Pinky and the Brain are cartoon characters who have starred in the American animated television series Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain, and Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.
Pinky and the Brain first appeared in 1993 as a recurring segment on the show Animaniacs. From 1995 to 1998, Pinky and the Brain were spun-off into their own Emmy-award-winning show on The WB Television Network, Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky and the Brain, with 65 episodes produced by Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation. Later, they appeared in the unsuccessful series, Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.
Pinky and Brain are genetically enhanced laboratory mice who reside in a cage in the Acme Labs research facility. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan for the two mice (led by Brain) to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure. In common with many other Animaniacs shorts, many episodes are in some way a parody of something else, usually a film or novel. The cartoon's tagline is:
Pinky: "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world."
Most of the Pinky and the Brain episodes occur in the present time at Acme Labs, located in some large American metropolitan city, presumably Los Angeles as to tie in with Animaniacs and the Warner Brothers studio lot. However, several episodes took place in historical times, with Pinky and the Brain under the laboratory care of some scientifically-minded person, including Merlin, H.G. Wells and Ivan Pavlov.
The bulk of every episode involves one of Brain's plans for world domination with Pinky's assistance, and the ultimate failure of that plan. One centers on his rival Snowball's plan to take over the world using Microsponge. Another episode features Brain's single day where he tries to do anything but take over the world, but in the end, a group of people vote that he should take over the world on the one day he is not wanting to. There is very little continuity on the show outside of the common fixtures of the mice, though some plans for world domination from early episodes are subsequently referred to in later seasons (for example, Brain's "human suit" used in "Win Big" reappears when Brain faces against Snowball in "Snowball".)
Both Pinky and the Brain, white mice kept as part of Acme Labs' experimentation, have undergone significant genetic alteration; as per the show's title lyrics, "their genes have been spliced" which gives the two mice amplified intelligence over that of a typical mouse, the ability to talk to humans, and anthropomorphism. "Project B.R.A.I.N." suggests that the gene splicing occurred on September 9, 1995, coincident to the first full episode of Pinky and the Brain. The episode "Brainwashed" states that the gene splicing was done by Dr. Mordough, along with Snowball the hamster and Precious the cat, using the Acme "Gene Splicer and Bagel Warmer".
The Brain looks and sounds like Orson Welles, although his physical appearance is based on storyboard artist, Tom Minton. He is highly intelligent and develops plans for global domination and he will use all sorts of methods from politics to inventions to achieve his mission. Brain's name is revealed in "Project B.R.A.I.N." to result from the acronym for "Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus". His tail is bent like a staircase -- he often uses it to pick the lock of the cage -- and his head is large and wide, supposedly housing his abnormally large brain. He appears to be coldly unemotional and speaks in a deadpan manner. Nevertheless, Brain has a very subtle sense of humor, and has even fallen in love once, with Billie. (Also, with Trudie in the episode "The Third Mouse"). Various episodes have compared Brain to Don Quixote, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Intellectually, Brain sees his inevitable rise to power as beneficial to the world rather than mere megalomania. An example of this being what he truly believes can be seen in Wakko's Wish where he stated to Pinky "We're on our way to fame, fortune and a world that's a better place for all," showing while he does envision himself becoming world leader, he wants to make everything greater for everyone. In one episode, when Brain finds himself under the influence of hypnosis by a psychologist he had planned to manipulate for one of his schemes (none other than Sigmund Freud), it is revealed that Brain lived in a can with his parents when he was young. The researchers took him from his home, and the last he saw of it was a picture of the world on the side of the can. The psychologist speculates that Brain's hunger to take over the world stems from needing to get his world back.
