Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Rob Paulsen on 30 years of Tiny Toon Adventures and life in the WB water tower

Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about.

The actor: A fixture in animation since the late 80s, Rob Paulsen has over 500 credits to his name on IMDb. Though the scope of his career is immense—he’s done everything from voiceovers teasing the next episode of Cheers to portraying not one but two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—he’s perhaps best known these days for his appearances on two 90s darlings: Animaniacs and Pinky And The Brain. On the former, he voiced Yakko, the eldest of the “Warner Brothers,” a wisecracking and lovestruck geography buff in paper bag waist pants. On Pinky And The Brain—which originated on Animaniacs—he played Pinky, a tall but stupid mouse who always meant well. Paulsen also popped up on other Warner Bros. animation projects, including Tiny Toon Adventures, which premiered 30 years ago this fall.

We’d previously talked to Paulsen for a Random Roles in 2012, but given both that anniversary and the Animaniacs revival coming to Hulu this fall, it seemed like a good time for an update. We asked Paulsen about both of those hot topics, of course, but also about his roles on 80s classics like The Smurfs and The Snorks and in the legendary “Aaron Burr” milk commercial. Portions of our interview are in the video above, but a full transcript can be found below.

Animaniacs (1993-1998, 2020)—“Yakko Warner” / “Pinky” / “Dr. Scratchansniff”

The A.V. Club: Were you surprised to hear that Animaniacs was coming back?You’ve been doing fan events for a while so you had to know how much people still loved the show.

Rob Paulsen: I was pleasantly surprised, as you can imagine. Any time you get to work with Steven Spielberg, it’s just… I mean, he’s the king of Hollywood. Those are my words, but I don’t think too many people would argue.

You’re looking at a guy who’s won the cartoon lottery more than a few times, but when The A.V. Club and I last spoke, it was around Ninja Turtles, and that was my second ride in the turtle van. I got to be Donatello for, I don’t know, a couple hundred episodes or so after having been Raphael on the original show. Now we’ve captured lightning in a bottle again.

I didn’t really know until the last five or six years when I started doing a lot of interviews and comic-cons that people really connect with Animaniacs. People your age and older love the legacy of Looney Tunes and Tom Ruegger and Steven Spielberg and Jean MacCurdy and all their staff knew exactly what they were doing back all through the nineties—’93 through 99, I think.

Mr. Spielberg a couple of years ago says, “Hey, you guys think we should do this again?” And it turns out that we’ve got a pretty big fan base—exponentially larger than it was when you first watched it. That speaks to the relevance of Animaniacs. It’s just good stuff. And to get another shot at that with the same actors that were on Pinky And The Brain and who were Wacko and Dot? Are you kidding me, man?

I’ll tell you what: The view from the water tower is pretty damn cool.

AVC: Does it feel the same? Have you seen the scripts yet?

RP: Yes. We’ve actually recorded a number of them and they’re in post production now getting ready for this fall on Hulu. What really is great and what does feel the same is being with the other actors. We don’t have the entire staff who was there 25 years ago. Some of them have moved on to other gigs and some of them moved on to the next mortal coil or the next plane, but being able to be in the same room with my fellow “Brain” Maurice LaMarche, my sister “Dot” Tress MacNeille, and my brother Jess “Wakko” Harnell is really incredible.

In fact, Tress MacNeille who you guys know as “Dot”? Boy, IMDb her. She’s the most prolific voice actress ever in the history of Hollywood. I think she’s done 500 episodes of The Simpsons alone. She’s just incredibly gifted.

I remember an episode where we were all recording Animaniacs during the first go round and there were a bunch of actors because we had a giant cast. I looked at Tress and I said, “Honey, take a picture of this because this is as good as it gets.” I mean, we had Emmy-winning writers, Steven Spielberg, Emmy-winning directors, Emmy-winning artists, and everybody in the cast. A lot of us later won Emmys as well. It really didn’t get much better as far as having the stars all align. Then 25 years later, when we got to the first recording session of this new batch, I looked at Tress and I said, “Do you remember when I said…” and she cut me off. She said, “This is as good as it gets?” And then she said, “It’s better. Isn’t it?” There’s a great song that goes “Love is as lovely the second time around,” and it’s pretty hard not to love this group of people and this cast of characters.

People love Animaniacs for the music too. There’s another 35- to 40-piece orchestra for every half hour. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg. Looney Tunes’ music was spectacular and that is not dissimilar to Animaniacs. All the original songs hold up really well and we’re back doing more music. So it’s pretty remarkable.

