Original songs were a signature element of “Animaniacs, ” and now fans will have the opportunity to hear the music live.


Rob Paulsen, who voiced Yakko Warner, Pinky, and Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, has been assembling “Animaniacs Live!” alongside series songwriter Randy Rogel over the past four years, fine-tuning it around Los Angeles and at conventions.


“'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and The Brain' have really stood the test of time, and a big part of that is the music, said Paulsen. “Last year we were able to secure a deal with Warner Bros. Licensing, and that allowed us to, with Warner Bros.' blessing, go on the road using animation and songs.”


The stage show officially debuted in St. Paul, and was followed up with shows in La Mirada, California, and Pittsburgh. Future stops include  Tuscon, Long Island, Seattle and Arlington, Texas.


Paulsen and Rogel have designed the show to be flexible and able to accommodate venues of different sizes. When the duo hit Pittsburgh, they will provide attendees with around two hours of music and stories of how 'Animaniacs' was put together, how the songs were written, and segments and songs that didn't make the original cut.


“What we are essentially doing is sowing a lot of seeds because we have done the show with symphonies, and we would like to do that a lot more, so hopefully we can come back around and do it with the Pittsburgh Symphony or the Philadelphia Symphony. We get 600-800 people to come out, and they'll have a lot of fun, and that can help make in-roads to open the doors to symphonies.”


“Symphonies are used to doing classical music, and that's their thing. When they want to do a show for families or kids, they do the music of Harry Potter or Star Wars or Frozen, but what's different with us, is that here you have the people who actually wrote and performed the songs and not a tribute.”


Many of the Warners' songs from the series covered educational topics in lighthearted ways and the live show features tweaks and additions to some of the songs to cover real-world developments.


“The one song that I get asked to do more than any other is 'Yakko's World.' It's a great two-minute cartoon that still holds up well, but the world has changed. We include in our show a new lyric that numerates all the countries that have sprung up since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the song was written in 1993.”


“'Variety Speak,' which is about the Hollywood newspaper that talks about everything happening in Hollywood, and that has changed, so we tweaked that a little bit.” The show also includes Q & A sessions, and fans are often treated to songs that didn't make it into the original episodes.


“Often, we can play songs that didn't make the cut, and they're pretty dang good. And you kind of go, 'How did that song not make it?,' and that just fuels the fire about what an interesting show this has become. Any one of these cut songs could stand on their own.”


Paulsen's prolific career has also seen him lend his voice to Raphael in the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series, and play Donatello in the current series, Carl Wheezer in “Jimmy Neutron” and PJ in “Goof Troop,” among many others. Voice acting is a largely anonymous profession, especially in the past, but with the rise of pop culture conventions, Paulsen was able to connect with his fans and get a better scope of his work's impact.


“What's crazy is I could be in a restaurant or any social situation, and when people find out who I am and what I do, all it does is make everybody smile, whether they know 'Animaniacs' or 'Turtles' or 'Jimmy Neutron', they know something I've worked on. It is a genuinely beautiful response. If I say, 'Narf!' or 'Hello, Nurse!' or 'Turtle Power,' it's the most beautiful response, and I love it.”


“I'm in a really great sweet spot, where I'm young enough to travel around and still work regularly, but I'm old enough to have been around, so I have two generations of people who enjoy the characters that I've been fortunate enough to work on, let alone all of my other buddies. It has been a huge gift and a really lovely surprise.”


“I was almost the victim of my own ageism because when I got the call to audition for the latest version of 'Ninja Turtles' on Nickelodeon, my first reaction was, 'Gosh, do they know who I am?' not out of arrogance, but because after we did the original 'Ninja Turtles' run of about 200 episodes—and Turtles has always been around in some permutation—they didn't use the original actors, which I understand, a new producer gets ahold of it, and they want to put their own stamp on it. When they called me, I didn't want to go into an audition at Nickelodeon, and have them say, “Oh right, you were Raphael, well, you're here already...' I just didn't want it to be embarrassing.”


“I got a call back right away, and being fairly anonymous, I had forgotten that a lot of people who were watching this stuff have grown up and now they're in charge. The response from Nickelodeon was, 'No, we know exactly who you are. We know that you were Pinky, and that you were Raphael. You've been doing 'Fairly Oddparents' and 'Jimmy Neutron' and 'Danny Phantom' for Nickelodeon for years. We just think you would be great for Donatello, if you don't mind reading for it.' It was a really great learning experience for me.”


In a career spanning over 30 years, and still going, Paulsen has played hundreds of characters in over 400 series and films. Even from the start, he knew 'Animaniacs' was something special.


“When I go to work, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I get paid to essentially do what got me in trouble in high school. I've had a wonderful career, and I'm still working and developing new stuff, but when Animaniacs came around, I remember saying to Tress MacNeille, who was Dot, and also Babs Bunny and has done over 600 episodes of 'The Simpsons,' she was Mom on 'Futurama,' I remember saying to her, 'We've got to take a picture of this because this is as good as it gets, we've got all this great music, great writers, Steven Spielberg, 40-piece orchestra for every half-hour—this just doesn't happen.'


“I think that the genius of Tom Ruegger and Steven Spielberg is really borne out 20 years later because of all the choices that were made in writing and producing Animaniacs, and putting together a product that did not condescend to the audience, they knew that if they played their cards right, it would still be relevant many years later. We knew how hip it was, but nothing proves your point like time.”