Everybody remembers Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Pinky & The Brain where Warner Bros.’ animation department was just on this strong high in the 90s creating these memorable cartoon shows that hold up to this very day.
By 1998, a new regime changed at Kids WB! hence a lot of those classic shows had to be cancelled and many of the animators behind these memorable shows had move on to other projects for other studios, Tom Ruegger, the man behind a number of these shows, was brought in to create a new show for the network that would fit more into the newly changing world of more educational programming on Saturday morning, hence we got Histeria!:
Histeria! is an American animated series created by Tom Ruegger and produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Unlike other animated series produced by Warner Bros. in the 1990s, Histeria! stood out as the most explicitly educational program in order to meet FCC requirements for educational/informational content for children.
Histeria! was aired on Kids’ WB from 1998 to 2000, which continued to air reruns until August 30, 2001. It was presented as a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy, with its cast often filling the roles of historical figures. It was to be WB’s most ambitious project since Animaniacs. Like the aforementioned, 65 episodes were originally going to be made, but due to being $10 million over budget, only 52 episodes were completed before production of the series was canceled in March 2000. Due to the high production costs, footage from previous episode was often re-used and re-timed to match newly recorded audio, as well as several non-educational segments being used as filler. More recently, the show was aired on In2TV, first from March to July 2006, and then returning in October of that year. In January 2009, all of the episodes were taken off the site.
Like other animated series produced at the time by the Warner Bros. animation, Histeria! derived most of humor from its slapstick comedy and satire, with the distinction of combining historical figures and events. Episodes would commonly feature a large cast of children and typecast adults in comedic skits and song parodies, e.g. the cause of the American Civil War sung to the tune of The Brady Bunch theme.
This was basically WB trying to make a safer and more educational version of Animaniacs and it shows here because wow, this was pretty boring.
And I know what Tom Ruegger was trying to do, he was trying to create something as memorable as Animaniacs and Pinky & The Brain and Tiny Toons but was restricted by what he could do because of the new FCC rules that had been implemented at that time. So, of course, this show never could live up the full potential they could’ve had.
The idea was a good concept, an SNL style comedy series centering around American history…although I think Drunk History was a much fuller realization of the concept…and overall, it just didn’t come together all that well.
You can see the effort being put into here, the animation is really good, the characters are creative and likeable but not really memorable, there’s a great voice cast in Frank Welker, Tress MacNeille, Laraine Newman, Luke & Nathan Ruegger, Cree Summer, Rob Paulsen, Paul Rugg, there’s a solid cast of professional voice actors who are trying their hardest to make this work but it just can’t.
Histeria! never really finds its’ motivation to become that great series that it has a right to be, the animation does work, the characters had potential, there’s a great voice cast but overall, Histeria! comes across as one of those interesting misfires that should have been great considering the talent aboard but just fell short because of the restrictions they had to work with.
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