Pinky and the Brain (1995–1998)
|Creator||Charles M. Howell IV|
|Genre||Animation, Comedy, Family|
|Content Rating||TV-Y (TV-Y)|
|Awards||Won 1 Primetime Emmy9 wins & 16 nominations total|
|Company||Warner Bros. Animation, Amblin Entertainment|
Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain is an American animated television series that was created by Tom Ruegger that premiered on Kids' WB on September 9, 1995. It was the first animated television series to be presented in Dolby Surround and the fourth collaboration of Steven Spielberg with his production company, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation. The characters first appeared in 1993 as a recurring skit on Animaniacs. It was later spun off as a series due to its popularity, with 66 episodes produced. The characters later appeared in the series Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, and have since returned to their roots as an Animaniacs skit in the 2020 revival of that series.
Pinky and the Brain are genetically enhanced laboratory mice who reside in a cage in the Acme Labs research facility. Brain is self-centered and scheming, while Pinky is good-natured but feeble-minded. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan to take over the world which ultimately ends in failure: usually due to the impossibility of Brain's plan, Brain's own arrogance or overconfidence, Pinky's bumbling, circumstances beyond their control, or multiples thereof. In common with many other Animaniacs shorts, many episodes are in some way a parody of something else, usually a film or novel.
Many of the Pinky and the Brain episodes occur in the 1990s at Acme Labs, located in some large American city underneath a suspension bridge. Several episodes take place in historical times, with Pinky and Brain in the laboratory of some scientifically-minded person, including Merlin, H.G. Wells, Ivan Pavlov, and Johannes Gutenberg. There is very little continuity between episodes outside of the common fixtures of the two mice, though some plans for world domination from early episodes are subsequently referred to in later seasons; for example, Brain's mechanical human suit that was first used in "Win Big" reappears when Brain faces his rival Snowball in "Snowball".
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, with some exceptions. One centers on Snowball's plan to take over the world using Microsponge (a parody of Microsoft). Another episode features Brain's single day where he tries to do anything but take over the world: in the end, a group of people votes that he should take over the world on the one day that he does not want to.
Both Pinky and Brain, white lab mice kept as part of Acme Labs' experimentation, have undergone significant genetic alteration, 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, which is 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, Bagel Warmer, and Hot Dog Steamer.
Although Pinky and Brain plan to conquer the world, they do not show much animosity. In a Christmas special, Pinky even wrote a letter to Santa Claus saying that Brain had the world's best interests at heart.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||14||September 9, 1995||May 12, 1996|
|2||12||September 7, 1996||May 17, 1997|
|3||33||September 8, 1997||May 16, 1998|
|4||7||September 14, 1998||November 14, 1998|
Pinky (voiced by Rob Paulsen, who also voices Yakko from Animaniacs) is a genetically modified mouse who shares the same cage as Brain at Acme Labs. Pinky is an extremely unstable and hyperactive mouse. He has several verbal tics, such as "Narf", "Zort", "Poit", and "Troz", the last of which he started saying after noticing it was "Zort" reflected backwards in a mirror. Pinky's appearance contrasts with Brain's — while Brain is short, has a crooked tail and pink sclerae, and speaks in a deeper, more eloquent manner, Pinky has a straight tail, blue sclerae, and a severe overbite, is taller than the Brain, and speaks in a high-pitched voice with a Cockney accent. Pinky's name was inadvertently given to him by Brain himself: when insulting the two scientists responsible for their gene splicing while talking to himself, Brain claimed the scientists had "less knowledge in both their heads than I do in my...pinky!" Pinky then responded with "Yes?", believing that Brain was referring to him.
Pinky is more open-minded, kinder, and happier than the Brain. Troubles never ruin his day, possibly because he is too scatter-brained to notice them. He steadfastly helps Brain toward world domination, even though Brain usually berates, belittles and even abuses him. Pinky actually seems to enjoy this, often laughing after he is hit on the head. He is obsessed with trivia, spending a lot of time watching television in the lab and following popular culture fads. Sometimes, Pinky even finds non-rational solutions to problems. An entire episode (entitled "The Pinky P.O.V.") even shows a typical night of attempted world domination from his point of view, showing his thought processes and how he comes to the strange, seemingly nonsensical responses to Brain's famous question, "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" Pinky often points out flaws in the Brain's plans, which the Brain consistently ignores. The issues Pinky brings up can ironically lead to the downfall of the plan in the given night's plot.
