Animaniacs (2020 TV series)

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Animaniacs
Animaniacs 2020 tv series cover.jpg
Title card featuring the Warner siblings (clockwise from upper left) Yakko, Wakko, and Dot
Also known asSteven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs
Genre
Based onAnimaniacs
by Tom Ruegger
Developed by
Voices of
Theme music composerRichard Stone
Tom Ruegger
Composer(s)
  • Julie Bernstein
  • Steven Bernstein
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13 (42 segments)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Wellesley Wild
  • Sam Register
  • Justin Falvey
  • Darryl Frank
  • Gabe Swarr
Running time24–27 minutes
Production company(s)
DistributorWarner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution
Hulu
Release
Original networkHulu
Picture formatHDTV 16:9
Audio formatStereo 5.1
Original releaseNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20) –
present
Chronology
Preceded byAnimaniacs (1993–1998)
Related shows

Animaniacs is an American animated comedy musical television series developed by Wellesley Wild and Steven Spielberg for the streaming service Hulu. It is a revival of the original 1993 television series of the same name. The new series sees the return of the Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko and their sister Dot (voiced respectively by their original voice actors, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille), and of Pinky and the Brain (voiced by their respective original voice actors Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). Two seasons were ordered to be produced by Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation; the first season premiered on Hulu on November 20, 2020, and the show's second season will premiere in 2021.

Premise[edit]

As with the original 1993 series, the show focuses on the adventures of the Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister, Dot—three inseparable, irascible siblings—as they engage in further adventures after being absent from television for 22 years, bringing with them the usual wackiness and mayhem they create while adapting to the changes and life of the 21st century. Most episodes are composed of three shorts: two following the adventures of Yakko, Wakko and Dot, with the third featuring fan-favorite characters Pinky and the Brain—two lab mice, one of whom is intelligent and wants to take over the world, while the other is dim-witted and clumsy, often messing up his friend's plans.[2]

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

Conception[edit]

Early stages of developing the revival of Animaniacs at Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation began in May 2017. The interest in the revival was driven by a surge of popularity for the original show when it was made available on Netflix in 2016, plus numerous successful projects that have revived interest in older shows, such as Fuller House.[3] The revival was officially announced by the streaming service Hulu in January 2018 in partnership with Spielberg and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. The broadcast rights for the new series also included rights for Hulu to stream all episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.[4] Hulu considered the show its first original series targeted for families.[5]

Spielberg returned to serve as executive producer, alongside Sam Register, president of Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, and Amblin Television co-presidents Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. The show was produced by Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation.[6] Wellesley Wild, a writer for Family Guy, was named the showrunner, while Gabe Swarr was named as co-executive producer.[7] In addition to Wild and Swarr, Carl Faruolo served as supervising director.[8][9]

Wild and Swarr developed the revival to be respectful of the original series as closely as possible. Wild stated “There's lightning in a bottle here and the first thing I'm going to do is keep that lightning in the bottle, vigilantly.”[10][11] In addition, with the show's twenty-plus year hiatus, Wild and Swarr believed that a good portion of their audience would be parents who had watched the show as children themselves and were introducing their own children to the new show; they wanted to create a similar Jurassic World effect due to the similar gap from the original Jurassic Park film, and thus partially inspired the series' introductory short being a parody of Jurassic Park.[12] Wild wanted to make sure to keep the same type of bi-level humor that the original show had, with more slapstick and visual comedy that would appeal to younger audiences while having a higher level of humor that parents and adults would catch on to, often where some of the more risque humor could be included without evoking any censoring.[13]

According to Wild, Spielberg was at every pitch meeting and insisted on maintaining most of the elements of the original show, including the original voice cast and orchestrated music, as well as producing the show as typical of most adult animated shows with a full writers' room in contrast to typical children's animated shows. Spielberg was also heavily involved throughout the storyboarding process to make sure that the show was heading in the right direction, according to Wild.[7][14] Both Wild and Starr stated that Spielberg wanted the revival to feature more political satire, and they found a middle ground between that and being a children's show.[12]

