After 22 years, it’s time [again] for Animaniacs…
If you’re familiar with those words, the theme song is probably already in your head.
By rebooting Animaniacs for the next generation, Hulu has revived one of the true classic animated series of the mid-90s. For those who are unfamiliar, Animaniacs followed the antics of the Warner Brothers Wakko and Yakko and the Warner Sister Dot as they wreak cartoon havoc on the lives of those on the Warner Bros. Studio Lot. (In an interesting twist, even though the series takes place on the WB Lot, it’s being released on Disney-owned Hulu.) Produced by Steven Spielberg, the show features a wide variety of characters including fan favourites Pinky and the Brain and was designed to mimic the classic Chuck Jones Looney Tunes shorts from the WB Vault that enthusiastically embraced cartoon violence and chaos but also carried a satirical edge.
Originally airing from 1993-1998, Animaniacs began as a spin-off of WB’s Tiny Toon Adventures (which has also recently announced its own reboot of sorts). At its peak, the show’s energy was always augmented with a subversive wit that made it one of the first true daytime series to appeal to both adults and children. (In fact, believe it or not, Animaniacs was one of the first examples of internet fandom culture as adults would congregate online to discuss the show’s satire and even create fan fiction.)
So, if you’re ‘pondering what I’m pondering’, the answer is that the reboot still works well after all these years. Fueled by its continuously ‘totally insane-y’ antics, the series maintains the vigour of the original series. What’s interesting about this particular incarnation is that the series really doubles down on the pop culture and sarcasm. While the original incarnation always included references to larger ideas, the reboot touches on political issues as often as possible, ranging from Russian surveillance on US culture and bizarre political parties to an unabashed celebration of the 90s. Though it’s not uncommon for animated fare to leave content in that will reach the parents, Animaniacs fully understands that those most excited about the series’ return are the adults themselves. As a result, there may be many moments where younger viewers struggle to fully understand what’s going on.
Unlike other animated fare from the House of Mouse, Animaniacs has never really been interested in promoting any particular family values. Instead, the Warner Bros (and Warner Sister) are more excited about lampooning as much about the current state of the world as they can. Pinky and the Brain’s constant attempts to ‘take over the world’ prove as opportunities to subtly speak to larger cultural issues such as our addiction to the internet or the political image. In this way, the series has always garnered attention for its willingness to make people aware of cultural issues, even if they’re doing so with a sardonic wink.
So, thankfully, it’s refreshing to say that the series doesn’t show too many signs of rust as the enthusiasm and bite of the series translates well in 2020. Acutely self-aware that they’ve been off the air for over 20 years, Animaniacs frequently acknowledges the many cultural changes that have taken place over the last two decades. (The rebooted theme song even pronounces that they’re ‘gender-balanced, neutral-pronouned and ethnically diverse’.) As a result, with fire and fuel, Animaniacs seems prepared once again to do the same thing that they’ve done every season, ‘try to take over the world.
Animaniacs is available on Hulu on November 20th, 2020.