They’re back! The Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister Dot, have a great time wreaking havoc and mayhem in the lives of everyone they meet. After returning to their beloved home, the Warner Bros. water tower, the siblings waste no time in causing chaos and comic confusion as they run loose through the studio, turning the world into their personal playground. Joining Yakko, Wakko and Dot, fan-favorite characters Pinky and the Brain also return to continue their quest for world domination.
22 years later, Animaniacs get ready to explore and discuss relevant topics (even though it was written in 2018). Turning today’s political and social climate into one after the other wacky satirical commentary, the animated siblings have risen from the grave and aren’t afraid to speak their minds. The well known theme song is updated with a few new lyrics, pointing out their comeback and how it’s now gender-balanced, pronoun-neutral and ethnically diverse. With a contract for two new seasons in their pockets, Hulu has gone full in, bringing back the entire original voice cast and executive producer Steven Spielberg.
The first episode starts with the teaser that was released a couple of weeks ago, where an iconic scene out of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park gets recreated to address the Animaniacs‘ return to Warner Bros.’ water tower, ignoring other studio favourites, such as Wonder Woman and Harry Potter. What follows is an episode in which Yakko, Wakko and Dot quickly catch up on 22 years of events by swallowing a tablet (you know, the electronic kind) and burst into song. Addressing new technology, Queen Bey, and cleverly pointing out this season was written back in 2018, not knowing if Trump is still president by the time of airing, they start making up things to fill the gaps, which turns into something quite special. Other reboots, such as Star Trek, Charmed, Fuller House, get a bit of a roast, while keeping it all very tongue in cheek being as self aware as they’ve always been.
Our trio of weirdos address their return is for old AND new fans, but it becomes clear very quickly the humour is more adult than I remember. Growing up, I was too young to understand most of the adult jokes, but enjoyed other characters, such as Slappy & Skippy Squirrel, Mindy and Rita, who are nowhere to be seen this time around. In exchange, it seems Pinky and the Brain’s adventures have become less entertaining. Aside from a couple of episodes, especially one in which Brain creates a perfect FLOTUS and one where they’re responsible for the age of internet and become a viral sensation which catches Seth Meyers’ attention, it’s Pinky who steals the show whereas Brain seems almost disposable. But we all know without Brain, there wouldn’t be a Pinky.
The animation has been digitally polished, without letting go of the traditional looks of guest characters and sometimes even reminding of that other outrageously 90s cartoon, Ren and Stimpy. Creators Wellesly Wild and Tom Minton also play with other types of animation styles, which surprisingly work and don’t just seem like a cheap gimmick. Anime-style transformations are absolutely stunning and you almost wish they’d make a full series in this style, but that would lose the magic of Animaniacs, which always has been a bit all over the place.
What is actively present throughout this first season is the amount of politically heavy sketches. It’s not necessarily bothersome by any means, but could rub some people the wrong way. Trump stans will definitely want to stay away from this, as it makes fun of MAGA-hats and the well known slogan, which Dot quickly changes into Make America Cute Again, before turning the entire world into a vibrantly saccharine kawaii-world to bring some colour and happiness to everyone’s lives, before going insane.
But the most brilliant episode I’ve ever seen in Animaniacs-history is ‘Anima-Nyet‘. Wakko believes he’s turned a television remote into a magical time-travelling device, but instead he and his siblings get to see tv-shows from all over the world. When they find out they’re being spied on by Russia where they’ve copied their successful adventures, they travel down there to invade the Sovjet-version of the Warner Bros. studios and their own interpretations of popular American tv-shows, along the way meeting Moron Mouse and Ratsputin who unlike their counterparts Pinky and the Brain aren’t trying to take over the world, but rather voice their support for their current leader without asking any questions. It’s an episode that defies all imagination and just does not hold back. Simply perfect!
A second season is in the works and planned for a 2021 release on Hulu, and after witnessing their return to the small screen, there’s no other way than to welcome them with open arms. They’re back and here to stay. Welcome back, you zany to the ultimate max family.
The first full season of Animaniacs premieres November 20, only on Hulu.
Hulu Review – ‘Animaniacs’ Season 1
Reviewed online (screener provided by Hulu), November 15, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 14 x 25 min.
PRODUCTION: A Hulu release of an Amblin Television, Hulu Originals, Warner Bros. Animation production. Producer: Joann Estoesta. Executive producers: Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Wellesley Wild, Sam Register.
CREW: Directors: Scott O’Brien, Katie Rice. Screenplay: Kathleen Chen, Lucas Crandles, Jess Lacher, Brian Polk, Andrew Barbot, Timothy Nash, Jordan VanDina, Wellesley Wild, Tom Ruegger, Tom Minton. Score: Julie Bernstein, Steven Bernstein.
WITH: (voices) Jess Harnell, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Frank Welker, Andy Milder, Abby Trott.