Mental Floss has an excellent article up about the development of Animaniacs after talking with Tom Ruegger, the shows executive producer and creator.
I was fortunate enough to work for Tom on Tiny Toons, Tazmania, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain as well as Histeria, first as a character layout artist and then as a director, and I still count them as some of my very best years in the industry.
We interviewed Tom Ruegger years ago and you can read that interview here.
From the site:
One idea Spielberg suggested was to make the popular Tiny Toons character Plucky Duck the star of the new show. Meanwhile, Ruegger had been developing characters based on the personalities of his three young sons. These two concepts were combined to create three brother ducks. However, the team soon realized that, between Disney’s Donald Duck, DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, and Warner Bros.’ own Daffy Duck, there were already plenty of animated waterfowl on the market. Spielberg agreed, but said they needed to come up with “a big marquee name” to help sell the show.
Ruegger was inspired by the large “WB” logo on the water tower at the Warner Bros. studio. He proposed a group of siblings drawn in an animation style reminiscent of anthropomorphized animal characters from the 1930s, and called them the Warner Brothers. Although they have dog-like characteristics, the exact type of animal the Warners are meant to be is unknown. According to the show bible – a book filled with background information for the creative team on a TV show – their species is labeled as “Cartoonus Characterus.”
For a brief period, there were four Warner siblings—Yakky, Smakky, Wakky, and little sister, Dot. As the studio artists honed the designs, Yakky became Yakko, and Smakky and Wakky were melded into Wakko. After getting clearance from the Warner estate to use the family name, the show was off and running.
We also interviewed the multi-talented Bob Doucette who did all those cool posters above (and in the article). Bob was my producer on Histeria while I was directing on it. Bob was one of our very first interviews on Animation Insider, and you can read his interview here!