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It’s been nearly SIX YEARS since my internship at Warner Brothers! How time flies, right?
Well, most of my memories are positive. I had a great time, learned a lot, made some awesome friends, and gained invaluable experience that still helps me today. There were a couple of unpleasant incidents however, but I figure every job’s like that, right?
Like here’s one- I figure I won’t be “burning any bridges” because I’m not naming names or getting too specific, and I doubt anyone would come forward to claim culpability anyway. So I think I’m safe, and hopefully none of you will go behind my back to “rat” me out to any sabotaging industry higher-ups. Believe me, they’ve got bigger fish to fry! Plausible deniability: It’s all “fictional”!
Also, this story is not for the young ‘uns, and I don’t just mean because it may jade you out of working for the dream factory that is Tinsel Town!
Anyway, sometimes I would get sent to the Warners Archive, on the other side of the studio lot. Usually to pick up some documents or a script too sensitive to fax. Once in a while they’d send me to retrieve a tape/DVD an executive wanted to watch, for entertainment or research purposes. On one such trip (I’m not saying what property they were thinking about remaking! Not violating my NDA!), I got to see the old cartoon archives, which was neat. I took perhaps more time than I should have, going through the files, and confessional time (is the statue of limitations up), I took one DVD that interested me, took it back to the office and burnt myself a copy before returning it at the end of the day. So not *really* stealing, right?
The DVD was labeled (in purple Sharpie, these weren’t in glossy professional boxes, these were random and unreleased), “ANIMANIACS EXTRAS”, so you can imagine how that appealed to me. I LOVED Animaniacs, and I got a real kick of the time the senior intern gave me a studio tour and when we came to the water tower, he said “That’s where the Animaniacs live”.
I took the copy home and opened it on my computer. There were several files on the disc. Most were, as I expected, simply deleted scenes, very short clips deleted, I assumed for either content (think “fingerprints”) or just for time.
But THEBRAINSGENOCIDE.avi caught my eye. I knew they flew some stuff under the radar and could get subversive (again, fingerprints), but jokes about mass murder. I took a watch.
This wasn’t a 30 second clip, but an entire, I guess you’d call it, “Lost Episode” of Pinky and The Brain. I was both jazzed and puzzled. Why would they throw away an entire episode? Then I saw.
“The Brain’s Genocide” starts off like any typical episode of Pinky and The Brain, except the sound quality in the opening song was bit off (“One is a genius, the other is INSAAAANE” was weirdly scratchy and uncharacteristic, like they got freakin’ Danzig to sing the last word). The plot begins as standard fare. The Brain’s scheme this time is to brainwash the world by getting onto the radio waves and sending out hypnotic messages. Maybe they cut it for being too derivative of other episodes? Though I did like the obvious references to War of the Worlds, cause Maurice Lamarche’s Orson Welles is always classic.
I soon begin to notice unsettling irregularities. Like when Pinky and The Brain break into the radio station, they are temporarily held up by a security guard named Phil (on his name tag). The Brain takes out his…brainwashing microphone (I don’t know, it was the device he was using for his grand plot) and tells Phil to stand down. We see the sound waves come out of the mic and stop Phil in his tracks. There’s an extended, still close-up on Phil’s face, and it is unnervingly realistic. Way too much detail of his crusty, wide-open eyes, crow’s feet, his pasty skin. It would be a bit much for Ren and Stimpy, let alone Pinky and The Brain. And for a split second it looked liked a rotoscoped image of a real man’s face. And this goes on for ten silent, still seconds. Uncanny.
So typical of the formula, Brain’s plan starts to work before Pinky screws it up. We see the transmission go around the world and everyone start to submit to The Brain as their unquestioned leader before Pinky stumbles into the mike and starts going “Narf! Narf! Narf!” Then THAT’s the message everyone is brainwashed with. Every human on Earth starts jumping up and down and narfing. It’s not as funny as you might think, because they make it too realistic, like showing what would happen if everyone stopped what they were doing and immediately acted like Pinky. I mean car crashes with twisted limbs. In a kid’s cartoon! A surprisingly well-drawn caricature of President Clinton bangs his head on The Resolute Desk until blood comes out.
