When I was writing this column on warrior attacks, I noticed that a lot of players who don't play warriors came in to comment on their animations. I specifically noticed druids (especially feral/guardian druids), and rogues commenting. This got me to thinking if part of the problem is that the monk class really exposed a vulnerability. It's easier to see that your character model isn't keeping up with new racial choices like the goblins, worgen and pandaren - you can just see one standing next to you in Org/SW or a raid/dungeon/scenario. But to notice that your animations aren't keeping up with the new hotness, you have to see the new hotness. And it can be hard to notice what someone's attacks are like when you're focusing on your own.
Now, of course, the argument could be made that WoW's animations are pretty good. Making a change simply for change's sake would be a diversion of resources. But it seems to me that, with all the talk about updating character models, there's at least some room to discuss updating our attacks as well. Most classes use the chosen race's special attacks (you can see what they are by using a model viewer program, or Wowhead's model viewer) with specific ones like Dragon Stomp, Special1h, Special2h, and so on.
Each race has a directed spell case, a omnidirectional spell cast, reactions to various effects like drowning, being strangled. These animations have been expanded over the years as new abilities have been added - it would be a mistake to think World of Warcraft is using the exact same animations it had when the game launched. A great deal of work has already gone into the art assets for character animations, especially as new races and classes have expanded the game.
These animations are often made more distinctive by the addition of spell effects - for example, a paladin using Divine Storm and a warrior using Whirlwind use the same basic attack animation, but the paladin's attack incorporates spell elements of the Holy Light and glowing hammers whirling around him to make his attack distinct from the warrior. The question becomes, is that enough? And do we need class specific animations, or simply more animations across the board?
Honestly, I advocate a mix of the two approaches. I think we should probably have each class get at least one animation only that class uses, potentially for a new ability that will help up the class distinctiveness, but I also feel a couple of new specials per race would help as well. I'm not heedless of how animations have expanded over the years, so I don't think the system needs a total revamp the way some argue for character models. I just think that, after seeing the monk in action, we could all use a bit of polish to try and catch up. Something as simple as the unique draenei ranged weapon and staff/polearm animations (I love watching the draenei flip that stick around) tailored to each race, so that as an example, orcs had a specific special animation they used with axes and daggers (with or without offhands, so that caster orcs still did it) or humans with swords and hammers, something personal to each race.
Visual flair is surprisingly important to players, and it extends past how they look in their gear, it also includes how they look in play. I think a focus on adding some new elements in whatever the next expansion turns out to be could definitely benefit the game, especially if it provided some individuality per class or racial choice.