Written by Evan Braun
Most cartoons of the Saturday morning variety are written for kids and little else in mind, but every once in a while a show offers a little something extra. Pinky and the Brain is one such anomaly, providing plenty of great antics for kids, but even more for the grown-ups among us. It’s full of parodies and Hollywood in-jokes that a 10-year-old could simply never appreciate. Strangely, as a 24-year-old, I felt very much within the target audience.
The memorable Pinky and Brain mice started as supporting characters on the WB’s Animaniacs back in 1993, but quickly spun off onto their own show. This was a good move, since Pinky and the Brain far outshine the Animaniacs cast. Brain is deliciously evil and optimistic, while Pinky is utterly slap-stick. The combination is one conceived in heaven (or perhaps in the mind of producer Steven Spielberg).
Their mission: nothing short of world domination. Brain hatches countless ingenious schemes, one after another, each running amok. He’s nothing if not persistent. But of course this format, after five years, is well-established and certainly nothing new.
It is, therefore, that the exploits of our favorite little, white, genetically-enhanced rodents come to a close. The show’s final 22 episodes are presented in this third volume, and among them are some of the very best the series had to offer, befitting a creative team that seemed to get better and better as the years went on. Some highlights include the 3-part “Brainwash” episode (which provides a glance into the origins of Pinky and the Brain), “The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special” (probably the smartest and most hilarious world domination attempt Brain ever conceived), and the extraordinarily clever “You’ll Never Eat Food Pellets in This Town Again” (which showcases the “real” lives of Pinky and the Brain off the set of their hit television show).
My only advice: as good as these episodes are, don’t marathon them, as they tend to reveal their formulaic nature.
The animation is strong, but nothing like a Disney feature. That said, there’s a lot to appreciate. The colours are bright and diverse, and there’s always something eye-catching in the frame. Fortunately, this series doesn’t suffer from some of the video compression issues previous volumes suffered from (indeed, some of the discs include as few as 4 or 5 episodes apiece, leaving plenty of room).
Just like previous Pinky and the Brain releases, the disc offers a choice between 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. Unsurprisingly, the 5.1 version is far superior. The real winner here is the score, though, which includes 10-15 of new, original music for each episode, a rarity for animated television. The show also includes a number of parodic musical numbers that are truly delightful (like the Macarena-esque dance number in “Brainwashed,” for example).
The fourth disc offers just one extra: “It’s All About the Fans,” a 10-minute tribute to the fans from the talented voice actors behind the show, Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (Brain). The running time is a little long considering that there’s precious little breaks from the shots of the two guys sitting at a table talking. Also, the video quality of the interviews is abysmally low, with tons of digital artifacting.
In all honesty, you won’t be buying this set unless you’ve already invested in the first two, which isn’t a problem. That said, the nature of the series demands no special familiarity, so there’s no reason you can’t pop in volume three and get maximum enjoyment without seeing the previous releases. In whichever category you may fit, I highly recommend this show; it’s a definite winner.