August 19, 2017

MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE

MIGHTY MOUSE PLAYHOUSE/
MIGHTY MOUSE AND THE MIGHTY HEROES
(CBS, December 10, 1955-September 2, 1967)


Terrytoons, CBS Films


MAIN CAST:
Roy Halee, Sr. & Allen Swift – Mighty Mouse (shorts)
Tom Morrison – Mighty Mouse (shorts & new content), Oil Can Harry (shorts)
Herschel Bernardi – Strong Man, Diaper Man, Tornado Man
Lionel G. Wilson – Cuckoo Man, Rope Man




            In 1942, Terrytoons writer Izzy Klein became fascinated by the Fleischer Studios Superman theatrical shorts and decided to create a parody starring an insignificant animal with similar powers. He proposed “Super Fly” at a Terrytoons story conference, but boss Paul Terry nixed the idea. Instead, he decided to follow through with the basic idea, but starring his go-to animal: a mouse.

Super Mouse and his original damsel, Mitzi.

            “Super Mouse” made his debut in theaters on October 16, 1942 in The Mouse of Tomorrow (a play on a nickname often attributed to Superman, “the man of tomorrow”) released by 20th Century Fox. In it, the city of Mouseville was under constant siege by cats until one mouse went to a supermarket and bathed in super soap and ate super celery and cheese that gave him the powers to fight back and save the populace. Amongst the standard powers of flight, super strength and invulnerability, he was also shown to have x-ray vision, psychokinesis, time-manipulation abilities and could even use the red contrail he left when he flew as a band of solid, flexible matter.

Poster showing the new name over the original colors.

Super Mouse (Roy Halee, Sr., Tom Morrison & Allen Swift at various points in the series) appeared in six subsequent shorts between 1942 and 1943 when Terry learned of the existence of another Supermouse appearing in the pages of Nedor Publishing Co.’s comic Coo Coo Comics, who made his debut just before the first short was released. Not wanting to promote another company’s creation, Terry renamed his character “Mighty Mouse” and later altered the color of his uniform from blue and red to yellow and red. The newly christened Mighty Mouse made his debut in 1944’s The Wreck of the Hesperus. The original shorts were later altered to reflect the new name.

Mighty Mouse's new supporting characters.

Although Mighty Mouse never reached the heights of popularity as other theatrical cartoon stars, he became Terrytoons’ most popular character; often appearing on promotional material for other Terrytoon projects and in Terrytoon Comics, published by Timely Comics (precursor to Marvel). In 1945, Terrytoons decided to change the format of the series. Until that point, Mighty Mouse would only appear in the last third of his shorts for a last-minute rescue. It was decided to give him a new rival in old Terrytoon villain Oil Can Harry (Morrison), remade a cat that always had evil intentions towards Mighty Mouse’s new main squeeze, Pearl Pureheart. Their adventures were done completely in mock opera beginning with Mighty Mouse and the Pirates, similar to how they were presented in Harry’s original theatrical outings in the Fanny Zilch series. 1947’s A Fight to the Finish began the plot device of starting each short off with Mighty Mouse and Pearl in peril as if a continuation from a previous chapter’s cliffhanger ending. It was during this period that Mighty Mouse’s catchphrase “Here I come to save the day!” debuted.



By the 1950s, theatrical shorts began to fall out of fashion due to the loss of audiences the growing medium of television and the popular and financially beneficial low-budget, stylized, limited animation techniques. In 1955, Terry retired and sold his studio to CBS; however Fox retained the theatrical distribution rights. CBS decided to take the existing Mighty Mouse library and broadcast them on television. On December 10, 1955, they launched Mighty Mouse Playhouse, which was comprised entirely of the 80 theatrical shorts produced during Terrytoons’ run. The only new content were commercial bumpers and Colgate commercials with Morrrison reprising his role, as well as a half-hour 1961 cartoon made in cooperation with UNICEF. The show’s theme was the theatrical theme written by Marshall Barer and composed by Philip Scheib, was originally credited to The Terrytooners with Mitch Miller and orchestra, but in later years it was revealed it was actually done by a group called The Sandpipers (not to be confused with the more well-known band of the same name).

