Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille: 'Animaniacs' Season 2 tackles social media

Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille: 'Animaniacs' Season 2 tackles social media
From left to right, Dot, Yakko and Wakko return in "Animaniacs" Season 2. Image courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Voice actors Rob Paulsen and Tress MacNeille say Season 2 of the Animaniacs revival, premiering Friday on Hulu, satirizes modern social media.

Paulsen, 65, plays Yakko Warner, part of a trio of animated Warner siblings who run loose at Warner Brothers Studios.


"There's a point where Yakko is water skiing, and a shark jumps over him," Paulsen said in a recent Zoom interview. "He says, 'We're so good at memes, the shark jumped us.'"

Animaniacs first aired from 1993 to 1998. Hulu brought it back in 2020 with the original voice actors.

MacNeille, 70, who plays Dot Warner, said the emergence of social media has given the new series more material.

"It's so much a part of the real world," MacNeille said. "So we can poke fun at social media and the ups and downs of that."


Paulsen also voices Pinky in Pinky and the Brain segments that air after Yakko, Dot and Wacko Warner's (Jess Harnell) latest antics. Pinky and the Brain are laboratory mice who try to take over the world. They have not succeeded.

One new episode of Pinky and the Brain on Animaniacs Season 2 reimagines them as classic sitcoms. Paulsen said the streaming popularity of sitcoms like Friends and I Love Lucy made it relevant to satirize them again.

"There are going to be a bunch of 9-year-olds who are thinking, 'What's Lucy? What's that?'" Paulsen said. "To coin a phrase, we love Lucy and I love the fact that social media is drawing attention to all these great shows from 50 years ago."

Animaniacs always included jokes that only adults would understand, and the new season is no exception. Season 2 has Gladiator, Conan the Barbarian and Gandhi jokes aimed at older viewers.

"That is the stock and trade of Animaniacs, just like it was of Rocky and Bullwinkle, of Looney Tunes, of The Flintstones," Paulsen said. "These shows are purposely written on two levels so that [a viewer] in 2020 or 2021 might get a joke watching an old episode of Animaniacs that he may not have gotten in 1995."


MacNeille said she welcomes jokes for adults, as long as they don't alienate the younger viewers.

"As long as they're not too blue and not mean, I don't mind," MacNeille said.

"I don't mind an adult jab here and there," she said. "Keeps things spicy."

Although Animaniacs Season 2 addresses new pop culture trends, some things never change. For example, each Pinky and the Brain episode ends the same way, with Pinky asking Brain, "What are we going to do tomorrow?"

Brain always answers, "The same thing we do every night, Pinky -- try to take over the world."

Paulsen said they do not reuse his old recordings. He says the line anew every time.

"It never gets old," Pauleon said.

Yakko, Wacko and Dot's antics often result in the characters screaming. MacNeille said screams sometimes can be reused, but she's still game to record new ones.

"It doesn't take too much of a toll on me," MacNeille said. "I'm kind of used to that kind of a theatrical scream. It's not that tough."

Paulson said many of Yakko's screams are identical for artistic reasons. If the joke is that his scream is exactly the same, Paulson will not record a new one.


"There's an episode this season in which I just lose it for about 10 minutes," Paulsen said. "Especially, if it's a callback to an earlier part of the show, they'll definitely replay that."

Animaniacs also is a musical show, and Season 2 features new songs. MacNeille and Paulson said they had singing experience before Animaniacs.

MacNeille sang in the University of California at Berkeley chorus and in church choir before college. She sang female lyrics for Weird Al Yankovic while shows like The Simpsons, and various Disney shows also require MacNeille to sing.

"Throughout my voiceover career, I have done singing chickens and things of that nature," MacNeille said. "In cartoons they'll often ask you to sing a diddy here and there."

Before Animaniacs, Paulsen did voice work for Disney's Aladdin TV series, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures and more. After the '90s Animaniacs ended, Paulsen, MacNeille and Harnell continued to perform songs from the series live. Paulson said he was a singer before his acting career.

"Animaniacs changed my life because it allowed me to do more than just come up with a silly character," he said. "I love to sing, and you have a 30 piece orchestra for every half-hour."


All Season 2 episodes of Animaniacs are available to stream Friday on Hulu.

A previous version of this article misspelled Rob Paulsen's name.

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