Dana Hill, Michael Pataki, Charles Adler,
Joe Alaskey, Beau Weaver
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
t’s really quite a travesty that, when you bring up “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures” to anyone who would’ve been watching TV during its original run date (1987 – 1988), the first question they invariably ask is, “Oh, is that the one where he snorted coke?” For the record, any drug problem that Mighty Mouse may or may not have had was almost certainly not an ongoing concern during his Saturday morning stint on CBS in the late ‘80s, and at the very least, he definitely wasn’t snorting the devil’s dandruff in the notorious episode you’ve heard about.
But we’ll get back to that.
The origins of the character of Mighty Mouse stretch back to 1942 (when he was first created, he was called Super Mouse, though you can imagine that DC Comics’ attorneys never would’ve allowed that to last very long) and saw the secret identity of one Mike Mouse soar to – well, actually, he really wasn’t as popular as all that when he first hit the silver screen in his animated shorts, so to use any tense of the verb “to soar” really wouldn’t be accurate. Yes, he was arguably the most popular of the Terrytoons characters, a roster which also included Heckle and Jeckle, but Mighty Mouse didn’t really hit his stride until he hit the small screen. From there, he became the superstar whose theme song would eventually earn comedy immortality from being lip-synched by Andy Kaufman on “Saturday Night Live.” Aside from that “SNL” bit, however, the 1970s were lean years for Mighty Mouse, and they stayed that way until 1987, when Ralph Bakshi – the director who helmed such classic animated features as “Fritz the Cat,” “American Pop,” and “Lord of the Rings” – decided that it might be a financially viable move for his studio to rescue Mighty Mouse from obscurity and offer the character some new adventures.
Looking over the credits of “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures,” you may be startled by the list of folks associated with the series who’ve since gone on to greater fame. First and foremost, there’s John Kricfalusi, who would go on to create Ren and Stimpy, but other individuals affiliated with the series include Pixar wonderboy Andrew Stanton (you’ve seen his name in various capacities on everything from “Toy Story” all the way up through “Up”), Rich Moore (“The Simpsons,” “Futurama”), Bruce Timm (the man behind much of DC’s animated universe), Jim Reardon (a longtime “Simpsons” director, not to mention the man behind the screenplay for “WALL-E”), Tom Minton (“Animaniacs,” “Duck Dodgers”), and Ethan Kanfer (“Courage the Cowardly Dog”). With credits like these, along with Bakshi’s established sensibilities, you can imagine that the resulting series was decidedly off-kilter, but it still managed to pay tribute to the original character in the process.
As you watch “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures,” you’ll be in awe that it ever made it onto Saturday mornings in the first place. There are parodies of classic comic books with Mighty Mouse’s buddy, Bat-Bat (and his trusty ward, Tick the Bug Wonder), and the Legion of Super Rodents, homages to classic animators like Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, and unabashed mocking of other series, most notably Alvin and the Chipmunks. That’s right: say hello to Elwy and the Tree Weasels! It was a show that was way, way ahead of its time, and with its less than perfect animation, it was probably pretty easy for kids to say, “I barely like to look at it, so I definitely don’t want to have to think while I’m watching it, too!” Nowadays, it would probably run for several seasons on Cartoon Network, but given that this was the era of the Smurfs, the Muppet Babies, and Bears both Gummi and Care, to say that it was viewed as “out there” by those tuning in at the time is a tremendous understatement. Ironically, by the time the American Family Association tried to claim that a scene where Mighty Mouse was sniffing the remnants of a crushed flower was actually showing him snorting coke, the writing was more or less on the wall for the series, anyway.
It’s unlikely that “Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures – The Complete Series” will sell a huge amount of copies, but if all you remember about the series is the aforementioned controversy, you owe it to yourself to at least take a gander at the set. It may not have been perfect, but it was definitely groundbreaking, and if you keep the historical context of the series in perspective as you watch, you’ll find it astonishing what Bakshi and company produced and, perhaps more importantly, got away with.
Special Features: There are commentaries on a couple of episodes from some of the behind-the-scenes players, which certainly make for interesting listening, and the inclusion of a couple of original Terrytoon “Mighty Mouse” shorts is a nice bonus, but the jewel of this set is its featurette. “Breaking the Mold: The Re-Making of Mighty Mouse” blends new interviews and archival footage to produce as complete a look into the history of the series as fans could’ve hoped for. Great stuff.