The revival primarily features the return of the Warner siblings and Pinky and the Brain, with many of the other supporting characters from the original show not included in their own segments. In the case of Hello Nurse, this has been one of the first characters that the staff knew they could not bring back due to the changing sensibilities between the 1990s and 2020, according to Wild.[15] Similarly, Dot was presented to be more reliant on her wit than being cute, an aspect Wild also believed would resonate better with current attitudes.[13] Similar to the DuckTales reboot, they also considered careful nods to other cartoon characters from related series or past Looney Tunes but without losing the show's focus on the Warners or Pinky and the Brain. They had attempted to have a segment to feature Freakazoid from the show of the same name, but this fell through due to actor availability.[12]

Casting and music[edit]

The revival features Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, as well as Pinky and the Brain; Paulsen (as Yakko, Pinky and Dr. Scratchansniff), Harnell (as Wakko), MacNeille (as Dot), and LaMarche (as the Brain) were confirmed to be reprising their voice roles in October 2019.[16] Abby Trott was picked as a new voice artist on the team.[17] Julie and Steven Bernstein, who both composed additional music during the show's original run, score the revival with a 30-piece orchestra.[18][19] Additional music is composed by those that were trained by the original show's composers Richard Stone and Randy Rogel.[7] However, other key production personnel from the original series, like Tom Ruegger, were not asked upfront to help craft the series. Ruegger said he was later offered the opportunity to submit a script but declined, as it "basically it would be like an audition and I just didn’t feel comfortable auditioning for a show that I created".[10]

WaterTower Music will soon release the soundtrack album of the revival digitally.

Production[edit]

Initial storyboarding work started around July 2018.[20] Paulsen confirmed that voice recording had begun around May 2020.[21] The music was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Bernsteins coordinating with each musician individually from separate locations to assemble the final pieces.[22]

The original designs (left), and new look of the Warners in the revival (right).

Wild said of the look for the series, they initially explored various different styles drawn by a variety of artists, but recognized that the original series had its own series of differences in how the Warners were drawn due to the different animation studios. In reviewing those, they found that the episodes produced by TMS Entertainment were generally considered the best and Wild described their work as "The construction is so good; they have so much control."[23] After doing a deep dive to identify the factors that made the TMS portrayals of the Warners work, the team behind the revival were introduced to Genevieve Tsai, an artist working on Warner Bros. and Netflix's Green Eggs and Ham series, who also had been a fan of the original show. Tsai helped to take the details from the TMS deep dive as well as other research into past works that had inspired the original show such as older Looney Tunes shorts, and developed the new look for the Warners, generally more angular and following the same approach TMS had used.[23] They crafted a set of rules alongside the models for the revised characters that they then used when they sent the show off to be animated by seven different studios: Yowza! Animation in Toronto; Tonic DNA in Montreal; Titmouse, Inc. in Vancouver; Snipple Animation Studios in Manila, Philippines; and three studios in Seoul, South Korea: Digital eMation, Tiger Animation, and Saerom Animation. WB Animation in Burbank otherwise handled the pre- and post-production of all episodes.[14] In additional to the character model updates, they wanted the background art to feel like paintings but avoiding some of the stylings of the 90s, like exaggerated curved features.[23]

Paulsen said in an interview that within the revival, the Warners are self aware that they have been off the air for 20 years.[24] The episodes were prepared in 2019 and the writers had anticipated for events in 2020, but some ended up being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic such as the planned 2020 Summer Olympics.[25]

Broadcast[edit]

The first 13 episodes of the revival premiered on November 20, 2020. The second season of 13 episodes will premiere in 2021.[26] On October 11, a first look clip was released during the Animaniacs panel at the 2020 New York Comic Con, parodying Spielberg's own Jurassic Park with a caricature of Spielberg in the role of John Hammond having "reanimated" the Warners. The clip was introduced as the cold open from the first episode of the revived show.[7][27] On October 12, 2020, the names for the first episode segments were leaked.[28] The trailer was released on October 21, 2020.[29]