He is also Brain's moral compass and his only true friend. When Pinky sold his soul to the devil to give Brain the world in "A Pinky and the Brain Halloween", Brain saved him because he missed him and the world was not worth ruling without him. Pinky also has shown signs of intelligence, despite his supposed stupidity. In "Welcome to the Jungle", Pinky was able to survive using his instincts and become a leader to Brain, who, despite his intelligence, could not survive in the wild on his own. And in "The Pink Candidate", when Pinky became president, he later began citing various constitutional amendments and legal problems that would bar Brain from his latest plot to take over the world. When Brain attempted to pressure him into helping, Pinky refused, claiming that the plan "goes against everything I've come to stand for."
The Brain or "Brain" for short (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) looks and sounds a little like Orson Welles. In "What Ever Happened to Baby Brain", Brain actually crosses paths with Welles, who is working as a busboy in a Hollywood restaurant, and they find themselves inadvertently yelling in unison, "Things will be different when I take over the world!" In "Project B.R.A.I.N.", Brain's name is the backronym for the eponymous project: "Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus". His tail is angular and bent — he often uses it to pick the lock of the cage door — and his head is large and wide, housing his abnormally large brain. He is highly intelligent and develops complex plans for global domination using politics, cultural references, and his own inventions toward his goal. He seems coldly unemotional, speaking in a snarky deadpan voice. Nevertheless, Brain has a subtle sense of humor and has even fallen in love, with Trudie in the episode "The Third Mouse" and with Billie in "The World Can Wait". Due to his stature and megalomania, Brain has been compared to Don Quixote and has been called a pop culture depiction of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Brain sees his inevitable rise to power as good for the world and not as mere megalomania. In Animaniacs: Wakko's Wish, he said to Pinky "We're on our way to fame, fortune and a world that's a better place for all." Many of the Brain's plots had the endgame of winning over the people's hearts and then having them make him their ruler. However, his motives are not pure. In one episode, Brain finds himself hypnotized by a psychologist whom he had planned to manipulate for one of his schemes, who turns out to be none other than Sigmund Freud. There Brain reveals that he originally lived with his parents in a tin can at the base of a tree in a large field. When he was young, ACME researchers captured Brain and took him from his home, and the last he saw of it was a picture of the world on the side of the can. Dr. Freud speculates that Brain's hunger to take over the world is misplaced, and that all he really wants is to go back home to his parents. According to the creators, Brain wants to take over the world not for the sake of being a dictator, like his rival Snowball, but because he believes that he could do a much better job of it than the people currently in charge. Brain has even helped save the world by doing everything in his power to prevent Snowball's evil schemes, knowing that a world under Snowball's rule would be a worst-case scenario. In the 2020 Animaniacs reboot, Brain gains a new rival in taking over the world in the form of his wife, Senator Julia Brain, after his attempts to mind-control her into becoming a puppet ruler for him lead to her becoming insane.
Other recurring characters
- Snowball the hamster (voiced by Roddy McDowall) is Brain's former childhood friend-turned-rival who was also made intelligent by gene splicing and has a similar desire for world conquest (though his desire is far more malevolent than Brain's) which Pinky and Brain are sometimes forced to stop.
- Billie (voiced by Tress MacNeille) is a female white mouse and yet another result of gene splicing. She is smarter than Brain and also has the goal of world domination. Though Brain loves her, she fancies Pinky instead. In the episode "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets In This Town Again!", it is revealed that Brain is married to Billie (who in real life is named Sheila and hates playing Billie), who pretty much agreed to marry him only because he is famous, and eventually kicks him out and makes him live in his restaurant. It is later revealed that the events were just a dream.
