Pinky and the Brain is an American animated television series. It was the first animated television series to be presented in Dolby Surround.

The characters 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 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. Brain is self-centered and scheming; Pinky is good-natured but feebleminded. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure, usually due to Pinky's idiocy, the impossibility of Brain's plan, Brain's own arrogance, or just circumstances beyond their control. In common with many other Animaniacs shorts, many episodes are in some way a parody of something else, usually a film or novel. The opening song is preceded by the following dialogue:

Pinky: "Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?" 'The B'rain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!"


Many of the Pinky and the Brain episodes occur in the 1990s at Acme Labs, located in some large American metropolitan city (presumably Burbank due to fact that the Warner Bros Animation Studio - which created this series and Animaniacs- is also located there) and underneath a suspension bridge. Several episodes take place in historical times, with Pinky and the Brain under the laboratory care of some scientifically-minded person, including Merlin,[1] H.G. Wells[2] and Ivan Pavlov.[3]

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.[4] 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 vote that he should take over the world on the one day he doesn't want to.[5] There is very little continuity between episodes 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"[6] reappears when Brain faces Snowball in "Snowball").[4]

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,[7] 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 and Bagel Warmer."[8]

Although Pinky and the Brain plan to conquer the world, they do not show much animosity; in a Christmas special Pinky even wrote to Santa that Brain had the world's best interests at heart.


The Brain

The Brain (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) looks and sounds like Orson Welles, albeit with pink eyes. In "What Ever Happened to Baby Brain", Brain in fact crosses paths with Welles, who is working as a busboy in a Hollywood restaurant; 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 acronym for the eponymous project: "Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus."[7] 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, housing his abnormally large brain. He is highly intelligent and develops complex plans for global domination (only nobody believes he will), using politics, cultural references, and his own inventions toward his goal. He seems coldly unemotional, speaking in a snarky deadpan. Nevertheless, Brain has a subtle sense of humor and even possesses some Christmas spirit. He has even fallen in love, with Trudie in the episode "The Third Mouse", and with Billie in "The World Can Wait." [10] Brain has been compared to Napoleon Bonaparte[11] and Don Quixote.[12]

Brain sees his inevitable rise to power as good for the world, and not mere megalomania. Though it should be noted that despite his malevolent sounding plan he's not really in the typical sense a villain. In 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 having them make him their ruler. However, his motives are not pure. In one episode, Brain finds himself hypnotized by a psychologist he had planned to manipulate for one of his schemes, 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.[13]

In a crossover episode with Buttons and Mindy, Brain appears as Mindy's pet mouse and tries to take over the world with her help, but things go astray very quickly. In the episode, it appears that Brain can use telekinesis.


Pinky (voiced by Rob Paulsen) is another genetically modified mouse who shares the same cage as Brain at Acme Labs. Although intelligent in his own right, Pinky is an extremely unstable and hyperactive mouse and has an extremely short attention span. He has several verbal tics, such as "narf", "zort", "poit", and "troz" (the last of which he started saying after noticing it was "zort in the mirror"). Pinky's appearance is the complete opposite of Brain's- while Brain is short, has a crooked tail, pink eyes, and speaks in a deeper eloquently, Pinky has a straight tail, blue eyes (which shouldn't even occur in normal mice), a severe overbite, is taller than the Brain, and speaks in a higher pitched 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 then I do in my... pinky!" Pinky responded with "Yes?", believing Brain was calling him. [7]

