Hulu’s Animaniacs revival landed on November 20th, and it couldn’t have gone down better online, with fans praising the reboot of the classic 90s animated show for its spot on mix of kid-friendly slapstick and witty pop culture and political jokes for the older viewers. Unfortunately, however, as folks have made their way through the 13 episodes that debuted last Friday, the show has generated controversy due to one particular visual gag.
At one point, a poster for a fake movie starring Johnny Depp called Johnny II: Telling Lies is shown. It’s hard not to see this as a reference to Depp’s ongoing legal feud with ex-wife Amber Heard, in which he’s repeatedly hit back at her claims that he domestically abused her, with the Pirates of the Caribbean actor providing his own evidence suggesting that she actually abused him. Of course, the former A-lister has a lot of passionate supporters on social media and they didn’t take too kindly to the show’s implication that he’s a liar, as you can see below.
Warner Brothers: this is a sick thing to do to an abuse survivor. Listen to the tapes – Johnny Depp has been put through psychological torture and physical abuse. I'm sorry that I don't find this funny, but it's no laughing matter.#BoycottWarnerBrothers#JusticeForJohnnyDepp pic.twitter.com/E3BBmX3ITq
— Sam Johnson (@SamjiSmokes) November 22, 2020
As much as I liked the new Animaniacs, I can not in good conscience bring myself to support this show or Warner Brothers. It is absolutely sickening to see them use a cartoon to make fun of an Abuse victim while wholeheartedly defending the culprit. #BoycottWarnerBrothers pic.twitter.com/swmkA4g75B
— Crow (RIP Kirby Morrow) (@ScaringTheCrow) November 22, 2020
— ジョーダン (Jor: #NeoTWEWY) (@PyraStanJord) November 22, 2020
— Nousheen (@Nousheen_N) November 23, 2020
#BoycottWarnerBrothers #JusticeForJohnnyDepp Amber Heard had a part to play in this saga, she should also be ostracised for her behaviour, this is nothing short of a vendetta against Johnny Depp and totally unfair..#JOHNNY pic.twitter.com/5r0IEywPYt
— Anthony (@Anthony41806183) November 23, 2020
While you @warnerbros spend your time defaming Johnny and portraying him as a liar in a cartoon, almost 1.5 million people want #JusticeForJohnnyDepp and his abuser to be fired. But keep screwing up, Warner Bros, and get ready for empty cinemas! #BoycottWarnerBrothers https://t.co/NSfh9gw5V4
— seedoftruth🏴☠️ (@seedoftruth1) November 23, 2020
To be fair to Animaniacs, a fourth-wall breaking joke elsewhere in the season makes clear that it was actually animated back in 2018. This has led some to defend the gag, claiming that it’s likely a reference to the ‘Johnny Johnny Yes Papa’ meme that was popular at the time.
For those unfamiliar, that was spawned from a nursery rhyme about a boy who lies to his grandpa, hence the Telling Lies subtitle. Even if this is the case, though, others feel that they should’ve edited it out given more recent developments in Depp’s personal life.
#BoycottWarnerBrothers Some defend this because the reboot was written in 2018 and was capitalising on the Johnny Johnny Yes Papa meme, but considering Depp was a polarising topic for the entire year plus new info even if above was true, they should have just edited it out. pic.twitter.com/gAgMzqfGKh
— Sir K (@SirKillalot98) November 22, 2020
What this Animaniacs gag unfortunately does is further the idea that Warner Bros. has it in for the actor amongst his fans. Earlier this month, he was fired from the Fantastic Beasts movies as Grindelwald, following a UK libel case going against him, something that effectively legally labelled him “a wife beater.” Meanwhile, WB has stood by Amber Heard, who’s confirmed she’s returning as Mera in Aquaman 2.
It’s also a shame that this single joke has spoiled what’s otherwise a hugely fun show for some folks. If you’re not included among them, though, you can catch the first season of the new Animaniacs on Hulu now.