December 17, 2016

PINKY, ELMYRA & THE BRAIN

PINKY, ELMYRA & THE BRAIN
(WB, September 19, 1998-April 10, 1999)


Amblin Television, Warner Bros. Animation


MAIN CAST:
Frank Welker – Mr. Pussy Wussy


            When it comes to television, network executives tend to take the approach: “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” That couldn’t be more true for Pinky and the Brain.

Changes are coming to Pinky and the Brain.

            By 1997, Pinky and the Brain was The WB Network’s highest-rated animated show whose popularity showed no signs of waning. However, new incoming executives at the network weren’t too fond of the world domination aspect of the show and wanted it to be more like a sitcom. They pushed for the producers to expand the cast of characters to offer up different story opportunities. Naturally, considering their established formula was working just fine, the producers—Tom Ruegger, Barbara J. Gerard, Rusty Mills, Liz Holzman, Charles M. Howell IV, Peter Hastings and Steven Spielberg—were resistant to the idea. But, to appease their bosses (as well as subtly protest the idea), they made the season 3 episode “Pinky and the Brain…and Larry”, which introduced a third mouse whose deliberately chemistry failed to click with the other two and ruined the rhythm of the episode. Hastings, who had written the majority of the Pinky and the Brain segments on Animaniacs, penned the episode “You’ll Never Eat Food Pellets In This Town, Again!” to further demonstrate the adverse effects of executives tampering with a show that worked fine already. That inspired the network to back off on the additional character idea. For a time.

Tossed out by Warner Bros.

            Hastings had left Warner Bros. to head up Disney’s new One Saturday Morning line-up on rival network ABC. Upon its debut in 1997, the network’s ratings eventually began to overshadow that of the WB’s. The network renewed pressure on Warner Bros. Animation to introduce a new character into the show as a result. WB development executive Christopher Keenan suggested taking Tiny Toon Adventures’ Elmyra Duff (Cree Summer) and adding her to the show as Pinky (Rob Paulsen) and Brain’s (Maurice LaMarche) owner, despite producer Steven Spielberg’s edict that the Tiny Toons and Animaniacs universes were separate entities. Elmyra had a tendency to be overly loving towards he pets, resulting in their being unwittingly tortured and abused. The other executives loved the idea and production ended on Pinky and the Brain, and resumed for Pinky, Emlyra & the Brain.

Faust after Pinky and the Brain.

            The show’s new premise was that ACME Labs had been destroyed in a mishap, leaving Pinky and the Brain homeless. Pursued by Wally Faust (who resembled Christopher Walken, voiced by Jeff Bennett) for his own world domination schemes, the mice ended up in a pet store where they hid inside a turtle named Mr. Shellbutt. Elmyra purchased said turtle and now Pinky and the Brain had to continue their plans from inside her home.

Rudy with "Patty Ann."

            Elmyra was no longer a resident of Acme Acres, which dashed Tiny Toons fans’ hopes of seeing other members of that cast in an episode. Instead, Elmyra attended Chuck Norris Grammar School where she had a crush on classmate Rudy Mookich (Nancy Cartwright). Rudy, however, wanted nothing to do with her and was instead infatuated with Brain’s female robot suit alter ego, Patty Ann. Rudy was similar in personality to The SimpsonsNelson Muntz, also voiced by Cartwright. Other new characters included Vanity White (named after Vanna White, voiced by Jane Wiedlin), Elmyra’s “best friend” and Elmyra’s pet cat, Mr. Pussy Wussy (Frank Welker). While each episode continued with the theme of Brain’s world conquest, Elmyra assumed Pinky’s role as the dense thorn in his side. Pinky became what the production called “The Larry”; a term coined from the Larry episode to mean a useless character. Another part of the network’s demands was to include a song in each episode, meaning that one or all of the characters would end up singing at some point.

Brain with photos of Rudy and Vanity.

            Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain debuted as part of the Kids’ WB line-up on September 19, 1998. The producer’s dissatisfaction with the change in the series was made blatantly apparent in the show’s opening theme (a modification to the one used on Pinky and the Brain), which featured the lyrics “Now Pinky and the Brain share a new domain / It’s what the network wants, why bother to complain?” and ended with Brain speaking the line “I deeply resent this.” The series was animated by Wang Film Production Co., Ltd., Tokyo Movie Shinsa (now TMS Entertainment) and AKOM. Julie and Steven Bernstein, Carl Johnson, Tim Kelly, Richard Stone and Harvey Cohen handled the series’ music. This show marked the end of the decade-long partnership between Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment.

Cancelled and couch-bound.

            The changes to the series proved as unpopular with audiences as it did with the producers, resulting in it quickly being cancelled after airing only 6 episodes. The remainder of the episodes were aired in individual segments as part of The Cat & Birdy Warneroonie Pinky Braining Big Cartoonie Show. The Big Cartoonie Show was an hour and a half compilation show initially comprised of Looney Tunes shorts with new title cards and reruns of segments from Animaniacs, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries and Pinky and the Brain. In September of 1999, The Big Cartoonie Show changed formats and Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain ceased to air. Pinky and the Brain’s final appearances were in the direct-to-video movie Wakko’s Wish.

DVD ad.

            Despite its short run and poor ratings, the series received critical acclaim and award nominations. Paulsen won a 1999 Annie Award for his voice work and the show was nominated for another Annie Award for its direction. In 2000, it won the Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Children’s Animated Program.” Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s offered four toys based on the show with their kids meals. Warner Home Video eventually released the complete series to DVD in 2014.


EPISODE GUIDE:
“Patty Ann / Gee, Your Hair Spells Terrific” (9/19/98) – Rudy falls for Brain’s Patty Ann robot suit. / Brain plans to help Elmyra win a spelling bee to acquire funds he needs to clone dinosaurs.

“Cute Little Alienhead / Better Living Through Cheese” (9/26/98) – Brain contacts an alien for advanced weapons, but Elmyra drives him away. / Rudy decides to destroy the project Brain made for the science fair to win the prize money.

“My Fair Brainy! / The Cat That Cried Woof” (10/3/98) – Brain plans to take over the world from space using Elmyra. / Brain’s new formula makes Elmyra’s cat believe he’s a dog.

“The Girl With Nothing Extra / Narfily Ever After” (11/7/98) – Brain tries to make Elmyra popular so that they can utilize her fame. / Brain tells Elmyra a bedtime story.

“The Icky Mouse Club / The Man From Washington” (11/21/98) – Brain decides to organize the neighborhood kids into a gang he can mold as they grow. / Wally Faust tries to steal Brain’s invention.

“Yule Be Sorry / How I Spent My Weekend” (12/12/98) – Brain experiences life if Pinky was never his friend. / Elmyra recounts Brain’s plan to use a robot to turn all French cheese into stupid American tourists.

“At the Hop!” (1/16/99) – Brain goes to the dance with Rudy as Patty Ann in order to find his infatuation cologne.

“Pinky’s Dream House” (1/23/99) – Elmyra dresses Pinky and Brain up and places them in a doll house.

“Squeeze Play” (1/30/99) – Brain and Pinky face Rudy’s snake to retrieve Brain’s invention.

“The Ravin!” (2/6/99) – Brain recites a version of The Raven and recounts what happened to Acme Labs.

“Wag the Mouse” (2/13/99) – Elmyra runs for class president.

“A Walk in the Park” (2/20/99) – When Elmyra takes the mice to a theme park Brain plans to place a tape with a hypnotic message on one of the rides.

“That’s Edutainment” (2/27/99) – Pinky and the Brain get their own children’s program.

“Teleport a Friend” (3/6/99) – Brain ends up fused with Elmyra, and only Pinky can fix them—if he’d stop chasing a pig.

“Mr. Doctor” (3/13/99) – Elmyra takes some of her pets to the vet.

“Hooray for Meat” (3/27/99) – At a meat festival Brain discovers a plot to take over the world through “Meats of Evil”.

“Party Night” (4/3/99) – Elmyra shows up to Vanity’s party, believing she just forgot to invite her.

“The Mask of Braino” (4/10/99) – Brain becomes the masked crime fighter Braino.

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