Pinky is more open-minded than the Brain, kinder, and far happier. Troubles never ruin his day - mostly because he's too scatter-brained to notice them. He steadfastly helps Brain toward world domination as best he can, even though Brain usually berates, belittles, and insults him, and hits him on the head. Pinky actually seems to enjoy this, laughing after he's hit. He's happy just being with his best friend, and the only thing that would ever truly make him sad is being separated from Brain. He is obsessed with trivia, spending a lot of time watching television from a T.V. in the lab and following popular culture fads. This is the complete opposite of Brain's more rigorous and realistically grounded logic- however, Brain's schemes have sometimes tapped into this knowledge. Sometimes Pinky even finds non-rational solutions to problems. He has a number of unusual special abilities, something like magic, but perhaps caused by his genetic engineering. He occasionally levitates, and also is apparently capable of telekinesis, as seen when he levitated several pieces of fruit in a bowl in the episode "Fly", even though Pinky claims the ability "comes and goes". 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 process and how he comes to the strange, seemingly nonsensical responses to the Brain's famous question.

He is also arguably Brain's moral compass and only real friend- when Pinky sold his soul to get Brain the world in "A Pinky and the Brain Halloween", Brain did his best to find and save him because he missed him and the world wasn't worth ruling without him, even if he wouldn't admit it out loud. [14] Pinky also has shown signs of intelligence despite his supposed childish stupidity- in "Welcome to the Jungle", Pinky was able to survive using his instincts and become a leader to Brain, who, despite his intelligence, lacked such instincts and couldn't survive in the wild on his own until circumstances forced him to. [15] And in "The Pink Candidate", when Pinky became President, he actually was taking his position seriously, and paying attention to Brain's teachings about the workings of the American government when he later began citing various Amendments and legal problems that would bar Brain from his latest plot to take over the world. [16] When Brain attempted to pressure him into helping, Pinky refused, claiming that the plan "goes against everything I've come to stand for." [16] This shows that Pinky also has a strong conscience and will stand up to Brain when he has to.

Other characters

The show featured a few recurring characters. Snowball the hamster (voiced by Roddy McDowall) is Brain's former friend, also made intelligent by gene splicing. He has also developed a desire for world conquest (though far more malevolent then Brain's), and Pinky and the Brain are sometimes forced to stop Snowball's schemes.[4] Billie (voiced by Tress MacNeille) is a female mouse, another result of gene splicing. She is smarter than Brain, and makes him afraid she will beat him to his goal of world domination.[10] He loves her; she fancies Pinky. Pharfignewton (voiced by Frank Welker) is a racing mare who Pinky falls in love with.[17] Larry (voiced by Billy West, when he's using the same voice as Stimpy from Ren and Stimpy) is a white mouse like Larry of The Three Stooges inexplicably present in certain episodes.[18][19] He was created as a response to demand from Kids WB executives to include additional characters on the show.[20] His presence is sporadic as the writers of the show believed that including an additional character would ruin the chemistry between Pinky and The Brain, as they worked best as a comedy duo, and a third character would therefore be out of place and unnecessary to the plot.

Other characters that have appeared on the show have included both Brain's parents,[21] and Pinky's parents and "sister" (an empty spool of thread),[22] and their "child", "Roman Numeral I" (Romy for short) who was a result of a cloning mistake. Later seasons also feature recurring caricatures of celebrities, including both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Christopher Walken.

Creation and inspiration

Pinky and the Brain was inspired by the peculiar personalities of two of producer Tom Ruegger's Tiny Toon Adventures colleagues, Eddie Fitzgerald and Tom Minton, respectively.[23] Ruegger wondered what would happen if Minton and Fitzgerald tried to take over the world. Fitzgerald (who has also worked on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Ren and Stimpy) is said to have constantly said "Narf" and "Egad" around the Tiny Toons production office.[23] The gag credit for the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "You Asked For It" credits Eddie Fitzgerald as "Guy Who Says 'Narf'".[24] Series producer Peter Hastings described Eddie by saying, "He always greeted you like you were wearing a funny hat – and he liked it."[25] The Fitzgerald/Minton connection to Pinky and the Brain is shown in the episode "The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special".[19] Two characters shown as writers for Pinky and the Brain cartoons within the short are caricatures of Fitzgerald and Minton.[26]

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 describes Brain's voice as "65% Orson Welles, 35% Vincent Price".[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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),[30] and "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. 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.[31]

The episode "Win Big"[6] was the very first Pinky and the Brain segment. 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 dialog bits that became conventions of the entire series,[23] including Brain's "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?", Pinky's "Oh wait…but no…" in response to a plan, and Pinky's final question, "What are we doing 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 show 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 show, the writing staff included Gordon Bressack, Charles M. Howell IV, Earl Kress, Wendell Morris, and Tom Sheppard. Comedienne 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 show.


