"Gee Brain, what do you wanna do tonight?" "The same thing we do every night, Pinky — try to take over the world!"
An Animated Series about a superintelligent, genetically-altered lab mouse who enlists his halfwit roommate (read: the other mouse in his cage) into his endless quest to take over the world. Each episode saw The Brain devise an elaborate, improbable scheme for world domination, only be foiled in the end due to some unforeseeable twist of fate, or occasionally his own blundering arrogance. On one or two occasions he actually succeeded in taking over the world, but with some kind of unacceptable side-effect that sent him back to the drawing board. By contrast, many episodes had his schemes barely even getting off the ground, and the story centered around his attempts just to get Step One going.Originally a recurring skit on Animaniacs, the characters proved hugely popular and were soon given their own show. It tried to be as keenly satirical as was possible within the format of an afternoon children's cartoon. However, this did tend to remove it uncomfortably far, at times, from the notion of world domination — one can imagine the writers scratching their heads and trying to figure out how writing a Broadway musical could possibly help The Brain take over the planet (ultimately, most of the later plots are money-making schemes meant to fund the next scheme). Though it should be noted that due to said mature humor, the WB actually gave the show a primetime slot for a time during their Sunday Night runs.Alas, due to Executive Meddling, the show was eventually turned intoPinky, Elmyra & the Brain — curiously premiering when several episodes of the original still had yet to air and thus briefly airing concurrently. See that page for more information.
Pinky and The Brain provides examples of the following tropes:
Accidental Art: Brain's plan is to become a famous artist (which he intends to do by predicting the next artistic fad: Donutism), this fails but Pinky attempts to drink the contents of Brain's brush jar (a milk carton) and promptly spits it out onto a canvas. Cue this trope.
Acme Products: Most notably the Acme Bagel Warmer and Gene Splicer, with which Pinky and The Brain were created. They live in the Acme Labs, too.
Acting Unnatural: In the Christmas Episode, the duo hide themselves in Santa's reindeer team, wearing antlers on their heads. The Brain tells Pinky to just act natural. Cue Pinky moving erratically, singing, laughing, and making his usual Verbal Tics.
The Brain: Pinky! Not that natural!
All Just a Dream: In "Pinky and the Brainmaker" and "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets in This Town Again".
Anti-Hero: Brain is constantly trying to take over the world — hardly heroic — but he is good-natured (when not hurting Pinky) and truly believes that the world would be a better, happier place if he was in charge; this is justified by portraying real world's leaders as either egotistic, incompetent or plain crazy (or all at once). Also compare to his archrival Snowball, a sadistic villain whom Brain believed would destroy the world if he ruled it.
Applied Mathematics: The Brain once tries to mathematically deduce the reason his plans usually fail. He ends up with a portrait of Pinky. Pinky later corrects a few points on the graph, and it ends up as a portrait of Brain.
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering? Pinky: Whoof, oh, I'd have to say the odds of that are terribly slim Brain. Brain: True. Pinky: I mean, really, when have I ever been pondering what you've been pondering? Brain: To my knowledge, never. Pinky: Exactly. So, what are the chances that this time, I'm pondering what you're pondering? Brain: Next to nil. Pinky: Well, that's exactly what I'm thinking, too. Brain: Therefore, you are pondering what I'm pondering. Pinky: Poit, I guess I am!
In "Das Mouse" Pinky says that they'll reach the hull of the Titanic before Brain can yell "POIT!", Brain replies drily that they'll reach Mars before he yells "poit". Much, much later in the episode Brain is found, after a depth charge attack, bobbing up and down in the water upside down by his oversized head. Pinky asks him if he's all right and he yells, "POOOIIIIIT!!".
In "But That's Not All Folks", the President of the United States tries to order "a Good Old Boy Pizza with extra pork rinds", but the telephone circuits are overloading because everyone in the world was calling in to order the Brain's "Miracle Product". In the end, after the usual "They're dinky, they're Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain", the President can be heard asking, "Where's my pizza?"
