After being absent from our TV screens for over two decades, Animaniacs is finally back, and the Warner siblings are back to their old ways. While the reboot has been making headlines for a few of its jokes, the show has received mostly positive reviews from fans and critics alike. Some may still be wondering if the show is actually clever enough for modern audiences, but voice actor Rob Paulsen firmly believes that it has plenty to offer newer viewers.
Animaniacs first jumped onto the scene in a big way in 1993, which was because the show was self-referential in a way that many other animated series of the era weren’t. Although the series offered plenty of cartoon hi-jinks, it also dove headfirst into the pop culture ethos to parody numerous titans of entertainment. Whether it be TV shows like Rugrats or Seinfeld or films like Beauty and the Beast and Goodfellas, nothing was off the table for the Steven Spielberg-produced show.
Voiceover legend Rob Paulsen, who lends his voice to Yakko and Pinky of the Pinky and the Brain segments, has gotten to see the impact of the show firsthand. And when I had the opportunity to speak with him, he told me that he loves that the show’s meta humor appeals to both young and older audiences:
What I loved about the show is that we were very hip, sacred cows, none of which were off limits. We got away with very clever jokes that would entertain kids, but parents would say, ‘I want to watch this.’
Ahead of the reboot’s debut, many wondered if the show would be just as irreverent as its predecessor, and if you’ve had the chance to see it, then you know that it hits the mark. When it comes to the show’s meta humor, Paulsen believes viewers don’t need to look any further than the opening theme:
Here's how hip the new show is. In the opening title, the melody of which is the same, they very cleverly had the animation and the lyrics from the first episode in 1993. ‘It's time for Animaniacs…’ Then it cuts to the animation, which is a little bit more streamlined, a little hipper for the times, etc, etc. Here are the part of the new lyrics in the opening theme, ‘Gender balance, pronoun neutral and ethnically diverse. The trolls all say that were passé, but we did did meta first. We’re Animaniacs…’ Right away, Hip, young people get that we were meta first. And it's reflected in the opening title. And you know what? It’s true.
You honestly can’t get much more meta than that, and it’s a true testament to the writers and producers. The show is filled with clever pop culture nods that younger viewers are sure to know. Paulson personally loves the fact that fans get to see hilarious moments like Pinky yelling, "Leeroy Jenkins!!" He credits the creatives for keeping the show “hip” and for not being afraid to even be self-deprecating:
We're already prepared for people to take the piss out of us. Right away, we're self-aware. Right away, we lampoon ourselves. We say, ‘Yeah, we're doing a reboot because you got a pile of money and nobody gives a damn, it's all about the money.’ Of course, it isn't about the money, but the fact that Wellesley Wild, Steven Spielberg, their crew gets the zeitgeist and that it’s changed is pretty hip.
Rob Paulsen and the rest of the cast and crew deserve a lot of credit for taking the classic show and masterfully updating it for a new generation of viewers. In this age of remakes and reboots, revamped content can be hit or miss and, so far, Animaniacs is proving to be a hit.
The Animaniacs reboot is available to stream on Hulu.