Pinky is more open-minded than the Brain and much more up-beat. He doesn't let troubles ruin his day, mostly because he's too scatter-brained to notice them. Pinky also works with Brain notwithstanding the fact that Brain insults him constantly and often beats him over the head. However, Pinky actually seems to enjoy this, laughing after every hit. Pinky is just happy spending time with his best friend. Pinky is also more attuned to the world at large, due to a large amount of time watching television or following other popular culture fads; as such, he tends to think in less rigorous patterns than the Brain, and has offered solutions that Brain would have not come up with. Pinky has a number of unusual special abilities, something like 'magic', but caused by his genetic engineering. Most notably, he occasionally levitates, and also is apparently capable of telekinesis, as seen when he levitated a fruit in a bowl.
Pinky is voiced by Rob Paulsen.
Snowball the hamster, Brain's former friend, made several appearances as an antithesis to Brain. The two were both subjected to genetic splicing, and thus both became super-intelligent. However when he went through the machine something went wrong, making him much more violent. Although it appears he is more intelligent, it is revealed in the episode "Snowball" that he knows more about Brain than Brain himself, revealed when Brain said to Pinky as he explained the story "...Soon,the friend ,with whom I had shared so much,was gone". After the experiment he developed a great disdain for Brain and a desire to prove his superiority over him which is one of his reasons for dabbling in global conquest. While Brain's wish to rule the world is more or less benign (he seems to think he can run the world better than it currently is), Snowball's desire to rule the world is dangerous and if he were to gain long-lasting dominion over the planet, he would probably destroy it, and Brain considers that stopping Snowball is equivalent to "saving the world". Snowball is also truly notable in that he is the only Warner Bros. cartoon character to be permanently "killed off" onscreen; during the 3 part season finale "Brainwashed", he accidentally runs through the mutation machine, causing him to lose his own intelligence and ending up as a normal hamster. Snowball was voiced by the late Roddy McDowall.
Billie is a female mouse who seems to have the traits of Pinky, yet is actually very intelligent, introduced in "The World Can Wait". Both Brain and Snowball are in love with her because of her intellect (Brain actually loved her before she became intelligent); however, she has a crush on Pinky because she likes his easygoing personality. She ponders why Pinky remains loyal to Brain and tries to separate Pinky from him. Billie was voiced by Tress MacNeille.
Larry is another white laboratory mouse featured in the episode "Pinky and the Brain…and Larry", and in "The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special". A parody of the Stooge Larry, Larry's existence in "Pinky and the Brain...and Larry" is never explained,though may have to do with voice actor Maurice LaMache, and foreshadows the addition of new characters to an already established cast; this episode was written as a response to demands from Kids WB executives to include additional characters on the show. Larry serves no real purpose in the episode, and doesn't really say much beyond "Hello," and "I'm Larry." At the end of the episode, brain kicks him out, stating "There's a yin and a yang, but no Larry." Larry was voiced by Billy West.
Pharfignewton is a racing mare version of Pinky introduced in "Jockey for Position"; she and Pinky fell in love with each other, much to Brain's disbelief. Pharfignewton's name is a pun on "Fahrvergnügen", Volkswagen's marketing slogan of the 1980s, as well as a reference to the racehorse Phar Lap, and the well-known US cookies Fig Newtons. Pharfignewton was played by Frank Welker.
Maurice is a humanoid vegetable from the episode Brain Acres. Brain's scheme was to get create an army of giant produce. Maurice was the prototype but had a personality more like Pinky. After moving to the country, Maurice trains to be a sheepcarrot in the upcoming fair. He believed that he could herd sheep just as well as dogs. He would end up saving the people from the produce monsters, but would meet a tragic ending. All of the mutant vegetables had a limited lifespan outside the soil. With Brain's insistence, Pinky had to plant his friend at the end of the story. Maurice was played by Frank Welker.
