Animaniacs is back for its first revival season at Hulu this week, and if the initial trailer didn’t already give it away, the Warner brothers (and sister) are once again up to all of their usual hijinks while skewering present-day politics, technology, and more. It’s not exactly breaking new ground as it’s basically the same animated sketch comedy program you might remember, but as a reintroduction to what Animaniacs is and can be in the here and now, it serves perfectly well.
Tonally, Animaniacs is all over the place. Segments of episodes shift and veer wildly from minute to minute, with Pinky and the Brain somehow serving as the show’s anchor point. No matter what else is going on, Pinky and the Brain will always be getting up to their typical shenanigans even when they follow a thinly veiled gun control allegory about rabbits. While this might sound like a complaint, it’s not really; it’s basically what I’d expect from an Animaniacs reboot, for better or worse.
One thing that’s clear from the start is that the production paid close attention to how the animation of the original worked when it was at its best. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot have been updated to 2020 without losing any of the zany stretching and wacky expressions that made them endearing in the first place. It’s by no means the same show (and the updated Acme Labs building and Pinky and the Brain intro should make that immediately apparent), but it pays all due respect to its delightfully disrespectful past.
It’s also worth noting that while several segments from the previous version didn’t make the jump -- so long Slappy Squirrel and Rita and Runt -- there do appear to be entirely new segments in the mix this time around. Of the episodes that I’ve seen, only one new segment crops up, Starbox and Cindy. (Also, I am sorry to say, I did not catch any glimpse of Chicken Boo, but there are a total of 8 episodes I haven’t seen, so let’s just say I live in hope.)
In the new segment, which seems to feature audio of a young child recorded just babbling in much the same way as an animated Colin once babbled about his friend Randy Beaman in The Animaniacs of old, the alien Starbox attempts to call his pals to come take over Earth, but Cindy’s playtime continuously interrupts. Cindy seems to consider Starbox an action figure of some kind and treats him appropriately as such. Also like the animated Colin segments of old, it is just the right amount of goofy and charming.
Several different bits -- like the aforementioned gun control segment -- and even parts of the show’s intro seem designed to anger folks online, but honestly? Poking those specific bears is probably a good sign. It means the show isn’t afraid to skewer inflated notions on the regular, and it’s not like it ever held back originally anyway. A tame, toothless reincarnation would have been immediately bound for the streaming dumpster, even if some of what was written back in 2018 no longer feels as prescient.
All told, the new Animaniacs is fine. Honestly, considering rebooting the franchise could have been a disaster, that itself is a triumph. Some bits are far better than others, but thanks to the brief runtime for any given segment, nothing ever truly overstays its welcome. If the gang being extremely gross, then extremely cute, then extremely gross again doesn’t sit right with you, all you need to do is wait another eight minutes for something else to come along. With a Season 2 already on the way for 2021, Season 1 lays out all of the necessary groundwork to get truly wet and wild with whatever comes next.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Animaniacs' first 13-episode season is set to premiere on Hulu this Friday, November 20th. This review, specifically, was based on viewing 5 episodes.