The Beatles: John Lennon Inspired This Cartoon Character
The Beatles were so influential they even inspired cartoon characters. A famous cartoon character from the 1990s was inspired by John Lennon. Here’s a look at why a voice actor drew inspiration from John — and other ways The Beatles are connected to this animated show.
This cartoon character was originally supposed to sound like Elvis Presley
Firstly, some background. The late 1980s and 1990s saw a revival of interest in classic cartoon characters. Audiences flocked to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam in theaters. Cartoon Network began airing a programming block of old animated programming called ToonHeads. Animaniacs was a part of this trend.
Animaniacs was an original 1990s show. However, it drew heavy inspiration from the Warner Bros. animation of yesteryear. In addition, Animaniacs constantly referenced Baby Boomer pop culture from The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh to Mick Jagger. In fact, one of the characters from the show — Wakko — was originally supposed to have a voice like Elvis Presley.
During an interview with Full Circle Magazine, voice actor Jess Harnell discussed how he was originally going to make Wakko sound like the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “I was already doing Roger Rabbit for Disney at that point, and I did it like a crazy, zany character like him. I went in for the callback they said ‘We like what you did, but let’s try some other stuff.’ I kid you not, the first impression they wanted me to do was Elvis, so I was saying ‘Hello, nurse!’ That was weird, man. It just didn’t make any sense to me.”
Why Wakko sounds like John Lennon on helium
Later, The Beatles factored into the equation. “They originally told me just to do The Beatles and I asked ‘Which Beatle do you want?’ and they said let’s do John. I was just talking like John Lennon and we started reading it and finally they showed me a picture and he was this very small guy, so I made his voice much smaller, like John if he were on helium or something, and that’s how that developed.”
During an interview with The New York Times, Harnell gave a different explanation for why Wakko sounds like he’s on helium. He said the character is young so he couldn’t sound like a grown John. The voice Harnell used for Wakko arguably sounds more like Ringo Starr’s than John’s.
The other connection between ‘Animaniacs’ and The Beatles
Interestingly, the connection between The Beatles and the Animaniacs did not end there. An episode of Animaniacs called “A Hard Days’ Warners” involved some mocking of the Fab Four. At one point, the Animaniacs even did their own version of The Beatles’ famous performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The connections between Animaniacs and The Beatles run deep – even if they are infused with helium.