The Brain is an animated cartoon character from the television series Animaniacs. Later, he starred alongside Pinky in their own spin-off animated television series called Pinky and the Brain and even later in Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain. These latter series were produced by Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation, and aired from 1995 to 2001 on The WB Television Network, running for 65 episodes. Brain and Pinky reappeared in the 2020 Animaniacs revival.
The Brain (voiced by Maurice LaMarche impersonating Orson Welles) bears a resemblance to Orson Welles, particularly in his vocal characteristics. Series creator Tom Ruegger originally based Brain on a caricature of WB animation staffer Tom Minton, a very dry wit of the screenwriter crew. The Orson Welles connection comes from Maurice LaMarche, who is a big fan of the actor/director. Maurice once described Brain's voice as being, "65% Orson Welles, 35% Vincent Price."
In "You'll Never Eat Food Pellets In This Town Again", Brain has a wife named Sheila who apparently plays Billie. However, this episode was non-canonical and was meant to joke on the WB's petty executives.
Brain is highly intelligent and develops Rube Goldberg-like plans for global domination. His tail is bent like a staircase (which he often uses to pick the lock of the cage), and his head is large and wide, supposedly housing his abnormally large brain. He is sarcastic and ill-tempered and appears to be coldly unemotional and speaks in a deadpan manner. Nevertheless, Brain has a very subtle sense of humor and a soft heart. He has even fallen in love once, with Billie (voiced by Tress MacNeille), a rather dippy girl mouse with a Queens accent (perhaps based on the Citizen Kane character Susan Alexander, in another Welles connection). Intellectually, Brain sees his inevitable rise to power as beneficial to the world rather than merely being greedy for power. The personality of Brain would lead one to believe that he is more suited to be an antagonist rather than a protagonist, but the series tends to present him as a quixotic fellow striving for greatness against the odds, evoking sympathy from the audience and causing viewers to like him, despite his seemingly evil plans for world domination. Such a thing is typical of an anti-hero, which many consider Brain to be. The absurdity of a normally insignificant creature hungering for world dominance adds to the comical effect, and one senses a Napoleon complex within him, despite the gravitas of his Wellesian diction - highlighted when other characters inadvertently become as smart as or smarter than him. Unfortunately for the Brain, his schemes are inevitably doomed to failure by reason of one or more of a few common mishaps: Pinky doing something idiotic to ruin the plan, Brain gravely under/overestimating the masses' intelligence, or, simply, bad luck.
Similarity to Orson Welles
Brain's similarity to Orson Welles was made explicit in the episode "Yes, Always", which was based upon an outtake from one of Orson's Television commercials, colloquially known as "Frozen Peas," in which he ranted about the poor quality of the script. This cartoon was described by screenwriter Peter Hastings as "a $250,000 in-joke:" Maurice used excerpts from it as sound check material, and Peter took it to its logical decision. Strengthening the Orson Welles connection was an episode in which Brain took on the mind-clouding powers of a radio character called "The Fog," a parody of The Shadow, a popular radio character for which Orson once provided the voice. Other episodes alluding to Orson Welles include an episode entitled "The Third Mouse" (a parody of The Third Man), in which Orson? appeared, and an episode in which Brain, inspired by Orson's infamous War Of The Worlds radio broadcast and the hysteria it provoked, stages an alien invasion on television, believing that this will cause humanity to turn itself over to his rule.
Why does he always fail to take over the world?
All of Brain's attempts to take over the world fail. There is more than one reason for this. Sometimes, he realizes a flaw in his plan that he should have realized earlier, such as in "Opportunity Knox", where he forgot that gold is extremely heavy. Other times, Pinky screws things up, such as in “Brain Meets Brawn”, when he apologized to Brain after making a mistake. On other occasions, it's neither one of them, but something else that causes him to fail.
- Main article: Pinky and the Brain Episode Guide and List
- Main article: The Brain/Gallery