'Animaniacs': Wakko Voice Actor Jess Harnell Calls Reboot a 'Trojan Horse' for 'Social Satire and Commentary' (Exclusive)

Animaniacs is back with 13 new episodes this week, and star Jess Harnell thinks the show will sneak in plenty of satire where it can. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Harnell remarked on Animaniacs' unique ability to make social commentary palatable for all ages. He believes this holds true for both the original series and the reboot, which premieres Friday on Hulu.

Harnell told us in our series, PopCulture @ Home that "lots of adults watch Animaniacs and love Animaniacs, 'cause it's written on both levels." That distinct brand of dual-purpose comedy is alive and well in the forthcoming reboot, and the beloved voice-actor is excited to see how the generation that grew up with Animaniacs will respond to it all these years later. Additionally, he believes that TV audiences are better positioned than ever to see what the show is going for.

"When Animaniacs started, it was a kids' cartoon, but it was really a Trojan Horse, you know?" Harnell said. "Sneaking its way on the TV and then opening up the side and letting all this social satire and commentary and stuff come flooding out! And I think the network executives — had it not been a hit — would have been like, 'this isn't what you told us it was going to be!'"

Instead, the response was more like: "'We wanted this all along!' Because that's TV," Harnell, who plays Wakko Warner said. The 56-year-old New Jersey native, who has played the beloved character since 1993, goes on to share his gratitude to fans of all ages for their continued support of the show — in addition to the producers who insisted on hiring the main cast to reprise their roles alongside, Rob Paulsen as Yakko and Tress Macneille as Dot.

"The cool thing with Animaniacs that makes it different is that it's a children's show masquerading as a satire, masquerading as a variety show, masquerading as a Broadway musical, right?" Harnell said. "So there's all these different elements, and what's really cool about it is that all this stuff that you loved about it then is still going to be there."


The original Animaniacs cartoon ran from 1993 to 1998 and pioneered the fourth wall-shattering "meta" comedy that has been a staple of the genre in the years since. Hulu announced the revival in January of 2018, made in conjunction with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. Spielberg was one of the producers who fought for the original cast's return, and Harnell joked that he was perhaps "more involved" than other producers were expecting.

The Animaniacs revival premieres on Friday, Nov. 20, only on Hulu. The entire original series is now available to stream on Hulu.