Roman Numeral One ("Romy" for short) was the combined clone of both Brain and Pinky. He was part of Brain's plan to "franchise" by creating a clone of himself, then the clone and himself would create two clones, then the clones would do the same, and so on and so on. During the cloning process Pinky was cutting his toenails, which fell into the cloning machine without Brain's knowledge. The clone grows from infant to adult within a few days. When the clone reaches almost full adulthood Brain begins to realize the clone is different from him because its first words are Narf and it has Pinky's teeth. He's shocked when he finds out Romy is Pinky's child (when Pinky says "I'm a mommy!" after finding out about the toenail fiasco, Brain goes on to explain how this isn't the case that the clone only shares both their DNA, then bemoans "Oh my...you are its mommy!"), but still planned to use him to take over the world. Romy however, does not want to and eventually leaves over this fact (and because of Brain and Pinky's constant bickering). He begins living with a woman he met at a bar (a fact that when Brain finds out he's shocked about). Brain and Pinky eventually find him and Brain accepts him for who he is, going so far as to tell Romy to call him Dad. Romy has Pinky's silliness, naivete, buck teeth, and height, but has Brain's bulbous head, eyes, (some) oratory skills, and aggressive behaviour. As a baby, Romy is voiced by Maurice LaMarche and later he is voiced by Rob Paulsen.
Other characters that have appeared on the show have included both Brain's parents, and Pinky's parents and "sister" (an empty spool of thread), Later seasons also feature recurring caricatures of celebrities, including both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Christopher Walken.
The inspiration for Pinky and the Brain is based on the unique personalities of two of producer Tom Ruegger's Tiny Toon Adventures colleagues, Eddie Fitzgerald and Tom Minton, respectively. Ruegger thought of the premise of Pinky and the Brain when he wondered what would happen if Minton and Fitzgerald tried to take over the world. Fitzgerald (who has also worked on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures and Ren and Stimpy) is said to have constantly said "Narf" and "Egad" around the Tiny Toons production office. The gag credit for the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "You Asked For It" credits Eddie Fitzgerald as "Guy Who Says 'Narf'". Series producer Peter Hastings described Eddie by saying, "He always greeted you like you were wearing a funny hat – and he liked it." The Fitzgerald/Minton connection to Pinky and the Brain is parodied further in the episode "The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special" in which two cartoon writers within the short that write for Pinky and the Brain are caricatures of Fitzgerald and Minton, and which themselves they reflect in the Pinky and the Brain cartoons that they write.
While Ruegger initially based The Brain after Minton, the Welles connection came from LaMarche, who is a big fan of the actor/director, and had supplied the voice for Orson Welles in the 1994 movie Ed Wood. LaMarche describes Brain's voice as "65% Orson Welles, 35% Vincent Price". Brain's similarity to Orson Welles was made explicit in the Animaniacs episode "Yes, Always", which was based upon an outtake from one of Welles' television commercials, colloquially known as Frozen Peas, in which he ranted about the poor quality of the script. This cartoon was described by writer Peter Hastings as "a $250,000 inside joke": LaMarche used excerpts from it as sound check material, and Hastings took it to its logical conclusion. Strengthening the Welles connection was an episode in which Brain took on the mind-clouding powers of a radio character called "The Fog": a parody of The Shadow, a popular radio character for which Welles once provided the voice. Other episodes alluding to Welles included an episode entitled "The Third Mouse", a parody of The Third Man in which the Brain played the part of Welles' character Harry Lime (with Pinky as Holly Martins), and an episode, "Battle for the Planet", in which Brain, inspired by Welles' infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast and the hysteria it provoked, stages an alien invasion on television, believing that this will cause humanity to erupt in mass panic, allowing him to seize power. A caricature of Orson Welles even appears in a late episode of the series ("What Ever Happened to Baby Brain"), echoing a rant of the Brain's and introducing himself afterwards.
The episode "Win Big" was the very first Pinky and the Brain segment. The story was by Tom Ruegger, the script was by Peter Hastings, and it was developed for the Animaniacs series. According to Ruegger, most of the elements that would become synonymous with Pinky and the Brain can be found in that original story. "Win Big" contained many dialog bits that became conventions of the entire series, including "Are you pondering what I'm pondering", Pinky saying "Oh wait…but no…" in response to a plan, and ending every story with "What are we doing tomorrow night? (etc.)" among others.