The Mighty Heroes: Diaper Man, Cuckoo Man, Strong Man, Rope Man and Tornado Man.

The show ran for an impressive 11 seasons pulling in respectable ratings. However, as the 1960s rolled on, networks began producing more and more new content for Saturday mornings that began to overshadow and edge out the increasingly dated animation presented in the low-budget Terrytoon shorts. CBS decided to compliment the show with a new future and rejected many ideas before settling on Ralph Bakshi’s The Mighty Heroes.



The Mighty Heroes was a play on the growing superhero genre, particularly the successful premiere of Batman earlier in the year, with the most goofy and impractical heroes imaginable protecting the city of Goodhaven. The team was comprised of Strong Man, a farm boy-turned-big city mechanic with super strength; Tornado Man, a weather forecaster who could create tornados by spinning very fast; Diaper Man, a fully articulate baby that led the team and could use his bottle as a bludgeon weapon or to fire high-pressure streams of liquid (all Herschel Bernardi); Rope Man, a British sailor that could turn into an unlimited length of rope (and often got tangled into knots); and Cuckoo Man, a bird-shop owner with avian powers that changed into costume by jumping up into a cuckoo clock and popping out its little door (both Lionel G. Wilson). All of the heroes could fly, but a running gag had the rest of the team emitting jet sounds while Cuckoo Man would always lag behind with jalopy sounds.



Only 20 episodes of The Mighty Heroes were produced before Bakshi left Terrytoons. The show alternated between showing two Heroes episodes around a Mighty Mouse short, and breaking up a singular episode to bookend two shorts. The series was also renamed Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Unfortunately, the show went up against DePatie-Freleng’s similar, and more popular, series, The Super 6, and little was done to ease the declining ratings. CBS removed the show from the schedule the following season and allowed it to enter syndicated reruns; both together and with the two different shows separated (Mighty Mouse ran considerably longer than the Heroes). The Heroes did get a brief second life as the first ten episodes were released as theatrical shorts by Fox between 1969 and 1970. They made one additional appearance with Mighty Mouse in an episode of the Bakshi-produced Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures.

An issue of the Dell series.

In 1967, Dell Comics produced a four-issue Heroes comic series. They returned to comics in a one-shot produced by Spotlight Comics in 1987. In 1998, Marvel published another one-shot that explored the untold origin of the Heroes as part of their Paramount Comics imprint. In 1989, Anchor Bay Entertainment released two VHS collections containing 6 Heroes episodes.


EPISODE GUIDE (The Mighty Heroes):
“The Plastic Blaster” – The Raven uses the Plastic Blaster to terrorize Goodhaven.

“The Frog” – The Frog plans to flood Goodhaven with water from the swamp.

“The Junker” – The Junker’s robot dogs eat anything metal, and he sets them loose on Goodhaven.

“The Shrinker” – The Shrinker shrinks the Goodhaven bank in order to steal it.

“The Ghost Monster” – The Heroes face the Ghost Monster that terrorizes the city every century.

“The Stretcher” – The Stretcher’s robots steal everything made of rubber in town.

“The Monsterizer” – The Monsterizer uses his machine to change the Mayor and Police Chief into monsters.

“The Drifter” – The Drifter uses his anti-gravity gun to lift Goodhaven up and hold it for ranom.

“The Shocker” – The Shocker attempts to steal Goodhaven’s power supply.

“The Enlarger” – The Enlarger calls out the Heroes by unleashing giant bugs on the city.

“The Toy Man” – The Toy Man’s toys come to life at night and rob their owners blind.

“The Dusters” – The Shrinker’s new sidekicks sprinkle dust that makes the citizens fall asleep or laugh hysterically.

“The Big Freeze” – A mad scientist uses his genius to freeze all the citizens of Goodhaven.

“The Timekeeper” – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Scarecrow” – A lightning bolt brings a scarecrow to life and he’s determined to spread fear throughout Goodhaven.

“The Time Eraser” – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Return of the Monsterizer”

“The Paper Monster” – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Raven” – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

“The Bigger Digger” – The Frog return and uses his Bigger Digger to cut away pieces of land in order to replace it with swamp water.

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