When the FCC mandate was put into effect this spring requiring that every station run three hours of educational programming per week, at least one creative person in the kids business wasn’t bewailing the loss of creative freedom that the regulation might represent. Rather, Tom Ruegger, executive producer at Warner Bros. Television Animation and senior producer on Tiny Toons Adventures, Pinky & The Brain and Animaniacs under executive producer Steven Spielberg, sat down that day and wrote up a proposal for a show. The history-based concept he devised would develop into Kids’ WB!’s upcoming series Histeria, slated for release in fall `98.
‘I’m so excited and happy that it turned out so funny,’ says Ruegger. ‘We started out with a bunch of solid historical facts and anecdotes and the [Warner Bros.] writers and artists here are doing an incredible job of making it entertaining and brilliant.’
Ruegger was no stranger to infusing cartoons with substance. In educational episodes of Tiny Toons Adventures and Pinky & The Brain, historical and environmental topics have been touched on. Animaniacs was highlighted by the National Society of Social Studies and has joined forces with the American Red Cross on a disaster preparedness comic book in which the Animaniacs stars demonstrate life-saving techniques. Now, with the mandate in place, consultants carefully comb through each script to make sure it not only entertains but delivers facts ‘in a kid-friendly way,’ says Ruegger.
Ruegger joined Warner Bros. Television Animation in 1989, serving as senior producer and writer on several Emmy-award-winning shows. ‘I have been very spoiled by my experience working with Steven [Spielberg],’ says Ruegger. ‘I’ve had an incredible amount of creative freedom, but with that freedom comes responsibility.’ Ruegger explains that, in retrospect, there have been many opportunities to make cartoons more educational, at no cost to the entertainment value of the shows.