STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $44.98
RUNNING TIME: 471 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Pinky and the Brain: Are You Pondering What I am Pondering? Featurette

The Pitch

You got two white mice: one is dumber than a post, and one is a whacked-out genius who frequently schemes for world domination. It’s kind of like Bush and Cheney.

The Humans

Maurice LaMarche (Brain) and Rob Paulsen (Pinky).

"…so you see Pinky, by alienating the CHUD viewership with these pop up ads, I will then slide in and buy the site at a greatly reduced rate and use it to…take over the world…"

The Nutshell

Pinky and the Brain are a couple of white lab mice who dwell in the confines of Acme Labs. They’re slightly different than most white lab mice in that Pinky is a goofy yet dimwitted free spirit and Brain is a droll, intense megalomaniac who just happens to have an IQ north of Einstein…but a self control south of Lindsay Lohan. Every night after the lab workers go home, Brain rigs some clever way for him and Pinky to escape their cage and then hatches his latest scheme for taking over the world. The results are usually the same as Wile E.’s results for Road Runner.

The Lowdown

Originally supporting characters on the Animaniacs (read Ian’s quite excellent review here), Pinky and the Brain eventually graduated to this spin-off and delighted children of all ages (i.e. pre-teen and teenage boys) for four seasons. They took a relatively one-note concept and ran with it all over the globe and in several time periods, including 1956 Tokyo and 1930s radio; with the goal always being to conquer the world through various shenanigans. These shenanigans include making a hypno potion out of the skin secretions of a toad and deep sea crab and mixing them into pancakes. But first Brain and Pinky have to hijack a sub that only makes right turns to get the crab out of the hull of Titanic, which they raise by inflating a giant balloon. Meanwhile, they’re being hunted by a government sub chaser at the behest of a Pentagon type who listens to his kids in matters of national security (Das Mouse).

"Pinky, just look at her, she’s magnificent! Are you pondering what I’m pondering?"
"Yeah, Brain, but I don’t think Jenna Jameson can do that with a cattle prod and a box of Crayolas…"

In another misadventure, Brain decides to get funding for another diabolical plan by suing for worker’s compensation. So he dons his robotic human suit and goes to work at a re-re-insurance company to put to work his goal of enacting a mishap involving a microwave and non-dairy creamer. The result is that he’s “turned into” a mouse and then has to prove that he really is a mouse in court. And in yet another plot, Brain analyzes his failures and discovers that Pinky being a moron is the cause. So he makes Pinky smarter through the use of an intelligence machine. The only problem is that he makes Pinky too smart and Pinky is able to see the flaws in all of Brain’s past and current plans, one in which he plans to impersonate Jimmy Hoffa. The result is that Brain deduces that one of them has to be a dimwit in order to have balance. So he dumbs himself down so that Pinky is the Brain and he’s the moron. Unfortunately, Pinky has the same idea and the result is two nimrods who can’t operate the machine.

"And once I win Iron Chef, I’ll use my mind-sapping peach cobbler to…take over the world…"

And even another scheme involved getting aliens to think Brain is the ruler of mankind by substituting his image in all of the information and popular culture that the government is sending out in a space probe. Several things could be counted on in each of these plots: Brain is going to get squashed, smashed, incinerated or otherwise mutilated, either by Pinky, one of his creations, or during a juncture where the plans take a left turn at Albuquerque. Others are that Pinky is going to say “Narf” and/or “Point”; Brain would ask if Pinky was pondering what he was pondering and Pinky would retort with something that he pulled out of the left field of his noggin; and Brain will already be hatching another scheme before show’s end.

"What are we doing this Episode, Master?"
"The same thing we do every Episode, Lord Vader…"

As part of the stable of cartoons that came out of Amblin and Warner Bros. Animation in the mid-90s (along with said Animaniacs and Freakazoid), Pinky and the Brain featured much of the same formula that distinguished those cartoons as well: sharp writing, off-kilter takes on pop culture and the more-than-ready willingness to skewer anything and everything under the sun, including themselves. And in frequent displays that the cartoon wasn’t just for kids, there were also little details and references to adult themes, people or ideas that kids probably wouldn’t get until years later. Take for instance the fact that in the episode, Tokyo Grows, the locals would take off or put on their slippers before running in fear, and even Gollyzilla arrived in Tokyo to do his usual damage and took off his sandals before commencing his rampage. And in the episode, Of Mouse and Man, opposing counsel to Brain’s worker’s comp trial just happened to have a strong resemblance to Christopher Walken. Pinky and the Fog was a direct take off of the recent The Shadow movie, and the titular hero of the radio show, The Mist, seemed to bear a striking resemblance to Orson Welles, to say nothing of Brain himself. The show was also different in that some episodes were a full half hour and others were around 10 minutes with a couple of short musical numbers. It’s little things like that that gave the show its off-the-wall flavor.

"Still think getting John Kricfalusi to help us take over the world was the best plan, Brain?"
"Perhaps not, Pinky. Perhaps not…"

The Package

The cartoon looks good in TV standard format and sounds good in Dolby Surround Stereo and 5.1. There’s only one special feature, Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering, a decent 25-minute featurette that showcases LaMarche and Paulsen, along with the show runners including Tom Kruegger and voice director Andrea Romano. It does a good job of also going into the origins of the show and what it was all about. Warner Bros, whom I’ve hammered in the past for just releasing a few episodes of their popular shows or cartoons before finally gracing us with complete season sets, have gotten it right by offering the entire first season and more of the show here. Pinky and the Brain works on several different levels and little kids and adult delinquents alike will find much to enjoy here.

7.3 out of 10