The 1990s is often reminisced upon by millennials as the greatest decade for cartoons and animation.
While this notion can be contested, there is at least one show that stood out among the rest as something special.
Steven Spielberg’s “Animaniacs” is a series that modernized classic Looney Tunes cartoon violence and wit for a 90s audience.
And just like any other beloved 90s show, a reboot of the series was eventually announced in 2018.
The first season of the “Animaniacs” reboot released on Hulu Nov. 20 with 12 half-hour episodes.
The reboot focuses on segments dedicated to the Warner Siblings, Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wakko (Jess Harnell) and Dot (Tress MacNeille) as well as lab mouse duo Pinky (Rob Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche).
Episodes are usually broken up into three segments, most often comprised of a Warner Siblings sketch, a Pinky and the Brain sketch, followed by another Warner Sketch or song.
The pace keeps up well with the variation in segments, but brings on the first major complaint of critics–where are the rest of the characters?
The original 90s series had an extensive cast of characters who each had the chance to shine in a sketch, at least once a season. Whether it was the Goodfeathers in their parodies of stereotypical Italian mob stories or Chicken Boo disguising himself as a normal human, there was a very large cast of characters who could have been brought back.
The absence of the extended cast isn’t necessarily a disadvantage though, as the Warners and Pinky and the Brain were arguably the fan favorites of the original show anyway.
There are also a few new segment ideas introduced, with one that is certainly promising. “Starbox and Cindy” follows a diminutive space alien commander stranded on Earth and held captive by Cindy, a little girl who mistakes Starbox for a toy and prevents him from contacting his crew to begin an invasion.
Cindy’s voice was recorded by Eleanor Johnson, niece of show director Katie Rice, which explains the natural feeling conversations Cindy holds with herself as she muses about different parts of life.
However, as previously mentioned, the Warner Siblings take center stage in the reboot. The writing on the Warners feels no different than what would normally be expected of the quick-witted toons. Dot gets a lot more screen time in comparison to the original, allowing MacNeille to further demonstrate her comedic timing and capabilities.
Of course, Paulsen and Harnell are also still at the top of their game. Although their voices have inevitably aged in the 20-year gap, Yakko and Wakko’s voices are just as emotive and exaggerated as ever.
There are a few instances in songs where it feels as though Paulsen has a harder time reaching higher notes, but during the time of recording, Paulsen was recovering from throat cancer treatments. Regardless of this semi-noticeable change, even Paulsen’s soft falsetto is oddly pleasant to listen to.
Paulsen also manages to bring back the same dim-witted joy of Pinky back to the character, being able to spout idiotic conjectures viewers just cannot help but laugh at.
Acting opposite of Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche continues to be the perfect counterpart to Pinky as the Brain. Brain is just as megalomaniacal as ever, and at points falling even further into behaving like the inspiration behind his character, Orson Welles.
While the main theme song remains similar in terms of visuals, the Pinky and the Brain segments get a completely overhauled theme with visuals that take cues from the vaporwave aesthetic to create a retro 80s feel.
Perhaps the greatest criticism facing the “Animaniacs” reboot has been against it being “too political.”
There are certainly a few jokes about politics and President Trump, but for the most part, they all serve a purpose and are used sparingly enough to not be grating on the viewer.
For example, in the first song where the Warners sing about having to catch up with everything that has happened in the past 20 years, Yakko mentions Trump to explain the writers of the show wrote the script in 2018, so they’re not entirely sure of anything that will happen in the following two years. Even this mention, however, leads to an entertaining verse full of erroneous conjectures of what has happened.
Even if viewers take umbrage with these political jokes, it is not as though the original series did not get political either, Bill Clinton was joked about in the original intro lest we forget.
The theme song gets an update too, filling the space from the original where jokes were made about angry online critics with the cast talking about being more diverse and gender balanced, claiming “The trolls will say we’re so passé, but we did meta first!”
There is an entire sketch that uses rabbits as an allegory for guns titled “Bun Control,” an allegory so slyly written I did not notice the joke until the very end of the sketch when a joke is made about it.
Many of the segments are very cleverly written, leading to the premise of the sketches in general being hilarious. Just one example would be Brain taking place the of a senator in the 1950s, parodying the Red Scare by outing all the other mice in government positions so he can hold power.
There are certainly misses with such a wide variety of sketch ideas packed into 12 episodes, but for the most part, even the more lackluster segments hold at least a few good jokes worthy of a chuckle or laugh.
As the age of reboots continues, it is an inevitability these successors would be compared to the original versions. Such is the case with the “Animaniacs” reboot.
While there is arguably less character variety, the show more than makes up for it in clever writing and smooth animation that replicates the fluidity of the 90s series.
The new “Animaniacs” in unashamed in being a reboot. It revels in the fact. It brings back more classic animation tropes and gags while modernizing characters and being accessible to newcomers.
While it has its flaws, even the greatest of shows has its drawbacks.
It is just as surreal to have such beloved characters back as it is refreshing to have some familiar and totally insane-y fun to laugh along with.