Are you pondering what I'm pondering, animation fans? Yes!
Pinky and the Brain have finally arrived on DVD, and they're going to take over the world! Well, at the very least, these genetically engineered lab mice are going to prove, once and for all, that they're the best comedy duo ever created for an animated series aimed at children.... but, why limit their appeal to kids? As executive producer Steven Spielberg said to the show's creators, he wanted this brilliant, Emmy®-winning half-hour cartoon series to lure adults into watching it with their kids, and like the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the past, it's likely the grown-ups will enjoy it even more! This is largely due to the fact that Pinky and the Brain
was produced under the radar, almost as if nobody was watching, so while this delightfully inventive spin-off from Animaniacs
is purely entertaining for kids, it also includes a wide variety of in-jokes, movie spoofs, and outrageous dialogue that only older viewers can truly appreciate. It's all innocent fun, but if you watch and listen closely, you'll quickly realize that the writers and first-rate voice cast were having the time of their lives, inventing absurd plots and one-liners purely for their own creative pleasure. How else can you explain Pinky's bizarrely suggestive responses when The Brain asks "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" or the hilarious send-ups of classic movies like The Third Man
(spoofed here as "The Third Mouse"), The Manchurian Candidate
("The Pink Candidate"), and the tearjerking TV classic Brian's Song
(satirized, of course, as "Brain's Song")?
Better yet, these 22 episodes culled from P&TB's four-season run (1995-98) demonstrate how the show's basic concept--two talking lab mice ("one is a genius, the other's insane") and their nightly attempts at global domination--lent itself to a broad spectrum of hilariously ingenious plots, with no restrictions of timeframe. So you've got episodes in ancient Egypt, Napoleonic France, and 1940s Vienna, along with contemporary schemes and shorter, time-filler episodes (like "Cheese Roll Call") that qualify as mini-masterpieces of educational comedy. "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas" is a bona-fide sentimental classic (offering proof that the Brain's got a soft heart, after all), and the polar-opposite pairing of Pinky and the Brain is just about perfect, largely due to the voice talents of Maurice LaMarche (expertly channeling Orson Welles as the Brain) and Emmy-winner Rob Paulsen as Pinky (both seen, to splendid effect, in disc 2's behind-the-scenes featurette). Additional voice talents include Roddy MacDowall (as the Brain's nemesis, Snowball) and Ernest Borgnine, but the show's primary strength is its go-for-broke writing, brilliant animation (a flawless homage to Warner Bros. tradition, yet uniquely styled to match the material), and music scores (mostly by Richard Stone) that pay tribute to the late, great WB cartoon composer Carl Stalling while incorporating frequent passages from the classical repertoire. All in all, Pinky and the Brain is perfect entertainment for the young and young-at-heart, destined for cult-favorite status as one of the best overlooked TV series of the 1990s. As Pinky might say, "Poit! Narf! Oh, this is SO much fun!" --Jeff Shannon