Lately I’ve had way too many Animaniacs songs stuck in my head, thanks to the recent addition of the 90s hit cartoon to Netfilx. All of the songs are sharp and catchy and that’s why Animaniacs won both Emmys and Peabody awards. But the “Nations of the World” song is still the most popular, most remembered. And in my case the one that is still stuck in my head. Aside from cartoons I was always fascinated with geography so this song stuck with me over the years but I’ve wondered about the accuracy. Some nations were left off while some other small mistakes were made here and there. Lets give this song a closer look.
Facts and Trivia:
The Nations of the World was sung by the voice actor for Yakko Warner, Rob Paulsen, who would later go on to voice Pinky from Pinky and the Brain. Interestingly later on in a nod to this song Brain derides Pinky’s stupidity and asks him if there is in fact anything that he does know, Pinky replies, “I know all the words to ‘Yakko’s World’ as they are both voiced by the same actor.
Paulsen’s rendition has been so popular that he often sings the entire song at conventions without missing a beat or dropping a country. But few people realize that the song was written by a person from another one of the WB’s other hit shows of the 90s, Batman the Animated series. Randy Rogel had wanted to work on the more whimsical and musical Animaniacs but no one at Warner Bros thought he could do it, he didn’t much experience with comedy. But at the time Rogel’s son was studying geography for school and Rogel was struck by how easily the North American countries rhymed with each other. Despite Rogel’s writing talents and enthusiasm for the song there were a few omissions and errors that creeped in to it. It’s still an amazing little song but lets take a closer look at those mistakes.
The most glaring omissions are the absence of all of the Soviet Bloc countries; Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan, to name a few. The reason for this was simple. The song was written just before the fall of the USSR. And though Animaniacs aired nearly two years after these nations came to be, animation has a long lead time, much longer than a live action show. You write it, draw it, voice it, do the music and so on. All of this has to be done in sequence, one after the other. Commonly it can take a year or so from start to finish. So when the song aired there was just Russia.
There really is no good reason to have left South Africa off the list of nations, especially when the smaller nation of Lesotho was in the song. Interestingly Lesotho is land locked by South Africa. The same with Swaziland, both of who’s history’s are closely tied to South Africa. Its something similar to Indian reservations in North America except Lesotho and Swaziland have complete autonomy despite being surrounded on all sides by South Africa. These two little nuggets of state hood curiosity are hard to examine without first looking to South Africa history. This by far the most damning omission, very inconsistent of Yakko. Yakko is going to have to take an F for is geography grade.
United Arab Emirates
Another lesser known country was left out, United Arab Emirates. U.A.E. It’s considered to be the business center of the Gulf States. Its capitol, Abu Dhabi, is considered to be at the heart of commerce and is often referred to as the Venice of the Middle East. Many of its buildings and business tend to be state of the art and look way ahead of its time. So much so that many movies choose to shoot there including the up and coming Star Trek Beyond. It’s a slight omission, I hope Yakko didn’t mean anything by it, the little rascal.
The Holy See is technically its own nation, it maintains diplomatic ties with many nations. All despite only occupying a small part of Rome itself that is in fact a part of the nation of Italy. There are a few reasons for this but mainly it’s a clever way of having a separation of church and state, one that isn’t exactly duplicated elsewhere. It’s so tiny and not many people know it is its own nation so I can’t blame Yakko too much.
The song also leaves off many of the small Oceanic countries, ones with small land masses and tiny populations. Leaving micro nations like Samoa or Tonga off but this is understandable as many people can’t find these on the map. But they could’ve been easy to rhyme in the song. Sorry tiny micro nations
Wales and Scotland
Oddly enough the Yakko highlights the United Kingdom in the song but sings out Britain. Lumping Scotland, Wales, and Britain together. Interestingly Yakko does have Scotland by itself though to be consistent he should have used the United Kingdom. Hey let’s face the U.K. is complicated for some people, especially monkey dog like cartoon creatures. It’s a minor error that a lot of Americans would make I’m sure. I guess we can forgive Yakko for this to and it makes William Wallace happy I’m sure.
Yakko’s nation song repeatedly makes mistakes in regard to territories. San Juan is mentioned twice , presumably to represent Puerto Rico when in fact it’s a territory of the United States. Puerto Rico is rather happy to be one I might add as they continually vote to decline independence. The same for Guam in the pacific. Transylvania is mentioned twice but is actually apart of Romania, though this is understandable as Bram Stroker’s Dracula made this region famous. However the largest error by square mileage would be Greenland which belongs to small nation of Denmark, mainly because no one else wants it I guess. Lots of snow and cold, no thanks, Denmark can just keep Greenland. Hong Kong is also sung but it was actually a territory of the United Kingdom at the time and hadn’t been returned to China until 1999. It was never its own nation.
For naming purposes several nations were used twice, Benin, Algeria, and Romania. The territory of Puerto Rico is mentioned twice as well when San Juan is called. Well I suppose its better than making up fictional countries, Yakko would try to sneak over something like this on us if we let him. Nothing wrong with this Yakko, no demerits for him technically.
I’d still have to give Yakko an A+ if anything but for tenacity. Setting out to sing all the nations in the world is an epic undertaking. Making it all fun and catchy is the quite the accomplishment. Most importantly it helped to make geography fun and interesting to children, and I was one of those kids. When so many other cartoons where silly and immature Animaniacs occasionally could show that nerdy stuff was okay and it was even a little fun to. For that I’m willing to overlook a lot, even the occasionally error and omissions. Sorry South Africa and U.A.E., maybe you’ll make the updated version of the song if there is one. (fingers crossed)
With the Animaniacs now on Netflix, are you looking to do a rewatch of the classic cartoon? Comment below with your thoughts!