Animaniacs Star Explains the Real Story Behind Controversial Johnny Depp Joke

A joke tucked in an episode of the Animaniacs revival on Hulu had Johnny Depp fans up in arms over what they perceived to be troubling commentary over the actor's public and controversial divorce from Aquaman star Amber Heard. Now, Rob Paulsen, the voice behind Yakko in the animated series explains that the joke wasn't about Depp; instead, it was about meant to be a play on the Johnny Johnny Yes Papa rhyme.

In an interview with Cinemablend, Paulsen explained that the intent of the joke really was to parody the rhyme that has been popularized in a viral YouTube video featuring a baby sitting and eating a bag of candy and sugar and, well, outright lying to his father about it.

"But the truth about that is that there's a poem, a children's poem, a book called 'Lying Johnny,' or 'Johny Johny' or something like that, you can look it up," Paulsen said. "And remember, this was done a couple of years ago. And by the way, this is a background that is involved in one of the episodes. And frankly, I'm not sure which one because I don't draw them and I don't write them."

In Animaniacs moment, at issue is a musical number in one of the episodes that sees Yakko, Wakko, and Dot singing and dancing all about the entertainment industry's obsession with reboots, sequels, prequels, and, well, anything that isn't an original product. At one point, Yakko sings about how "you've done sequels, try for prequels" while standing in front of a movie poster for a faux Johnny Depp films "Johnny 2: Telling Lies" with the actor holding a pair of scissors and another, "Johnny: The Beginning" with the latter featuring a child holding a bag of what appears to be candy. While some fans noticed the direct similarities to the "Johnny Johnny Yes Papa" meme, others felt it was a dig at Depp. Paulsen, however, says that it really is just reference to the rhyme and he even did a bit of research on the matter.

"I've been getting heat myself. ‘Mr. Paulsen, how could you?’ ‘How could I what? What did I do?’ ‘Well, Johnny Depp and you know, he's being mistreated.’ I don't know what people are talking about. So, I did a little research," he said. "Well, check out 'Johny Johny.' And you know, and if you see earlier in that background shot, there's a baby eating sugar, and that’s part of the children’s rhyme."

Paulsen further that while people are going to read into the matter what they will, here was no deliberate attempt to reference Depp or Heard in the episode.

"But I can tell you nobody was looking to make it uncomfortable or cast dispersions against Johnny Depp, Amber Heard or anyone. People co-opt that for their own uses," he said.

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The first season of the Animaniacs revival is now streaming on Hulu.

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