The Brain is furious, naturally. His face takes on a very aggressive ugly, angry quality, like he’s madder and more vicious than his usual annoyance at his partner. We then cut to The Brain’s lab, where Pinky is cuffed down to a table with a grotesque array of metal instruments hanging over him. The Brain is standing next to him with his hand on the lever. It’s not goofy at all, because Pinky is legitmately frightened. It’s so out of character for him. I mean, his voice is literally shaking when he says:
“What are you going to do to me tonight, Brain?”
“What I should have done to you EVERY night!”
The Brain said this with real venom, and Pinky starts to sob.
“Please don’t! I promise I’ll be a good boy!”
But The Brain ignores his pleas, and we only focus on The Brain’s face, a twisted, hateful visage, as he pulls the lever and watches his friend get tortured to death.
And here where the video went from simply a dark cartoon to legitimately real life disturbing, because Pinky’s screams now sound like a real mouse being tortured. Not Rob Paulsen’s cartoon yiping, but an actual animal shrieking for its life. Really bad.
Then we see The Brain rise to power, now that he’s unencumbered by his buffoonish assistant. Back to the radio station and his brainwashing signal going all over the world. We see statues raised in The Brain’s honor. Men in jackboots and mice masks marching through the streets and oppressing dissidents- I guess their masks were supposed to look like The Brain, but I couldn’t help but think of Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
Here’s something else messed up: The cartoon of this megalomaniac cartoon mouse’s world domination is intercut with brief footage, poor quality like a cheap camcorder, panning across a field showing a mass grave of children. Live action. Silent, no living character on screen. Just a pile of dead little bodies. I couldn’t recognize the setting or even the country- it looked flat and muddy- or even when it took place, what 20th century atrocity this was portraying. Goosebumps.
Not that The Brain is triumphing in this power. Back to animation, we see him sitting in his palace- I guess it was supposed to be Buckingham, as the establishing shot with the huge flags (literally just The Brain’s face on a black background) outside indicated. The Brain is sitting in his empty office, alone, in some odd state of despair.
His soft voice pierces the silence, and I jumped a little, becaus it had been so quiet for so long. The Brain looks across the room and sees Pinky standing there. Years later when I saw Phantom Thread, I swore Paul Thomas Anderson must have seen this lost episode, because the scene where Reynolds sees his mother’s ghost, just standing there silently watching him.
Pinky’s face is blank and drawn out, and The Brain’s voice is forlorn and resigned to this bleak state. He said,
“You’re watching me. That’s alright. I deserve it. Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”
The Brain lowers his head and starts to sob:
“What have I done?”
and we hear his voice over narrate the last two scenes.
I still get chills writing this years later.
The camera, black and white, now shows live action footage of the Warner Brothers lot. We don’t see who’s filming, but we see the silhouette of the camera man, and it looked like he was wearing a giant mouse head. A theme park costume, but no one was having fun.
The camera stops on a lingering shot of the water tower, WB displayed prominently.
“What have I done?”
Cut to inside the water tower (I’m guessing)- it looks like security footage- a large empty basin- where Phil, the security guard in real life, looks just like his cartoon counter part, is trapped and screaming for help. Of course this is all silent except for The Brain’s “What have I done?” over and over, but you can tell he’s in pain, especially when he scratches at the metal, as if trying to claw his way out.
The final shot is just that: a still photo of Phil, drowned inside the water tower, now filled to the brim. Cut to static.
I threw away the disc, didn’t tell anybody about it at work, and from then on, I avoided walking by the Animaniacs’ Home, even when it meant taking the long route around the studio. I can see why they axed the episode
CREDIT : Brian F Carmody