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"I don’t know you. You don’t know me."
— Rita

Rita is a feisty, independent, and lovely gray and white cat who is often singing. She accompanies her best friend, Runt on their adventures to find a home.

She is voiced by actress and singer, Bernadette Peters.

Personality

Rita is an independent, funny, aloof, intelligent and sarcastic cat who is sometimes tough. However, this is a front masking a soft side of her that really longs for affection.

Rita and Runt’s main desire is to find a home, as made clear in Rita's songs, "A Place Called Home" and "Let's Try For Two". Usually, if they're both successful, the home turns out to want Rita and/or Runt for something at the expense of their lives. They either flee the home or are thrown out of it. Storytelling and humour with Rita focus on her disdain towards Runt and/or other people, though she does genuinely care about Runt. Normally, Rita is in the right due to the arrogance of the people she meets. Sometimes, Rita can get too comfortable in a new home she settles into, only to find out there’s something wrong there. She is capable of escaping situations on her own, but there are times she is saved by Runt, while she also tends to save him on occasions.

While Rita is the focus most of the time in Rita and Runt, Runt is usually the heroic one. However, there are some exceptions. In "Phranken-Runt", Runt was sucked up into a castle for his brain and his first thing to say when they were safe again (thanks to Rita, but Runt also defends her from a rat while they were escaping) was “Can we jump off the castle again? That was fun!” Rita is underwhelmed and considers Runt near brainless. She is also seen as a very capable fighter, able to take on Newt, a trained hunting dog, twice.

In opposition to Runt, who remains optimistic despite anything that happens to them, Rita very much dislikes being underestimated and mistreated, becoming very upset when infantilized by Kiki and when Ross Perot obviously favors Runt over her simply for being a dog. (However, she does still operate on a moral code, saving him when he falls into a river.) Her dislike also extends to others being mistreated, as she is furious to see Katrina abandoned and is quick to defend her from her pursuers.

Rita is often frustrated by Runt's stupidity, at first treating him with disdain and stating that once they found a home, she would leave and he was on his own, but gradually warms up to him throughout the segments, even giving him a kiss on the head in one episode, and displaying relief in seeing him when she is captured by a chef. As of the episode "Up a Tree," Rita occasionally sleeps in the hair on Runt’s forehead.

Though Rita's softer side is often hidden, it is still very much present. When she and Runt find a pair of kittens, Rita’s reaction is letting them cuddle close to her, until thoughts of parenting come to mind and she claims she wants nothing to do with them. She gets a nice lady to adopt the kittens and appears to be so sad about it, she has a tear. In "Puttin' on the Blitz", Rita and Runt are found by a little girl in the Poland Invasion. When they find the father however, Runt misses the train when he stops the Germans’ leader’s dog from hurting Rita. Rita jumps off the train and scares the dog away from Runt. Rather than mad at Runt, she expresses that she’s fond of him, showing Rita loves Runt back rather than simply view him as a nuisance. She expresses that she has grown fond of him and will either find a home with him or none at all.

Her favorite places are Monterey and Chicago. Unfortunately, she and Runt fail to get to those places, though they leave for Chicago at the end of "Up a Tree."

Rita also seems to have a poor sense of direction, often taking them several miles (and sometimes decades) outside of where they plan to go. She also is incredibly acrophobic.[1]

History

Origin

Rita’s kittenhood is unclear, just that she received disdain for getting “less adorable” the more she grow, and often punished for normal cat behaviors. She was eventually returned to the pound, and seems to have been adopted and returned multiple times; this appears to be the cause of her apathetic view on humans.[2]

Original Series

Rita is sent to the pound once more due to her owner considering her "too independent". Rita meets what appears to be another, stupider cat in the cell next to her who becomes her only friend, to the point she tells him about her kittenhood. When Rita and the “cat”, called Runt, don't get adopted, Rita decides to escape, managing to knock the bars from her window. However, Runt wants to escape too and Rita finds she’s unwilling to leave him to be put down. She returns and opens his cell, where she then learns that Runt is a dog. Runt, however, thinks Rita is also a dog (a misconception he never comes to understand) and saves her from the pound worker. Thankful for this, Rita suggests that they travel together to find a home, though she believes they'll eventually part ways.

