This episode has an interesting broadcast history. When it first aired in the Fall of 1997, the first cartoon (“Magic Time”) was not ready due to production delays. So “Brain’s Apprentice” aired with “Hercule Yakko” from episode 25 with additional material that would later appear in episode 98. The completed show wouldn’t actually be broadcast until the following year. The only other all-Startoons episode of the season, it isn’t an exceptionally strong show, but it definitely has its moments.
Newsreel of the Stars
Yup, they actually brought “Newsreel of the Stars” out of retirement in order to kill some time in this episode, a sure sign that they’re desperate for filler material to pad out the last batch of shows. And this isn’t even the only time they do it.
Extended Theme Song
Variable Verse: Pinky and the Brain-y!
Schnitzel and Floyd are a pair of highly unpleasant Las Vegas magicians who delight in abusing the lion and elephant they use for their act. On stage, they ask for three volunteers from the audience and get the Warners, who rush up to them begging to be part of the show. They snub Dot’s advances, and pull eggs from behind Yakko’s ears when he asks if they’re any good. Wakko gets into the act and tells the magicians to reach behind his ears, only for lobsters to snap at their fingers. Schnitzel and Floyd use the Warners for the traditional “saw a person in half” box trick, which goes nowhere. Next, the magicians place the lion and elephant in one box, and the Warners in another, attempting to have them switch places. Nothing happens, with the exception of the kids appearing in their box wearing nothing but shower caps.
Having had enough of them, Schnitzel and Floyd belittle the trio and tell them to get lost. When they try to transform the lion “into what is a pretty girl”, they instead get Yakko and Wakko, dressed as hideous cheerleaders. Their next trick, turning the elephant into a men’s chorus, results in Dot appearing with the Dover Boys, who insult the magicians in song. For the finale, the Warners give the abused animals some weapons, allowing them to take revenge on their tormentors. The kids pack what’s left of the magicians into a crate and mail them to Africa, where they find themselves at nature’s mercy. Back in Vegas, Schnitzel and Floyd have been replaced by the insult comedy of Ron Pickels, who is amused when the Warners volunteer from the audience. “I guess he hasn’t seen our act”, concludes Yakko.
One thing I really like about “Magic Time” is its simplicity. It doesn’t parody anything, it doesn’t break the fourth wall, it just gives us a classic Warners plot featuring the trio doing their best to humiliate and antagonize two guys who are entitled to every single thing they get. Their arrogance and rudeness already begs someone to cut them down to size, but the fact that they also delight in torturing animals means they probably deserve the Warners’ brand of karmic justice more than anyone else the kids have ever been up against. That said, the kids go rather easy on them for the most part, and embarrass them far more than they actually physically injure them. If anything, I really think the Warners could have been much more aggressive here, because it’s not like these two morons didn’t have it coming. That said, letting the animals deliver the final blow to the magicians is pretty appropriate, since it’s nice to see these poor, beaten down creatures get their shot at revenge. The cartoon isn’t exactly memorable, but there are some decent bits here and there. Most notable is the “pretty” girl scene with Yakko and Wakko, which is great due to McClenahan’s animation and Paulsen and Harnell’s performances. To be honest, I don’t want to be too hard on this cartoon, but if it was wasn’t for the fact that it features Startoons animation, it wouldn’t really be anything too special. I appreciate the basic season one feel to the story, but there isn’t much here that sticks with you once the short is over, unlike the best “Warners annoy someone” cartoons like “Plane Pals” and “O Silly Mio”.
Startoon’s animation is all over the place. Watching the finished cartoon, I’m not surprised that production issues delayed it for as long as they did. Jon McClenahan’s work is fantastic as always, while we get a longer look at David Pryor’s style. The more I see it, the more it brings to mind Jeff Siergey’s animation, with really loose movements and mouthless expressions. If McClenahan and Pryor had been able to handle more of this short, the visuals would have been able to compensate for all of its other weaknesses. Unfortunately, a good chuck of this cartoon features very below average to mediocre animation. The Warners generally look all right no matter who is handling them, but Schnitzel and Floyd get the worst of it, and are animated in scenes that are among some of Startoons’ worst. For every really great scene, we get another one with some truly cringe-worthy animation. With the exception of “It” and “Dot-the Macadamia Nut”, Jon McClenahan has never been very happy with the material his studio worked on in season five, and “Magic Time” seems to be the primary offender. It’s hard to shake the feeling while watching it that it could have been so much better, but suffered thanks to inexperienced animators and a difficult production. I don’t think it’s terrible (it’s easily better than the Warner cartoons in the previous episode) but it’s very far from Startoons’ best.
