Rob Paulsen, Maurice Lamarche, & Jess Harnell Interview: Animaniacs

Back in the 1990s, Animaniacs famously succeeded as one of the few animated family shows that appealed to parents and older siblings just as much as the pre-school set, if not more so. The series effortlessly bounced between wacky antics and scathing satire, and every pratfall was balanced out by an affectionate parody of one pop culture pillar or another. Now, 22 years after the original series went off the air, the Animaniacs are back with a revival on Hulu.

The new Animaniacs hasn’t missed a beat, and its satirical humor is even more biting than before. Episodes in the new season tackle such hot-button issues as gun control, Russian election interference, and cell phone addiction, all while maintaining the show’s signature brand of rapid-fire absurd humor aimed at children of all ages. Simply put, the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) are back, and it’s like they never left.

Related: Animaniacs: 10 Funniest References You Didn’t Get As A Kid

While promoting the new season of Animaniacs, actors Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, and Jess Harnell spoke to Screen Rant about the enduring legacy of their famous roles. They tease the return of Animaniacs Live and discuss their excitement at getting to return to these characters in brand new adventures that satirize and poke fun at the shifting culture of the 2020 era. Finally, they tease their favorite moments of the new series and make a strong case for universal “bun control.”

Animaniacs is out now on Hulu, and a second revival season is already slated for 2021.

Animaniacs new designs

Hi everybody! I’m shocked, I’m stunned, it’s like you haven’t missed a beat in 22 years!

Rob Paulsen: Thank you, Zak.

Jess Harnell: You saw some episodes?

I did, I saw a whole bunch!

Jess Harnell: And you dug ’em?

I dug them so much.

Maurice LaMarche: When I take over the world, Zak, you shall be spared.

Yes! Thank you!

Jess Harnell: You’ll be okay!

So, I know that you’ve done live shows here and there…

Jess Harnell: Yes.

But basically, after 22 years, is it a muscle memory, can you jump right back into it, or do you have to relearn what you had learned?

Jess Harnell: Boys?

Rob Paulsen: Thank you, firstly, for your vote of confidence, right off the bat, Zak. Thank you, it means a lot coming from you. No. As Mo and Jess and I have discussed a couple of times, these characters are so precious to us, and obviously, thank God, to millions of others. So, with the advent of Comic Cons, Covid-Con notwithstanding, we’ve had myriad opportunities to keep that muscle flexed. All it does is feed the beast, man. Every time that (in a Yakko voice) “ya know, Yakko shows up,” (in Pinky voice), “Or Pinky,” or Wakko, or The Brain, look what happens to your face, you can’t help it!(Laughs)

Maurice LaMarche: Or Carl!

Rob Paulsen: (In Carl voice) “Or Carl, sometimes Carl Wheezer shows up, too, and freaks out. He’s got a gun! Ah!” So, no. It was effortless to get… The characters never go away, but holy crap, what a group of writers! That’s…

Jess Harnell: It’s real important, because, you know, without them, we’re just making funny noises, man. What’s really cool, and I’m sure you’ve seen it because you’ve seen some episodes, is, we’ve got this amazing team behind us who manage to take some of the hot button issues of current years and turn them into animated entertainment suitable for children of all ages, and that is no mean feat man, you know what I’m saying?

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Sure! Speaking of those live shows, I know that’s not really a thing you can go and do right now, but are there maybe plans in the near future to do something like that again?

Rob Paulsen: Yes, there are. In fact, Mo and Jess, and Tress have been so kind in coming along whenever it’s possible. Our partner and dear brother, Randy Rogel, who wrote, (singing) “United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru,” and a lot of those other great songs… Warner Bros. animation has given us, talk about a sweetheart licensing deal… By which we’re able to do exactly what you talked about, and take Animaniacs in concert around the country. Whether we do it with Randy, me, and a piano at the City Winery in New York in New York, or we do it with an 80 piece symphony and all four of us, it’s the coolest, pardon me, goddamned thing you’ve ever seen, Zak. It’s so cool to have a group, an 80 piece orchestra and a bit, 50 foot screen in back, and everybody’s in sync with the characters on the screen, and all the sound is coming from the stage. It’s truly remarkable.

Jess Harnell: You know what’s cool? We’ve had some rock star moments with Animaniacs, particularly with Animaniacs Live, and there is a very cool feeling you get when you’re standing in the back of the stage with an 80 piece orchestra and Rob Paulsen finishes singing Yakko’s World, and the audience goes, “Ahhhhhhhh” and it sounds like a Metallica concert.

Rob Paulsen: It’s like Stairway to Heaven, for us! The short answer is, yes. When we’re able to do it safely, whoever will have us, we have a wonderful group representing us, and we’ll be back.

Jess Harnell: We’ll be there!

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Awesome. I don’t have that much more time with you, so really quick, are there any bits or songs or anything in particular that you’re proud of this season that you want to shout-out for the viewers to keep an eye out for?

Jess Harnell: For me, my favorite thing is, you know what’s great, Wakko… Doing the voice of Wakko in general is a throwback to The Beatles, who were such a big part of my life, growing up. And another big part of my life growing up was a certain Broadway musical. And I walked into the studio one day and they said, “we’re going to be doing a musical of this show.” And I couldn’t have been happier. Because man, it’s all, including the reboot, my life has come full circle. I got to do the Beatles, basically, doing Wakko, doing my favorite musical of all time. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s awesome and you’re gonna love it.

Maurice LaMarche: Watch out for the one where Brain tries to take over the world.

Jess Harnell: That’s a good one, you’ll like that one!

Rob Paulsen: That narrows it down! I’ve got to say… We’ve talked about it already today, but the “Bun Control.” Did you see the Bun Control episode?

Oh yeah! I certainly did!

Rob Paulsen: How about that, Zak?

Ten out of ten.

Jess Harnell: Thanks, man!

Rob Paulsen: That tells you all you need to know…

Jess Harnell: Drop the mic.

Rob Paulsen: …About the level of writing, and the fact that these guys so get it. What more could you ask to deal with such a really difficult issue in a way to make it humorous, but not make it condescending and lessen its impact? Genius.

Yeah, I mean, we do need to address the issue of extended magazine shoes.

Rob Paulsen: Yeah! Well said! Excellent!

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Thanks a bunch. It’s a treat and an honor to talk to you. Thank you so much for my entire lifetime of entertainment.

Jess Harnell: Zak, we can feel your positive energy through the computer, man. Thanks for your time.

Rob Paulsen: You made our day, buddy!

Next: Zodiac Signs Of The Animaniacs (Including Pinky & The Brain)

Animaniacs is out now on Hulu, and a second revival season is already slated for 2021.

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Updated: November 20, 2020 — 9:08 pm

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