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The Animaniacs’ Take On Science

A look into the intelligent humor of this 1990s-era cartoon

smithsonian.com

If you missed out on the “Animaniacs” cartoon show during the 1990s, I’m so sorry. The show, produced by Steven Spielberg, was a delicious combination of slapstick humor, pop culture and smarts, anchored by three characters (the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister, Dot) whose species was, well, indeterminate.

The music was the best kind of intelligent humor. Where else could you find a song about the United Nations or one that named all the countries of the world? If you didn’t have a decent knowledge of history, geography or literature, a lot of the jokes would go over your head, but it was all so entertaining that kids would never realize that they were learning along the way. And science was a frequent theme, as would be expected from a program that included lab mice trying to take over the world (they were so great, the mice eventually got their own TV show). YouTube is chock full of clips from the show—I hope you enjoy a few that I found:

Yakko’s Universe:

The Senses:

Pinky and the Brain theme:

A Quake! A Quake! (about the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake):

Bones in the Body:

The Planets (from when Pluto still qualified):

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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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