AVC: The show originally launched as an afterschool program for kids who have now grown up and may have kids of their own. As far as the audience Hulu is hoping to develop, do you think it’s meant just for those grown-ups, or for their kids as well? I’m not sure how familiar kids are these days with the Looney Tunes genre.

RP: Well, Bugs is 75 years old but it’s kind of like McDonald’s. Sooner or later, kids find it. My son is 36, and one day he just said, “I want to go to McDonald’s.” I don’t remember sitting in front of a bunch of commercials, but obviously he picked it up. It’s kind of like Ninja Turtles or SpongeBob. There are certain things that become iconic and they sort of worm their way into the culture and into the consciousness of grown up children like yourself and then into their children.

I do know that the ethos of the show hasn’t changed. It’s not being written to condescend. It’s being written to appeal to all ages, just like Looney Tunes. You can watch Looney Tunes now, “kill the wabbit” or “rabbit season! Duck season!,” and those cartoons are 40, 50 years old, but they’re just really good stuff. The attitudes change, but people still love to laugh.

There have been, I think, appropriate tweaks done because we live a quarter-century later. So there’s a lot of stuff that we can lampoon that we didn’t have before. But also the way in which we consume entertainment... it’s going to be on Hulu. So when you’re looking at these brand new platforms, everybody has access to it. People like my son and his wife don’t even have cable TV. They just watch Hulu, Netflix, whatever they want.

The thing that’s going to be fascinating from a professional standpoint is you will be able to sit down with your children and your husband and watch your very favorite episode of Animaniacs and then literally watch a brand new episode that’s been made 25 years later with the same cast and you’ll be able to make a judgment. So it’s a pretty high bar.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled to death. I love the challenge, but the bar is pretty high. But also, because it’s 25 years later, you can go, “Okay, Animaniacs, impress me. I thought you guys were pretty good 25 years ago, and now I’m going to get to watch a show that was made 25 years later in the blink of an eye.” I’ve never experienced anything like that in my career, and I’ve been in Hollywood for 40 years. The whole way in which you and your children consume entertainment is completely different. We still make it the same way, but you can watch whatever you want and click it off if you don’t like it and watch the old ones if you want.

Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992, 1994)—“Arnold The Pit Bull,” “Concord Condor,” “Fowlmouth,” and more

AVC: Speaking of time passing, we’re also coming up on the 30-year anniversary of Tiny Toon Adventures. What do you remember about getting brought in for that show? 

RP: I think that was the first Warner Brothers show I worked on in that new golden age of animation. I started working on it in the late 80s and they started premiering in 1990, because Animaniacs came out in ’93. For me it was this glorious opportunity because that was Steven Spielberg again. You had Andrea Romano the casting director, Tom Ruegger the creator, and Jean MacCurdy, head of Warner Brothers animation.

What we got to do on that show was kind of do our homework. It was a great standalone show, and obviously it was a hit, but it relied on characters that were based on original Looney Tunes characters. You know, Plucky Duck, Hampton Pig, Babs and Buster Bunny… they were all sort of cartoon offspring of classic characters. Animaniacs turned out to be a clean sheet of paper.

Tiny Toons for me was an opportunity to really hone my skills. I didn’t know that Animaniacs was coming, but I sang quite a bit of music on Tiny Toons, and I got to play a bunch of different secondary characters. I probably did… I don’t know, 25 or 30 episodes plus that How I Spent My Summer Vacation video, which was excellent. I got to be a hitchhiking chainsaw guy.

But [Tiny Toons] put me in really great shape to audition for Animaniacs, and having been able to sing for those people and perform, they knew that I could sing in character. I could read music, and I could sing in Yakko or Pinky’s voice or whatever. So Animaniacs for me was the circumstance in which opportunity met preparation, and that’s how luck happens. So I knew that I was in a position to really work on something with a clean sheet of paper because I’d spent a couple of years on Tiny Toons and man, from there it just kept rolling. It was pretty remarkable thing to be part of.

The Looney Tunes Show (2012-2013)—“Mac Gopher”
Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run (2015)—“Mac Gopher”

AVC: Speaking of doing homework, you have taken on a couple of existing characters in recent years. One is Mac Gopher, who has existed for years as part of a pair of Goofy Gophers but now has a whole new storyline. What was your awareness of that character going in where have you taken him since?