British Royal Guard: Pinky and The Brain had to tip one over (cow tipping) to get into a club. The guard falls like a tree.
Cartoony Tail: The Brain has a tail like a real mouse, except it is kinked in a way that it looks like stair steps.
Cassandra Truth: A rare example where this usually works in the protagonist's favor. The Brain is quite open about being a lab mouse out for global domination, but as people tend to think he's joking, speaking in metaphors or just being delusional, they usually just shake their heads and let him carry on with whatever he was doing.
Clip Show: "Schpiel-borg 2000" starts off as this.
Cloudcuckoolander: Pinky. In particular, he has a tendancy to bring up celebrities at random:
Pinky: What's the plan, Brain? Brain: Uh...guess. Pinky: All right. Um, are we going to... Take Debbie Allen hostage, depriving all of humanity of enjoyable choreographed production numbers? Brain: Hmm. Nope. Guess again. Pinky: Are we going to... Oh. Create a riot by forcing people to listen to the touchy-feely Mandy Patinkin? Brain: No. Guess again. Pinky: Hmm. I got it. Use the talents of Paul Anka and Carrot Top to stage the comeback of the lovable TV genius Jamie "Klinger" Farr. Brain: Come now, Pinky, let's remain within the realm of possibility.
Pinky's sister, who happens to be an empty spool of thread.
Also from "Your Never Eat Food Pellets in This Town Again", there's Pinky's wife Margret. Every time someone brings her up, Brain points out that Margret is Pinky's sock puppet, to which the response is a flat, "Yes?"
Continuity Nod: Every now and then somebody will recognize Brain and mention a scheme from a previous episode. In "The Pink Candidate", a Congressional investigation unearths Brain's plans for world domination, and every one is the plot from a previous episode; similarly, the episode "Brain Drained" began with a reference to the first episode after spinning off from Animaniacs.
Creative Sterility: Seems to be a pet worry of Brain's, that his genius can't go anywhere without a good plan or idea. But, as he's goal-oriented, he'll put his ego and pride aside to ride off of one of Pinky's ideas (and at one point actively solicits them, pretending that he already has one and having Pinky guess what it is).
Deranged Animation: The show becomes completely derailed for one episode in which a spaceman wants to eat people's brains. His sidekick spends the entire episode with a giant bite taken out of his skull, and every background is a masterpiece of surrealism. It's just one episode of deranged, drugged-out insanity that makes no sense. According to one of the writers, that episode was originally supposed to be a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a show starring the brain-eating villain; but it turned out so poorly that it was drastically re-written, re-cut and re-recorded at the last minute, resulting in a lot of weirdness.
Dinky Drivers: in "Opportunity Knox", Brain controls the steering wheel of a van with pulleys while Pinky operates the pedals. (In later episodes, he wires the pedals into the pulleys, or uses a scaled-down driver's seat.)
Disguised in Drag: Pinky does this frequently, the Brain less so. An example of this is "Whatever Happened to Baby Brain?", where the Brain disguises himself as a cute little girl, and Pinky acts as "her" mother.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Brinky", The Brain attempts to clone himself, which almost works until Pinky's DNA (from a clipped toenail) accidentally gets combined with Brain's, thus essentially making them parents of the resulting clone (and Pinky calling himself the clone's "mommy"). Most of the dialogue during the cloning process is scripted like an actual birth: for example, when the door on the cloning machine won't close (which is the reason Pinky's DNA is even in there), The Brain tells Pinky to help him "push", complete with Pinky doing Lamaze breathing.
Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: "Brain Storm" is about Brain's attempt to harness a tornado for his latest scheme to take over the world. This trope is mostly in effect, although they are occasionally battered by a piece of flying debris (cow, pig, tractor...) because of Rule of Funny.
Early Installment Weirdness: In the Animaniacs segments, especially earlier on, Brain's megalomania is more apparent and he's barely tolerating of Pinky compared to later, even using him for labor. Pinky is less capable (a minion in the traditional sense) and far more likely to goof off, playing into the 'insane' part of the theme song. There's some Vocal Evolution as well.
