If you’ve ever heard me speaking (pontificating
) on how the 80’s were the Dark Ages
of broadcast television animation, well that’s not quite accurate. It was actually more like the early 80s were the ‘Medieval’
period, whereas the late 80’s and early 90’s were the real Dark Ages
. With rare exceptions (Galaxy High School, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), more and more of the landscape of Saturday morning programming consisted of bland animated cartoons based on toys or videogames and insipid sitcoms cloned from ‘Saved By the Bell’
It’s no wonder that when veteran animator Ralph Bakshi
(Lord of the Rings, American Pop) and his band of future all-stars produced their whacked-out version of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures
it got attention from broadcast news all over the country.
This ain’t your daddy’s Mighty Mouse
(…which, I suppose, would be MY Mighty Mouse, too), an enigmatic mouse of mystery who flew in like a yellow-suited deus ex machina singing “Here I come to save the day!!”
with the operatic tones of Mario Lanza. In this retooling, Mighty Mouse has the secret identity of "Mike Mouse" and works at (former girlfriend) Pearl Pureheart's factory. He’s also got the orphan Scrappy Mouse as his sidekick and he interacts with other superheroes such as the Bat-Bat
(a parody of Batman) and his sidekick the Bug Wonder, and the League of Super-Rodents. His old arch-nemesis Oil Can Harry
makes a few appearances but his most recurring villains are new guys Petey Pate
, the Glove and the Cow.
Lead director/supervisor (and future creator of Ren & Stimpy
), John Kricfalusi
, restored the "old time -director-unit system" in which three or four directors supervised all of the creative aspects of each individual cartoon and the cartoons were written by the cartoonists rather than studio-appointed writers. As such the show had a loosey-goosey style that followed no particular formula. Episodes went all over the place from parodies of superheroes, TV Land sitcoms, sci-fi , Japanese monster movies and even made fun of other cartoons including Bakshi's own 1960 creations, The Mighty Heroes.
Sometimes the show seemed to be about everything EXCEPT
Mighty mouse- which the network called them on the carpet about a few times.
It was whacky, irreverent and bizarre (sometimes disturbing
) enough to catch the attention of the media. A good thing at first but shortly after this lead to fatal controversy when raving lunatic and media whore, United Methodist minister Donald Wildmon
, chairman of the American Family Association and American Family Radio misinterpreted a scene of Mighty Mouse sniffing a flower (‘smelling the roses) as snorting cocaine and amassed his flock to petition for the show’s cancellation. After a brief but pathetic objection from the network Mighty Mouse:The New Adventures had its plug pulled early into its second season.
And if that wasn’t enough to make these cartoons a collector’s item, the show also suffered the all-too-familiar fate of having its rights tied up by too many hands so you couldn’t get in on video. But now finally all 19 episodes are released here on this 3-disc DVD set. Like you’re probably dying to do, I got sit down and experience these controversial gems all over again.
Now, after all that praise for these cartoons it’s time for a moment of blasphemy
...They are kinda...um, terrible
I’m certainly enough of an animation aficionado to be well aware of just how IMPORTANT this set of cartoons is. Animator Ralph Bakshi
got his start at and after decades of directing every rotoscoped animated feature film except ‘Heavy Metal’
this return brought him full circle. His staff consisted of a group of young, anxious unknowns who would go on to be some of the biggest names in the animation industry and you can’t miss how much they learned on Mighty Mouse greatly influenced their future projects including The Ren & Stimpy Show
, Tiny Toons
, Sponge Bob Squarepants, The Simpsons, Duck Dodgers
, etc…pretty much EVERY non-superhero cartoon that came after it.
I take that back because you can its affect on The Powerpuff Girls
, as well.
Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures
is undoubtedly the “father” of the Renaissance
of animation that’s still going strong nearly 15 years later. I fully appreciate these cartoons, I just don’t like them all that much. They’re full of “great try” but the final product feels rushed and extremely amateur. The gags try to hard to catch you off guard and most of the time they just aren’t that funny, more like obnoxious and annoying. The timing is way off which is enhanced by music that feels unsynched, like it was created for some other show.
I know. I know
. As one of the people with fond memories of this show who couldn’t wait for this collection I’m the last person who should be saying anything bad about it. I also know what hell is gonna come my way from my colleagues for it, but these cartoons just do not hold up as well as we’d like to believe.
I suppose I could enjoy these cartoons if I watched them right after sitting through a marathon of ‘Gilligan’s Planet’
or ‘The Care Bears’
. As it was I had to fight the urge to turn on basic cable and see what The Fairly Oddparents
, Flapjack and
any number of Mighty Mouse spawned cartoon characters were up to so I could go back to laughing in remembrance.
• Three of the original Terrytoons Mighty Mouse shorts,
beginning with 1943’s “He Dood It Again”, the origin and very first appearance where he was called “Super Mouse” and looked more like a skinny-armed rat with a barrel chest. Since these old Mighty Mouse shorts are in the public domain I suppose they were included in this set to fluff it out, but I think that may have been a bad play. It’s impossible to not compare the quality of animation. And even though the old shorts weren’t trying to break any molds they were so much more cohesive.
• “Breaking the Mold: The Re-Making of Mighty Mouse”
is probably the best feature of this entire set. The story of how Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures was sold to the network all the way to its untimely demise is fascinating and told from the mouths of the now famous creators who were there. It’s several mini-interviews with Ralph Bakshi, Bruce Timm
(producer of Batman: The Animated Series), Jim Reardon
(writer for Tiny Toon Adventures, Wall-E , the Simpsons), Andrew Stanton
(director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E). John Kricfalusi
gives the most comprehensive accounts of daily production great stories of what it was like to work such a volatile personality as Bakshi.
Watching this got me pumped up only to make me sad that the show didn’t live up to what I remembered.
I’m not giving up on ‘Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures’ The Complete Series
. I’m gonna give it a few weeks and watch it again when I can view it as less of an icon. I may even watch a few hours of the Pac-Man cartoon first just to prime the pump and regain perspective.
You can purchase “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” the Complete Series
HOWEVER, if you miss the tried and true classic Mighty Mouse
...the fine folks at IAMMIGHTYMOUSE.com
have a cool app where you can turn yourself (or your friends)into Mighty Mouse with just a few clicks of a button- Eating Superfood from the Supermarket not necessary.