Rob Paulsen, the voice behind some of your favorite animated characters, was just as pumped as the fans to hear that an Animaniacs reboot was in the works. The voice acting legend, who helped bring Yakko Warner, Dr. Otto Scratchansniff and Pinky to life on the show, has a special place in his heart for the series and has been touring the country with his old castmates for live Animaniacs concerts. Ahead of his appearance at Fan Expo Boston 2018, we caught with Paulsen to chat about the Animaniacs reboot, working with Steven Spielberg and more.
Rob Paulsen talks Animaniacs reboot
A lot of people mess up the Boston accent. As a voice acting legend, what’s your approach to it?
When I’m working on any dialect, I go for words that are key ways for me to latch on audibly to a particular dialect. Like with Boston, when you hear somebody say “lobster,” all those Downeasters, they say “lob” like “lawb,” “lawbstuh,” and “cah,” but it goes way beyond “park ya cah at Harvard yard.” It’s not about that. And, in my case, it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’ve also known a lot of people from back there who’ve helped me a great deal with that sort of dialect, like Billy West, another fellow voice guy who’s from Detroit, but he also spent a lot of time up there in Fall River, so I know that sound.
The first cartoon I ever did was G.I. Joe back in the mid-80s and my character was a guy from Boston. I don’t know why, but they wanted him to be a character from Boston and his name was Snowjob. He was this sort of winter soldier who wore all sorts of white garb and had a white rifle, but a red beard.
Fans are pumped about the Animaniacs reboot. What can you tell us about the show’s return?
We haven’t worked on it yet. I know that they’re writing scripts for the show and, at the moment I’m supposed to say, as if I was being investigated by a Senate subcommittee, I can neither confirm nor deny my participation. But yeah, it’s a very big deal. Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain are two shows that utterly, and I’m saying this as a fan now because I’ve been away from it for 20 years, but those two shows have really stood to the test of time. They are absolutely wonderful shows. They were made absolutely to appeal to people of different ages on purpose a la Looney Tunes, Rocky and Bullwinkle.
When you think about it, here’s a guy like Mr. Spielberg who’s probably in his 70s now, he’s the king of Hollywood. I don’t know when there will be anybody who eclipses Mr. Spielberg’s body of work. So he says a few months ago, “Here’s what I want to do. One of the things I want to do is a bunch more Pinky and the Brains and Animaniacs.” That’s a very big deal. It not only speaks highly to the quality of the original show, but the fact that it also speaks to the power of animation and what Steven wants to put his juice behind. He’s very, very involved. This never would’ve got done without him. Thanks to Warner Bros., Steven and Hulu, they’re going to do 26 new half-hour [episodes] for fall of 2020. He is very, very involved, as he was in the first go-around. Anytime you can work with Steven it’s cool, but when you can work on something and get another crack at it with a fanbase that is exponentially larger than the fanbase was when we first made the show, oh my god, you can argue there are a hundred million people out there who know Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. It’s a very big deal. I’m quite looking forward to it, actually.
You’ve worked with Spielberg a lot over the years. How much have you enjoyed your experiences with him?
Mr. Spielberg is like a lot of other great people. Bobby Orr is a great example, Gordie Howe is a great example, and I know this because I’ve had the good fortunate of meeting them at charity hockey events, great people like that have a tendency to live their lives as an example. Steven Spielberg is one of those people about whom you’ll never find anyone in Hollywood who has anything bad to say about him. It’s not because they don’t want to piss him off. It’s because he’s a really, really, really nice man. How he behaves with me, with other rank and file actors—we’re not celebrities, we’re just working actors—every circumstance in which I’ve found myself in his presence, he’s taken the time to talk to me by name and made me feel like I’m the most important person in the conversation. Same thing with other people.
The Animaniacs reboot is set to debut on Hulu in 2020.