Each Rita and Runt segment takes place in a different setting, usually following a similar formula of Rita and/or Runt believing they have found a home, only for something to turn against them and cause them to save each other and eventually leave again. The settings take place throughout different time periods and locations, though Rita and Runt seem to be under the impression they remain only in the 90s, as they continue to make pop cultural references.

Rita sometimes goes along with the “I don’t know you. You don’t know me.” plan she made at the start of her stray-life, such as when in Ancient Egypt, she got adopted by Cleopatra while Runt was taken away to help haul material for temples, and was disappointed when the palace gave them the same bed. However, she does eventually grow to love and appreciate Runt, as shown in her refusal to abandon him in "Puttin' on the Blitz" despite the opportunity to go to a good home by herself.

The main gimmick of the Rita and Runt shorts involves Rita's singing, as each segment gives her at least one song in a very broadway-style (as suited for her voice actress). As said by Runt, "You're supposed to sing. Rita always sings."[3]

Though Rita and Runt are homeless and have once invaded the Warner Bros. studio for food in "'Twas the Day Before Christmas," they are capable of joining up with the rest of the cast, though no proper interactions are ever shown except with Pinky and Pesto.

Wakko’s Wish

Rita and Runt live in the Kingdom of Warnerstock, specifically the town of Acme Falls, where they roam for a home and food. The kingdom had fallen into poverty after the throne was usurped by King Salazar, which unfortunately often leaves the strays hungry.

Upon hearing from Wakko Warner that a Wishing Star had landed, and the first to touch it would receive their wish, Rita and Runt stow away in Dr. Scratchansniff and Hello Nurse’s carriage being pulled by Phar Fignewton. Rita intends to wish for a home, while Runt is simply hoping to see Rita happy. They enjoy being in the carriage until it begins to pick up speed, causing them to be bumped and thrown around. Eventually, Buttons ends up trapped in the wagon as well, and upon realizing that Scratchansniff's elixir has become explosive, they excitedly toss a crate of it at the pursuing Baron von Plotz and Ralph. The carriage eventually crashes by the cliff, where Rita can be seen looking for Runt until he pops up beneath her in the snow, telling her that she's "definitely a good dog." Unbeknownst to them, in the crash they accidentally mixed together several liquids from the cart, helping Scratchy create what will later become his business, Scratchy Cola.

Though they are almost at the Wishing Star, everyone is captured by King Salazar, who orders them all imprisoned and the Warner siblings executed. However, the Warners manage to escape, and with the help of a distraction by Dot, Wakko Warner is able to reach the Wishing Star and wish for two ha'pennies, restarting the economy of Acme Falls.

Following these events, Rita and Runt are adopted by Scratchansniff, and they are content to be together in their new "happy home."

Reboot

In "Good Warner Hunting", Rita and Runt get imprisoned with the rest of the cast by a furious Chicken Boo after he is left out of the reboot; Yakko is the first to notice their disappearance. In the end, Rita and Runt are freed and chase Chicken Boo out of town.

In a deleted scene from "Bun Control", they appear on a poster that parodies the "Hang in there, Baby" motivational poster.

Appearances




Comic Stories

Rita and Runt

  • Mace Ventura Pet Hunter
  • The Lunch Boat

Other Segments

  • FarLap

Major Songs

In Wakko's Wish, Rita sung in "Never Give Up Hope", "Train Bringing Wakko", "So Much For Wakko's Ha'penny", "The Wishing Star (The Wish Belongs To Me)", and "If I Could Have My Wish" along the other main characters.

Triva

  • Tress MacNeille auditioned for Rita. She gave her an older, more exaggerated and aloof voice.
  • Bernadette Peters's credit appears at the bottom of the cast list when she appears, written: "And Bernadette Peters as Rita"
  • The Rita and Runt sketches were phased out after the first season of the 1993 series, as the producers had a hard time composing a song for each one and admitted it got expensive keeping Peters on the payroll. Her co-star Frank Welker, however, remained a series regular, having voiced minor characters in other sketches. However, in 2020, Tom Ruegger, one of the directors of the original show, debunked this explanation and said the true reason why the Rita & Runt segments were discontinued was because they wanted to focus more on the other characters in the show.

Gallery

Animaniacs Wiki has a collection of images related to Rita.

Sources

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