August 15, 2020

MIGHTY MOUSE: THE NEW ADVENTURES


MIGHTY MOUSE: THE NEW ADVENTURES
(CBS, September 19, 1987-October 22, 1988)

Bakshi-Hyde Ventures, Terrytoons


MAIN CAST:
Patrick Pinney – Mighty Mouse/Mike Mouse, Gandy Goose, Petey Pate
Maggie Roswell – Pearl Pureheart, various
Dana Hill – Scrappy Mouse
Charlie Adler – Bat-Bat/Bruce Vein, various
Michael Pataki – The Cow, various
Rodger Bumpass – Narrator


            In April of 1987, producer Ralph Bakshi set up a meeting with CBS’ Saturday morning head Judy Price to pitch her several ideas for programs. Price ended up rejecting every single one he prepared, including one featuring John Kricfalusi’s Ren & Stimpy characters. She asked if he had anything else, and he quickly lied and told her he had the rights to Mighty Mouse. This piqued her interest and she agreed to purchase a series based around the character. When Bakshi looked into who actually had the rights, he discovered that CBS itself had purchased the Terrytoons library back in 1955 and had forgotten about it. They even brough the character to television for the first time that year with Mighty Mouse Playhouse. A team led by Kricfalusi came up with the outlines for 13 episodes within the week and pitched the show to Price, and it was greenlit for production.

Mighty Mouse and Pearl Pureheart.

By the following week, Kricfalusi hired a team of veteran animators comprised of Tom Minton, Eddie Fitzgerald (both of whom worked on Filmation’s earlier revival with Kricfalusi), Lynne Naylor, Jim Smith, Bruce Timm, Libby Simon, Vicky Jensen and Bob Jaques. He purposefully sought out creators who were tired of the formulaic cartoons they had been working on for other studios. To round out the team, he and Minton visited CalArts to find the best talent from the latest batch of graduates which included Jeff Pidgeon, Rich Moore, Carole Holliday, Andrew Stanton and Ethan Kanfer. Additionally, Doug Moench and Jim Reardon were hired as writers.

New sidekick, the orphaned Scrappy.

            Set to debut that September, the production crew was split into four teams led by Kricfalusi, Fitzgerald, Steve Gordon and Bruce Woodside. Each team worked independently of the other on a handful of episodes overseen by each director. It was a return to the system originally used in the production of theatrical shorts, rather than the rigid assembly line nature of the current animation industry. Although story concepts and ideas had to be approved by CBS, artists were encouraged to add visual gags as they went along as well use their own unique style in the episodes they handled. As a result, it featured some of the best television animation to come from a studio not named Disney during that time period.

Mighty Mouse vs. his new arch-nemsis, The Cow.

            Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures debuted on CBS on September 19, 1987. The theme was composed by Jonathan L. Segal (paying homage to the original theme by Marshall Barer and Philip Scheib), with the rest of the music done by Score Productions. There was a loose episode structure which allowed for a variety of storytelling formats, from straightforward superhero comedy to full parodies of movies and television. For the first time, Mighty Mouse (Patrick Pinney) was given the secret identity of Mike Mouse. His operatic singing was eliminated save for his catchphrase: “Here I come to save the day!” His love interest, Pearl Pureheart (Maggie Roswell), bucked tradition and didn’t serve as a constant damsel in distress (although she had her moments). She was also Mike’s boss at her factory. A new sidekick character, orphan Scrappy Mouse (Dana Hill), was introduced. Other new characters included heroic allies that were parodies of Justice League characters, and foes that included Petey Pate (Pinney), Big Murray, Madame Marsupial and The Cow (Michael Pataki). Older versions of Bakshi’s original creations from the first Mighty Mouse show, the Mighty Heroes, also appeared in an episode.

A cavalcade of Terrytoons stars.

Mighty Mouse made full use of the Terrytoons library, bringing back characters such as his old foe Oil Can Harry and unrelated characters Gandy Goose (Pinney) and Sourpuss (Joe Alaskey). There were also appearances by Deputy Dawg and Mighty’s previous co-stars, Heckle and Jeckle. Clips from original Mighty Mouse shorts were also used to keep the budget down so that most of the production could remain in-house instead of being shipped overseas. However, the actual episode animation was farmed out to Wang Film ProductionsCuckoo’s Nest Studios, Hanho Heung-Up Company, and Shanghai Animation Film Studio.