The show also aired in Canada on Teletoon. It began with a four-episode marathon on November 20, 2020 at 7:00 PM before easing into a permanent time slot of Saturdays at 9:00 AM the following day.[30]

Episodes[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Jurassic Lark"Scott O'BrienLucas Crandles & Timothy NashNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Suspended Animation, Part 1"Scott O'Brien & Katie RiceJess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Of Mice and Memes"Scott O'BrienKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Suspended Animation, Part 2"Scott O'Brien & Katie RiceKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) Steven Spielberg reintroduces the "reanimated" Animaniacs with a spoof of one of his most famous movies.
(2.) The Warners return to the studio lot after 22 years and find that everything's changed.
(3.) Brain tries to create a meme in order to take over the world.
(4.) The Warners sing about reboots.
2"Warners Unbound"Katie Rice & Adriel GarciaJess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"How to Brain Your Dragon"Katie Rice & Adriel GarciaGreg White & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Suffragette City"Katie RiceJess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners play Greek gods and put Odysseus through the wringer.
(2.) In medieval times, Brain tries to conquer the kingdom by defeating a dragon.
(3.) On the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Dot takes on Washington to ensure that cartoon characters have the right to vote.
3"Gold Meddlers"Brett VaronGreg White & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Pinko and the Brain"Brett Varon & Katie RiceStory by : Jess Lacher & Andrew Barbot
Teleplay by : Kathleen Chen, Brian Polk & Wellesley Wild
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Math-terpiece Theater: Apples"Adriel GarciaJess LacherNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners compete in the Olympic Games against an egotistical athlete.
(2.) In 1953, Brain disguises himself as an politican and attempts to blackmail all the others to ensure he is the only one remaining.
(3.) Dot dramatically teaches a math lesson involving apples and a girl named Nancy.
4"Bun Control"Scott O'Brien & Adriel GarciaJess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Ex-Mousina"Scott O'BrienGreg White, Lucas Crandles & Timothy NashNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Bloopf"Erik KnutsonKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners deal with a bunny infestation on the studio lot.
(2.) Brain invents a robot "son" who turns on him.
(3.) The Warners debut a new app.
5"Good Warner Hunting"Katie RiceLucas Crandles & Timothy NashNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"No Brainer"Katie RiceKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Ralph Cam"Katie RiceJordan VandinaNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners are stalked by a deranged hunter obsessed with collecting the characters of the original Animaniacs show.
(2.) Pinky and the Brain break into the NSA to retrieve a phone message containing their plan after Brain develops short term amnesia and can't remember it.
(3.) A security camera records a typical day in the life of Ralph the Guard.
6"The Cutening"Brett VaronJess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Close Encounters of the Worst Kind"Brett VaronGreg White, Jess Lacher & Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Equal Time"Brett VaronJess Lacher, Andrew Barbot & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) Dot gains the ability to turn everything super cute.
(2.) Pinky and the Brain attempt to gain the attention of alien life to help them conquer the world.
(3.) The Warners present various ads for third party candidates.
7"Warner She Wrote"Erik KnutsonStory by : Kathleen Chen & Brian Polk
Teleplay by : Jess Lacher, Andrew Barbot & Wellesley Wild
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"France France Revolution"Scott O'Brien & Adriel GarciaStory by : Andrew Barbot
Teleplay by : Kathleen Chen & Brian Polk
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Gift Rapper"Scott O'BrienLucas Crandles & Timothy NashNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners attempt to solve a dognapping on a train.
