Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish, usually referred to as Wakko's Wish, is a 1999 animated musical comedy fantasy adventure film created exclusively to theaters. The film is based on the Warner Bros.1993–98 animated series Animaniacs, and serves as the series finale. It relocates all of the Animaniacs characters to a quasi-19th century fairy tale world and portrays their race to find the wishing star that will grant them a wish.
In the town of Acme Falls within the kingdom of Warnerstock, all the people live happily together. However, upon the death of the king, Sir William the Good, Warnerstock enters a state of civil war. Taking advantage of the situation, the neighboring kingdom of Ticktockia, led by King Salazar, the Pushy, takes over Warnerstock, and makes all its people poor and miserable due to overtaxing (which, ironically, is a parody of the 1989-1990 merger of Time, Inc., publishers of the "Time" magazine, and Warner Communications, owners of the Warner Bros studio, forming the Time Warner media conglomerate). Three orphans, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner, are particularly troubled, as Dot needs an operation. Wakko finds work in another town to pay for it, but Plotz takes his pay – a half penny – from him, lying that it is for taxes.
Wakko, saddened about Dot's illness and finding no other choice, wishes upon a star. A fairy (who calls himself a "desire fulfillment facilitator" or "Pip") falls from the star and explains that Wakko had just chosen the only wishing star in the sky. The star itself [which Rita and Runt witness] falls shortly after in the mountains and the fairy tells Wakko whoever touches the star first gets one wish. The following morning, the siblings tell the whole town about the star in their excitement, and all rush towards the glow in the mountains. King Salazar finds out about the star, orders Taxman Plotz to stop the Warners from reaching the star alive, and orders his troops to secure it.
Plotz does not stop the Warners from reaching the star at the same time as all the other townsfolk. However, the King's army has already built a military base around the star, and a small ice palace to the side of it, and the townspeople (including Plotz) are all captured and locked up so that the King may have his wish. The Warners hint that the wishing process is not as simple as the king thinks in a desperate bluff. The King captures the Warners and tortures them in outlandish ways (from a terrible singer, a filthy gas station restroom, and Baloney the Dinosaur (who is a parody of Barney the Dinosaur). The Warners tell the King any wish he makes could have an ironic twist and demonstrate this to his annoyance. He orders the Warners executed, but Dot uses her charms to save them. The Warners escape.
As the King is about to make his wish (for the Warners to leave him alone), the Warners show up, and he tries shooting them himself with a cannon. He misses, but Dot seems mortally wounded by the force of the explosion created when the cannonball hits the ground. Wakko seizes his chance to head to the star, and Yakko drops behind, trying to convince Dot that she can make it. Yakko then tells Dot the story of how Dot was born one last time. Dot then seemingly dies, causing the people of Acme Falls to cry in sorrow, along with some of the royal army, who become furious with King Salazar for his cruel nature. As everyone turns on the King (who seemingly appears a little remorseful), Wakko reaches the star. Dot reveals that she had been acting and was not actually injured/dead; the two were buying time for Wakko. Wakko wishes for two half pennies.
Wakko uses the second of these to buy food and "season tickets for the Lakers". The first one pays for Dot's operation, which is revealed to be a plastic surgery to give her a beauty mark. Wakko's first half penny, however, returns prosperity to the town as the butcher, the baker, and the grocer spend the money they earned, and the people from whom they make purchases in turn do the same.
The hospital finds Yakko, Wakko, and Dot's birth certificates, and reveals they are the heirs to the throne. Their parents, seen for the first and only time in a portrait, were the king and queen of Warnerstock. They (literally) boot Salazar out of their palace, and he is attacked by his own dogs. The Warners use their newfound royal authorities to grant the citizens of Acme Falls their wishes - except for the town Mime (who is promptly crushed by a safe and Yakko stating, "I don't know about him, but that sure was my wish!"). Yakko then spins the Wheel of Morality, which specifies the moral of the story is "just cheer up and never ever give up hope".
Wakko's Wish featured 10 original songs,with lyrics written by Tom Ruegger and Randy Rogel, and songs composed by Animaniacs composers Richard Stone and Julie Bernstein. The compositions Stone wrote for the film were some of the last he wrote for Warner Bros. Animation prior to his death.
Although Wakko’s Wish had been rated highly amongst children and adults in test screenings,
Warner Bros. decided to release it direct-to-video rather than spending money on marketing a wide release.Wakko's Wish was originally slated for its VHS release in November 1998, but was pushed back to December 31, 1999.
On August 25, 2008, Wakko's Wish was released for rental or purchase on iTunes. Wakko's Wish has also aired on cable networks such as Cartoon Network,Cinemax, Boomerang and more recently on The Hub (now Discovery Family). It is also available to download from the PlayStation Store. The film was released on DVD on October 7, 2014, shortly after the deaths of Liz Holzman in 2014 and Rusty Mills in 2012, two of the main directors of the film.
Test screenings of Wakko's Wish on children and parents revealed very positive reactions to the film. In February 1999, ToonZone reported that "97% of kids and parents gave it a review of 'highly positive'", and that "98% of children screened gave the film a rating of good, very good, or excellent".
Critical reviews for Wakko's Wish were generally mixed. Many comments of the film focused on the introduction of a serious tone to a series known for its off-the wall humor. Brett Rogers of AOL Hometown gave the film a positive review, saying that "[t]here’s a lot about this movie that will please die-hard Animaniacs fans," noting the appearances of almost all of the main characters and antagonists of the original series. Rogers pointed that the pathos not usually seen in the series may leave some Animaniacs fans distant from the film, but that the serious tone is "backed up with superb voice acting," by Paulsen and Harnell. Other reviews were not so positive. MaryAnn Johanson of FlickFilosopher wrote that "[i]mposing the kind of story and characters necessary to fill a 90-minute movie upon the Animaniacs constrains their lunacy," and that doing so left the characters boring, so much that "older kids and adult fans of the Warners et al may be sorely disappointed." Michael Stewart of Entertainment Weekly found that the lack of the typical Animaniacs humor was positive, saying that the film "avoids the forced wackiness that plagues the television series," while "deliver[ing] some laughs for both kids and adults." However, he noted a similar criticism to Johanson, saying that placing the entire Animaniacs cast into the film felt uncomfortable, and that the "[w]arm sentiments" of the film aren't the "specialty" of Animaniacs. He rated the film a "C+" overall. Michael Dequina of TheMovieReport.com gave one of the most positive reviews of the film. Praising the film's "smart, satiric in-jokes for the adults and broader slapstick for the young ones," Dequina said that the film was "one glorious example" of a family film that would appeal to the whole family, and rated the film with three and a half out of four stars.
In 2000, Wakko's Wish was nominated for four Annie Awards: One for "Outstanding Achievement in An Animated Home Video Production", one for "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Music in an Animated Feature Production" (Richard Stone, Steven Bernstein, Julie Bernstein, Gordon Goodwin & Timothy Kelly), one for "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting By a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production" (Tress MacNeille), and one for "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting By a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production" (Maurice LaMarche). Since its release, Wakko's Wish has been rated as one of the "Top 60 Animated Features Never Theatrically Released in the United States" by the Animated Movie Guide.