Animaniacs’ Jess Harnell And Tress MacNeille Explain Why They’re Both ‘Proud’ Of The Franchise’s Legacy Ahead Of Hulu Revival’s Final Season

Nearly 30 years ago, Animaniacs premiered on Fox Kids, and it introduced viewers of all ages to the Warner siblings as well as other fun characters like Pinky and the Brain. The Steven Spielberg-produced animated series became a smash hit, garnering high ratings and critical acclaim before it was cancelled after five seasons in 1998. Yakko, Wakko, Dot and co. would return in 2020 via Hulu’s equally lauded revival, which is now set to end with its third season. It’s only natural that the actors would be reflective as they prepare to say goodbye to their characters again. On that token, cast members Tress MacNeille and Jess Harnell took some time to explain why they’re “proud” of the franchise’s legacy.

Jess Harnell and Tress MacNeille have countless voice-acting credits to their names, but one could argue that they’re most famous for breathing wacky life into Wakko and Dot, respectively. Having played the characters for so long, they’ve become quite attached to their off-the-wall alter egos. I had the pleasure of speaking with the veteran performers ahead of Animaniacs Season 3’s premiere, and we covered a few topics. Of course, I couldn’t help but get their thoughts on the shared legacy of both shows. When answering, Harnell offered up a very sweet take:

[It’s] that we made people happy and that hopefully, we continue to do that, man. Because the way I look at it is the world is more conflicted now than it was when we did this 30 years ago. So anything that brings people a little bit of levity, a little bit of happiness to their day, I could not be prouder to be part of, and hopefully, through the joy of reruns and streaming, you can watch these things forever and ever.

Joy is probably one of the first words that comes to mind when most people think about this franchise. Both series practically ooze positivity (even though there's a small dose of playful cynicism baked into the proceedings.) As Jess Harnell pointed out, the show has brought plenty of enjoyment to viewers over these past few decades, and I can’t think of a better legacy than that. Tress MacNeille is also pleased with the reception she and her colleagues have received but really takes pride in what the TV property established from a production standpoint:

The quality of the Animaniacs is something that we're very proud of – the look of it, the sound of it, you know, the orchestration... Everything about it was first class, and so that's something that you'd be very proud of. I mean, you look at other cartoons that might not be as nice to look at or listen to, but these [episodes] are classic. And so I think that they'll be with us and be around for a long, long time. That’s what I hope, anyway.

There are only a handful of animated series from the ‘90s that were able to match the production values at that time. As Tress MacNeille so astutely pointed out, the art was gorgeous, and the sound design was impressive. (The latter was on display in a big way during those catchy educational songs.) Much of this can probably be attributed to the creative touch of Steven Spielberg – who’s pretty skilled at crafting quality productions, as we all know. 

The Hulu series follows that grand tradition, as it’s beautifully animated and well-scored. Of course, its writing is just as sharp as its predecessor’s, as it offers clever pop culture-infused commentary for the modern viewer. That includes a plethora of edgy jokes like Season 1’s polarzing Johnny Depp pun. These elements and others definitely make up the franchise’s illustrious legacy, and it’s certainly something to be proud of. I’m confident that audiences will continue to enjoy these installments for years to come and, if we’re lucky, this won’t be the last time that Tress MacNeillle, Jess Harnell and their co-stars portray their beloved characters. 

The third and final season of Animaniacs debuts on Friday, February 17 as part of the 2023 TV schedule. If you need to catch up beforehand, grab a Hulu subscription so that you can binge the first two seasons.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.