"Call your wife". It’s a quick gag that might be easy to miss, but even the slot machine has taken pity on this guy. Check out those massive, bloodshot eyes.
So here our are antagonists, ready to stick a pin in a poor lion in order to get him to act ferocious. Floyd was voiced by Jeff Bennett and by the sound of it, Paulsen voiced Schnitzel. The Schwarzenegger voices get a little tiresome after a while, but I do like the line, “Be quiet and also hush!” It almost became the title for this post.
The magicians ask for volunteers from the audience, explaining that they won’t be paid, “so don’t ask.” Almost immediately, the Warners race up the aisle, screaming to be chosen. Great timing in this scene, as if (for some reason) the promise of NOT being paid was the motivation they needed to go up there.
The animation switches to Jon McClenahan when the Warners introduce themselves. Nothing too expressive in these shots, but Jon was always able to make even simple poses look fantastic. I especially like the shot of Dot sizing up Schnitzel and Floyd.
If I didn’t know that Jeff Siergey was no longer working on the show, I’d swear this was his stuff. But from the look of it, I’d say David Pryor was most likely responsible for this. This is really the most character Yakko has had in a long time.
Two great moments courtesy of Jon McClenahan. The first image is just really silly, but I love the second scene. Paulsen and Harnell really sell the old lady voices. Yakko says, “Hi, I’m a pretty girl. How’s it goin.?” Adds Wakko, “I’m her sister. I came along ‘cause I couldn’t get a date.”
Normally, I’d complain about one-shot first season characters showing up this late in the game. But since these guys appeared in another Startoons cartoon, it feels more like a shout-out than a cheap reference.
Here’s something she’s never done before. For her “solo”, Dot screeches so intensely that Floyd becomes a sound wave and ends up exploding. That’s certainly different.
Here’s one of the weirdest scenes in the cartoon. The Warners look very off here, especially Dot in the foreground The angle of the eyes, the size of the highlights, the mouth…very, very strange.
Here’s another shot that I’m positive was animated by David Pryor. There’s some great energy and attitude in this scene. Yakko, especially, looks incredible as he dances around and pops from pose to pose. I would have loved to see even more of Pryor’s work with these characters.
We end on one last McClenahan shot, the last time we’re going to see him work with the Warners. Unless he actually did do something in “Brain’s Apprentice” (though he says he didn’t), we’re not going to get any more of his animation.
Pinky and the Brain intro (Wang)
Brain has built a machine at Acme Labs in order to create his own army, but when Pinky comes over to investigate the small robot he’s created, he unknowingly unplugs the machine when he trips over the cord. Confused as to why his robot isn’t responding, Brain grabs his plans and heads into another room to work things out. Pinky discovers what happened and plugs the machine back in, causing the robot to come to life and copy everything he does. While dancing with Pinky, the robot accidentally hits a switch that sets the machine on “mass produce”. The lab quickly fills up with little robots, and in his attempt to shut the machine down, Pinky activates the “commence world domination” command. A large group of robots then proceed to file out of the lab, hijack a tank and drive it to the White House. There, they hold the president hostage with a pen and attempt to force him to sign a paper that surrenders power to Brain. Just as things really get out of control at the lab, Brain returns and shuts down the machine, de-activating all the robots in the room. When Pinky goes to watch TV, he sees a news report about the White House takeover: those robots are still active! He tries to warn Brain, who refuses to listen and shuts off the world domination command seconds before the president is about to sign power over to him. When Brain sees the news and realizes what’s just happened, failure hits him hard. Pinky hands Brain a flyswatter, shrugs and is then hit over the head with it.
The final Pinky and the Brain cartoon to air on Animaniacs, “Brain’s Apprentice” has an awful lot going for it. Despite some schizophrenic Startoons animation, it’s one of the most enjoyable cartoons of the season. It’s surface appeal is obvious: this is the first and only cartoon of the entire Kids WB era that features Pinky and the Brain operating out of Acme Labs for a modern day, take over the world story. But what really brings it to a different level is the fact that it’s a truly entertaining take on Paul Duka’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, featuring an authentic musical score with no dialogue or sound effects, along with some elements from the Disney version seen in Fantasia. The music is what really makes this work, as it’s very close to the actual “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” piece, and isn’t a warped version that only kind of sounds like it, as was done in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode “Tiny Toons Music Television”. Elements of the Pinky and the Brain theme are also incorporated into the score, which really ties everything together. There’s nothing too funny or clever about the short, but it’s forgivable considering that it’s more concerned with moving the story along to the music. One thing I do really love about this cartoon is how Brain comes so close to taking over the world and would have succeeded if he had only listened to Pinky for a second. His expressions, as he processes his failure and realizes one flip of a switch robbed him of his goal, are absolutely perfect.
