On the list of astounding vocal achievements, Rob Paulsen performance of “Yakko’s World” sits somewhere between R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Don’t know “Yakko’s World”? Don’t even know Rob Paulsen?
Paulsen voices many of modern cartoons’ most iconic characters — Yakko from “Animaniacs,” Pinky from “Pinky and the Brain,” Raphael and Donatello from two iterations of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and a dozen more. “Yakko’s World” became a sensation among “Animaniacs” fanatics (of which there are thousands) when the tongue-twisting tune appeared on the show’s first season in 1993.
The song features Paulsen rhyming scores of countries and territories in under two minutes. The voice actor remembers doing the number in a single take.
“It wasn’t like I memorized it, but yes, I did do it in one take, however, that’s not the part of the story I like to focus on,” Paulsen said. “I’m good at my job but this is Hollywood, a zillion great singers live here. Not a zillion people could write a song that funny and fast. The real genius of the story is (songwriter) Randy Rogel.”
Paulsen has stayed busy since “Animaniacs” finished its run in 1998. But he hadn’t been thinking much about his old show until he and Emmy Award-winning composer Rogel reconnected during a podcast taping a few years back, and Paulsen suggested the pair put together a night of songs from the show. Fans mobbed the Los Angeles performance and the idea for a tour was born — “Animaniacs Live!” at City Winery on Friday.
“What started as a labor of love for one night has turned into this amazing project that is an absolute blast,” he said. “It’s been fun to see 10-year-olds in the audience who have just discovered the show. But it’s not mostly kids, it’s 30- and 40- and a few 70-year-olds who still love what we did years ago.”
Part of the tour’s success can be traced to Netflix picking up old episodes in 2016. But for those who line up after the live shows to get their DVDs signed and chat with the cast, “Animaniacs” remains as fresh as ever.
“When (producer) Steven Spielberg and (creator) Tom Ruegger came up with the idea, it came from the tradition of ‘Looney Tunes,’ ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle,’ ‘The Flintstones,’ then they added modern culture and politics,” Paulsen said. “Take all that and, presto change-o, you have a timeless hit.”
In 2020, Hulu executives will see how timeless. The streaming service plans to reboot the show next year.
“If you are looking to sink your money into a reboot, this is good bet,” Paulsen said. “You don’t bet against anything with Mr. Spielberg at the helm.”
“Animaniacs Live!” at City Winery, Friday. Tickets: $35-$45; citywinery.com/boston.
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