A little piece of the '90s returns to TV this week — or, more accurately, migrates to streaming TV — as Animaniacs premieres on Hulu with new episodes, 22 years after it left the air. This reboot has been in the works for a couple years now, and for fans of the original series, it's a banner day for in-jokey lunacy about the entertainment industry and pop culture. What else is there to know about this much-anticipated return? We've got some answers.
It's been twenty two years, so you can be forgiven for not knowing what all the hullabaloo is about. Animaniacs was a kind of spinoff/sister series to Tiny Toon Adventures, which itself was a way for Warner Brothers to reboot its classic Looney Tunes animated characters with younger versions more attuned to '90s kids. With Animaniacs, the idea was that three animated creatures — Yakko Warner, Wakko Warner, and Dot Warner, a.k.a. the "Warner brothers" and their sister — lived inside the famous water tower at Warner Bros. studios and would emerge to take part in various antics and put on short skits that ranged from parodies of current events to semi-educational spoofs. If you've ever seen the clip of Yakko naming all the countries of the world to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance, it's that kind of thing.
The series premiered in 1993 on the Fox Kids afternoon programming block before moving to Kids WB, where it remained until 1998 when it was cancelled after airing 99 episodes.
In case you hadn't noticed, the '90s are very much returning, whether it be in the form of a David E. Kelley resurgence, a Saved By the Bell revival, or the fact that an incumbent president lost his re-election bid. Animaniacs has always been a cult fave of older millennials and young Gen X-ers, and since Tiny Toons is also in the process of coming back, it only makes sense that Animaniacs would too.
In 2018, Hulu announced that it had given the Animaniacs reboot a two-season order. Steven Spielberg, who served as executive producer on on Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, as both were a partnership of his Amblin Entertainment with Warner Bros., again serve as EPs on the reboot. Voice performers Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, Jess Harnell, and Maurice LaMarche are also returning, as is songwriter Randy Rogel.
Unsurprisingly, for a show whose original theme song cited the main characters' "pay-for-play contracts" and Bill Clinton on the sax, the rebooted Animaniacs promises to be as self-referential and pop culturally literate as ever. The new set of episodes riff on everything from smartphones, to horse girls to, yes, Trump, as well as plenty of meta material about Hulu and '90s reboots.
Beyond Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, Animaniacs also featured shorts starring a whole host of animated characters. By far the most popular were lab rats Pinky and the Brain, the latter a brilliant mastermind with designs on taking over the world, the former his dimwitted lab assistant. The two eventually got their own spin-off series, Pinky and the Brain, which ran from 1995 to 1998 on Kids WB. They'll also be back on the Hulu reboot, although they were the only side-characters confirmed ahead of the series' release. There was no owr on the fates of the Goodfeathers (pigeons in the style of Mafia gangsters), Slappy Squirrel (a grumpy old squirrel in the style of the now-late Penny Marshall), Buttons and Mindy (loyal German shepherd and the danger-prone toddler he cares for), or Rita and Runt, a singing cat and simple dog who would be a massively welcome return surprise, not least of which because Bernadette Peters voices Rita.
Thirteen episodes drop on Hulu November 20th, with another thirteen to premiere some time in 2021.
Having toured the Warner Bros. lot as recently as February, I can report that there was no evidence that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot reside in the famous WB tower. That said, our tour guide did say that there hasn't been actual water stored in the tower in years, and she would not say what's in there now. The mystery continues.
Animaniacs is now streaming on Hulu.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.