Updated on December 10, 2021
For those that don’t recall, the spinoff of “Pinky and the Brain” was produced at the behest of the WB network’s executives to try to make the series more appealing to kids. While the show was popular among older viewers, it wasn’t attracting the kid demographic the network was hoping for. I suppose plots parodying Frank Sinatra, the 1971 movie “Billy Jack,” and whatnot probably didn’t help.
As part of making the series kid-friendly, joining the rodent duo was Elmyra Duff (still voiced by Cree Summer), from early 90s series “Tiny Toon Adventures.” The spinoff’s opening credits explain that Acme Labs was destroyed somehow, though in-story, it was shown as having been converted into a parody of the Disney Store chain. As a result of the destruction/Disneyfication, Pinky and the Brain were forced to constantly flee, in part because they were being followed by a mysterious agent, who was the head of a top-secret conspiracy group with sinister world domination goals of their own. Hiding in a pet store, the mice were accidentally bought along with another pet by Elmyra; the mice thus were forced to live with the thickheaded one.
Elmyra on board not only threw out the previous comedic elements between just Pinky and Brain, it also forced the plots to become more kid-centric and dumbed-down, especially given Elmyra’s dimwittedness. Brain’s large vocabulary would usually result in Elmyra washing his mouth out with soap for “saying naughty words.” (The closing credits switched the vocabulary word gag to Elmyra’s take on the meaning of various words.) Of course, Elmyra’s famed abusiveness toward her pets from “Tiny Toons” was carried over to here, with Pinky and Brain being heavily mistreated by Miss Duff (being force-fed, flushed down a toilet while on a toy boat to re-enact “Titanic,” etc.). Oddly enough, only Elmyra was brought from “Tiny Toons,” with none of that show’s other elements—Montana Max, Acme Acres, Acme Looniversity, Buster and Babs, etc.—ever presented or mentioned. Presumably, “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain”‘s version of Elmyra is the one from the several “Tiny Toons” episodes featuring her family; said episodes had also ignored the usual “Tiny Toons” elements in favor of more sitcom-style plots.
Making things worse is that the show’s production staff also disliked the forced change to the series, with even the theme song noting what a lousy idea this was. (“Now Pinky and the Brain, share a new domain… it’s what the network wants, why bother to complain?”)
Ultimately, “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain” was a flop, and the show lost its stand-alone timeslot after several episodes. The remainder of the series was burned off as part of the anthology series “The Cat and Birdy Warneroonie Pinky Brainy Big Cartoonie Show” (also known as “The Cat and Bunny Warneroonie Super Looney Big Cartoonie Show”). “The Big Cartoonie Show” was an attempt at folding several of the 90s WB series (“Animaniacs,” “The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries,” “The Bugs and Daffy Show,” “Tiny Toons”) into one anthology series to clear space from the Kids WB schedule. (Thus making extra room for lots of airings of then-cash cow hit “Pokemon.”) Since “The Big Cartoonie Show” was cancelled in 2000, “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain” hasn’t been seen on US television.
Despite the show’s flaws (or maybe for the lab mice’s good points), the series ended up winning the 2000 Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Children’s Animated Program.” It also won several Annie Awards, an animation industry-specific award.
I’m wondering how well this set will sell. While it’s been quite awhile since it’s aired, most people’s memories of the series weren’t positive. Still, it shows Warner Bros. is determined to release the various 90s Kids WB series to DVD, so that means there might be hope for seeing other popular series like “Histeria!” or “Road Rovers” get a DVD release.
Here’s the opening credits for “Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain.” From the slightly-modified logo, I’m guessing this was taken from an airing of the series on Germany’s Boomerang, with English audio.