REVIEW: Hulu’s ‘Animaniacs’ Is Totally Zany (And Super Entertaining)

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Animaniacs

Animaniacs is making a grand return to television. The series has been rebooted for Hulu, picking up 22 years after the original series’ cancellation. Viewers are reunited with Yakko Warner (Rob Paulsen), as well as his siblings Wakko (Jess Harnell) and Dot (Tress MacNeille) who waste no time in causing chaos. Also returning are the genetically enhanced lab mice Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) who continue their bid for world domination. (Or rather, the Brain does while Pinky offers his usual dim-witted nonsequiturs.)

I had the chance to watch five episodes from the first season, and the episodes I saw managed to perfectly replicate a great deal of what made the original series work. Part of Animaniacs‘ charm was that it managed to deliver the same zany antics as its predecessor Looney Tunes (which also recently received a reboot on HBO Max) while also poking fun at several aspects of culture including film and history. The reboot continues that trend, using the fact that the Warners have been inactive for nearly two decades to its advantage. The very first episode, a two-parter appropriately titled “Suspended Animation,” pokes fun at Hollywood’s constant need to reboot every intellectual property under the sun (ending with the Warners graciously accepting a massive check for their own reboot.) The current presidency, gun control, and social media are also among the topics satirized; even the theme song makes sure to point out that the show’s been massively focus tested and even takes the time to jab at trolls.

Perhaps the best send-up is in the opening of “Suspended Animation,” which perfectly parodies Jurassic Park. What really makes this scene work, other than the fact that the Warners are standing in for the dinosaurs, is that Steven Spielberg is standing in for Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond. Spielberg returns to executive produce the reboot, and much like Hammond, he has done what people though was impossible: he helped bring a beloved animated series back to life.

Other standout elements of the show include the animation and voice acting. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot’s designs haven’t changed, but the animation in the reboot feels extremely fluid and fine-tuned which helps some of the more physical gags land. The animation also shifts between styles, including a beautiful homage to several anime series including Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. The voice cast also slides into their old roles with ease. Paulsen is a fast-talking charmer as Yakko and a delightful distraction as Pinky, Harnell gets to deliver his best Ringo Starr impression as Wakko, and LaMarche is immensely sinister as the Brain. The standout has to be MacNeille as Dot, who gets some of the best lines-including when she hits her brothers with a massive mallet and quips, “22 years later and I’m still a knockout.”

However, the reboot lacks the variety of the original series. Animaniacs boasted a large cast including the grumpy Slappy Squirrel and her nephew Skippy, as well as the beleaguered psychiatrist Dr. Scratchansniff and his lovely assistant Hello Nurse. This variety helped keep things entertaining and introduced a whole host of characters to balance out the Warners’ antics and the Brain’s Machiavellian schemes. I understand that showrunners Wellesley Wild and Gabe Swarr may have wanted to keep the focus on the Warners due to time constraints, but the other characters could have worked perfectly in this new environment. To its credit, the reboot introduces a new segment titled Starblox and Cindy which focuses on a diminutive alien conqueror and the little girl who adopts him. It shows promise, even if its premise hews closely to Pinky and the Brain.

The Animaniacs reboot on Hulu perfectly captures the irreverent spirit of the original series, with biting wit and innovative animation. Fans old and new will enjoy the anima-y, totally insane-y, and immensely entertaining misadventures of the Warner family.

All 13 episodes of Animaniacs are currently available to stream on Hulu.

Animaniacs
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

The Animaniacs reboot on Hulu perfectly captures the irreverent spirit of the original series, with biting wit and innovative animation. Fans old and new will enjoy the anima-y, totally insane-y, and immensely entertaining misadventures of the Warner family.