Pinky and the Brain were voiced by Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, respectively. The series also used the work of many of the same voice actors for Animaniacs including Tress MacNeille, Jess Harnell, Frank Welker, and Jeff Bennett, as well as Paul Rugg, Billy West, and Jim Cummings. Celebrities such as Roddy McDowall, Nora Dunn, Townsend Coleman, Ernest Borgnine, Eric Idle, Dick Clark, Ed McMahon, Steve Allen, Joyce Brothers, Gavin MacLeod, John Tesh, Michael McKean, Garry Marshall, Mark Hamill, and James Belushi have all performed guest voice work for the series as well.
Cree Summer has also voiced characters in Pinky and the Brain and reprised her role as Elmyra during Pinky, Elmyra, and The Brain.
The musical score for Pinky and the Brain will frequently contain veiled musical references — for example, in the episode where the Brain builds a new Papier-mâché Earth, the theme from the 2nd and 4th movements of Dvorak's 'New World Symphony' can be heard throughout the episode. The episode Napoleon Brainaparte makes frequent reference to the French anthem, La Marseillaise, while in the episode in which Pinky becomes the artist "Pinkasso" Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition can be heard.
Like Animaniacs, much of the humor in Pinky and the Brain was aimed at both adult and younger audiences. Parodies of pop culture icons were quite common on the series, more so during the original episodes developed for the WB prime time slot. Notably, these episodes included political figures such as then-President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary and other world leaders at the time, and actors such as Christopher Walken.
Some episodes including more complete parodies similar to those in Animaniacs. The episode "The Megalomaniacal Adventures of Brainie the Poo" parodies Winnie The Pooh. "Cameos" include Jagger instead of Tigger and Al Gore instead of Eeyore. Al Gore is "full of hot air", floating like a balloon. Other parodic elements include Christopher Walken in place of Christopher Robin and the "Brainie the Poo" book appears to have been authored by "A.A. Meeting. The three-part "Brainwashed" episode included several allusions to The Prisoner television show, though everyone in The Village was identified by the hat they wore, and not by number.
There have been three notable songs similar to the musical skits in Animaniacs such as "Yakko's World" in how they play on existing music with new lyrics. "Cheese Roll Call" is sung by Pinky to the march "Semper Fidelis" by John Philip Sousa and praises his love for all cheeses from around the world. "Brainstem" is sung to "Camptown Races" with Brain listing out all the major parts of the human brain, with Pinky jumping in at the chorus to shout "Brainstem! Brainstem!". "A Meticulous Analysis of History" is set to "When I Was a Lad" from Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore, and sung by both Brain and Pinky, with Brain reciting the rise to power of famous historical leaders such as Napoleon and Cleopatra, while Pinky mentions how they all fell from power.
Another similarity with Animaniacs was the presence of a gag credit in the closing credits; specifically, each show featured an uncommon English word, typically appropriate for the theme or some aspect of the episode, along with its definition. For example, "Around the World in 80 Narfs", where the mice are foiled by trying to speak "cabbie" and end up going in circles, the gag credit word was "anophelosis" defined as "morbid state due to extreme frustration."
Another common element in nearly each episode is the following exchange (often referred to by the acronym "AYPWIP"):
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?Pinky's quote is completed with a unique non-sequitur such as, "we're already naked," "isn't a cucumber that small called a gherkin?" or "but if they called them sad meals kids wouldn't buy them.", tending to infuriate Brain.
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but...
The show's theme song informs the viewer that "One is a genius, the other's insane", but does not elaborate further. While Brain may seem more intelligent, Pinky's unpredictable and startling insight as a foil to Brain's rather more plodding and stubborn approach to "taking over the world" has led more than one fan to suggest that Pinky is, in fact, the real genius rather than Brain. Peter Hastings has stated that "Pinky IS smarter—he just shows it in a different way."