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, Grey DeLisle, 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, James Belushi and Steven Spielberg have all performed guest voice work for the series as well.[37] Cree Summer has also voiced characters in Pinky and the Brain and reprised her role as Elmyra during Pinky, Elmyra, and The Brain.


As with Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain was scored by a team of composers, led by supervising composer Richard Stone. This team included Steve 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 music for Pinky and the Brain was composed by Richard Stone with lyrics by Tom Ruegger.[23]

Two versions of the opening sequence and theme, with slightly different lyrics, were used during Animaniacs shorts. 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 his tail to free himself and Pinky. On the Pinky and the Brain show, the theme gained an additional two verses and was sung by Gene Paul, mind and others.

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.[38] The episode Napoleon Brainaparte makes frequent reference to the French anthem, La Marseillaise,[11] 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 shorts 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 and Wang Film Productions. The only episode that was animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha on the spin-off was A Pinky and the Brain Christmas.

Humor See also: Hallmarks of AnimaniacsLike 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 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."[40] 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.[41][42]

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.[43] 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!".[44] "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.[45] In addition, "Brainwashed" featured a song called the Schmëerskåhøvên, a parody of the Macarena, which would brainwash you if done correctly. The song include 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 "cabbie" and end up going in circles, the gag credit word was "anophelosis" defined as "morbid state due to extreme frustration."[46]

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: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 over the head. Twice 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!", though when Pinky's intelligence is elevated to match Brain's in one episode, he reveals that he's usually thinking exactly what Brain is thinking, but doesn't want to steal Brain's thunder or make him feel inadequate.


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.[47] 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.[49] In 1996, the series won a Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program" for the episode "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas".[9] Rob 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 Maurice 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",[50] in which Brain was subject to the effects of smoking by a tobacco company, won a PRISM Award for its anti-smoking message.

Allusions in other media

The Rice University Neologism dictionary[52] 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[53] 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 appear in the post-apocalyptic roleplaying game Fallout 2 by Interplay, portrayed as a sibling couple of mutant albino mole rats. 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". 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.

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 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!"

The Robot Chicken episode "Kramer Vs. Showgirls" featured a segment where Michael Moore interviews cartoon characters from the 1990s. Pinky and the Brain were among them. 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. He had been rendered blind and had arthritis as a result. Dave Sheridan voiced Pinky and Seth Green voiced Brain.

In the 2006 film Lady in the Water, Bryce Dallas Howard's character is a sea creature that is called a narf. It is unsure whether the term was inspired by Pinky and the Brain or is a coincidence.

In the MAD episode "Spy vs. Spy Kids / The Superhero Millionaire Matchmaker," Pinky and the Brain appeared as one of the mice in a cage.


On Animaniacs and Pinky and the BrainEdit

Pinky and the Brain first appeared as a recurring segment on the animated series Animaniacs, another show produced by Steven Spielberg. On September 14, 1993, Pinky and the Brain premiered on television in the episode Win Big, which aired on the FOX Kids 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 of the show was scheduled in a prime-time slot from September 10, 1995 through July 21, 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. Due to poor ratings, subsequent seasons were moved to Saturday mornings as part of the Kids' WB programming block.

Even though they had their own show, they still had several shorts in Animaniacs after they got the show, they still appeared in the shows intro, and often appeared in cameo appearances. Copyright:

Pinky and The Brain Intro

Pinky and The Brain Intro

Shows Intro

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