RP: When I was a kid Mac and Tosh, as you suggested, were secondary, almost tertiary characters at Warner Brothers. They did have the “Oh, no, no, no, no. After you,” “Oh no, no no…” voices because they were these very erudite, articulate, finicky, little creatures.

When Looney Tunes decided to bring those characters back a few years ago, they brought Jess Harnell and yours truly in to be Mac and Tosh. I think I was Mac if I’m not mistaken.

Of course he was very proper. He reminded me an awful lot of… well, my idea was that he was like one of my friends who’s gone up to that large planet in the sky, Jonathan Harris. I don’t know if you ever used to watch a show called Lost In Space, but Jonathan Harris played Dr. Smith. “Ooh, don’t talk to me,” and all that. So, I stole his whole affectation, his whole dynamic. That’s how he spoke in real life. “Hello Robby. How are you?” It was very effective. So I stole that from Jonathan.

For Mac and Tosh, I used to get pieces of scenery stuck in my teeth cause I’d just chew it up. It was great fun.

Mickey Mouse Mixed-Up Adventures (2017-2018)—“José Carioca”
House Of Mouse (2001)—“José Carioca”
Mickey Mouse Works (1999-2000)—José Carioca”
Jonny Quest (1986-1987)—Hadji”
The Real Adventures Of Jonny Quest (1996-1997)—Hadji”

AVC: Another role that you picked up that was already established was José “Zé” Carioca, the bespoke Brazilian parrot from Disney’s Three Caballeros. That role was originally performed by José do Patrocínio Oliveira, who was Brazilian. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re not Brazilian. You don’t voice José anymore, but has your taking that role ever given you pause?

RP: I’m so glad you asked. In fact, you’re looking at somebody who has also played other characters of different national origin. The first regular gig I got in a cartoon show was on a reboot of Jonny Quest, in which I played Hadji. That was in 1985.

I think now, along with virtually everyone else I know who is a Caucasian actor—when a character comes across my desk that has a distinctive national origin, I take a pass.

In fact, the first time I remember it happening was probably in the early or mid-’90s. It was a Native American character, and I remember saying, “Well, wait a minute, Michael Horse is in town and Wes Studi and all these Native American actors.”

I’ve been in Hollywood long enough to see that whole dynamic change. There were many times that I would see Black actors playing Asian folks or white actors playing Black characters when I was a kid, but the whole dynamic has changed. When I was a kid, the only show I recall that had a Black cast was The Cosby Kids or something like that.

I was working on a show called The Boondocks with Aaron McGruder, who created the comic strip. Every time I’d get hired it was usually be to be a redneck racist white guy, which was very difficult for me. It was the only time in my career where I’ve had to do things that were not comfortable for me. [I mentioned that, and] the producer said, “I don’t give a you-know-what if it’s not comfortable for you. This is what I’m paying you for.” And so I had to go to that place—you can imagine, that was very difficult. Because I’m not cut from that cloth to use that word [the N-word] in the context of a show.

All that is to say that your suggestion is absolutely on target. Everybody is way more sensitive about making sure that Asian actors, Native American actors, African American actors, East Indian actors are all working. In this day and age, if there were a Jonny Quest reboot, it would be an Indian or an East Indian or Pakistani actor playing Hadji, and absolutely rightfully so.

I have to say that all of us [voice actors] have taken it upon ourselves—not just me—to say, “You know, there are plenty of Asian actors.” I’m not going to do some stereotypical Asian accent for a character. When I grew up, that’s what happened, whether it was at the movies or in Mr. Magoo. That show had someone they called a “house boy” named Charlie, and he had stereotypical pronunciations like other Asian characters [of the time] or Speedy Gonzales and other Looney Tunes. There was a character called the Frito Bandito when I was a kid, and he was an animated character that would not be accepted today. Understandably so and rightfully so.

To have been part of that and see how [the industry] changes is pretty cool. Now, when I go into work you’ve got Clyde Kusatsu, Keone Young, and all these wonderful Asian actors, all doing all sorts of roles, including Caucasian character roles. So it bleeds over, but all of us make sure we are utterly authentic in giving everybody else a shot, cause you don’t need to just hire one guy or girl to do it all.

It’s an excellent question and I’ve been on both sides of it. So you’re asking the right guy.

AVC: It’s nice to hear that things are changing in the vocal booth, but also hopefully if you remade Jonny Quest in 2020, Hadji would have different, less racist characteristics. He hopefully wouldn’t be a snake charmer, for instance.

