Yakko's World

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Like no children's cartoon series since The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Animaniacs was aimed at parents as much or more as it was at kids. (It's likely that more than one parent has had to explain who Mickey Rooney is after a listen to this album's "Yakko's Universe," which name-checks the diminutive star in its chorus.) The show about the surreal adventures of the Warner brothers and their sister Dot, which was in production from 1993 to 1996, was full of clever visual puns, wildly obscure cultural references, and a sharply satiric edge that likely whizzed right over most kids' heads, while remaining colorful and silly enough to keep even the youngest viewers entertained. The same can be said of this 1994 disc, the second of several CDs of songs from the series. The tunes, mostly written by music supervisor Richard Stone, with lyrics by Paul Rugg, Tom Ruegger, and the show's other writers, are instantly memorable, both the originals and adaptations like "Wakko's America" (middle Warner sibling Wakko -- the one who sounds like George Harrison circa A Hard Day's Night -- singing the state capitols to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw") and "The Panama Canal," a history lesson set to the old folk standard "40 Miles on the Erie Canal." The lyrics are remarkably clever, full of dizzying internal rhymes that match Stephen Sondheim at his most manic, and even the silliest of these songs -- that would be "Lake Titicaca," a mambo dedicated to the world's highest freshwater lake with the world's most giggleworthy name -- is smart and funny. Unfortunately, a quarter of these 16 songs already appeared on the first Animanics collection, but the remainder are entertaining enough to make this a more than worthwhile purchase, even for those who don't have kids.

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