(2.) In 18th century France, the Warners accidentally start the French Revolution.
(3.) The Warners end up on a music video set, and when the singer claims to be better than Shakespeare, Yakko schools him in the hip hop ways of the Bard.
8"WhoDonut"Katie RiceGreg White, Jess Lacher & and Andrew BarbotNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Mousechurian Candidate"Katie RiceStory by : Jess Lacher & Andrew Barbot
Teleplay by : Kathleen Chen & Brian Polk
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Starbox and Cindy"Katie RiceJess LacherNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) Wakko attempts to find out who ate his donuts.
(2.) Brain runs for president and genetically alters a lab mouse to be the ideal First Lady.
(3.) An alien invader attempts to escape a little girl's grasp.
9"Here Comes Treble"Brett VaronKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"That's Not the Issue"Brett VaronStory by : Ben Warheit
Teleplay by : Brad Deprima
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Future Brain"Brett VaronKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"The Incredible Gnome In People's Mouths"Adriel Garcia & Brett VaronAndrew Barbot, Jess Lacher & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) While performing a sketch, the Warners butt heads with the music conductor.
(2.) The Warners appear on a talk show and get on the host's nerves.
(3.) Brain's future self arrives to aid him in conquering the world.
(4.) A man is transformed into an angry gnome and lives in people's mouths to speak for them.
10"Anima-Nyet"Scott O'BrienLucas Crandles, Timothy Nash & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Babysitter's Flub"Scott O'BrienKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"The Warners' Press Conference"Adriel GarciaJess Lacher, Ted Mulkerin & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) After discovering a bootleg version of their show on TV, the Warners head to Russia to complain.
(2.) Brain must battle a toddler who has swallowed a meteorite necessary for his plan.
(3.) The Warners have a press conference about the episode.
11"Phantomaniacs"Katie RiceWellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Fear and Laughter in Burbank"Katie RiceKathleen Chen, Brian Polk & Greg WhiteNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Bride of Pinky"Katie RiceGreg White & Wellesley WildNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Things That Go Bump in the Night"Katie RiceKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners haunt a television set in a parody of Poltergeist.
(2.) In a parody of It, the trick-or-treating Warners encounter a spooky clown named Nickelwise.
(3.) In a parody of Frankenstein, Brain fashions a monster to frighten a village into submission, but the monster and Pinky fall in love.
(4.) A group of monsters are huddled together in one space.
12"A Zit!"Brett VaronLucas Crandles & Timothy NashNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"1001 Narfs"Brett VaronKathleen Chen & Brian PolkNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Manny Manspreader"Brett VaronAndrew Barbot & Jess LacherNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) Dot is horrified when she discovers a zit on her face.
(2.) In Baghdad, Pinky and the Brain attempt to steal the Sultana's stallions to take over the world, but end up telling stories to entertain her in a parody of One Thousand and One Nights.
(3.) While out to see a movie, the Warners deal with a manspreader, whose lack of sense regarding personal space proves to be quite a nuisance.
13"Hindenburg Cola"Erik KnutsonStory by : Eric Branscum
Teleplay by : Lucas Crandles & Timothy Nash
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Roadent Trip"Scott O'BrienStory by : Joe Saunders
Teleplay by : Lucas Crandles & Timothy Nash
November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
"Flotus, Flotus. What Do You Know About Us?"Adriel GarciaJess LacherNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
(1.) The Warners attempt to find a can of a rare soda for an ailing Dr. Scratchansniff.
(2.) Brain constructs a self driving car, but ends up trapped inside it.
(3.) Dot sings about First Ladies throughout history.

