As someone who is perpetually trying to make it the 90s again either through science or magic, when a reboot for Animaniacs was announced my eyes widened and I filled with joy. This was THE show I would rush home from school to watch and isolate myself socially so I could enjoy these 30 minutes a day. It’s the show that helped me through literally every geography quiz I’ve ever had since it debuted and a show that spawned music that, to this day, I will hear a few notes from and suddenly the whole song is stuck in my head.
It was with that adoration for the show that I approached the new reboot with such apprehension. After all, not every reboot is worthy of the original and comes off as simply a cash grab. It was the Jurassic Park parody trailer (which also serves as the opener for the first new episode in 22 years) that immediately grabbed my attention. An iconic scene from my favorite movie injected with the humor of some of my favorite animated characters had my productivity for the day halted for two and a half minutes. The humor was perfect, the parody calls back to everything I’ve known and come to expect from the show. Simple sound effects, the pitch perfect delivery thanks to the triumphant return of the original voice cast, the style of the animation — any fear I may have had was suddenly thrown out the window. Then, Spielberg said “Welcome to Animaniacs,” the theme begins, and suddenly I wasn’t in my living room anymore: I was back on the Warner Bros. Studio Lot.
What followed was a trip into the past, but in the present day. Nearly everything about the show feels like the original. The animation style, the sound effects, the musical score, the humor, the characters, and even the songs. I have only been exposed to a few from the new episodes, but one song about the current state of reboots in Hollywood has been an earworm that has infested my brain for days at a time, similar to one from decades ago that simply listed the countries of the world.
Every reboot is a cash grab (a topic in the aforementioned musical number) but, as Wakko says, it’s okay because they know they’re doing it and that makes it cool. The meta humor that the series was known for (and is referenced in new lyrics in the theme song) is back in full force, also targeting Hollywood and political personalities as the original did while showcasing new bits and stories. It’s in the very first episode of the new series that it is stated that this “is not your dad’s Animaniacs,” while also mentioning that those same dads make up a significant part of their key demographic. This is absolutely true for the reboot, as the humor seems far more adult than the series we saw in the 90s. An anime style fight between the Warner Sibs and a Hillbilly character fighting for his right to keep bunnies (or “buns”) controlled on the Warner Bros. Lot might retain the attention of a kid, but the entire context of it is lost on them while Mom and Dad might find it absolutely hilarious. That theory is not just limited to this one entry. There are other bits that I promise will skirt the line of controversy that appeal much more to adults than the children.
The return of Pinky and The Brain has also warranted laugh out loud moments, with physical humor as well as brutal one-liners that made me hit the rewind button (something I couldn’t do after school in 1994) to catch what I missed while I was laughing. The frequency of Pinky and The Brain throughout the Animaniacs also leads me to think that this might also lead to a reboot of their own spin-off series.
Where I think the reboot struggles, and I hope that this changes over time, is that the original truly felt like an animated variety show. Different segments, different bits, different characters. The reboot is almost strictly the Warner Siblings and Pinky and the Brain. I understand the limitations of casting and availability, etc. but where are Rita and Runt? Slappy Squirrel? Mindy and Buttons? And yes, even the Goodfeathers (think of The Sopranos possibilities!) There’s no “Wheel of Morality,” there’s no “Good Idea Bad Idea.” There was one new bit that seemed to channel the Randy Beaman kid, focusing on a girl named Cindy who is unwittingly keeping an alien called Starbox against his will. Another thing I found notably absent, are the little pop-up appearances by the Warner Sibs in the other segments, almost tying the show together. In the originals, you would see them running from Ralph the Security guard quite frequently in a Pinky and the Brain or Slappy The Squirrel piece, and now they seem isolated to their own bits.
Animaniacs is just what we need right now, a satirical look at the world of today through the eyes of animation’s wackiest and zaniest characters who’ve been locked up for 22 years. For kids who grew up with a love for the show like I did, Animaniacs grew up with us and is still for us. Or, maybe we’re just older now and get the jokes we didn’t back then.
The new episodes of Animaniacs debut on Hulu November 20th.