All aboard the Nineties nostalgia train; “Animaniacs” is getting a modern reboot, following in the footsteps of “Ducktales” in an attempt to cash in on a young generation of parents who are desperate to share their own childhood with their children.
On paper, this sounds like a great idea – “Animaniacs” was one of the most wonderfully subversive, enjoyable cartoons of its time. It was simple enough to appeal to children, while showing off just enough teeth to make adults chortle as well.
Under the surface is a snide, sarcastic adult humor that’s never quite as crude and blatant as in “Ren and Stimpy” or “Rocko’s Modern Life”, but which nevertheless delivers subtle, mature parody that’s designed to fly right over the heads of its intended pint-sized audience.
Here’s the problem with rebooting the show, though: that lightning can’t strike twice.
The reason why the original “Animaniacs” endures so well is because the creators were given the freedom to try and get away with these subtle jokes. A negligent (willfully or otherwise) television network allowed the creators of the cartoon to slip a lot of stuff under the radar.
There’s very little chance that this would be possible today, especially now that “Animaniacs” is being viewed as such a big deal. Either the dark humor becomes too pronounced in an attempt to appeal to grown-ups, or it gets watered down out of a fear of offending children.
The kind of loose, free humor that flows from the original “Animaniacs” simply won’t be possible in the modern climate.
This is the reason why shows like “The Simpsons” struggle to live up to their earlier reputation after decades of jokes. In a world where overt adult cartoons such as “Rick and Morty” dominate popular culture, there’s no place for an animation that tries to be both innocent and dirty.
“Ducktales” works in its rebooted form because that show was only ever for children, and the new version simply layers on extra nuance for adults who are happy enjoying wholesome entertainment.
“Animaniacs” may be a difficult show to get right in the modern era of cartoons, no matter how much baloney is shoved into people’s slacks.