Warner Bros. has once again come under fire from Johnny Depp fans after a reference in the new Animaniacs reboot appeared to mock the actor. As most of us know, Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard are in the midst of a controversial legal battle. Both Depp and Heard allege that they were physically abused during their tumultuous marriage, with each accusing the other of lying. It’s a volatile situation, but that didn’t stop Warner Bros. from leaving in the Animaniacs Easter egg that seems to take a shot at Johnny.
In the background of a scene, a movie poster can be seen featuring Johnny Depp holding a pair of scissors. Displaying his full name, the movie is titled Johnny 2: Telling Lies, which obviously seems to imply that Depp is a liar. As the moment comes almost immediately after Depp was forced to resign from his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Warner Bros. sequel Fantastic Beasts 3, the joke didn’t go over very well with Johnny’s fans, many of whom were already feeling that Depp was being treated very unfairly by the studio.
“That Animaniacs Johnny Depp dig is shocking,” one fan tweeted after the series premiered on Hulu. “World’s got a long way to go in recognising victims of abuse outside of stereotypes. Whoever came up with that and also went through with it should be ashamed.”
Another fan posts, “When I was younger Animaniacs was one of my favorite shows. I was so excited they were being more inclusive in the reboot, then right out the gate they had to mock Johnny Depp a victim of domestic violence and it was over for me.”
A Change.org petition has also been launched by fans calling for a boycott of Warner Bros. over the joke. Its description reads, “This is a cartoon for young audiences, basically teaching kids that it’s ok to bully and mock a male victim of domestic violence and Warner Bros. is clearly sending the wrong message to the public with this.”
While the joke is certainly unfortunately-timed, there might be an innocent explanation. The Twitter account for the Animaniacs podcast, The Animanicast, tweeted that the joke is merely referencing the nursery rhyme “Johny Johny Yes Papa,” which had become an internet meme in 2018 while the Animaniacs reboot was being written. The nursery rhyme imagines a conversation between a father and son, with young Johny insisting that he wasn’t eating the sugar he was just caught with. “Telling lies?” asks the father in the middle of the rhyme, which might have inspired the Johnny 2: Telling Lies poster seen in Animaniacs.
“This looks like an unintended consequence of trying to be hip and trendy while writing in 2018,” the account states.
It’s still possible that the Animaniacs staff used the “Telling Lies” poster with a double meaning, as Heard had already labeled Depp as an abuser at that point. In any case, whether the dig was intentional or not, perhaps it would have been best for the studio to have the visual gag removed with the series coming so soon after Depp’s very public legal drama with Heard and his controversial ousting from Fantastic Beasts 3. If you want to check out the joke for yourself, you can catch it on the Animaniacs revival, now streaming on the official Hulu app nationwide.