- Pharfignewton (voiced by Frank Welker) is a white racing mare, with whom Pinky falls in love. Though Brain constantly tells Pinky that he is a mouse and Pharfignewton is a horse, Pinky always chooses not to listen to him.
- Larry (voiced by Billy West) is a white mouse who was created as a response to demands from Kids' WB executives to include additional characters on the show. His presence is sporadic, as the writers of the show believed that including an additional character would ruin the chemistry between Pinky and Brain, as they worked best as a comedy duo; thus a third character would, therefore, be out of place and unnecessary to the plot. To further drive this point home, Larry's first appearance was marked by a modified version of the theme song with the words "and Larry!" shoehorned in between existing lyrics. He is a caricature of Larry Fine of The Three Stooges fame; therefore, the episode's title is "Pinky and the Brain...and Larry".
Other characters that have appeared on the series have included both of Brain's and Pinky's parents and the duo's "son", "Roman Numeral I" (Romy for short) another white mouse who was the result of a cloning mistake. Episodes also include recurring caricatures of celebrities, including both Bill and Hillary Clinton, David Letterman, Dick Clark, Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles, Kathy Kinney, J. D. Wilkes, Paul Gilmartin, Annabelle Gurwitch, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Eric and Donny from Too Something, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Allman Brothers Band, David Cross, Jack Black, Chris Shiflett, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, and Christopher Walken, as was common on other Animaniacs cartoons.
Creation and inspiration
Pinky and the Brain was inspired by the peculiar personalities of two producers of Tom Ruegger's earlier show Tiny Toon Adventures, Eddie Fitzgerald and Tom Minton, respectively. The two worked in the same office at Warner Bros. Animation and developed interesting personalities that the other staff had picked up on; Ruegger said that Minton seemed to be always scheming to take over the world, while Fitzgerald comedically agreed with him, injecting nonsense words like "Narf" and "Egad" around the 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." During the development of Animaniacs, animator Bruce Timm drew caricatures of Minton and Fitzgerald, and Ruegger then added mouse ears and noses to the drawing, cementing the concept for Pinky and the Brain. The Fitzgerald/Minton connection to Pinky and the Brain is shown in the episode "The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special". Two characters shown as writers for Pinky and the Brain cartoons within the short are caricatures of Fitzgerald and Minton.
While Ruegger initially based the Brain after Minton, the Welles connection came from Maurice LaMarche, a big fan of the actor/director, who had supplied the voice for Orson Welles in the 1994 movie Ed Wood. LaMarche stated that on coming in to audition for the character of the Brain, he saw the resemblance to Welles and went with that for the voice, and he was given the role on the spot. 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 before recording episodes, and Hastings took it to its logical conclusion. The writers developed the script in secret playing off these test lines and the Frozen Peas outtakes, and arranged to have recording on the same day as Sam Kinison's funeral, whom LaMarche was a close friend of. Prior to LaMarche's arrival, the other voice actors, including Paulsen, recognized the humor of the script after they started reading it. According to Paulsen, when LaMarche arrived, he had originally kept his professionalism after the funeral, but broke down in happiness as he recognized the script for what it was. The series also alluded to Welles with 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 Welles allusions included the episode "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 "Battle for the Planet", in which Brain, inspired by Welles' infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast and the hysteria that it provoked, stages an alien invasion on television. A caricature of Orson Welles 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.
Paulsen had already been selected to voice Pinky as he was already voicing Yakko Warner for Animaniacs. Paulsen, taking inspiration from British comedies such as Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Goon Show, and Peter Sellers, soon gave Pinky a "a goofy whack job" of a British accent for the character.
The episode "Win Big" was the very first Pinky and the Brain skit. It was developed for Animaniacs, written by Ruegger with a script by Peter Hastings, and directed by Rusty Mills. According to Ruegger, most of the elements that would become part of Pinky and the Brain can be found in Hastings's original script. It held many dialogue bits that became conventions of the entire series, including Brain's "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?", Pinky's "Oh...wait, no." in response to a plan, and Pinky's final question, "Why, Brain? What are we going to do tomorrow night?"
