Animaniacs was a popular and critically acclaimed animated show from the 90s that was beloved by children and adults alike. It even spawned one of the earliest internet-based fandom cultures. As Hollywood likes to do, the series received a reboot hoping to attract original viewers and expose it to a new generation. But how does this updated version of the Warner Siblings and company fare over twenty years since their debut?
The most recent iteration follows the variety show format of old consisting of three short skits. The first of which always features Yakko, Wakko, and Dot being zany to the max. They are then followed by Pinky and the Brain, who are still plotting new schemes to take over the world.
From the beginning, Animaniacs recreates the same magic. The opening scene is the Jurassic Park teaser from NYCC, which is near perfection. It contains the exaggerated caricatures of celebrities, the silly slapstick from the Warners, and the reference to the Spielberg film fuels the nostalgia of the first series. It is all smartly done with a moment of self-awareness with the Hulu rep playing the skeevy lawyer with dollar signs in his eyes.
It keeps the momentum up in the five episodes available for preview. The storylines are a good mix of random and trivial such as Wakko’s search for who ate his donuts to political like an adorable take on gun control. I may have been too young to catch all the references before, but the satire is sharp and biting this go round. They don’t pull any punches (especially against Russia) but the children’s aesthetic makes it easier to digest.
What also makes Animaniacs so fun is the meta nature and its ability to make fun of itself. There’s a whole amusing number on Hollywood reboots. Plus, the Warner siblings constantly remind the viewers how they sold out.
The series does contain many familiar aspects. There is the intro gag where they change the last line to rhyme with “insaney”. And the music is top notch with the original composers or those trained by the original composers contributing. The songs are catchy and filled with humor and wit. One is so infectious and cutesy that it partially makes the Warners sick.
The new Animaniacs does feel current. They removed the sexual innuendo that probably wouldn’t fly in this day and age. In addition, they draw upon today’s pop culture for storylines. The Warner siblings find both anime and kawaii versions of themselves while Brain attempts to be the next big viral star.
As entertaining as the show is, there are some elements from the initial version I wished they kept. Despite the animated look, it doesn’t have the feel of a children’s show anymore. Many of the educational parts are absent whether it’s songs about state capitals or presidents or the characters’ hijinks with historical figures. Other than the physical comedy and puns, I’m not sure kids would understand the nuance and references.
Furthermore, I wish Animaniacs contained the variety of its predecessor. The Warners and Pinky and the Brain are arguably the most popular skits from the original, but they dominate the episodes. There are no appearances from any of the other characters except for Ralph the security guard and mentions of Scratchansniff and Plotz.
Not even brief cameos of anyone like Slappy, the Goodfeathers or Chicken Boo. There was at least a new segment that appeared once featuring an alien looking to invade Earth but is kept from alerting his army by an Elmyra type little girl.
Though they don’t bring back the entire gang, Animaniacs captures the magic and feel of the original while being updated to better represent the present.
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