Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ Inspired Characters in This ’90s Kids Show

Martin Scorsese has created some of the best movies of all time, whether about crime or not. He built a following in the 1970s and ’80s for his many films about Italian-American crime bosses. On September 19, 1990, Goodfellas became one of Scorsese’s biggest films to date. In the years since then, the movie has been referred to and honored many times in film and TV.

Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese
(L – R) Joe Pesci,Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Many of Martin Scorsese’s films were based on real people

Given the long and storied history of the mafia in the United States, Martin Scorsese has had plenty of real-life material to work with over the years. Scorsese’s 1980 movie Raging Bull, for example, was based on the life of professional boxer Jake LaMotta. The Leonardo DiCaprio-led blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street was similarly based on a real person.

Goodfellas was a deep dive into the real-life happenings of the Lucchese crime family throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Ray Liotta played Henry Hill, who finds himself wrapped up in the mafia life with his companions Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito (played by Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, respectively).

Many of the film’s events are based on actual events, such as the Lufthansa vault robbery at John F. Kennedy International Airport where Conway made off with millions in cash and jewelry and subsequently has most of his crew killed.

Martin Scorsese movies help define Robert De Niro's career as an actor.
Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese | Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

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‘Goodfellas’ has been honored in many different ways over the years

Given Goodfellas‘ far-reaching cultural influence, the movie has been referenced or honored in some way in many different shows and movies in the decades since its release. Cult classic sitcom Community dedicated an entire episode to it, with characters even reciting some lines from the movie verbatim. The episode also touches on several key moments from the film, including the Lufthansa heist and the famous “Layla” montage.

David Chase, the mastermind behind The Sopranos, has cited Goodfellas as the gospel many times before. Not only were actors from the movie cast as characters on the show, but it was a deeper, expanded version of Italian-American crime drama that Goodfellas was.

Even Ashanti has paid tribute to Goodfellas. The music video for her debut single “Foolish” stars Terrence Howard as Henry Hill, and Ashanti as his wife Karen.

‘Animaniacs’ frequently paid homage to ‘Goodfellas’

In the mid-’90s, Animaniacs was one of the most popular children’s shows on TV. The three lovable main characters — Yakko, Wakko, and Dot — taught kids about everything from the countries of the world to the presidents of the United States. In other words, it’s about as much of a far cry from Goodfellas as you can get.

Still, Animaniacs paid tribute to the Martin Scorsese classic many times throughout its five-year run. One recurring segment, titled “Goodfeathers,” was loosely based on Goodfellas and also drew inspiration from other famous gangster movies like The Godfather.

“Goodfeathers” featured three tough-talking pigeons with street smarts. Each bird had a thick New York Italian accent and a distinct personality, each of which mirrored those of De Niro, Pesci, and Liotta in Goodfellas.

The genius of “Goodfeathers” is that it referenced and poked fun at different parts of the movie and presented them in a kid-friendly manner. One scene includes Pesci’s famous “Funny how?” line, for example. And if you look extra close, you’ll notice that the statue they’re often perched on resembles Martin Scorsese himself.