Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot has generally gone down really well on social media, with audiences both familiar with the original 1990s cartoon and those coming to it fresh enjoying the show’s tongue-in-cheek humor that always has an eye on the adults watching. There was one joke in the first season, though, that caused a social media storm, as it seemed to make a strong judgement on the ongoing Johnny Depp/Amber Heard legal feud.
During a song about Hollywood’s love of reboots, Yakko sings “you’ve done sequels, try for prequels!” To illustrate his point, the Warner brother displays a poster for a fake Depp movie called Johnny II: Telling Lies followed by a second poster for Johnny: The Beginning, featuring a child holding a bag of candy. The combination of Depp’s name and the phrase “telling lies” was enough to send Twitter into uproar, but Yakko voice actor Rob Paulson has now clarified that there was no ill intent behind the visual gag.
While speaking to CinemaBlend, Paulson explained that, as many folks had already guessed, the posters were in reference to the popular Johnny Johnny Yes Papa rhyme, which was an internet meme back in 2018, when the Animaniacs relaunch was being animated.
“But the truth about that is that there’s a poem, a children’s poem, a book called ‘Lying Johnny,’ or ‘Johny Johny’ or something like that, you can look it up,” Paulsen said. “And remember, this was done a couple of years ago. And by the way, this is a background that is involved in one of the episodes. And frankly, I’m not sure which one because I don’t draw them and I don’t write them.”
Paulson revealed that he got people demanding answers for the joke on social media, which caused him to do some research on what the real story behind the controversy was.
“I’ve been getting heat myself. ‘Mr. Paulsen, how could you?’ ‘How could I what? What did I do?’ ‘Well, Johnny Depp and you know, he’s being mistreated.’ I don’t know what people are talking about. So, I did a little research,” he said. “Well, check out ‘Johny Johny.’ And you know, and if you see earlier in that background shot, there’s a baby eating sugar, and that’s part of the children’s rhyme.”
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The actor concluded by promising that it really wasn’t meant to be any kind of near-the-knuckle joke or one that got into the ugly situation between the Pirates of the Caribbean star and his ex-wife in any way.
“But I can tell you nobody was looking to make it uncomfortable or cast dispersions against Johnny Depp, Amber Heard or anyone. People co-opt that for their own uses,” he said.
So, there you go, all the anger online has been completely misplaced. Of course, you could say that Warner Bros. should have picked up on how the joke would look given recent developments in Depp’s case and edited it out, but likely no one involved in the production, as is the case with Paulson, ever conceived that it could be linked to those events at all.
Nothing to see here, then, folks. Let’s go back to enjoying Animaniacs on Hulu.