Egopolis: Brain tries it a few times. He gets his own island country in a bid for US foreign aid, naming it Brainania. When he does end up in control of the Earth — by making a duplicate out of papier-mache and convincing everyone else to go there with free t-shirts — he renames the original Earth "Brainus", presumably following the pattern of either Venus or Uranus. The new planet, on the other hand, was Chia Earth.
Even Evil Has Standards: Although the Brain isn't evil, he definitely has standards as to what he will and will not consider when it comes to taking over the world. For example, he could have achieved world conquest through selling cigarettes to children, but the idea completely repulsed him.
Evil Albino: Brain. Well, maybe "evil" is a bit exaggerated.
Expospeak Gag: Often with Brain. A notable example from when Brain becomes a ski instructor:
Brain: Today, I will instruct you in the mastery of inertia re-establishment utilizing weight distribution through metatarsal manipulation. Student: You mean stopping? Brain: Yes. But when I say it, it sounds groovy.
Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the episode "Brinky", Pinky's genetic material accidentally gets introduced into Brain's cloning experiment, essentially resulting in their having a child together.
Pinky: I'm a mommy, I'm a mommy! Brain: Pinky, that's absurd! You are nothing of the kind. Its chromosomal makeup just happens to include both of our genetic building blo— AAAAAAH!! ...Oh my Lord, you are its mommy.
Expository Theme Tune: "They're Pinky and The Brain! Yes, Pinky and The Brain! One is a genius, the other's insane! To prove their mouse-y worth, they'll overthrow the earth! They're dinky, they're Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain!"
Follow That Car: In "Brain Noir", Brain flags down a cab to follow Snowball. The cab stops directly on top of him. Pinky then tells the cabbie to "Follow that car!" and the cab takes off without either of them.
"I have made you use the freezeframe button on your VCR."
The opening has two hidden messages that zoom by: "Don't tell Brain I hid this secret message. Ha ha Narf!" and "I knew about your silly secret message, Pinky."
Friendly Tickle Torture: In "Big In Japan", Pinky is seen playing with a "Tickle-Me Herbert" doll, a parody of the Tickle-Me-Elmo doll. Later in the episode, he uses this tactic to defeat a sumo wrestler.
Giant Mecha: The Brain at one point built a mechanical suit, quite strong and durable. It became a semi-recurring prop once the series started. And then his arch-rival got in on the act. Giant Mecha battling for the fate of the world! Because they are mice, the "Giant Mecha" are equivalent in size to a six-foot tall human.
Gone Horribly Right: One of Brain's plans involves using a time machine to advance mice beyond humans by beating them to some major scientific development. He eventually succeeds... but the mice think Pinky was the one to introduce the concept, and the resultant Mouse World is modeled after him. Brain then goes to Set Right What Once Went Wrong; when Pinky points out that Brain could easily rule the world they're leaving behind, Brain simply responds, "But who would want to?"
Brain: Here I am, working hard to take over the world so that all mankind will worship the glory of me, and you're just thinking about yourself.
I Am One of Those Too: In "My Feldmans, My Friends", the Brain attempts to persuade his neighbor that "Mr The Brain" was his high school nickname by inserting his picture into a high school yearbook. The high school he picks happens to be the one his neighbor attended, so Brain is left trying to convince his neighbor that they were, in fact, classmates.
Ignored Epiphany: In "Leggo My Ego", Sigmund Freud determines through hypnotism that Brain's desire to rule the world was actually created in him subversively and accidentally by the scientists at his lab. What Brain really wanted was to go back to his family, who lived in a can with a picture of the world on it. But his mind was warped by the experimentation to the point that all he could remember was his desire for the image. Brain considers the possibility, but ultimately dismisses Freud as a quack and goes on as planned.
Pinky: Snowball wait, you said you promised to change your evil ways. Snowball: And you believed me?
I'm Alive: In "Snowball", a suicidal Brain attempts to end all by leaving himself to be eaten by alley cats, but they reject him. He then has this reaction, complete with a triumphant laugh.