Reception[edit]

The first season of the show was met with overall positive reviews from critics and fans alike, praising the voice acting, musical score and animation. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season received an 80% "Fresh" rating and an average 8.03 of 10 review score based on 29 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "Charming and chaotic, if slightly too caustic, Animaniacs is a delightful revitalization of a beloved series that's fun enough to make up for any early fumbles."[31]

Some critics felt that the revival of the series lacked the same charm that the original show had, which was attributed to the lack of any of the original production staff on the new show, as well as the influence of more recent animated shows like Family Guy on the show's approach.[32][33] Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone said that while the revival maintains the humor for the Pinky and the Brain shorts, the shorts with the Warners were not as well done as the original series. Sepinwall said, "Where their powers of exasperation once made them unstoppable, now they're the ones who seem impotent and irritated by the people and culture around them.", a factor he attributes to the lack of the original producers' involvement with the revival.[34] Variety's Caroline Framke said that the series focused too much on trying to lampoon current and political events, a measure exacerbated by the fact that the forward-looking writing approach was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of simply parodying the entertainment industry in general, and left the show "more of a sour aftertaste that keeps it from being as effervescent as it once was, and could be."[35] The A.V. Club's Danette Chavez gave the first season a C+, stating that "when Animaniacs remembers to have fun, it makes for lively, occasionally impressive, viewing" but felt that the balance between satire and silliness was off, with many of the parodies that targeted modern issues lacking subtlety.[36] Beth Elderkin of Gizmodo said that the revival did not have the same "biting" satire as the original, with some jokes having to be explained to some degree to the audience, and that the show felt that it held onto trying to being a product of the 90s, and thus did not have a clear target of what audience it was trying to please.[37]

Paste's Joseph Staniclar spoke more highly of the show's take on political and contemporary topics, saying that while it may rely too heavily on modern references, "it's refreshing to see the show's satire actually take political stances instead of falling into the crowd-pleasing 'both sides'-isms many modern comedies now take."[38] Ethan Anderton of Slashfilm also stated that the new show heavily references political commentary, but, as with the original series, praised that the show equally targeted aspects across partisan lines, and that "no one is safe from the buffoonery and mockery of Animaniacs."[39] Jesse Schedeen, writing for IGN gave the first season an 8 out of 10, writing, "Animaniacs is a mostly witty and faithful update to an old favorite. Despite the march of time and a flashier coat of paint, the new series plays remarkably similar to its predecessor. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot's misadventures are still a hoot, and the Pinky and the Brain segments help add just enough variety to keep each episode humming along. Some fans may lament the loss of so many classic supporting characters, but the emphasis on the big guns has its clear benefits. Animaniacs is a concentrated blast of cartoon nostalgia that any Fox Kids or Kids' WB veteran would do well to check out."[40]

The Verge's Joshua Rivera stated that the show's approach to satire of the entertainment industry, political topics, and modern culture done in the same style as the original show did not hold up well considering newer animated shows like Family Guy, Bojack Horseman and Rick & Morty that had more innovative ways to present such satire.[41] Kate Cox of Ars Technica said that with some of the repetition of humor between episodes and the lack of cast variety, the show does not lend well to binge viewing typical of streaming services, but otherwise still has the original show's trademark comedy and that "it has the seeds of a great show in it."[42]

Controversies[edit]

Johnny Depp poster gag[edit]

The show's first episode has attracted controversy for a background joke in the first episode. During the "Reboot It" song sequence, two posters are shown referencing the nursery rhyme and Internet meme "Johny Johny Yes Papa", Johnny 2: Telling Lies and Johnny: The Beginning, the former of which features Johnny Depp in the title role. The series had aired a few weeks after Depp lost in his lawsuit against The Sun related to publications of allegations of abusive treatment of his ex-wife Amber Heard, which led to Warner Bros. dropping Depp from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. People voiced their outrage on social media about the unfortunate juxtaposition of Depp's image and the "Telling Lies" subtitle, calling it an unfair jab at the allegations, leading to petitions and social media campaigns to boycott Animaniacs.[43] According to Paulsen, the series had been animated before the legal battle between Depp, Heard, and the Sun had begun, and that the reference was only poking fun at the nursery rhyme.[44]

Phone number gag[edit]

In the Pinky and the Brain short "Close Encounters of the Worst Kind", Brain's intergalactic message to potential alien collaborators displays an apparently fake phone number. Once it was discovered that the number actually belonged to a phone sex hotline, Hulu pulled Episode 6, which contains the short. The episode was later reinstated with the message displaying no text at all.[45]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Animation for the series is outsourced to Yowza! Animation, Tonic DNA, Titmouse, Inc., Snipple Animation Studios, Digital eMation, Tiger Animation and Saerom Animation.

References[edit]

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