Sunday afternoon at 1PM on the Main Programming channel, the cast of the Animaniacs (Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, and Jess Harnell) reunited to answer some questions and talk about the upcoming reboot on Hulu. As can be expected when this cast gets together, we also had visits from Yakko, Wakko, Pinky, Brain, and Dot as well as a few other characters that live in their brains.
It couldn’t have been clearer just how much this cast loves each other. They have maintained their friendships since the last Animaniacs episode aired in 1998, which each cast member agreed made it so much easier to pick up with recording again for the reboot. They are more confident now in themselves and in their characters, which made it easy to get back into the swing of making the show. On the first day of recording, LaMarche (who voices Brain) showed up to the studio wearing a Pinky T-shirt, while Paulsen (who voices Pinky) showed up wearing a Brain T-shirt. It was totally unplanned, according to LaMarche, and it was just one example of how each actor showed up for each other during production. MacNeille agreed, saying that it didn’t really feel any different even though more than 20 years had passed. “The studio is colder to me now…” she said, and then added, “When I’m working with these guys, I am home.”
A lot of the questions that were asked centered around how the show would come forward into modern times. The humor of Animaniacs was always irreverent, but there are some things that were acceptable in the late 90s that aren’t acceptable now. Many fans seemed to be concerned that they would either be offended by their beloved characters or that the tone of the show would have to be watered down too much to be familiar. The cast put those fears to rest, reassuring us that the humor has evolved over the last 20 years, but that funny is always going to be funny. The tone is going to be respectful but not safe. Harnell urged us to “hide our sacred cows” and said that the show will always use subversive humor that doesn’t condescend to the viewer. However, something that might have gotten by with a wink and a nod before is out now.
LaMarche also noted that the show has always been grounded in real time, and that’s going to be true with the reboot as well. Because 20 years have passed for us, 20 years will have passed for the characters as well. He said that Brain is a little edgier now because 20 years have gone by and he still hasn’t taken over the world! Similarly, while the show we all know and love made fun of things going on then, it will now make fun of things going on now. The show is going to go after them the same way, lampooning them left and right, with that same irreverent twist. The cast all stressed how much the team working on the reboot respects the characters and what came before. Many of them either worked on the original show or were inspired by it. To the inevitable critics who are going to bemoan “another reboot” the cast noted that haters are going to hate, but that they all felt this was a show worthy of a rebooting. This has been a labor of love for everyone involved.
As much as satire, sarcasm, and lampooning were at the heart of the show in the past, music was just as big of a factor. And while the humor has been updated, the music style is guaranteed to remain very Animaniacs-ish: no breathing allowed, very fast, with many, many words. There is, however, and updated stanza to the “Nations of the World” song that Yakko sings, and Paulsen didn’t hesitate to perform it for us right there, off the top of his head. Of course, with music being that central to the show, Broadway musicals couldn’t possibly be safe. LaMarche said that he would love for the show to spoof Hamilton (obviously), and especially fun for him would be a parody of Something Rotten. He did say that there a few musical parodies coming in the reboot, so we should all sit tight for that.
The time with the cast went by too quickly, but we can solace ourselves with the knowledge that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot and many of our other favorites will soon be back on our screens. The reboot will premiere on Hulu November 20, 2020.