This is Startoon’s only other Pinky and the Brain cartoon. As in “Meet John Brain”, it’s certainly a big switch from Wang, or Rough Draft, who had been animating the mice on their spin-off show. Like the previous cartoon, the visuals range from spectacular to terrible, giving this entry a true bi-polar feel. The opening and closing scenes with Brain are definitely the most well done, with the end of the cartoon featuring some fantastic animation as Brain re-enters the room and pushes the robots aside on the way to his machine. McClenahan claims to have not worked on this short, and his style really doesn’t appear to be present at all. On the other hand, he’s stated that Spike Brandt returned briefly to work on a few scenes, and it looks like some of the later moments with Brain might be his work. But the stuff that’s poor is very, very poor, and this cartoon contains some of the most off model Pinky drawings I’ve ever seen on this show. In fact, the entire middle section is plagued with mediocre animation, which does bring things down a little bit. But the concept is a lot of fun, the music is great and when the animation is good, it’s really damn good. And hey, it stars Pinky and the Brain, so how bad could it possibly be? I’ll give my final thoughts on these characters, with details on their less-than-fortunate post spin-off career when I discuss “Star Warners”, the Pinky and the Brain finale that doubles as a crossover with the Animaniacs cast.
The opening sequence features some animation that’s nothing special but still gets the job done. Brain looks pretty good, although the animator working on him here seems to have a slightly hard time keeping him on model, giving him very large feet in some shots, and an oddly squat lower body in others.
The animator for this lengthy sequence has a very hard time with Pinky, and the animation is very rough, despite a few good poses. He’s having a tough time with the corners of Pinky’s mouth and those large white highlights in his eyes shouldn’t be there. Still, it’s not the worst thing in this cartoon.
This little bit of animation flies by pretty fast, but it’s very well done. Again, I’m not sure at all who animated this, but I wouldn’t be shocked it was Pryor or Spike Brandt. I love the way Pinky runs into the shot.
Not too much to say about this. It’s just a really good wild take
There’s some really nice walk cycles on the robots as they march out of the machine, arms swinging forward and back and their heads swinging back and forth, with some terrific follow-through on the antennae.
If this crazy bit of animation looks familiar to you, you’re in good company. This is taken from a 1951 Tex Avery cartoon called “Droopy’s Double Trouble”. Oh, you’ve never seen that cartoon? Then maybe you recognize it from the 1989 Roger Rabbit cartoon “Tummy Trouble”. All three cartoons use the exact same wild take.
This is definitely the weirdest-looking Pinky in the whole short. What’s up with those messed up ears?
Holy holy holy cow. This is some unbelievably animation of Brain. Especially great is the shot of him angrily walking towards the camera. But all of these scenes are amazing. Look at the poses, the expressions, the body language. It’s been a while since Brain has looked this great. I’m positive this is a scene that Spike Brandt animated. It’s too good to belong to anyone else.
This is such an atypical Pinky expression, but I still really love it.
I’m not sure who handled the last minute and a half of this cartoon, but I really like his style too. Whoever it was absolutely nailed every single one of Brain’s expressions. They’re all total knockouts. Wang usually was the master at great Brain expressions, but these shots give them a run for their money. Look at that third screenshot and try not to laugh.
My absolute favorite bit of animation in this episode is timed to the last four notes in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. The shrug and big grin on Pinky is funny, but wow, check out some of these powerful drawings of Brain. There’s so much confidence in this final shot. I would love to know who animated it.
And if that final shot wasn’t already great, they get incredibly ballsy by pulling out of the lab immediately afterwards. It quickly hooks onto a slightly re-tooled version of the original TMS intro, but something like this still takes a lot of effort. It’s nice that we got to go back to Acme Labs one last time, at least on this show.
Joke Credit: If At First You Don’t Succeed: Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite
Tower Outro: “Lather.” “Rinse.” “Repeat.”