bride of Phrankenstein who will apparently be taking the mantle of “Doctor” in this. She talks about her experiment and then finally drops the kind of joke I’ve been looking for:
“In school, they called me mad and insane. They also called me ‘No Toppy Big Bottom’. I wonder what they meant by that.” There we go. The joke I definitely didn’t get when I was 12.
She flips the switch and her creation comes to life: a giant green dog with neck bolts that she orders to attack the village. The dog just grabs his collar and leash and wants to go for a walk. Uh-oh. The good doctor is going to have a hard time taking over the village. Scout (the undead dog’s name) does eventually go off to wreak havoc, but is immediately struck by lightning and will require a new brain. Thankfully, Dr. Phrankenstein has an entire bookcase of brains in jars: TV executive brain, tree sloth brain, but no dog brains. You can never find a dog brain when you need one.
That’s when we see Rita and Runt, a sassy cat (voiced by Bernadette Peters) and a dumb-as-a-rock dog (Frank Welker who I know best as the voice of Megatron) skipping around in the rain outside so I guess this will now be about getting Runt’s brain which seems like a terrible idea because we know that Runt is a buffoon. Rita and Runt are looking for a place to spend the night and Rita breaks out into song about having a plan to get taken in by the lady in the castle. Dr. Phrankenstein sees them coming up to the door and is ecstatic about having a dog that she can steal a brain from.
The doc straps Runt to a bed to begin the brain extraction, but Rita is able to come in and save her counterpart before shit can go down. Rita and Runt then run for it, getting cornered at one point, but escaping by jumping from the castle’s tower into the stream below. Dr. Phrankenstein gets roughed up by Scout the dog because he just wants to play fetch and she pops his ball. It’s kind of weaksauce, but does allow Rita and Runt plenty of time to swim to shore and sing a song about finding their next home to get kicked out of.
I got everything I was hoping for with this episode. Fun, humor and a joke that a younger me definitely didn’t understand. Every time I go back and look at Animaniacs I am always impressed with how well it still holds up.
I definitely liked the first story better, but that’s very much because I love Yakko, Wakko and Dot and was never really a fan of Rita and Runt. Rita and Runt were getting recurring stories throughout the first season, but apparently I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t feeling it because the two were scrapped after the season. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I don’t think they were overly missed.
How many iterations of the Dracula and Frankenstein characters exist in all of pop culture? It’s amazing how these monsters are just so built into the culture that there can be a hundred new characterizations of each in all different genres each year and nobody will complain. Whether it be horror, parody, whatever, the classic monsters are truly timeless and are known and recognized by literally everybody regardless of age group.
All the gags and one-liners that make up an episode of this series keep the pace fast and enjoyable. Definitely a fun way to spend a half hour of your time. Two and a half decades after debuting, Animaniacs remains smart, funny and a very worthwhile way to allocate your TV consumption time.
Until next time.