‘NARF!’ 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Pinky and the Brain’

One episode was written as a gift to Brain voice actor Maurice LaMarche
‘NARF!’ 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Pinky and the Brain’

One simple question reverberated throughout 1990s households every Saturday morning: Are you pondering what I’m pondering? 

Yes! It’s time for some trivia tidbits about laboratory mice whose genes have been spliced. They’re dinky. They’re Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain…

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They Were Based on ‘Tiny Toons’ Producers

Before they got their own spin-off, Pinky and the Brain were regulars on Animaniacs. Tom Ruegger, the creator of Pinky and the Brain, told The Ringer that they were based on two producers named Tom Minton and Eddie Fitzgerald, whom he worked with on Tiny Toons. “Tom Minton spoke very low, very quietly. He’s very funny, but you’d have to lean in close,” explained Ruegger. “And Eddie Fitzgerald was a good friend of his, who was much more vocal and boisterous. They’re in the next office, and Tom would say something that Eddie would find very funny, and Eddie would just explode. He’d go ‘Narf! That’s amazing, Tom!’ I mean, he literally said the word ‘Narf.’”

That Said, Maurice LaMarche Heard Orson Welles

Voice actor Maurice LaMarche, however, gave The Brain the voice of Citizen Kane actor and director Orson Welles

Why Pinky Is British

In an interview with Uproxx, Pinky voice actor Rob Paulsen said, “I was a huge fan of the Pythons, Peter Sellers and The Goon Show, and a huge fan of British comedy when I was growing up. I just had a thought that it would be fun to do a British accent for Pinky, just a goofy whack job. For some reason, Steven (Spielberg) seemed to like it, and they went together.”

Pinky and the Brain Arrived Fully Formed

In our oral history of “A Pinky and the Brain Christmas,” Animaniacs writer Peter Hastings explained, “The very first Pinky and the Brain short, ‘Win Big,’ was something I wrote on Animaniacs, and it ended up establishing a lot of Pinky and the Brain norms, like ‘Are you pondering what I’m pondering?’ and ‘What do you want to do tomorrow night?’” Because of this, Hastings ended up writing most of the Pinky and the Brain shorts.

Ruegger Also Co-Wrote the Theme

Ruegger handled the lyrics for the theme song to Pinky and the Brain, while Animaniacs composer Richard Stone supplied the music.

Prime-Time Mice

When Pinky and the Brain became its own spin-off, the WB originally planned for it to be a primetime show before moving it to Saturday mornings.

Emmy-Winning Christmas Tale

“A Pinky and the Brain Christmas” won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program, beating out The Simpsons in 1996. Paulsen also won an Emmy for playing Pinky in 1999.

Spielberg’s Respite

As he was directing Schindler’s List, Spielberg was also producing Animaniacs, with Pinky and the Brain being his favorite characters on the show. This led to him playing Pinky and the Brain shorts in between takes to help lift the spirits of his actors dealing with such a tragic story.

The Only Time Brain Actually Took Over the World Was on Another Show

The Brain did successfully take over the world in one WB cartoon, but it wasn’t on Animaniacs or Pinky and the Brain. Instead, it was in an episode of Freakazoid that ended in a dystopian future where Brain is the president.

The Gift of Frozen Peas

The Animaniacs Pinky and the Brain short “Yes, Always” was based almost verbatim on an old outtake of Orson Welles bickering with a director over a radio spot for frozen peas. LaMarche loves this Welles outtake and often does it to warm up. As such, Hastings wrote “Yes, Always” as a gift to LaMarche.

The Meta WB Takedown

Throughout Pinky and The Brain, Kids WB regularly pressured the producers and writers to add more characters to the show’s roster so that it wasn’t just about the two mice. The Pinky and The Brain crew not only pushed back on this but wrote an entire episode lampooning the idea where “Larry,” a new mouse who serves utterly no purpose, joins the show.

The Brain’s Biggest Enemy — Network Notes

Eventually, Kids WB canceled Pinky and the Brain, only to tell the writers to write a new show starring the duo, but “more like The Simpsons” that featured more characters. The result was Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, which saw the mice being adopted by Elmyra from Tiny Toons. Everyone quickly and rightfully hated it, with the spin-off lasting just 13 episodes.

The Pinky and the Brain Phone Sex Hotline

On the middling Animaniacs reboot on Hulu, one Pinky and the Brain short featured Brain offering a phone number to the audience to call to aid him in his global domination plans. Unfortunately, the number was a real number that led to a phone sex hotline. As soon as this was discovered, the episode was edited to remove the number.

Their Creator Doesn’t Subscribe to the ‘Pinky Is the Genius’ Fan Theory

The theme song for Pinky and the Brain states that “one is a genius, the other’s insane.” Many have theorized online that Pinky is the true genius of the duo while Brain is the crazy one. 

However, Ruegger doesn’t agree, telling MEL Magazine, “When discussing a cartoon, it’s always important to consider the visuals. The Brain clearly has a large frontal lobe, which indicates that he’s got a big bulging brain in there, so there’s room for some genius thinking. Also, in the original theme song in Animaniacs, when they sing ‘one is a genius, the other’s insane,’ at that point, they walk past an X-ray machine and you see that The Brain’s got a very involved cranium with machinery working hard in there. Pinky’s brain, however, is an empty void except for the shell of a peanut. That was in the Animaniacs, but in their own series, when the theme song was expanded, during ‘one is a genius,’ The Brain is doing calculations on a chalkboard while wearing a graduate mortar board on his head. When it gets to ‘the other’s insane,’ Pinky comes hopping by wrapped in a straitjacket. So, visually, that’s probably the most telling evidence regarding the theory. That’s where this theory gets beat up pretty badly.”

Yet, At the Same Time, He Still Encourages That Theory

“I don’t want to dismiss anything,” Ruegger also explained. “I’m all for fans of Pinky and The Brain getting together and discussing it and having fun with it, so I don’t want to discourage fans from conjecturing, as it’s a fun intellectual exercise. I honestly love the debate, and The Brain, certainly, has had some moments of exquisite insanity. Really, when it comes to Pinky and The Brain, they’re a dynamic duo — a true yin and yang — and with that, there’s some insanity and genius on both sides.”

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