As with Animaniacs, Steven Spielberg was the executive producer during the entire run, Tom Ruegger was the senior producer, Jean MacCurdy was the executive in charge of production, and Andrea Romano was the voice director. Peter Hastings, Rusty Mills and Liz Holzman produced the series when it was spun off from Animaniacs, as well as the season it ran primetime on the WB. After the first season Hastings left the show and Mills took over as the supervising producer.
The original Pinky and the Brain shorts on Animaniacs were written primarily by Peter Hastings. Upon moving into its own series, the writing staff included Gordon Bressack, Charles M. Howell IV, Earl Kress, Wendell Morris, and Tom Sheppard. Comedian Alex Borstein was also a staff writer, years before her fame on MADTV and Family Guy. Classic Warner Bros. cartoon director Norm McCabe also wrote for the series.
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, Nancy Cartwright, Janet Waldo and Jeff Bennett. 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, James Belushi, and Steven Spielberg 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 Duff during Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.
As with Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain was scored by a team of talented composers, led by Emmy-Award-winning composer Richard Stone. This team included Steven Bernstein and Julie Bernstein, who also orchestrated and sometimes conducted the 40-piece orchestra. The recordings were done on Stage A on the Warner Bros lot, the same stage (and with the same piano) where Carl Stalling recorded his Looney Tunes music. The theme song for Pinky and the Brain was composed by Richard Stone with lyrics by Tom Ruegger.
Two versions of the opening sequence and theme, with slightly different lyrics, were used during the Animaniacs skits. In the first version, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot (voiced respectively by Paulsen, Harnell, and MacNeille) popped up in the lab and sang the theme while letting the two mice out of their cage. The second, later version had the singers off-camera as the Brain picked the lock on the cage door with a small needle to free himself and Pinky. On the Pinky and the Brain series, the theme gained an additional two verses and was sung by Harnell, Dorian Harewood, Jim Cummings, and Paulsen.
The score sometimes includes references to classical music. For example, in the episode where the Brain builds a new papier-mâché Earth, the theme from the 2nd and 4th movements of Dvořák'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, most of the original Pinky and the Brain skits used a variety of animation studios, including Tokyo Movie Shinsha, StarToons, Wang Film Productions, Freelance Animators New Zealand, and AKOM. The bulk of the episodes created outside of Animaniacs (seasons 2 and beyond) were produced by Rough Draft Studios, Wang Film Productions and AKOM. The only episode that was animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha on the spin-off series was A Pinky and the Brain Christmas.
Like Animaniacs, much of the humor in Pinky and the Brain was aimed at adult 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. In addition to previously mentioned political and actor caricatures, some episodes included complete parodies like those in Animaniacs. The episode "The Megalomaniacal Adventures of Brainie the Poo" parodies The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (or simply Winnie the Pooh). "Cameos" include Jagger instead of Tigger and Algore instead of Eeyore. Algore is "full of hot air", and shown 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 episode "Brainwashed" included several allusions to the television show The Prisoner, though everyone in this version of the Village was identified by the hat that they wore, and not by a number.
Three songs resemble the musical skits in Animaniacs, matching existing music with new lyrics. Pinky sings "Cheese Roll Call" to John Philip Sousa's march "Semper Fidelis" praising his love for all cheeses from around the world. To the music of "Camptown Races", Brain lists 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 such historical leaders as Napoleon and Cleopatra, while Pinky mentions how they all fell. In addition, "Brainwashed" featured a song called the Schmëerskåhøvên, a parody of the Macarena, which would brainwash people if it was done correctly. The song includes such odd lyrics as "Put your fingers in your ears, then stick them in your belly" and "Bop yourself on the head and cross your eyes."
Like Animaniacs, there was a gag credit in the closing credits: each show featured an English word appropriate for the episode with its definition. For example, "Around the World in 80 Narfs", where the mice are foiled by trying to speak "New York cabbie" and end up going in circles in one location, the gag credit word was "anophelosis" defined as "morbid state due to extreme frustration".
Another common element in nearly every episode is the following exchange (often referred to by the acronym "AYPWIP"):
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?Pinky: I think so, Brain, but...
