When Tom Ruegger first teamed with Steven Spielberg on Tiny Toon Adventures in 1990 he had his heart set on eventually doing something that didn’t involve the classic Warner Bros. characters. “My goal was to make something that was original on its own,” he tells us. His idea started with three ducks, but of course, Warner already had a legendary duck named Daffy and Tiny Toons had Plucky Duck.
Spielberg argued that if Ruegger wanted to create a series about a duck he should just use Plucky because he was a “marquee name.” But the animator declined and took a walk across the Warner lot to consider his options. When he spotted the famed Warner Bros. water tower, he had a moment of inspiration. Instead of three ducks, he’d develop a show featuring “generic cartoon characters from the ’30s” and they’d have been locked away in the tower because of their rambunctious nature. “Suddenly they became the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot,” he says, and eventually they’d be joined by more than 20 other characters.
Aside from aiding in inspiration, Spielberg brought the ability to do whatever he wanted. And what Spielberg wanted from Animaniacs was a great cartoon. To accomplish this, Ruegger assembled not only an amazing voice cast but also a musical “Dream Team” that could give Animaniacs a truly memorable collection of sounds and songs. More than 20 years later, fans still love the show and the music enough that some of the original voice actors, writers, and musicians are making plans to hit the road for a live tour. Before they do, they were kind enough to share the origin story of some of Animaniacs‘ greatest musical numbers.