After a long layoff that spanned over 20 years, Animaniacs returned for a revival on Hulu in November 2020 and has since produced two seasons.
Despite only running for a few years, the original series touched the hearts and minds of the many people who watched it at the time, largely thanks to the roles portrayed by Rob Paulsen (Yakko Warner and Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (The Brain).
The iconic voice actors have lent their voices to countless colorful characters over the course of their careers including Raphael and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paulsen) and Egon Spengler in The Real Ghostbusters (LaMarche).
Reprising those roles has been a true thrill for them both, especially in the midst of a pandemic when the world could use some fun nostalgia.
Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche on Animaniacs
“The timing is very important,” Paulsen told Hidden Remote in an exclusive interview. “Last year I said the fact that we were able to take this big, stinky vat of lemons that 2020 gave us and make a big, nice vat of Acme lemonade thanks to Hulu was a huge privilege. We still are in the middle of [a pandemic] and we still are wrestling with so many cultural issues and political issues and all that.
“We’re finding over and over again now that we’re getting back to a little bit of normalcy with conventions,” he continued, “the over-arching takeaway is that people are so glad to be able to find a reason to go out and laugh and blow off some steam. To be in the privileged position of being able to deliver a big vat of Acme lemonade is a blast for us.”
LaMarche echoed those sentiments, noting that hearing the praise in person from fans of the show and all of their other works resonates with them in a different way than reading it online.
Season 1 of Animaniacs on Hulu brought joy to many in the middle of a terrible time in the world, and Season 2 has been equally well-received. Both LaMarche and Paulsen look forward to making more of the comic con rounds as the world continues to slowly open up.
“It really is wonderful,” LaMarche said. “We’re not out of the pandemic yet, but I’m one of those optimistic people that sees a tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming train. The fact that we’re doing comic cons now and the fact we have enough vaccinated people, we’ve been safe and we’ve been able to interact with people in real life, to be able to talk about the show and feel the excitement that they feel when they come to us at these conventions, it’s very uplifting to know we have such a positive impact on people.”
Kids who grew up watching Animaniacs have already entered adulthood and may have children of their own that they can watching the new seasons with. When asked about what age groups they’ve found the revival of Animaniacs has connected with the most, LaMarche believes that it’s both.
“I’m doing the show for both of those groups,” he said. “I want people who love the OG series to connect with this somewhat-edgier version of Pinky and The Brain, but it’s logical that they’re edgier. Twenty-seven years have gone by. Brain still hasn’t taken over the world. He’s pissed off! He’s ready to use vaporizing rays on fictitious cities, of course. But I’m doing the show for both of those groups, hoping that the fans of the original get with where we’re going with the show.”
Paulsen has seen these generations of fans firsthand at conventions, sharing with him their stories of loving the show in their childhood as well as in adolescence and bonding with family and friends over it throughout the years.
Knowing he’s a part of something so ingrained in pop culture and the lifelong memories of many is not lost on him.
“That’s what’s so overwhelming, when we go to meet people and they say, ‘Gosh, I grew up watching it and now my nieces and nephews watch it,’ or, ‘My dad started watching this when he was in college and now my dad is my son’s grandfather and we all watch Animaniacs.’ That’s such a huge deal to know we’re involved in something that is cross-culturally important,” Paulsen said. “I don’t know how to thank people enough for being that ardent in their support. It’s just fantastic.”
If you watch any YouTube compilation of the numerous animated characters Paulsen and LaMarche have voiced over the last few decades, one of the most popular comments you’ll find is that they were the voice of that person’s childhood.
Whether it was Animaniacs, Pinky and The Brain, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Danny Phantom or even Codename: Kids Next Door, they’ve been a part of more movies and shows than one can even name. They always hear from fans about how they’ve been positively affected by their work and it’s never anything less than an amazing honor for the dynamic duo.
“That’s what Mel Blanc and Daws Butler were to us,” LaMarche said. “They were our childhoods, so to think we’ve stepped into that role for other people even though I still feel like a class clown on the inside, they’re looking at me the same way I look at those classic voice actors. We did the the closest thing to magic outside of magic to bring a drawing to life with a voice that you can’t turn your ear from. I’m thrilled with that.”
“It really is impossible to quantify,” Paulsen added. “It is an honor and a privilege. This whole glorious career that I still am enjoying is a privilege for which Maurice and I have worked very hard. This is the God’s honest truth: We get how lucky we are. Never, ever do we take it for granted. We go to these events and people say that: ‘You’re the voice of my childhood.’ We go home exhausted from three days of saying thank you. I don’t know if there’s a better way to move through life.”
Season 2 of Animaniacs is available now on Hulu.