Animaniacs was a 90s phenomenon unlike any other. The show stood out among other Saturday morning cartoons of its era with its distinct sense of humor. It was able to sneak a lot of adult jokes past the censors with its use of double entendres. It was able to appeal to both kids and adults alike for that reason, as kids wouldn’t get that humor but the adults would love it.
The show lasted until 1998, when it left the air due to Warner Brothers failing to market the show properly, aiming it at kids when it was also drawing in an adult audience to their WB Kids network. This left the show in a weird position where WB failed to understand Animaniacs’ appeal and only saw it as a kids show. Unfortunately this left it rather unpopular with the network and it was eventually taken off the air when Pokémon became popular.
22 years later we’re finally given a continuation of the show. Hulu has picked up the rights to distribute the show this time, so now the show can both gain a new audience with kids and adults who watched the original show back in the day. Will the show recapture the magic of the original, or is it something else entirely? The answer is a bit complicated, so let’s get to it.
Reboots And The Problem With Nostalgia
One thing that becomes immediately clear upon watching the reboot is how much everything is the same, yet how everything has simultaneously changed. We’re no longer in 1998, and the show which always lacked any 4th wall, is totally aware of this. Animaniacs was always a show that made fun of current pop culture, so what’s there to make fun of in 2020?
What watching the reboot reminded me of was just how different the world is today and how strange it feels to have it referenced in this show that still retains the same aesthetic, voice actors and style of humor it had in the 90s. Animaniacs has rebooted itself retaining pretty much everything iconic about the show. Even down to the same animation.
It ends up feeling a bit anachronistic before long to have the Warners talk about drones, memes, current political events, and phone app crazes in a show that is so synonymous with the 90s. Though this is hardly a fault of the show itself. The Warners themselves wake up in a different time and themselves feel a bit out of touch. It adds another dimension to the satire when you get the feeling it’s done by characters who feel a bit out of touch with the world like a lot of us do.
The Same, But Not The Same
There are some things sorely missing from the reboot however. A lot of the segments from the original are inexplicably not included. Button and Mindy, Elmira and Max, the Goodfeathers, Rita and Runt, even Slappy the Squirrel is nowhere to be seen. The only parts of the show that have been carried over are the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain segments. It leaves the new show feeling a bit emptier.
I also feel that a lot of the humor in the new show is very political. There are jabs at Trump and the elections. And even a segment of Pinky and the Brain where Brain attempts to take over the world by becoming president, only to witness his chosen first lady Julia become more popular. The new season feels distinctly more aimed at adults, with a darker and more mature tone overall.
A lot of it feels aimed at the people who most likely grew up with the original show. People who are now in their late 20s or early 30s like myself. With references to anime as well as self-referential jokes, the show knows that its core audience is still there. But like the characters themselves, we are older and not children anymore.
As a result, Animaniacs in 2020 has darker jokes, makes you feel more for the characters, and takes far more risks than the original show ever did. At times it borders on becoming cringe, such as an entire segment making fun of Russia. I didn’t find that segment particularly entertaining and more just stereotyping Russians and making fun of Putin. I’m not sure who it appeals to.
Unique And Hilarious
That being said, while the show may lack a lot of the variety it originally had, a lot of it works for it too. The smaller scope allows the show to explore the Warners as well as Pinky and the Brain to a larger extent than before. We’re also getting some original content that doesn’t feel out of place in the show. In a lot of ways, the reboot had me feeling a lot more mixed emotions than the original show.
It was the first time I actually felt genuinely invested in the plot of the show. And the show is still amazingly funny. The animation wouldn’t look out of place in the original and feels completely on point. And the voice acting just feels natural and spot on.
Heck, it even had me genuinely feeling disgust for the Brain. A character that had always been more of a failure was suddenly becoming a legit villain. The episode with Julia stood out to me because of this reason. I won’t spoil anything but this episode truly had me realizing how egotistical Brain is.
So needless to say, the writing is some of the best I’ve seen. Aside from a few segments that didn’t quite land, the writing overall is darker, more diverse and still as witty as the original. And in this day and age, we need a show like Animaniacs. Not just to remind us how silly times we live in, but that there is still a need for shows that appeal to both adults and children.
An Absolute Blast
One thing is for sure, the revival of Animaniacs is one of the best reboots we’ve seen. It updates what needed to be updated, which was bringing the show to our age. But the characters are the same, the music is the same and still using a large orchestra, the animation is the same, and the humor is very much the same.
If you’ve missed Animaniacs, you have no reason to anymore. The first season is now up on Hulu and there’s already a second season coming in 2021. We can only hope that there will be more after that. Because if this first season is anything to go by, this is a show that has the potential to become huge again.
So welcome back Yakko, Wakko and Dot. It’s time for Animaniacs!
What do you think of the reboot and our review? Let us know in the comments!
Animaniacs 2020 Reboot
The reboot brings back everything we loved about Animaniacs. Albeit with a few sacrifices.
- The animation is still as good as it was in the 90s
- The music and voice acting feels perfect
- The writing is darker and more adult
- Self-aware and extremely funny
- Lacks a lot of the original segments
- At times the political humor can get too much
- Hulu exclusive