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Animaniacs Reboot Misses The Mark

Animaniacs Reboot Misses The Mark

In early 2017, Amblin and Warner Bros. developed interest in creating an Animaniacs reboot after a sudden surge of popularity sparked on Netflix. The reboot was officially announced in 2018 by Hulu and will include a 2-season run with the return of the original voice cast. Steven Spielberg returned as Executive Producer for the reboot alongside Sam Register, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Gabe Swarr, and Wellesley Wild. The show finally premiered on November 20, 2020, with its second season airing November 5, 2021, both to mixed but mainly positive results. 

The show got a third season that was released on February 17, 2023, before getting cancelled. Which left a lot of fans shocked by the abrupt ending of the series. The question is, is it deserved? First off, what IS Animaniacs exactly? 

 Well, Animaniacs is best described as a slapstick and sketch comedy series featuring a varied episode structure, as the show features many different segments. Some of the segments include but are not limited to the Warner Trio, Pinky and the Brain, The Goodfeathers, Rita and Runt, Buttons and Mindy, and Slappy Squirrel. Along with a ton more different segments to help make the show feel full and lively! Like a true variety show. Usually, episodes are spaced into three mini episodes with bridging segments in-between, and that format is, MOSTLY continued for the reboot. 

The reboot, like the original show, is a variety show and features significantly less segments than before. Infact the only returning segments are the Warner Trio and the Pinky and the Brain ones. Everybody else has been kicked to the curb, making appearances only as cameo characters despite being well loved and appreciated by the fanbase.  

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Most episodes consist of two Warners skits and a Pinky and the Brain skit, the reboot over relying on them a bit too much due to the shortage of characters. But oh, don’t worry! There are new segments, like the incredible gnome in People’s Mouths and Starbox and Cindy, whose fanbases consist of nearly 3 people in total! Though in all seriousness these segments are fine, just generally unremarkable especially when compared to some of the original series’ segments. But hey it’s not the end of the world maybe the two returning segments from the original show are written fantastically that we don’t need all those other segments! Starting with the Warner Trio! 

The reboots Warner segments aren’t exactly great, in fact they might not even be good. Which is appalling considering for many people they were their favorites. In the original series the Warner segments focused on three inseparable siblings, Yakko, the oldest and most talkative warner, Wakko, the weird middle child with an appetite, and Dot, the youngest and cutest of the trio. All fantastically performed by Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille, respectively.  

The trio themselves are seen to be a massive handful and so the executives at Warner Bros. locked them away in the Warner Bros. water tower. Though they end up getting loose anyways causing the studio guard, Ralph, to try and catch them. Most warner episodes involve the trio using their wit, slapstick humor and general wackiness to mess with folks, escape from trouble or parody different things found in pop culture. The writing was very clever and genuine to watch and listen to, as typically the writers just wrote down whatever they thought was funny and put it in the show, it felt real.  

The reboot’s Warner segments on the other hand are all pop culture references and no wit. Though to start out with something positive, the original voice actors did return to voice the Warners and they sound amazing as usual. The only complaint is that they sound a little different but that’s more so the actors naturally getting over after 20 years of not voicing these guys. But aside from that these shorts don’t really hit the mark. Yakko has been reduced to a pun machine, lacking very little clever jokes, Wakko is the same just sidelined more often than he should be, and Dot is Yakko 2.0.  

An example of this mischaracterization could literally be found in the updated intro itself! In the part of it where they explain all the Warners, Dots part is changed from “Dot is cute” or “Dot has wit.” Which isn’t inherently a bad change, Dot DOES have wit in the original show from time to time. It’s just not her MAIN trait, if anything she’s more sassy than witty. If you want a character who’s all about wit, Yakko’s right there!  

Another example comes from the segment “Anima-Nyet”, featured in Season 1 Episode 10. The Warners sing a song later in the episode where they go through all of each other’s traits that make them who they are. For Dots bit, she states that all you need to be her is “… perfect, funny, cute and smart and strong!” Which isn’t inherently bad by itself other than the “funny” part. Where she wears Groucho Marx glasses and mustache, do you want to guess which character is HEAVILY inspired by Groucho Marx? DING DING DING correct, it’s Yakko.  

Which is comedic considering they make Yakko dress up as Groucho in the segment “Fear and Laughter in Burbank”, in the episode right after Anima-Nyet. There’s a bunch more of instances of Dot taking things that are heavily associated with Yakko to boost her own new characterization, but it’d make this way too long.  

Anyways, A lot of the jokes feel forced and unauthentic, like the writers are trying way too hard, and often rely on meta humor. It’s mean-spirited too, making it less fun to watch. There is more that could be said about these segments, but overall, it is disappointing. 

Next is the Pinky and the Brain segments. In the original series, it focuses on the title characters, two lab mice whose genes have been spliced. Brain a megalomaniacal evil genius and Pinky his “insane” high energy partner. Voiced by Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen, respectively. Every episode they attempt to try and take over the world, but it always seems to fail, usually due to Pinky’s meddling or Brain’s own incompetence. This segment also features several recurring gags, the most iconic being brain asking “Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?” With Pinky replying with something weird and completely unrelated to the current situation.  

For the reboot, this segment stays pretty much the same! Same voice actors, most of the same recurring gags, same personalities with a few exceptions. Brain is a lot eviler and mean in the reboot, doing things that he’d never do in the original series or the spinoff. Going as far as to torture someone because they were not doing exactly what he wanted them to do. But other than that, the characters stay the same. A few other notes are an addition of a new character, Julia, who becomes a recurring villain, and that of course these segments aren’t safe from the heavy-handed pop culture references either. 

A lot of the problems with these segments seem to stem from the fact that these writers don’t really seem to care about the original series all too much, only having a very surface level understanding of it. Or well, at least for the Warners. The comedy is a lot more modern and mean-spirited; you can really tell that the showrunner was a writer for family guy here.  

I think it could be solved if they simply did more research on the show they’re supposed to be rebooting and brought back some of the original writers? Maybe, you know the original creator. Because fun fact, most of the people who worked on the original show, INCLUDING THE CREATOR, weren’t asked to work on the reboot, and it’s really disheartening.  

But despite all of that, did this reboot deserve to be cancelled? No, probably not, it’s not something that people should wish upon most shows. It’s not a perfect show by any means but it still had a lot of potential to be great, and even had a bunch of ideas for season 4, but it never had the chance to see the light of day and truly shine. If you’re a fan of the original Animaniacs this show is still a recommended watch if you want to see a bit more of the characters, just don’t go in with super high expectations, okay? As it seems very few reboots can seem to match the quality of the original for one reason or another. 


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