Animaniacs 2020 Review

The Animaniacs are back, and they’ve got bologna in their slacks and are still zany to the max! The folks at Hulu revived one of the most beloved animated series of all time, and they brought back the original voice actors along with it. Is this updated version just as fun and wacky as the 90’s classic, or should it be sent back to the drawing board? Let’s take a closer look at this revamped romp to find out.

The Good 

The Warner brothers and sister, along with Pinky and the Brain, are just as hilarious as ever. The meta-humor, fourth-wall breaks, pop culture references, and slapstick gags are all intact, and it’s all delivered expertly. The pop culture parodies are obviously updated to match what’s popular today, but it’s in the same style. The commentary made on current events is witty and entertaining, but also needed to shine some light on certain subjects, similar to how they handled it back in the 90’s. 

The animation is updated, but it stays true to the spirit of the classic show. It’s more crisp than before and feels more fresh, but it does the original justice. Everything is still hand-drawn and the characters exist and operate within wacky cartoon physics. The aesthetic is the same, but everything is actually a little easier on the eyes. 

Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Pinky, and the Brain all feel completely in character. The writing, dialogue, and performances for each beloved character stays true to form. It’s almost as if they didn’t go away for 20 years. It’s actually quite nice to catch up with these old friends, and newcomers to the series still get a taste about what each of them are all about.

The writers have made it pretty clear they are aware that most of the viewers for this reboot are the ones who grew up with the original. There are plenty of fun nods to the classic show that lead to some laughs. Plus, while the original did feature some rather adult humor at times, this reboot goes a little bit harder with the more mature content. It leads to some especially hilarious jokes while never feeling unlike the original Animaniacs. If you’re someone who enjoyed or grew up with the classic version, this newer show was made for you.

The sketches for the Warners and for Pinky and the Brain involve creative stories and premises. The Warners competing in the Olympics because they think the gold medals are actually chocolate or Brain creating a robot who is a little too much like him lead to some amusing outcomes. It’s pretty entertaining seeing these characters in situations we never have before.

The Bad

There is one pretty glaring issue with the Animaniacs reboot series, and it’s that the side characters didn’t return. The Warners and Pinky and the Brain are back, but that’s about it. There’s no Slappy Squirrel, Goodfeathers, Buttons and Mindy, or any of the other memorable supporting cast members. There is one sketch that briefly shows them to explain why they aren’t present in the show, and it’s actually a pretty dark explanation. It might even upset some fans of the original series. Instead of having several sketches per episode like before, each episode here consists of a long Animaniacs sketch, a Pinky and the Brain sketch, and a shorter Animaniacs sketch. 

The sketches that we do get are great, but after bingeing all 13 episodes, it starts feeling rather repetitive toward the end. The other sketches they used to throw into the mix prevented that feeling of repetition. There are two new one-off sketches that are featured in this new season, but they’re not nearly as entertaining as the older ones. One features an alien and a little girl with an annoying voice, and the other features a garden gnome that yells a lot. The new format allows for more focus on the Animaniacs themselves, which is good in some ways since it is their show. However, it does make it feel like something important is missing.

Because of the nods to the original series, and the somewhat more adult humor, newcomers or those looking to introduce their children to the Animaniacs might not feel welcome. That being said, why would someone go out of their way to watch the new Animaniacs without first watching the original? 

In the Know

Even though the side characters aren’t really a part of the series this time around, there is a pretty major returning character who turns up in the season finale. Their old foe, Dr. Scratchansniff, makes an appearance and provides the main conflict for the episode. He even claims that the show’s revival will allow him to have some victories over the Warners. Dr. Scratchansniff, the old WB studio psychiatrist, served as what was the closest thing to a main villain for the old series, so this is a welcome return. Hopefully we do see more of the side characters in the next season.

One of the sketches that centers on Dot has her sing a song about voting rights for cartoon characters. This sketch is chock full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references and cameos featuring countless characters from other Warner Bros. animations, such as the Looney Tunes, the Flintstones, the Wacky Racers, and much more. Even the super-powered team from Loonatics Unleashed are briefly shown. It’ll be fun to rewatch and see who else you can spot. 

Conclusion

Animaniacs is back, so sit back and relax. This revival is overall hilarious, entertaining, well-written, and wonderfully-animated. The voice cast performed like they never stopped playing the characters. It’s a lot of fun to see them all in new, wacky adventures. It’s a huge loss not featuring so many of the old recurring side characters, and newcomers may be lost on some references to the original show, but this is one reboot that lovers of the classic series can be happy with. 

Rating: 8 / 10

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