The Beatles: John Lennon Inspired This Cartoon Character

by Jeremy Spirogis
The Beatles in suits

The Beatles had been so influential they even impressed cartoon characters. A well-known cartoon character from the 1990s was impressed by John Lennon. Here’s a take a look at why a voice actor drew inspiration from John — and different methods The Beatles are linked to this animated present.

The Beatles in suits
The Beatles | Central Press/Getty Images

This cartoon character was initially imagined to sound like Elvis Presley

Firstly, some background. The late 1980s and 1990s noticed a revival of curiosity in traditional cartoon characters. Audiences flocked to see Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Space Jam in theaters. Cartoon Network started airing a programming block of outdated animated programming referred to as ToonHeadvertisements. Animaniacs was part of this development.

Animaniacs was an authentic 1990s present. However, it drew heavy inspiration from the Warner Bros. animation of yesteryear. In addition, Animaniacs always referenced Baby Boomer popular culture from The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh to Mick Jagger. In reality, one of many characters from the present — Wakko — was initially imagined to have a voice like Elvis Presley.

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During an interview with Full Circle Magazine, voice actor Jess Harnell discussed how he was initially going to make Wakko sound just like the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “I used to be already doing Roger Rabbit for Disney at that time, and I did it like a loopy, zany character like him. I went in for the callback they stated ‘We like what you did, but let’s strive another stuff.’ I child you not, the primary impression they needed me to do was Elvis, so I used to be saying ‘Hello, nurse!’ That was bizarre, man. It simply didn’t make any sense to me.”

Why Wakko seems 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.” 

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During an interview with The New York Times, Harnell gave a distinct rationalization for why Wakko seems like he’s on helium. He stated the character is younger so he couldn’t sound like a grown John. The voice Harnell used for Wakko arguably sounds extra like Ringo Starr’s than John’s.

The different connection between ‘Animaniacs’ and The Beatles

Interestingly, the connection between The Beatles and the Animaniacs didn’t finish there. An episode of Animaniacs referred to as “A Hard Days’ Warners” concerned some mocking of the Fab Four. At one level, the Animaniacs even did their very own model of The Beatles’ well-known efficiency on The Ed Sullivan Show. The connections between Animaniacs and The Beatles run deep – even when they’re infused with helium.

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