Animaniacs is officially back, and the show is already gaining a significant amount of buzz. The Warner siblings’ return to the small screen has garnered positive reviews from many critics and fans of the meta and pop culture-infused show. However, the toon is also receiving its fair share of backlash due to the presence of a Johnny Depp joke that many believed was making light of the actor’s recent court battle with ex-wife Amber Heard. Many across social media have voiced their thoughts on the matter and, now legendary voice actor Rob Paulsen (the voice behind Yakko), has provided some thoughts on the matter.
The situation specifically revolves around a background gag that depicts a cartoon version of Depp as starring in a project titled Johnny 2: Telling Lies. Many of Depp’s fans believed the show was implying that the actor is lying about the abuse claims against Amber Heard. The controversy also added fire to the hashtag, #BoycottWarnerBrothers, which was already making the rounds due to Heard’s continued involvement in the DC Extended Universe.
Aside from those who believe Animaniacs was taking a shot at Johnny Depp, there are others who believe the show was actually putting a spin on a children’s rhyme called “Johny Johny Yes Papa.” When I spoke with Rob Paulsen, he explained that the intent was to parody the poem, and he pointed out that the episode was animated well before Depp and Heard’s legal battle began:
Rob Paulsen explained to me that he learned about the controversy over the weekend through fans on social media. This encouraged him to do a bit of research to verify the validity of the producers’ intent:
The legal battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has had a somewhat polarizing effect on the public. Earlier in the month, Depp lost his libel lawsuit against The Sun, which described him as a “wife-beater.” Ultimately, the court ruled that the recorded evidence justified the publication’s claims. Shortly after, Warner Bros. asked the actor to resign from his role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. This, paired with Amber Heard’s work with WB, caused even more friction between supporters of Depp and those of Heard. Considering all of this, Paulsen finds it “interesting” how the public can read into the episode and “co-opt” the content based on the sides they’ve taken:
While he has gotten feedback from folks across the internet, Paulsen does not believe he’s getting the bulk of the complaints. He also provided some thoughts on who he thinks is taking issue with the joke the most:
Ultimately, the veteran actor explained that when it comes to Depp and Heard’s situation, he would “wish them both the best,” and he also stressed that the cast and crew of Animaniacs never intended to poke fun at their situation:
The first season of the Animaniacs revival is currently streaming on Hulu and features Rob Paulsen’s stellar performances as Yakko and Pinky of Pinky and the Brain.
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