Pinky's response ends with a non sequitur such as, "we're already naked", "isn't a cucumber that small called a gherkin?" or "if they called them Sad Meals, kids wouldn't buy them." Brain would then become furious, often bashing Pinky on the head. A few times in the series Pinky and Brain indeed pondered the same thing, though in one of these Pinky dismissed his idea as being too stupid. Just one time the answer was "Yes I am!", when Pinky's intelligence is elevated to match Brain's. In another episode, it turns out that what Pinky was pondering was that he and Brain never ponder the same thing, which turned out to be part of what Brain was pondering as well. In a short episode ("Pinky's P.O.V.") the spectator sees everything Pinky sees (including his imaginations) and hears his thoughts. His brain seems to censor a large portion of Brain's dialogue, leaving Pinky to wander into random internal tangents until Brain asks the question. Pinky then responds with whatever was on his mind at the end of the tangent.
Pinky and the Brain were popular on Animaniacs, and the popularity continued into their own series. It attracted many of the same fans as Animaniacs and Internet outreach attracted more. Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen appeared on voice actor tours around the Warner Bros. Studio Stores.
In an interview on the third DVD volume, LaMarche and Paulsen noted that Roy Langbord (vice-president of Showtime), Al Franken, and Barenaked Ladies are fans of the shows. Jason Rubin, the co-founder of Naughty Dog, was also fond of the series; the character of the Brain served as an influence in the creation of Doctor Neo Cortex, the main antagonist of the Crash Bandicoot series of video games.
Nominations and awards
Pinky and the Brain won several Emmy and Annie Awards. In 1996, the series won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for the episode A Pinky and the Brain Christmas. Paulsen won the Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for "Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Television Program Production" in 1996 and 1997, while LaMarche won the same in 1998. Paulsen also won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for his role as Pinky subsequently in 1999. The series itself won the 1999 Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding Special Class Animated Program".
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.
References in other media
- 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. 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.
- In one of the host segments in the Hobgoblins episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Pearl Forrester summons her sidekicks Professor Bobo and Observer over by calling, "Pinky! Brain!"
- In the post-apocalyptic role-playing game Fallout 2 by Interplay, a couple of mutant albino mole rats appear. One creature is utterly insane, muttering intentions of taking rulership. The other is a highly intelligent cult leader who has intricate plans to claim domination of the post-apocalyptic world; he also has a taste for Cheezy Poofs.
- 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. Also, when Jailbait asked what they would do during the night, Hotshot replied "The same thing they do every night...whatever that is."
- 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.
- This is Not a Game, a novel by Walter Jon Williams begins "Plush dolls of Pinky and the Brain overhung Charlie's Monitor..." and the theme of world domination is central to the plot.
- In the game Destroy All Humans!, during the final boss battle against Silhouette when you read her mind one of the things she says is "What do I do? The same thing I do every night. Try and take over the world!"
- In the Robot Chicken episode "Kramer vs. Showgirls", a sketch has Michael Moore interviewing cartoon characters from the 1990s, including Pinky and the Brain. Pinky had an ear growing on his back and Brain was moved to another cage, as it turned out his large head was a result of Paget's disease, and he had been rendered blind and had arthritis as a result of the disease. Alan Tudyk voiced Pinky and Seth Green voiced Brain. Another episode has LaMarche reprising his role of Brain in "Eviscerated Post-Coital by a Six Foot Mantis" in a sketch where Pinky and the Brain get sent on a psychedelic trip after being injected with phencyclidine.
- Another episode has LaMarche reprising his role of Brain in "Eviscerated Post-Coital by a Six Foot Mantis" in a sketch where Pinky and the Brain get sent on a psychedelic trip after being injected with phencyclidine.
- In the MAD episode "Spy vs. Spy Kids/The Superhero Millionaire Matchmaker", Mickey Mouse captures Pinky and the Brain in a cage.
- The opening conversation between Pinky and Brain ("Gee, Brain...") that is shown in every episode is sampled in "Joey Bada$$"'s World Domination.
