It’s rare for a show to return after such a long break and recapture its old magic with not only its original audience, but whole new audiences. Animaniacs returned last year after an absence of 23 years, but their reentry felt seamless. They retained the original cast, still hit all the same notes in terms of humour and tone and seem to be as popular as ever.
The good news is that you don’t need to wait another two decades for more. Season two is available now on Hulu and debuted today on Teletoon in Canada. The thirteen episode run is available in its entirety on the US streaming platform.
I had a chance to watch the latest season and Animaniacs continues to capture the spirit of the original run, but is very up-to-date in its references. The first episode explores a Roman Emperor with questionable golden hair, small hands and a penchant for lying, which will probably ring a few bells.
You can watch the usual antics of The Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) Yakko, Wakko and Dot. You can also see your two favourite laboratory mice, Pinky and the Brain, and their constant quest for World Domination. The short cartoons are still filled with fast-paced jokes built for everyone.
The interesting line that this show has to walk, though, is balancing the humour for the kids and adding enough content for the parents who, funnily enough, were young when the show was on the first time. But nostalgia will only get you so far. Eventually, if you don’t have the goods, your audience will walk. Thankfully, Animaniacs isn’t resting on its laurels.
While the show, in general, follows its usual formula, occasionally, they divert from their plans from time to time. Instead of watching Pinky and the Brain try to take over the world in one episode, they are featured in a series of old TV pilots, spoofing The Honeymooners, The Brady Bunch, Cheers and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
“Animaniacs continues to capture the spirit of the original run, but is very up-to-date in its references.”
The Warner’s occasionally dip back into their educational sketches à la The Countries of the World song that was popular during their 90s run and went viral again prior to the reboot. One such example is a song from Wakko, explaining the history of William the Conqueror of all people.
Their biggest coup was getting the original cast back together. Rob Paulson (Yakko/Pinky), Tress MacNeille (Dot), Jess Harnell (Wakko) and Maurice LaMarche (Brain) are all legendary voice actors and to have lost even one of them would have felt disastrous to those who grew up with the show.
Pop culture references run rampant through season two, but the creators of the show don’t always worry if everyone will get them. References to Conan the Barbarian, Run Lola Run and the like aren’t something that every viewer will get, but they are done universally enough that not getting the reference doesn’t impact the entertainment value.
If I had one disappointment with the series, it’s that focusing on just the Warner’s and Pinky and the Brain makes it a little repetitive. I miss the old Goodfeathers shorts that would break up the routine a bit and were also another funny addition to the show. Not wanting to move forward with that particular segment is okay, but something to keep the seasons fresh would be appreciated.
Animaniacs is very self-referential and not afraid to break the fourth wall, even going so far as to call themselves too meta in an episode where they, a streaming program, were exploring a streaming program and having a difficult time finding something decent to watch. In fact, as I was questioning the absence of the Goodfeathers, I watched a short where they addressed their lack of characters.
The showrunner is also not afraid of tackling social and political issues, albeit in a very Animaniacs way. They use a spam attack as a way to teach kids about cybersecurity or get a dig in at Nicolás Maduro at a gathering of world leaders. The show may be masked by a lot of silliness, but it is a much smarter show than someone who has never seen it would ever guess.