Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm the One Called Larry

Take it with the usual granular salt element, but I've read in a couple of places that the third volumes of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain will be out this summer (originally it appeared that they might not come out until the winter, if then). Hopefully that's true.

Meanwhile, here is the "Pinky and the Brain... and Larry" cartoon, which I wrote about in an earlier post. This is a great example of how to make a cartoon that works on three different levels: one level for kids, one level for adults, and one for people who get what the cartoon is actually about. For kids, there's a lot of slapstick action with Pinky, Brain and a new character. For adults (or older kids) it's a Three Stooges tribute.

But what it's really about is how disastrous it is when a new character is shoehorned into an established show: Larry, who has apparently been added to Pinky and the Brain by the network -- though the reason for his presence is never explained, because the characters aren't aware that they're on TV -- screws up the timing and forces Pinky and the Brain to go out of the way to include him in their conversations ("And Larry") even though he adds nothing.

This was written as a response to the WB network's demands that Pinky and the Brain add a third regular character and change its format. This eventually did happen when the network added Elmyra. But it also probably had additional resonance for the writers of the episode, Gordon Bressack and Charlie Howell, because they'd started in Saturday morning cartoons in the '80s, when new, useless characters were constantly being forced into the shows. So you'd get a cute animal sidekick added to the animated version of Flash Gordon, or a constant parade of Scooby-Doo additives (when Scrappy wasn't enough, the network added a cute ethnic kid), or a seemingly endless series of new Smurfs. So that's what this cartoon is about; it's not exactly insider humor, but it does mean that the cartoon is more than just a Three Stooges takeoff.


Sterfish said...

I had heard of that cartoon but never seen it until that clip. It is indeed very funny on the levels you mentioned and I also think that Billy West's performance as Larry (sounding an awful lot like Stimpy) helps greatly.

It's funny that West uses his Stimpy voice here since in Ren considers Stimpy useless even though he's not.

Gordon D said...

You know, I actually remember watching this cartoon when it originally aired and wondered, "What's the joke?" (Other than I'm Larry)

It's good to know that the writers were able, in a subtle way, to "tweak" those in higher positions.

Anonymous said...

The Stimpy voice by West was actually culled from his Larry Fine impersonation on the Howard Stern Show in the 1980s, so this Pinky & the Brain episode was a return to its original roots.

P&tB had a couple of subversive episodes like this. The Orson Wells recording session parody was one, and they also tweaked Time-Warner's biggest stockholder (and in some ways it's biggest pain) Ted Turner later when they were spun off into their own show.

John Pannozzi said...

Apparently, it's true. Check out http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/

Melissa said...

I had a great juxtaposition moment today when reading Garfield.... where the TV shows are Alaskan Grizzly Mating Calls with Larry, followed by Yukon Emergency Room... with Larry.