- In The New Batman Adventures episode "Torch Song", Batman asks Batgirl "So, what are you doing tonight?" to which Batgirl answers "Same thing we do every night, Pinky!". Batman replies "What?", followed by "Never mind." from Batgirl.
- In the first novel of The Laundry Files, The Atrocity Archive, the hero Bob Howard's roommates are nicknamed Pinky and the Brain.
- In 2011, a chorus line in the song "Take Over the World" by YouTuber Ray William Johnson (under the channel name Your Favorite Martian) sampled the Pinky and the Brain catchphrase.
- In 2014, at the end of Nostalgia Critic's review of The Purge, Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche reprised their roles as Pinky and the Brain respectively, in animated form, at the very end of the episode. The segment involves Brain finally losing his temper with Pinky and spewing profanity-laced insults at him, causing Pinky to burst into tears. The segment then cuts to live-action footage of LaMarche and Paulsen recording their lines, with The Critic behind them. LaMarche asks if this is for a kid's show, to which The Critic says, "Just say it, people have been wanting to hear this for years."
- In the web series Camp Camp (created by Rooster Teeth) episode "Journey to Spooky Island", the characters come across a laboratory with horrific experiments gone wrong. One of the cases labeled "Take a Cartoon Literally #303" has a mouse with a grotesquely huge brain and another with its head removed and replaced with a finger. The brainy one writes 'Kill Me' on the glass.
- In the 2018 comedy-drama film Tully, Marlo (Charlize Theron) asks the eponymous night nanny (Mackenzie Davis) what she usually does in the daytime, to which Tully replies, "Same thing I do every day, try to take over the world!"
- On February 15, 2019, the group Postmodern Jukebox released a video for their rendition of the theme song (done in jazz style); this video featured Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche working at the bar in the background, performing a short monologue as their respective characters in the middle of the video.
- In 2019, during one the final episodes of the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, entitled "The Ending of the End: Part 2", Pinkie Pie asks "What are we gonna do, Twilight?", which Twilight Sparkle replies "The same thing we do every time, Pinkie. Try to save the world!"
On Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain first appeared as a recurring skit on the animated series Animaniacs, another series produced by Steven Spielberg. On September 3, 1993, Pinky and the Brain premiered on television in the episode "Win Big", which aired on the FOX network.
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 was scheduled in a prime time slot from September 10, 1995 through July 21, 1996, as part of the new WB network lineup, with episodes also being repeated within the Saturday morning cartoon block. It had been envisioned for the series to be the WB network's answer to The Simpsons, at that point in its 7th season, which was running on the FOX network. The series tended to have more jokes and humor aimed at adults rather than children. Due to poor ratings following the first season, primarily due to running against 60 Minutes, subsequent seasons were moved to Saturday mornings as part of the Kids' WB! programming block.
Even though they had their own series, they still had several shorts in Animaniacs after they got the series, still appeared in the series' intro and often made cameo appearances.
On Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain
In 1998, the overall structure within the WB Network changed, including the placement of Jamie Kellner as head of the Kids WB! programming. Along with this came pressure on the writers of the series to back off on the idea of world domination and to include more characters on the series. The episode "Pinky and the Brain...and Larry" was a response to this pressure, attempting to show the studio heads that the series was fine as it was, that Pinky and the Brain worked together as a comedy duo- each balancing each other out with their flaws and personalities - and that a third character (or any extra characters at all) would be out of place and thus unnecessary to the plot. At this point, Peter Hastings, a key writer for the series, decided to quit, with his last script being "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets In This Town Again!", directly addressing the issue of network executives trying to retool shows that otherwise already work. Following the production of the episode, the network backed off from forcing new characters into the show.
With increased pressure from the WB network, the series eventually was retooled on September 19, 1998, into Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, in which Pinky and the Brain were owned by Tiny Toon Adventures character Elmyra Duff; the unusual change in format was even sarcastically noted in the altered title song, with lyrics such as "It's what the network wants, why bother to complain?". The decision was not well received by the existing crew. For one, according to Paulsen, Spielberg had stated that the Tiny Toons and the Animaniacs/Pinky and the Brain universes were to be kept separate. Furthermore, the chemistry between the characters were altered; by introducing Elmyra (who tended to be even more dense than Pinky was), it shifted Pinky to become the useless "Larry" of this series, as described by Paulsen. This series lasted for 13 episodes, six of which were shown unedited and seven of which were split up into segments and aired as a part of The Cat&Birdy Warneroonie PinkyBrainy Big Cartoonie Show.
