‘Animaniacs’: The R-Rated Reason 1 Character Didn’t Get as Much Screen Time
Animaniacs is known as one of the few Saturday morning cartoons to cross over and appeal to adults. This was not entirely a mistake. While the show had all the slapstick humor and talking animals that kids knew how to handle, it had a healthy dose of adult humor and references. However, one particular character was deemed too much for the series and was given a smaller role because of it.
‘Animaniacs’ appealed to children and adults
Animaniacs wasn’t the first cartoon to appeal to adults. By the time it first premiered in 1993, The Simpsons had been on the air for years and other copycat shows followed. Furthermore, cartoons like The Flintstones had premiered in primetime decades earlier, thanks to its appeal to young and adult audiences.
However, what made Animaniacs different was the fact that it still aired on the Saturday morning block that was typically reserved for kid-friendly fare. If The Simpsons were the heir apparent to The Flintstones, Animaniacs had The Looney Tunes Show to thank for its success. Instead of focusing on a longer storyline, it was a sketch show featuring several mini skits throughout a single episode.
The show struck the right balance between child-pleasing material and adult humor that occasionally went over the average kid’s head. It referenced movies from decades earlier and owed its sentiments to the cartoons of Tex Avery and other visionary cartoonists from yesteryear. But, the show may have gone too far with one character.
Minerva Mink’s airtime on ‘Animaniacs’ was cut short
Even those with loose recollections of Animaniacs likely remember some adult humor. The recurring nurse character was often subject to objectification that modern series (including the recent reboot) would probably steer clear of. Early on, however, the series introduced a flirtatious character named Minerva Mink.
Creator Tom Ruegger explained her purpose in a question and answers with the Cartoonatics blog in 2011. There, in the comments, he explained that the character was meant to reverse the roles typically laid out by cartoons of the past.
Paul Dini came up with the initial concept for Minerva, and it was based on reversing the gender on the Tex Avery Wolf, who would go into extreme wild takes when he saw a particularly hot babe. Minerva was a female version of that sort of over-reacting, hot-to-trot character. Barry Caldwell helped design the lovely Minerva, and he was extremely adept at getting great performances out of the girl characters in the Tiny Toons and Animaniacs casts.”
The character was deemed too much for a young audience. From her appearance to how she invoked excitement from the male characters, Minerva Mink was the only character to get her solo appearances retired after just two skits. However, as Ruegger pointed out, there might be a chance for a character like that to exist today.
Minerva Mink could make a comeback in the ‘Animaniacs’ reboot
Ruegger acknowledged why Minerva was not well-received to a 1993 audience but believes there is a way for that character to work today. The hybrid appeal of Animaniacs was less common back then, and with a more diverse workforce on top of a modern audience, Minerva could still be funny today, albeit with some tweaks.
“It was a different time, back then. While our cartoons were targeted at kids, we did intentionally make them so (we hoped) they’d appeal to a large audience of almost any age. Today, animated shows are not made that way. The current shows being made for Nick and Disney and CN are carefully and clearly targeted at very specific kid age groups. Back in the 90s, Animaniacs, on Fox and the WB, attracted a more diverse age demographic.
With the current reboot, time will tell if Minerva can rise from the background of the Warner Bros. lot to return to her spotlight. What might not have worked nearly three decades ago could be given a modern look.
The Animaniacs reboot is currently streaming on Hulu.