Mighty Mouse teaming up with Bat-Bat.

The show proved successful and was renewed for a second season. However, some changes took place behind the scenes. Kricfalusi was asked by the family of Bob Clampett to helm ABC’s attempted revival of his Beany and Cecil characters, resulting in his leaving the show. With him went Timm, Fitzgerald, Smith, Naylor, Simon and Moore. Kent Butterworth was put in charge of overseeing the production of the second season.

The offending instance of Mighty Mouse sniffing a crushed flower.

             It wasn’t long before controversy found the revival. In June of 1988, Donald Wildmon from the American Family Association was alerted to and made a subsequent stink over the episode “The Littlest Tramp”; specifically, a scene where Mighty seemingly inhales the powdered remains of a flower he was given earlier. Wildmon alleged that it was depicting cocaine use. A similar concern was raised by series editor and producer Tom Klein during the episode’s production, but Kricfalusi convinced Bakshi to let the sequence remain. The AFA further cited Bakshi’s previous adult-oriented work--specifically Fritz the Cat--as justification for their claims. Bakshi defended the scene, saying that smelling the flower was meant to invoke a memory of the little girl that sold it to him and make him happy, and that he despised drugs. CBS ultimately ordered Klein to remove the sequence from the master broadcast footage, which Wildmon took as an affirmation of his claims and further demanded the removal of Bakshi. CBS instead defended and supported Bakshi.  The second season couldn’t avoid controversy either as “Mighty’s Wedlock Whimsy” hinted at the fact that Gandy Goose and Sourpuss showered together. It was also alluded to that Pearl had a baby with The Cow. Further, in “A Star is Milked”, the series poked fun at the incident where Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial.

Madame Marsupial was electrifying!

            However, it wasn’t these controversies that led to CBS deciding to cancel the series after the abbreviated second season. The problem was that while The New Adventures was drawing in the adult fans of the character from yesteryear, they were losing their target audience to the programs it was scheduled against. Despite its short run, its revolutionary approach to production and humor, coupled with the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988 inspired a new wave of zany comedy in cartoons. It also created a “creator-driven revolution” in the industry that perpetuated throughout the next decade. Mighty Mouse also served as the springboard for the prolific careers of many of the people who worked on it. For example, Kricfalusi found success with The Ren and Stimpy Show on Nickelodeon; Timm went on to produce Batman: The Animated Series; Minton and Fitzgerald took part in the Warner Bros. Animation renaissance; Naylor also worked on Batman before finding steady work on Cartoon Network programs; Moore directed Futurama and The Simpsons, as well as the Wreck-It Ralph films and Zootopia; Stanton would become a Pixar director; and Reardon would find himself working for Warner Bros., Disney and FOX. The series was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy award for “Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition”.

A page from the Mighty Mouse comic.

            In 1989, Wendy’s offered a set of 6 toys with their kids’ meals. They were figurines of the primary characters mounted on suction cups and came with bio sheets. Marvel Comics published a 10-issue series set after the events of the animated series between 1990 and 1991—over a year after the show was cancelled. Like the series, it dealt heavily with parodies, particularly inspired by Marvel’s own comics. In 2010, CBS Home Entertainment through Paramount released the complete series to DVD. “The Littlest Tramp” was restored to its original presentation, however “Mighty’s Wedlock Whimsy” ended up including an animatic of a shot where animator Ed Bell was featured. The completed scene appeared in the documentary included in the special features. The set also included three original Mighty Mouse shorts, making them the first official Terrytoons released onto DVD. To date, this has been the last attempt at a Mighty Mouse show, although he was a part of the failed Terrytoons revamp anthology series called Curbside that was pitched to Nickelodeon.





EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“Night on Bald Pate / Mouse from Another House” (9/19/87) – Shunned for his bad scalp, Petey Pate becomes a villain and kidnaps Pearl. / Pearl tells Scrappy about Mighty Mouse’s beginnings.