On the Animaniacs revival
Pinky and the Brain, with voice work by Paulsen and LaMarche, were featured as primary recurring characters along with the Warner siblings as part of the 2020 revival of Animaniacs produced by Amblin and Warner Bros. for broadcast on Hulu. Two seasons of 13 episodes each were ordered, with the first season first broadcast on November 20, 2020 and the second to air in 2021.
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Pinky and the Brain, along with Animaniacs, aired coincident with the formation of the Warner Bros. Studio Store chain across the United States, and, as a result, numerous T-shirts, coffee mugs, stuffed animals, animation cels, and original artwork from the show were available through these outlets. Other merchandise included comic books, computer games, and videotapes. When Warner Brothers acquired the Hanna-Barbera animation properties in 1998, there was a significant decrease with such merchandise through the store. By the time the series was cancelled, very little merchandise was available.
Four VHS collections of Pinky and the Brain episodes were released in 1996 and 1997, each with approximately two to four episodes that included shorts from Animaniacs. These collections are now out of print.
|Pinky and the Brain: A Pinky and the Brain Christmas||August 13, 1996|
|Pinky and the Brain: World Domination Tour||August 13, 1996|
|Pinky and the Brain: Cosmic Attractions||November 4, 1997|
|Pinky and the Brain: Mice of the Jungle||November 4, 1997|
Warner Home Video has released all 66 episodes on DVD in Region 1 in a three-volume set.
|DVD Name||Ep. #||Release date||Additional information|
|Pinky and the Brain Volume 1||22||July 25, 2006||This four-disc box set includes the first 22 episodes from the series. Contains "Pinky and the Brain: Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?" — a featurette with Tom Ruegger, Peter Hastings, Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche, and Andrea Romano as they discuss why they had so much fun working on the series.|
|Pinky and the Brain Volume 2||22||December 5, 2006||This four-disc box set contains the next 22 episodes from the series. Contains "The Return of World Dominating Extras" – a 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 none other than Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen.|
|Pinky and the Brain Volume 3||22||June 19, 2007||This four-disc box set contains the last 22 episodes of the series. Contains "It's All About the Fans" – a featurette with Rob Paulsen (the voice of Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (the voice of the Brain) paying tribute to their fans.|
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Pinky and the Brain were also regulars in the Animaniacs comic book series published by DC Comics. From July 1996 to November 1998, they also starred in their own comic book series (also published by DC Comics), which ran first for one Christmas Special issue and then 27 regular issues before its cancellation. Following the cancellation of the Pinky and the Brain series, the two mice later starred in stories that took up half of the later issues of the Animaniacs comic book series which, starting at issue #43, was re-titled Animaniacs! featuring Pinky and the Brain and ran for another 16 issues before its cancellation.
There are two video games based on Pinky and the Brain. The first, a PC game called Pinky and the Brain: World Conquest, was produced by SouthPeak Games and distributed by Warner Bros. The second was Pinky and the Brain: The Master Plan for the Game Boy Advance. The game was produced by Warthog and distributed by SWING! Entertainment in 2002. A third game, titled simply Pinky and the Brain, was announced for the Sega Saturn in 1996, but was later cancelled. The characters have also appeared in several of the Animaniacs video games, such as Animaniacs: The Great Edgar Hunt.
In the computer game Fallout 2 the character may encounter an albino mole rat that calls 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."
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While Pinky and the Brain does not feature as many songs as Animaniacs, some of the music from the show can be found across the three Animaniacs CDs. An expanded version of the Animaniacs skit "Bubba Bo Bob Brain" presented in a radio drama or audiobook fashion was released as a read-along book and CD in 1997 by Rhino Entertainment.