Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

Les Miseranimals Review (Animaniacs)

Animaniacs Volume 1 DVD ArtA review of the “Les Miseranimals” episode of the cartoon, Animaniacs, originally shown on September 27, 1993. The episode features Rita & Runt (voiced as always by Frank Welker and Bernadette Peters), and parodies the musical version of Les Misérables.

You can find the episode on Disc 3 of the Animaniacs vol.1 DVD set.

See also: Les Mis Movie Review and Les Mis 25th Anniversary Review.

Review by John Payson (reposted with permission)

WOW! If any episode deserves a 10 [or 11] it’s this one. To fully appreciate it, one needs to be familiar with the musical, but the adaptation is truly magnificent for an eleven minute piece, and it touches no less than a dozen songs from the original musical! The animation was also done well, and of course Rita was excellent as a combination Eponine/Cosette.

For those who are not especially familiar with the musical, or those who are curious as to the details of adaptation, I give below my observations about the individual songs, and other references gleaned from the text. For each song I rate the suitability of application [does the original song suit this meaning] and recognizability of the music [how well does it contain the “essence” of the original]. The names of the songs from the original are enclosed in <angle brackets>.

Numbers in asterisks represent footnote references, found at the end of this post.

Note also:
Jean Valjean = Runt Valrunt
Javert = Camembert
Eponine/Cosette = Rita
M. Thernadier = M. Tristesse [btw, tristesse = sadness]

App Music Title/Notes
8 8 Opening <Prologue>
The music conveys the right mood; in the musical Jean Valjean is paroled (and later breaks parole)
8 6 “I’ll track you down I swear” <followup to “Come to Me”>
Fairly good match, but took me awhile to place it. Original is a duet between JV and Javert
QUOTE “Welcome to the French Revolution.”
Wrong–Bzzzt–Ouch!–<Cringe> The essential part of Les Misérables took place 1815-1832. This was long after the French Revolution (1789). Not to be overly picky, but I cringed when I heard that line.
7 9 “At the end of my fork” <At the end of the day>
Clearly recognizable tune. The original discussed problems of the poor, including hunger. Not too far from this version, though different context.
QUOTE “He stole a bone.”
Jean Valjean did nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.
10 10 “Look at Rita” <Lovely Ladies>
Perfect match! Complete with the recitatives [talking about M. Tristesse’s Fat Cat souffles, etc]
10 10 “There is a flat in gay Paris” <Castle on a cloud>
Another excellent match. The original is in 5/4 instead of 4/4, but the rhythm within each line is right. Good lyric matchup as well. *1*
6 7 “Who are you/I’m Runt Valrunt” <Who am I>
The original was a soliloquy; the only line of the song recognizable was the last one, which was a dead ringer.
7 10 “Rita, Glad I found ya…/Runt, where…” <Red and Black>
The original was sung antiphonally, as was this. The music was a good match for Red and Black, but I would have selected a different song to go here. *2*
7 9 “Please don’t be upset” <A little fall of rain>
Clearly recognizable tune; in the original Eponine has just been mortally shot–this is her dying song. The second-to-last line is a dead ringer from the show.
7 10 Underscoring: “Where’s Runt Valrunt” <leadin to “On My Own”>
No lyrics, but the music is a dead ringer for the orchestral leadin to “On My Own”.
10 10 “Do you hear the poodles bark” <Do you hear the people sing>
A perfect match. In the show this is a revolutionary song, as it is here. Voice solo placement matches too.
6 10 “Dig down, Dig deep” <Look down>
The original song was a tableau of Paris *3*; the voice solo placement matches, however.
8 10 “Bitten in the gut” <Master of the House>
The original song occurs three times in the show; although never in this context, it fits very well.
10 10 Confrontation <Confrontation>
Perfect yet again! The original was a duet with voice overlap quite similar to that exhibitted here. Good lines too.
7 9 At the end of the road [reprise] <At the end of the day>
Not the same context as the musical, but it “feels” like it fits very well here.

Pretty amazing level of inclusion for an 11-minute short! There were a number of songs not touched [I had a dream, Thernadier Waltz of Treachery, Stars, In my life, A heart full of love, One day more, Drink with me, Javert’s solliloquy] but given the 16-to-1 time compression, this is to be expected.


1. First and last line of each stanza from original:

There is a castle on a cloud /
Not in my castle on a cloud.

There is a lady all in white /
She says, Cosette, I love you very much

I know a place where no one’s lost /
Not in my castle on a cloud.

2. I’d have used a near-variant on “Voila, le soir qui tombe” which is used as the leadin to “A little fall of rain” in the musical [note: this does NOT appear in the London or Broadway cast recordings] :

Good God, what are you doing? 'Ponine, have you no fear?
Have you seen my beloved? Why have you come back here?

3. Opening lyrics:

Look down and see the beggars at your feet.
Look down and show some mercy if you can.
Look down and see the sweepings of the street.
Look down, look down, upon your fellow man."

Review copyright 1993 John Payson. Originally posted on Used with permission.