RP: And his catchphrase was “sim sim salabim,” which is a throwback to movies from the ’30s and ’40s, very stereotypical stuff.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to death to get the part of Hadji. I thought, “Oh my God, a kid from Flint, Michigan, is going to be Hadji,” but as things progressed, it became very apparent [that I shouldn’t be playing that role] because it was maybe five or six years after that, that we started saying, “Wait a minute, this is an Asian character, call Clyde Kusatsu or Keone Young.” There are all sorts of people. I mean, this is Hollywood. Everybody’s here.

I’m grateful to have been part of that general epiphany in Hollywood, even just with respect to animation. It’d be pretty difficult for me to find a reason to cast anyone who is not an authentic person of the particular heritage of the character that’s being portrayed nowadays. And because everybody is accessible just like this [Zoom chat], even if you’re not in Hollywood and you’re an Asian actor or Native American actor or an Indian or Pakistani or Afghani or Iranian actor, everyone can all be accessed via the internet. There really isn’t any reason not to hire somebody who’s authentic.

Snorks (1985-1988)—“The Snork Patrolman” 
Adventures Of The Gummi Bears (1986-1991)—“Gusto Gummi,” “Minstrel,” “Sir Blastus,” and others

AVC: Let’s move on to something totally different. You were in a couple of very popular series in the 80s. You were in Gummi Bears and you were in Snorks

RP: …which was basically Smurfs underwater.

AVC: What do you remember about doing those? How has the experience changed overall in all the time you’ve been working?

RP: Now, because of COVID, it’s changed because I’m talking to you from my home and when we get done this morning, I’m going to be doing an episode of Curious George for PBS. Then this afternoon, I’m directing an episode of Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon. I’ve been working from home ever since this began in mid-March, but in terms of the way I did my gig until the circumstances we have now came around, I was going to work every day, just like I did in the 80s and 90s and 00s and 10s. I go to work and I’m surrounded by people who are more gloriously talented than I am and who make me better. I get to work with the best in Hollywood, but now it’s done remotely.

I really do miss everybody. I like the convenience of this, but I’m an old dog. I like being around the other actors. It’s a blast to be around people who are so freaking talented, and they’re all my best friends. I’ve known these people for, in some cases, 40 years, and they’re working every day. They’ve helped create characters that are utterly timeless.

So I’m saying that while my process hasn’t changed at all, the techniques of computer animation, CGI… the 2012 version of Ninja Turtles in which I was Donatello was a CGI version. It was very popular because it was made by people your age who grew up watching the first one. Kevin Eastman, one of the creators, argued that it was probably the most authentic version of Ninja Turtles in terms of the ethos and the legend. So techniques to animate and the ability to animate things pretty quickly and get them out there... people who animate at home with programs and create stuff with people all around the globe and put it on YouTube? That’s all changed a lot.

The way in which we consume entertainment with all these platforms is different too, but my process is no different. I’m an actor. It just happens to be voice acting, with a is small “v” and a large “A.” It’s all about acting. Virtually everybody I know grew up doing stage and music and TV and movies, and the process for me is no different. I just don’t have to worry about makeup.

Goof Troop (1992)—“P.J. Pete”
A Goofy Movie (1995)—“P.J. Pete”
An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000)—“P.J. Pete”

AVC: We recently talked to Bill Farmer who said when he took a class with Daws Butler that Butler said voice actors are actors first, then voices second. That’s always the advice Bill gives aspiring voice artists as well.

RP: You picked a stellar example. Billy and I met, I don’t know, 25 years ago on Goof Troop. I was P.J., Jim Cummings was my dad and Billy Farmer was Goofy. He has, as you know, been the voice of Goofy forever. And then we did A Goofy Movie. That is an excellent movie, by the way. I know that sounds silly, because I didn’t hear that when it came out. It was released in the theaters, but it’s not like Toy Story. In other words, I’m not famous. I don’t draw the characters and I don’t write them. I’m very lucky, but I’m just part of it. So it’s not like I’m recognized going down the street and people say, “Oh my God, I just saw A Goofy Movie and you were great.” But all this time went by and we did this reunion for A Goofy Movie. Oh my God. People love that movie. That dynamic between Max and Goofy—Jason Marsden and Billy Farmer respectively—is fantastic. Bill is a terrific actor. There are moments in that movie that are really touching, especially if you’re a parent.

As you mentioned, Billy got to study at the feet or at the vocal cords of a master along with Nancy Cartwright and Corey Burton. They were all in Mr. Butler’s class for 10 bucks. 10 bucks! He would drive you home too, if you didn’t have a car.