Insane Troll Logic: Many of Brain's plans are based on a very convoluted sequence of steps to achieve world domination. For example, to rule the world, he will build a second earth made out of papier-mache, bring it to life with a special invention, and then lure the humans off the original Earth using free T-shirts. All which generally work until the Fatal Flaw in the plan is realized, such as a giant asteroid that destroyed the original Earth in the above example.
Insufferable Genius: You need to ask? Surprisingly, Brain's pretty tolerable. Snowball on the other hand...
Insult to Rocks: After saying Pinky had the approximate I.Q. of an empty soap dish. Brain says "I take it back. I don't want to insult the soap dish."
Interspecies Romance: Pinky and Pharfignewton (a horse), Romy (cloned mouse) and Pat (human) and Pinky and Winne (sea lion).
Intoxication Ensues: In "Brainy Jack", Brain gets bitten by a rattlesnake and alternates between thinking he's Bob Hope and Henry Kissinger.
Iron Buttmonkey: Pinky and Brain regularly get smashed, beaten, exploded, run over, and so forth, as Brain's schemes fail. Of course, Pinky doesn't really mind when Brain bops him on the head, so perhaps he's okay with it. Brain, however, gets the worst of it. Naturally, they're still standing (if bruised) at the end of every episode, ready to do "the same thing we do every night".
Is This Thing Still On?: In "Calvin Brain", Brain's latest plan for world domination is undone when a behind-the-scenes documentary crew films him unleashing a diatribe on the shallowness of the fashion industry and the brainlessness of those who follow its dictates. His last words on the video are even "is that thing on?"
It Makes Sense in Context: In the episode from Pinky's POV, we see the train of thought that leads to one of his "pondering" non-sequiturs. So when he asked about fitting the Hippo into a thong, he actually was picturing that in his head.
It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Some of Brain's inventions. His plans for taking over the world are a bit of a variation on this trope, using nonsense sociology instead of nonsense science.
It's Been Done: The episode "Brain Drained" opens with Brain realizing that his plans are beginning to repeat themselves in some form.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Brain fits this to a T. It has been proven on numerous occasions that behind the megalomaniac outer layer lies a complete softy who cares deeply about the ones he loves, especially Pinky. The Christmas Special has to be the best example of his sweeter side. See also the Anti-Hero entry above — sure, his megalomaniac tendencies may incline him to step on a few million toes here and there, but ultimately what he really wants is to make everyone happy, in his own roundabout way.
Kavorka Man: For such an ugly little jerk, Brain doesn't have much trouble getting girls when he's *cough* disguised as a human. (Rule of Funny is probably at work here.)
He gets them even when he's ''not' disguised as a human too!
Know When to Fold 'Em: Brain often demonstrates that he does not, though a few episodes open on him deciding that a particular plan is unviable with just their mousey worth.
List Song: "Brain Stem" which points out all the parts of the brain to the tune of "Camptown Races".
Look Behind You: In the Christmas Episode, Pinky and the Brain (disguised as elves) are under suspicion by the head elf, who asks them to come with him. Pinky distracts him by exclaiming, "Look! A decoy!"
Love Dodecahedron: Even if you leave out certainfanon, it's a mess. Brain and Billie had a fling, then she dumped him and started dating Snowball, then she dumped him and started chasing Pinky, who's happy with Pharfignewton (who loves him back) and seems alarmed by Billie's advances. Meanwhile, Brain still hasn't gotten over Billie...
Mass Hypnosis: Brain tries to do this several times, including on the Christmas episode. He seems to prefer this sort of thing to more socially disruptive methods.
Brain:Abe Lincoln was perhaps the most respected president of all time. Once we arrange his comeback, the mere sight of him will compel the populace to follow his lead. Pinky: But, Brain, Abe Lincoln, um... Didn't he, uh... Isn't he... You know.
Pinky: Bang! Zoom! Brain: Stop saying that, Pinky, or I shall have to hurt you.
No Antagonist: Only on rare occasions do the duo face any characters who directly and knowingly threaten their goal. When they don't foil their own plans, a piece doesn't fall in place the right way, or a minor problem turns out to be a major one - the list goes on.
