TV Review: The 2020 Hulu reboot series “Animaniacs” brings back on the “totally insane-y” for old and new fans alike

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer 

In the age of old TV shows getting reboots, nothing seems safe from the hands of nostalgia and money-driven revivals of classic shows. 

Released on Nov. 20th, 2020, one of the most recent reboots to grace our streaming services is Steven Spielberg’s “The Animaniacs.” Hulu has ordered two new seasons of this beloved children’s TV show 22 years after the show’s original finale in 1998.  

The original “Animaniacs” primarily followed the Warner Siblings—including brothers Yakko and Wakko, and their sister Dot —as they wreak havoc on the Warner Bros. set, introducing other recurring characters and their comedy sketches for that episode. 

However, as of season one of the 2020 reboot, the only characters present are the Warner Siblings, and Pinky and the Brain, the tale of two genetically engineered mice who try to take over the world every day. Though, as hinted at in one of the reboot’s episodes, other sketches and characters may return in the second season. 

Fans of the original should be pleased to find that the show’s original formula and sense of humor has not changed much. The animation style is nearly the same, though far more polished than the original, and the show still makes jabs at pop culture, such as the Brain’s usage of Instagram to achieve world domination. Even the original voice actors from the 1990s have reprised their old roles. This revival relies heavily on the nostalgia of old fans and commentary on our current way of life. 

“With Steven Spielberg —who apparently attended every pitch himself —returning as executive producer and [all] the main cast reprising their roles, it seems the series will also be maintaining its characteristic zaniness,” The Verge writer Kait Sanchez said when discussing the trailer prior to the show’s release.  

“This includes humor aimed more at adults than children, often in the form of cultural and political parody. You’ll notice the appearance of a particularly orange-tinted cyclops in the trailer,” she said.

The humor of “The Animaniacs” revival relies heavily on parody and meta humor, often taking jabs at itself. 

For example, as Yakko said, completely decked out in Hulu merch, “Reboots are symptomatic of a fundamental lack of originality in Hollywood.” The siblings said that they embrace being sell-outs because at least they are honest about it. 

The original show never held back in its parody of celebrities, politicians, and the strangeness of societal norms and the reboot is not any different. From thin and bizarre allegories about gun control —replacing guns with bunnies —in a sketch titled “Bun Control,” to its depictions of infamous politicians such as President Donald Trump, “The Animaniacs” does not mince words when commenting about our current political climate. 

However, this has created contention for some fans who feel that the humor regarding politics in “The Animaniacs” is too heavy handed or lacking the zany qualities the original show possessed. 

“Yakko, Wakko, and Dot now face the familiar conundrum of how to parody a culture that has become a parody of itself after 22 years straight of being locked up in that Warner Bros. studio water tower,” NPR reporter Aisha Harris said in her review of the show. 

Harris also comments on how the show lacks variety in its segments, since the show has not yet brought back its other beloved characters, like Slappy the Squirrel and the Goodfeathers. While Pinky and the Brain and the Warner Siblings are enjoyable to watch, they cannot carry the show on their own. 

“There’s no word yet on what other beloved Animaniacs characters and features can also be expected to make a fresh appearance, but if the Wheel of Morality doesn’t show up, we can only imagine the terrible consequences it might have for a whole generation of children’s souls,” AV Club writer William Hughes said. 

Ultimately, I found the show enjoyable and refreshing, especially as someone who used to watch the show when they were younger; it got more than a few chuckles out of me. Its “Looney-Tunes”- style of animation and its meta humor were enough to keep me watching for several hours.

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