The episode "Inherit the Wheeze", in which Brain was subject to the effects of smoking by a tobacco company, won a PRISM Award for its anti-smoking message.
The Rice University Neologism dictionary includes not only "narf" as a random sound or nonce word, but also "narfed" as a verb to mean "to be struck completely" with some embarrassment or folly, much as Pinky would be hit on the head by Brain after his follies ruined Brain's plan. Both words are directly attributed to Pinky and the Brain. The International Dictionary of Neologisms includes the word "narfistic" as "an idea or concept that works fine when you think about it – but is very difficult to express to someone else", as a result of Pinky only saying "Narf!" after Brain elaborates on one of his extensive plans.
Pinky and the Brain were alluded to in The Incredible Hulk #438 as two white mice, kept by Omnibus. One of the realistically drawn mice had an enlarged cranium, and when their cage was destroyed the sound "narf" is indicated. Omnibus claims that he is being haunted by The Leader, but once the mice have escaped their cage, the "ghost" of the Leader is silenced and Omnibus is robbed of his brilliant schemes for world domination.
The Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novel, "Death and Diplomacy" by Dave Stone includes two characters repeating the "Are you pondering…" lines, and near the end, two of the fallen villains in the story recover, one telling his comrade that they must prepare for tomorrow night when they will take over the universe.
On September 9, 1995, Pinky and the Brain were spun off onto their own half-hour series on Kids' WB, with each episode consisting of one or more segments, including some of the segments from Animaniacs. The first season of the show was scheduled in a prime-time slot from September 9, 1995 through May 12, 1996 as part of the new WB Network lineup, and as a result, tended to have more jokes and humor aimed to adults rather than children. However, due to poor ratings, subsequent seasons were moved to Saturday mornings as part of the Kids' WB programming block.
With increased pressure from the WB network, the series was retooled on September 1, 1998 into Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, in which Pinky and the Brain were owned by Tiny Toons character Elmyra Duff. The show lasted for 13 episodes, 5 of which were shown whole and 6 of which were chopped into segments and aired as part of The Cat&Birdy Warneroonie PinkyBrainy Big Cartoonie Show.
During 2006, Pinky and the Brain, among other Kids' WB! shows, was broadcast on the AOL broadband channel, In2TV. However, as of 2007, Pinky and the Brain is no longer a featured series on the site.
In Canada, Pinky and the Brain is currently airing on YTV having started on September 3, 2007. The theme song has been unaltered.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Volume 1||22||July 25, 2006||This four-disk box set includes the first 22 episodes from the series. Contains "Pinky and the Brain: Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?" — Featurette with Tom Ruegger, Peter Hastings, Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, Andrea Romano as they discuss why they had so much fun working on the show.|
|Volume 2||21||December 5, 2006||This four-disk box set contains the next 21 episodes from the series. Contains "The Return of World Dominating Extras" – Featurette with Mark Hamill and Wayne Knight as they answer a casting call to do the voices of Pinky and The Brain and get coached by Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen.|
|Volume 3||22||June 19, 2007||This four-disk box set contains the final 22 episodes of the series. Contains the featurette, "It's All About the Fans" – Rob Paulsen (Voice of Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (Voice of the Brain) pay tribute to their fans.|
Pinky and the Brain also had a cameo appearance in the second issue of the DC vs. Marvel miniseries.
Pinky and the Brain also star in their own Gameboy Advance game, Pinky and the Brain: The Master Plan. The game was produced by Warthog, and distributed by SWING! Entertainment in 2002.
In the computer game Fallout 2 the character may encounter an albino mole-rat that calles himself "The Brain". "The Brain" created a cult that attempts to restore the humanity of the ghoul characters (humans that were badly damaged by radiation), by a process referred to as "Renewal". By doing so "The Brain" hopes to take over the world. The player can engage in dialogue with "The Brain", with one of the dialogue possibilities being, "Big plans for an oversized rat".