The Brain's voice and many of his mannerisms were inspired by Orson Welles. One of his aliases is "Harold Foster Brain", a Citizen KaneShout-Out. Also, in the episode "What Ever Happened to Baby Brain", which is set in the past, The Brain and Orson Welles meet; they have exactly the same voice, and happen to simultaneously declare "Things will be different when I take over the world!" before introducing themselves to each other: "Welles, Orson". "Brain, The."
The similarity is further played with in "Yes, Always", which recreates, almost word for word, the infamous Frozen Peas audio clip with the Brain in the role of Orson Welles.
A thinly-veiled Christopher Walken frequently appears, and even Pinky is unnerved by his extremely... odd mannerisms. He also heads a group similarly bent on taking over the world called The Circle, which even has a organ-themed leitmotif: naturally, it's a choir chanting "Lactose lactose lactose lactose laaactooose!"
Averted at one point, during a Winnie the Pooh spoof with Christopher Walken as Christopher Robin.
Repeat After Me: When Pinky ran for President, Brain typed stuff for him to read from special glasses during a debate. Unfortunately, the "F" button got stuck, prompting Pinky to make the sound. One of his opponents repeated it. Also, the glasses got other signs which Pinky repeated and another adversary tried to emulate.
The trope was the ruin of another plan from another episode where Pinky gained notoriety.
Reset Button: Occasionally pressed when the scheme works too well.
Re Tool: Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain. A disastrous failure.
Reunion Show: Parodied with "The Pinky and The Brain Reunion Special"
Rule of Three: Used in "Brinky", when Brain's initial attempts at educating his clone yield no results.
Pinky: Well perhaps if you started with something less taxing to [Romy's] little brain, Brain... Brain.
Sarcastic Confession: "I am actually a genetically altered lab mouse plotting world domination." Also a Running Gag, as pretty much everyone thinks he's joking when he says it (the others think he's being flippant), and Brain himself likely does it for that reason.
Scrabble Babble: While ruling over an abandoned earth, they play scrabble in the white-house.
Brain: For the last time Pinky, there is no such word as chramecirum. Pinky: Well, there is now Brain, because we own the world. (after deciding to play against himself) Brain:(adds an s) There. Chramecirums. Now that's a word. And a triple word score to boot.
Brain: It is obvious that there are no original writers in Hollywood, Pinky. Pinky: Look, Brain. Warner Bros. Studios. Maybe we can find some writers there. Poit! Brain: Nah. We can't afford them, Pinky. We don't have enough bananas.
And in "Star Warners":
Brain-2-Me-2: Are you pondering what I'm pondering, 3-Pinky-O? 3-Pinky-O: Um, I think so, Brain-2, but a show about two talking lab mice? Heh, it'll never get on the air.
"Pinky & the Brain...and Larry" has a big reference to The Three Stooges in the form of Larry. Brain takes on the role of Moe by hitting Larry at every opportunity, at one point even getting a bit of wallpaper stuck to his head that looks like Moe's signature hairstyle.
Show Some Leg: In "Brain Storm", The Brain attempts to hitch a lift while wearing a Verkimer Suit by hitching the metal on its leg in a parody of Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night. Unsurprisingly, it fails.
Shrunken Organ: In the Title Sequence, Pinky and the Brain walk behind an X-ray machine. Brain's skull has meshing gears, while Pinky's has a peanut. In the "...and Larry" version of the opening, Larry joins them during this part, and he is shown to have bones in his hair.
So Bad, It's Good: An in-universe example. In "Battle of the Planet", their attempt to rule the world via pirate satellite broadcasting is so terrible, it is labeled a comedy smash by their local newspaper.
Song Parody: There have been tons of songs sung by both Pinky and Brain with the lyrics changed so it involves world domination.
Spanner in the Works: Occasionally, Pinky will inadvertently foil Brain's schemes through his own incompetence. (Far less often than the setup would lead you to expect, and it pretty much stops happening by the time of the series.)
