Gabe Swarr & Wellesley Wild Interview: Animaniacs

While promoting the new season of Animaniacs, Swarr and Wild spoke to Screen Rant about their work on the show. They discuss how Steven Spielberg had their back when it came to making sure the production values of the new show was up to the standard set by the originals, and how they went to dozens of animation studios before finding teams they believed would be good enough for Animaniacs. They also talk about some of the changes they decided to make with the characterizations and supporting players (farewell, Hello Nurse).

The new season of Animaniacs is out now on Hulu, and a second revival season is already scheduled for 2021.

How’s it going?

Gabe Swarr: Good.

Wellesley Wild: Good man, how are you doing?

I’m doing great, especially because I just watched a whole bunch of Animaniacs!

Gabe Swarr: Oh, great!

Wellesley Wild: I like you, I want to hang out with you, you’re like, my kind of guy! (Laughs)

Yeah, sure! It’s brand new but it hasn’t missed a beat, it’s got this amazing balance of not being the same thing that we loved when we were kid, or whatever age we were because it’s ostensibly a kids’ show but anyone can enjoy this! Tell me about doing that kind of reboot, where it’s gotta be the same, but it’s gotta be topical, but it’s gotta be new, is that a balancing act and I have no idea?

Wellesley Wild: Yeah. I mean, you know… We basically approached it like… The show worked. It was lightning in a bottle. The show was amazing, the original. So, we were like, okay, that’s a gift. Let’s start with that. Let’s keep as much as we can and just update the cultural references, the music genres, some of the ideological changes that have happened in the last 22 years. Updating, for example, Hello Nurse. You won’t be seeing Hello Nurse, and Dot’s a little more… She’s a little bit more assertive and less cutesey and reserved. She’s putting her foot down a little bit more in this iteration. But a lot of it was trying to keep as much of the original as possible. It was really scary, like, it’s such a beloved show and why change stuff that works? Just change what you need to, to update it. And we kinda looked at it, like, hey, if the show never went off the air in ’98 and just stayed on, magically, somehow, for 22 years, what would it look like now? And we sort of followed that philosophy a little bit.

Sure. Maybe it’s just my eyes, but the animation looks just as amazing as it did in the ’90s. It doesn’t look like any shortcuts were taken. Was that even a consideration, or was it, like, “if we can’t make it look like we haven’t missed a beat, why even do it?”

Gabe Swarr: Steven Spielberg is a huge fan of full animation, so he said, “I want it as full as we can afford,” so that’s what we did. We searched, and I think we tried out 30-something studios around the world to try and find ones that could do what we wanted to do. It’s just drawing, it’s a lot of drawing that we have to do. And we definitely leaned into the original, too. We went back, looked at all the episodes, picked out the best ones, and tried to really hone in and make the best of the best. One studio was TMS, Tokyo Movie Shinsha, a Japanese studio. I reached out to them, talked to them and found out how they worked, and really leaned into design for them.

Awesome! One thing that stands out to me immediately is the music. It’s just as full as it ever was. Tell me a little bit about getting that. It’s live, right?

Wellesley Wild: Oh yeah. Full orchestra. Thank you, Steven Spielberg. He insisted on it, and God bless Warner Bros. for agreeing to it, because it costs a lot of money! Just like Gabe was talking about the intricacies of the new animation, the music is… Yeah, that rich, full sound, that’s a full orchestra you’re hearing. I’m not sure what you’ve seen so far, but there’s a lot of new, fun genres that we play around with, as well, just as a part of updating the show, as a whole. We’ve got tons of songs, they’re super fun. Randy Rogel is writing songs like he did in the original… We’ve got a great variety. Variety in the variety show, you know?

Was there anyone you had to drag out of retirement to come back?

Wellesley Wild: No, everyone was eager!

Gabe Swarr: Yeah, everyone was… All the voice actors were all still working. They’ve done tons of stuff, since.

Wellesley Wild: They’ve been very successful outside of Animaniacs, but they were so excited.

Gabe Swarr: They’re still at the top of their game, so we really lucked out. It could have gone the other way!

Awesome. Thank you so much, it’s an honor and a treat to get to talk to you, the show is fantastic. Like I said, it hasn’t missed a beat.

Wellesley Wild: Dude, thank you so much! I got a new nickname for you: Zak Black.

I’ll take it!

Wellesley Wild: You’re very Jack Black. You have the facial expressions and the comedy of Jack Black. It’s pretty funny. You’re not related?

Nope… Not that I know of.

Wellesley Wild: (Laughs) You just did it again!

The new season of Animaniacs is out now on Hulu, and a second revival season is already scheduled for 2021.