One of the most beloved '90s animated series made its long-awaited return over the weekend, with Hulu's Animaniacs revival being embraced by generations old and new. Of course, not everyone has been so enthused by the Warner Bros. project's return, and a sizable backlash has developed against Animaniacs' new episodes thanks to a Johnny Depp visual gag that sparked renewed vigor in #BoycottWarnerBrothers corresponding to Depp's lengthy court case with ex Amber Heard, who will soon be seen in WB's miniseries Zack Snyder's Justice League for HBO Max.
Beyond the "boycott" hashtag, #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has also gotten a boost in recent days since the Animaniacs revolt began (which was actually first kicked off by the Depp reference showing up in a trailer). Below is one of many social media posts slamming Warner Brothers and Animaniacs for what is being perceived as a joke making light of the alleged abuse that Depp suffered in his relationship with Amber Heard.
The kickback here involves Johnny Depp's cartoonish visage – complete with an Edward Scissorhands reference – being part of a project dubbed Johnny 2: Telling Lies, which people on the Internet are taking to literally mean that the show is calling Depp a liar about his abuse claims against Amber Heard. To be sure, those who are voicing their complaints against Warner Brothers aren't necessarily anti-Animaniacs in general, though the show's overtly pop-culture-heavy nature seems to be a double-edged sword in this case. Below is one fan who can look past enjoying the revival in order to disagree with the joke's perceived purpose.
And then some potential viewers were immediately turned away when they caught wind of the Johnny Depp joke's existence.
Some viewers claimed that the visual gag wasn't a reference to Johnny Depp's legal issues at all, but rather was a joke about the children's nursery rhyme-turned-meme by the name of "Johny, Johny Yes Papa" (or some another similar title), which was popular in 2018 at the time the Animaniacs episodes were written. Here's how one Twitter user put it:
...It's a reference to the 'Johny Johny Yes Papa' meme. The joke was written in 2018. Very unfortunate timing, but joke was not about the abuse allegations.
That particular ditty is basically about a boy lying to his grandpa about eating sugar and other things, so it matches up with the Johnny Depp gag, which is immediately followed by a poster of a toddler "Johnny" as if it were a prequel to the other. Even if there were nothing but the most earnest and honest intentions going into crafting this joke, it's still a sign that long-term animation productions probably shouldn't parody of-the-moment pop culture standouts. And as this user put it, the editors could have easily replaced the Depp reference with something else to completely avoid anyone assuming the show is taking a stance on the Depp/Heard debate.
Johnny Depp was dealt a major (and to-be-appealed) blow in early November when his libel lawsuit against The Sun for its "wife-beater" description didn't go in his favor, with the court reasoning that all of the recorded evidence of abuse presented from Depp and Amber Heard's relationship made the Sun's claim acceptable enough. In the aftermath of the verdict, Disney reportedly requested that Depp step down from his role in future Fantastic Beasts movies, which obviously also angered his biggest fans. (There's also petitions out there to get him to return to the Pirates franchise.) The fact that Heard is still working with Warner Bros. on presumably both Zack Snyder's Justice League and the still-in-development sequel to Aquaman has been more fuel for Depp's fanbase to get riled up about, and I don't think anyone expected Animaniacs to factor into the next chapter of this story.
Animaniacs' revival is currently streaming its first season on Hulu right now, and there are plenty of other pop culture gags that aren't at the center of fanbase-fueled backlashes. Stay current with our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring 2021 premiere guide to see what new and returning shows are on the way soon.