Pinky: I suppose the moral of this whole story is: if you give a mean big-headed kitty love, they won't try to dumb down the world with an evil dance.
Springtime for Hitler: Many examples. Notably, the episode "Pinky's Turn", in which Pinky comes up with an utterly random scheme to take over the world, and an episode where Brain decides to take the night off and ironically comes close to ruling the world without realizing it.
Stealth Pun: In the episode "Briany Jack", Brain is saved by a group of hippies, who he refers to as "The original cast of Godspell." He eventually decides that he will become their leader as part of the evening's plot, and proclaims their mission statement as the following:
Brain: Through love and peace, and worship of me, the world can be a better place!
CIA Director: The boys want that thing terminated. Jonesy: The boys? You mean the Pentagon? CIA Director: No, my two boys— Josh and Aaron. (later) Jack Maguire: Ha ha! So, the boys finally saw it my way. Jonesy: You mean the Pentagon? Jack Maguire: No. Josh and Aaron.
Subbing for Santa: Brain steals Santa's sleigh in the Christmas episode to distribute his Noodle Noggin toy.
"I think so, Brain, but Pepper Ann makes me sneeze."
"I think so, Don Cerebro, but why would Sophia Loren do a musical?" The Brain even admits Pinky's point.
The entire episode "Pinky and The Brain... and Larry" was one big take that against the Kids WB network execs, who kept demanding that the show add a third character to the show, despite Pinky and The Brain being pretty explicitly a comedy duo who would gain nothing from a third character. To illustrate this, they made an episode where a third mouse named Larry appears, and the other two act as if he has always been there (he's even added to the theme song.) Most of the episode's humor comes from the fact that Larry seems incredibly out of place and unnecessary to the plot, and that he keeps trying to insert himself into gags and situations where he adds nothing.
Later, Larry changes his name to Art and leaves to record withPaul Simon, and everything returns to normal... except for the addition of Zeppo.
Either the execs didn't get the joke, or they did and decided to take revenge on the writers, because a year later a third character (Elmyra) was forced on the show, leading to a unintentional version of the awkwardness seen in the Larry episode, and then cancellation.
Another "Take That" was the episode "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets in This Town Again". The episode, spoofing management interference in the show, was also the swan song for chief writer Peter Hastings prior to his departure for Disney.
The episode "Broadway Malady" is absolutely stuffed with these, directed toward Albert Floyd Webster.
"All You Need is Narf" included a take that at Yoko Ono's singing.
From the episode where they fake a reunion show to get big ratings, from GavinMcCloud himself no less:
Gavin: Vanilla Ice, ladies and gentlemen. Wasn't he something... once?
Talking Animal: The mice, explicitly due to genetic splicing. All other animals in the show don't talk (in any human language, anyway).
Tall Tale: The theme of "A Legendary Tail", where the Brain used a computer to combine elements of other tall tales and make one starring himself. He hoped to use this as a way to gain acclaim as a Folk Hero under the name of "Big Johnny Brain Jones Peachpit Bill Boone Crockett". However, the resulting tall tale ended with other folk heroes suing the Brain's character for plagiarizing parts of their names.
Totally Radical: An interviewee's proposal on the Pinky and The Brain show in "Brain Drained" is that instead of taking over the world, the duo becomes "BrainDude and Pinkasaur" after accidentally meddling with a secret government experiment.
Very Special Episode: The entire episode, "Inherit the Wheeze" is an anti-smoking episode in which Brain gets addicted to cigarettes and almost convinces children to smoke with Stealth Cigarette Commercials run by some cartoonishly evil executives in order to take over the world. It's no wonder that some networks never aired it.
Vocal Evolution: Pinky's speech impediment is more pronounced in the earliest segments, and sounds a notch lower at times. As well, Brain sounds more like Orson Welles (a little slower and lower) and doesn't have his panicked 'n(y)aaaaAAAAAHHH!!' cry until later.
We Can Rebuild Him: From the episode "Snowball": "We were a mouse and a hamster, barely alive. Except they could make us better... faster... smarter..." "Naaaaarf..."