‘Animaniacs’: Patrick Stewart Could Have Voiced an Iconic Character on the Show
When one thinks about Patrick Stewart, they may not visualize Stewart so much as they may hear him. The Shakespearean actor has a voice that makes him instantly recognizable, whether he’s reciting Hamlet or whether he’s saying “Warp one, engage!”
A new version of the classic TV show Animaniacs premiered last month, and besides the Warner brothers and sister, the only characters to port over to the new show were Pinky and the Brain, the lab mice who try to take over the world every night. That cartoon needed someone officious-sounding to be the Brain, and while Stewart certainly would have filled the bill, it was not to be.
How did Pinky and the Brain originate?
According to a BuzzFeed list of Animaniacs facts, Pinky and the Brain was inspired by two producers of Tiny Toon Adventures, Tom Minton and Eddie Fitzgerald. Most of the team that worked on Tiny Toons would go on to work on Animaniacs and other cartoons executive produced by Steven Spielberg. The lead producer on these shows was Tom Ruegger, who explained in The Ringer:
“Tom Minton spoke very low, very quietly. He’s very funny, but you’d have to lean in close,” says Ruegger. “And Eddie Fitzgerald was a good friend of his, who was much more vocal and boisterous. And so they’re in the next office, and Tom would say something that Eddie would find very funny, and Eddie would just explode. He’d go ‘Narf! That’s amazing, Tom!’ I mean, he literally said the word ‘Narf.'”
That kind of inspiration was bound to lead to something zany, and so the lab mice became one of the most popular segments of the show – so much so that they got their own self-titled spinoff series, and it ran for four seasons, almost as long as Animaniacs did. There was another show, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain, Elmyra being the little girl from Tiny Toons who hugged animals to death. It lasted only 13 episodes.
Why didn’t Patrick Stewart voice the Brain?
According to the IMDB, the reason that Patrick didn’t end up being the Brain was quite simple: Stewart was busy playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was in its original 1987 to 1994 run when Animaniacs was being developed in the early 1990s.
Stewart certainly isn’t above doing voice work. His IMDB credits list a number of shows, including animated versions of X-Men, where he again played Charles Xavier. However, some fans would not let Stewart live down the fact that although he didn’t voice Brain, he did voice the poop emoji in The Emoji Movie. Stills, as one fan on Buzzfeed put it, “I’d be bummed about Patrick Stewart voicing Brain IF Maurice LaMarche didn’t NAIL it.”
LaMarche was already well known to the Tiny Toons/Animaniacs crew, having voiced Dizzy, the Tiny Toons equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil. For Pinky, they turned to Rob Paulsen, who also voiced Yakko and Doctor Scratchansniff, the psychiatrist who repeatedly tried and failed to tame the Warners. Together, they helped create an unlikely pair of mice who told the jokes that arguably sailed farthest over viewers’ heads.
Pinky and the Brain could be obscure
LaMarche based the voice of Brain on Orson Welles, the legendary director whose best-known work is Citizen Kane, often hailed as the greatest movie of all time. The animators also gave Brain Welles’ facial features, including his often present scowl. In fact, Animaniacs wasn’t the only time LaMarche voiced Welles. He did so in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood, although the actual actor was Vincent D’Onofrio.
Buzzfeed notes that Animaniacs was popular with more than kids, with one-fifth of the audience being 25 or older. However, some Animaniacs jokes were obscure even for that age group. One of the Pinky and Brain segments was called “Yes, Always,” which was a complete departure from the norm. Instead of trying to take over the world, the mice attended a voice dubbing session that baffled viewers who usually got the pop culture references. “Yes, Always” was truly a deep Welles cut.
The cartoon was based on commercials Wells did for frozen peas, which LaMarche knew well. In the Ringer article, he said, “”I must’ve listened to it nonstop in my car for a year,” When he saw the drawings, “I looked at the initial design of the character—that furrowed brow, those jowly cheeks—and I was sure they’d created an Orson Welles mouse just for me,” LaMarche said. Pinky and the Brain would certainly not have been the same with Stewart.