“Me-Yowww! / Witch Tricks” (9/26/87) – Rejected from mouse society, Durf heads to Cat Town and makes a new friend. / Mighty saves Scrappy and a sick tooth fairy from a wicked witch.

“Night of the Bat-Bat / Scrap-Happy” (10/3/87) – Bat-Bat and Tick fill in for a vacationing Mighty as the Cow changes the city’s dairy products. / Scrappy joins a gang that ends up being sold to the carnival.

“Catastrophe Cat / Scrappy’s Field Day” (10/10/87) – A hiccupping cat causes chaos around the city. / Mighty takes Scrappy on a tour of prehistoric times.

“The Bagmouse / The First Deadly Cheese” (10/17/87) – Mr. Maxie captures Scrappy and intends to use him to make mouse burgers. / The Cow uses cosmic cheese to defeat Mighty.

“The Island Mouseville / Mighty’s Musical Classics” (10/24/87) – An alien cat appears and conquers Mouseville. / Classic Terrytoons footage set to “The Loco-Motion” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”.

“The Littlest Tramp / Puffy Goes Berserk” (10/31/87) – Polly Pineblossom refuses Mighty’s help, so he does so secretly until he finds out the cause of her trouble. / A giant mutated kitten attacks Mouseville.

“The League of Super-Rodents / Scrappy’s Playhouse” (11/7/87) – The Cow sets out to defeat the League of Super-Rodents in order to impress Madame Marsupial. / The Shady Gang sneaks into the theater and combine old Terrytoon footage together.

“All You Need is Glove / It’s Scrappy’s Birthday” (11/14/87) – Scrappy heads off to find the Glove’s brother to rescue Mike and Pearl. / Thinking everyone forgot his birthday, Scrappy runs away with a hobo.

“Aqua-Guppy / Animation Concerto” (11/21/87) – A. Crab kidnaps Pearl, believing her to be his fiancĂ©. / Old Terrytoons play to a jazz song about Mighty.

“The Ice Goose Cometh / Pirates with Dirty Faces” (11/28/87) – Gandy Goose thaws out and causes trouble without Sour Puss. / The Shady Gang end up abducted by pirates and take over the ship in a mutiny.

“Mighty’s Benefit Plan / See You in the Funny Papers” (12/5/87) – Mighty takes Scrappy to a concert where he must save the orphan’s benefit. / Mouseville suffers an alien invasion while Mighty is busy fighting comicbook characters.

“Heroes and Zeroes / Stress for Success” (12/12/87) – Big Murray’s scheme backfires, leaving Mighty and the Mighty Heroes to round up rampaging numbers. / Mighty needs some time to relax, but old Terrytoons aren’t helping any.

Season 2:
“Day of the Mice / Still Oily After All These Years” (9/17/88) – Mighty has to save the cats from Petey and his rebellion. / The Cow frees Oil Can Harry who promptly resumes his pursuit of Pearl.

“Mighty’s Wedlock Whimsy / Anatomy of a Milquetoast” (9/24/88) – Gandy Goose and Sour Puss try to get Mighty and Pearl married. / When Scrappy disappears, Mighty ends up on trial for negligence.

“Bat with a Golden Tongue / Mundane Voyage” (10/1/88) – Mighty helps Bat-Bat put a stop to Ski Nose’s theft of golden awards. / Mighty and Pearl go inside the President’s body to help cure his ailment.

“Snow White & the Motor City Dwarfs / Don’t Touch that Dial!” (10/8/88) – Mighty relays his version of Snow White. / Mighty ends up stuck in different shows as a little boy keeps changing the channel.

“Mouse and Supermouse / The Bride of Mighty Mouse” (10/15/88) – Petey attempts to replace Mighty with his Supermouse robots, but they all end up malfunctioning. / 20 years later, Mighty finds himself a family mouse running a hotel that’s threatened by a rival one.

“A Star is Milked / Mighty’s Tone Poem” (10/22/88) – The Cow attempts to spoil Mighty’s rise to stardom. / Mighty sits his villains down to watch previous episodes of the series.

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