AVC: You mentioned that you love being in the same room with creators. How often are you in the same room as your fellow voice actors? Are you doing initial table reads? I have to imagine that the deeper into a series, you’re together quite as often.

RP: It usually depends on the series. We try to be together for Animaniacs or real ensemble shows. For Ninja Turtles we try to be together. I’ve done a couple of SpongeBob episodes and that cast is together quite a bit.

I think if you asked any actor who did this a lot, who wouldn’t tell you that they prefer being with everybody else? The beauty of it of course is that we don’t have to be with everybody else. Therefore we’re not limited by daylight or being with the other actors and having to work in a scene with them like traditional on camera acting. So to that extent, it’s more convenient, but from the creative angle, oh my goodness. I would always rather be with them.

Now, my work is half and half. Half the time I’m with the other actors and half the time I’m by myself. I always have a good time because I’m doing something I would do for free and they’re paying me. Please don’t tell anybody.

Rockin’ With Judy Jetson (1988)—“Sky Rocker”
Jetsons: The Movie (1990)—“Board Member”

AVC: Speaking of studying at heels of giants, you were in Rockin’ With Judy Jetson in 1988, as well as Jetsons: The Movie in 1990. Both of those had a real all-star cast, including all of the original Jetsons in addition to Mel Blanc. What do you remember about making those projects and about playing Sky Rocker? 

RP: Sadly, what I remember most is that you’re almost correct. The movie had all the original characters in it, including George O’Hanlon who played George Jetson and who was who passed away not long after that. He was in his eighties, as was Mr. Blanc, or very close to it at least. But the one character they replaced with a celebrity of the moment was Judy Jetson. The late, great, lovely Janet Waldo was replaced by the production company or by the producers with the Christina Aguilera of the time, Tiffany. She was a pop singer who was very popular and this is not to cast any aspersions on Tiffany. If I had been her, I may have taken the gig too, but Charlie Solomon who used to be the L.A. Times film critic and a big animation fan and, like Leonard Maltin, very well read on animation, the first thing he did when he reviewed the movie was say, “A Jetsons movie with no Judy Jetson???”

It was a huge mistake, I believe, for the producers to do that. We all knew it at the time, and it broke Janet Waldo’s heart. She was totally capable of doing the gig. She was maybe in her 50s or 60s, and you can do this gig until you die pretty much. It was really heartbreaking. The experience was great until that happened. And that was not part of the deal when we went into it. [Waldo recorded her part, and was later replaced with Tiffany in the hopes that the pop star would drive people to the box office—Ed.] I regret that that ever went down.

I can use that same kind of thought process and apply it to Animaniacs today. Mr. Spielberg could have called anybody and said, “Hey, Liam Neeson? You’re going to be The Brain.” “Russell Brand? You’re going to be Pinky.” And that’s not too far from the truth of what happens today with stunt casting of celebrities. I personally have no problem with that because it’s free enterprise. It’s your money. If you want to hire George Clooney to be the talking dragon, I get it. But Mr. Spielberg understands that the characters as a whole are what the audience loves. It’s not my face, and it’s not Liam Neeson’s face. So to do a Judy Jetson, it would be utterly inauthentic. Why do the show like that unless the actor is not capable, doesn’t want to, or has passed away? And none of those were the case with Janet Waldo. It was very difficult.

I’m really glad you brought that up. I had a great time until I found out that Janet was going to be replaced and that was really tough. She’s since passed away, but that was tough on her. It’s bittersweet to remember walking in and thinking, “Oh my gosh, here are all these legends.” I mean, it truly was like that, and I really appreciate it. It’s a difficult line because I never want to sound ungrateful.

It’s just that Janet was utterly capable. I worked with her all the time on other things, and it was pretty heartbreaking for her. She was very classy about it. She was delightful. She handled like a total champ. She didn’t have any say in the matter, and it really wasn’t about that. It was about not honoring the character with the lady who helped create it.

By the way, I did get to work with Mel Blanc once where I actually sat next to him, and that was remarkable. I, like everybody who has a pulse, grew up loving mr. Blanc. And so I said, “Mr. Blanc, if it’s not too much trouble, would you?” And he knew exactly what I wanted. So he looked at me and said, “What’s up, Doc?” Oh my God, it was exactly what you would imagine. Mind blowing! It was just a delight.

“Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?” milk commercial (1993)—Radio Announcer”

AVC: You have done a thousand-some commercials, including most notably the “Aaron Burr” milk commercial. Can you talk about that role and any other commercials that you’ve done? There’s not really an IMDb for commercials.

RP: No, and there shouldn’t be. I mean, it’s a great gig. Don’t get me wrong, but there’s no reason anybody should want to know all 1,100 commercials or whatever it is that I’ve done. It’s a lot of cars and Levi’s and Coke and Pepsi and McDonald’s.

The particular one you’re talking about was the first commercial made for the Got Milk campaign, and it really is a brilliant commercial. You’ve probably seen it, and you certainly know it. Sean Whalen, who’s a terrific character actor, is in it. This was probably 20 years ago, I think. The commercial starts out inside of a museum and the nightwatchman is having a peanut butter sandwich listening to the radio. He’s got a carton of the milk there and my voice comes on and says, “That was Bach’s Etude in F Sharp. Coming up next, for $10,000, who killed Alexander Hamilton in the famous duel? Call right now,” or whatever. And the watchman is in a museum and there’s a camera shot that says, “the bullet fired by Aaron Burr.” And so Sean calls and I answer, “yes. Hello for $10,000…” and he pours this milk and there’s no milk. He can’t say Aaron Burr. And I say, “I’m sorry, better luck next time,” click. And then the guy comes in and says, “Got Milk?”

What was cool about that is that not only was it the first commercial for that remarkably successful campaign and it ran for a long time, but it was shot and directed by Michael Bay. So, a bunch of us went on to do other things. Sean did a lot of TV and movies. I do wacky voices and Michael Bay is a multi-zillionaire director. We’ve all moved on. Some of us a little higher than others.

Another one that people may not know is that there were a series of commercials throughout the two thousands with a little animated guy named Mr. Opportunity for Honda. That was me. “I’m Mr. Opportunity. The 2014 Honda accord.” “I’m Mr. Opportunity. And I’m knocking.” I’ve done a lot of different commercials for everything from snack foods to Hondas.

AVC: In the 80s, you were also an announcer for Cheers? What was that job?

RP: Yes, I did all the Cheers promos when they went into syndication. I think it was for eight or nine years. I’d say, “Coming up next time on Cheers, Sam really goes the distance with Diane. Thursday on Cheers.” It was a lot of that stuff.

AVC: TV announcers really don’t exist anymore, at least in that sense. There’s no voice that says “Coming up next on Netflix…”

RP: No, and you nailed something that is a profound difference about the way we consume entertainment. It’s really interesting. When we’re doing half-hour shows now for Netflix or Hulu or Apple or Amazon or whatever, we have a 30-minute chunk of time to fill. When you were watching cartoons on TV on Saturday morning, there were 22-minute cartoons with 9 minutes for Kellogg’s cereal or Froot Loops or Ninja Turtle toys or whatever. Now you don’t have that. So on the one hand, it’s cool because the creators are not beholden to advertisers. They’re not limited in their creativity. Certainly everybody wants to sell merchandise if that’s germane to the project, but it’s not necessarily a prerequisite.

Also, now people say “When’s Animaniacs coming out?” and we go “this fall” on a particular date. When you were a kid, the new season started on September 22nd or whatever. Now, the new season is all the time. New shows are getting added constantly. We don’t know if they’ll blast out 10 at a time, one a week, 20 all together. It really has changed a lot.

AVC: Sometimes when people upload bootlegs of old cartoons on YouTube, they’ll include the cartoons that aired as well, and those are almost as fun to watch as the shows. It’s the whole experience. You liked the show, but you also liked the commercial for Crossfire.

RP: Maurice LaMarche and I, a couple of years in a row, did a Pinky And The Brain Christmas at the Improv in Hollywood to a couple hundred people live. We would screen Pinky And The Brain Christmas and do a little commentary as Pinky and the Brain and sign stuff, and all the money would go to Toys For Tots. But what we did was tell the audience, “Come to the show in your pajamas. Let’s eat cereal.” People loved that. They love the whole experience of doing Saturday mornings again, because those were geared around cartoons. That was something I took for granted my whole young life, and in my son’s lifetime it’s gone away. It was part of everything about my life until I was, I don’t know, 40? 45? Saturday morning cartoons were a part of the ethos of the United States.

Marah Eakin has been an editor at The A.V. Club for over 11 years. She covers everything from RuPaul's Drag Race to Marvel to children's books. She is a one-time Jeopardy! champion.