Amid a swirling of controversy stemming from a Johnny Depp joke in Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot, series star Rob Paulsen is speaking out on the visual gag’s true meaning. In the scene, a cartoon version of Depp can be seen brandishing a pair of scissors on a movie poster in the background. The title of the fictional movie is Johnny 2: Telling Lies, leading many fans to believe that the joke implies Depp to be lying about the physical abuse he allegedly endured from ex-wife Amber Heard.
With the controversy reigniting the #BoycottWarnerBros campaign on social media, Paulsen — who voices Yakko Warner on the cartoon — has stepped in to clear the air. According to Paulsen, there’s a much more innocent explanation for the joke that has nothing to do with Depp’s ongoing legal troubles with Heard. Speaking with CinemaBlend, the voice actor states that the gag actually derives from a classic nursery rhyme, pointing out that the episode was written before the legal battle began.
“The truth about that is that there’s a poem, a children’s poem, a book called ‘Lying Johnny,’ or ‘Johny Johny’ or something like that, you can look it up. And remember, this was done a couple of years ago. And by the way, this is a background that is involved in one of the episodes. And frankly, I’m not sure which one because I don’t draw them and I don’t write them.”
Rob Paulsen goes on to add that he personally researched the joke to ensure there was no malcontent after the Hulu controversy made its way to him on social media.
“I’ve been getting heat myself. ‘Mr. Paulsen, how could you?’ ‘How could I what? What did I do?’ ‘Well, Johnny Depp and you know, he’s being mistreated.’ I don’t know what people are talking about. So I did a little research. Well, check out ‘Johny Johny.’ And you know, and if you see earlier in that background shot, there’s a baby eating sugar, and that’s part of the children’s rhyme.”
The original nursery rhyme in question, called “Johny Johny Yes Papa,” has been around for decades, though it reemerged in pop culture when videos including the song went viral in 2018. Although there are variations to the rhyme, the most popular version is about a father who catches his son, Johny, eating sugar. When Johny denies eating the sugar, his father then asks the boy, “Telling lies?” As Paulsen mentions, another movie poster seen in the Animaniacs episode features a baby version of Depp holding a bag of sugary treats.
Perhaps the Animaniacs gag was not meant to take any personal shots at Depp, but fans of the actor are still very unhappy with Warner Bros. After Depp had revealed that the studio asked him to resign from his role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3, a popular petition was quickly launched for Warner Bros. to bring him back.
A similar petition also calls for the studio to fire Heard from her role as Mera in Aquaman 2, arguing that the evidence suggests that she was physically abusive toward Depp. As of now, neither petition has been successful, even with the latter recently soaring past a million signatures. This news comes to us from CinemaBlend.