You could say this began a revolution that is responsible for today's cartoons.
You knew the mouse was mighty, but you didn't think he was that strong, right?
Flexing the muscles
When Terrytoons produced the first run of Mighty Mouse it reflected a more playful era for cartoons. It was less about the lessons and more about the entertainment. Mighty Mouse was one of the more popular cartoons at the time (1940s) and helped launch a generation of superheroes that we've all come to love today.
Fast forward nearly half a century, around 1987 Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi got together to revive the super mouse, but with a different take; this time with more outlandish comedy and characters. Armed with good writers and good animators, the pair put together a show that broke 80s conventional cookie cutter cartoons. No longer would you get simple enemies that were evil. You have enemies that range from evil to simply insane. Need an example? The first enemy in the series that you get is Petey Pate, a character that is severely insecure about his baldhead. Yep, that's right, a baldhead was his turning point in life. Not an evil scientist, not an individual horribly scarred by a cruel society. Petey Pate is mad because he cannot grow hair on his head and he's not going to take it anymore. Think about that for a second; have you ever heard of such an excuse to start doing evil things like kidnapping our favorite girl mouse Pearl Pureheart?
Typically for cartoons that we get in for review from the 80s, there isn't this much oddity. This is the selling point of the show, the oddity. Much like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, the content was more adult than parents or kids realized. There were things in there that were funny, yet equally disturbing. For example, there is a character in the League of Rodents (Justice League-ish) that has gasbags all over his body. He squeezes the bags inappropriately to let the nasty gas loose. As a kid, I could find this funny. As an adult, my first thought would be, "Oh, my God. Really?" It serves a dual purpose for entertaining both adults and kids.I love this aspect of the new Mighty Mouse series as it broke some typical cartoon rules. It no longer needed to explain itself at the end. It didn't need to tell the audience that no matter what happens at the beginning, you can guess the ending. It took everything we knew about conventional story and character development and threw it right the (bleep) out of the window.
The series, while truly warped in the best of intentions, is brilliant from a far. I can understand why maybe it was frowned upon during its time on television, but it was truly a prelude to modern cartoons. When the series ended in 1989, the creators took everything they loved and knew and developed a little show called Ren and Stimpy. I don't have to tell you how that show redefined cartoon entertainment.
Anyway, I really enjoyed Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures more than I thought I would. The DVD set has all the episodes from 1987-1989. While it certainly isn't as beautiful as cartoons today, or even as pretty as Ren and Stimpy, the humor drives it. That's probably the biggest selling point of the DVD set. You're not getting that 40s mouse that saves the day, you're getting odd characters that make this poor mouse's life hell in the oddest of fashions. It's a unique way of revising a super character, but it works well. Like I said before, I can see why people would stay away from this type of comedy (as it is strange), but this reviewer loves where it takes you. Unique cartoons that stay in their own confined nine-minute world produces a very high amount of unpredictability in terms of what you're getting.
As for the DVD features, you get some pretty damn cool stuff. Interviews with all the main role players in the production of this series (which include Ralph Bakshi, John Kricfalusi and Andrew Stanton) put a bit more perspective on what was happening in the production and what they were trying to accomplish. Add to this some classic Terrytoons Mighty Mouse episodes and a great featurette about re-making the mouse and you get some solid material here. Sure it's not loaded with kid friendly games or Disney-esque magic, but it fits the mold of the series perfectly. For the first time in a little while I really enjoyed some cartoon features on a cartoon series.
Tomorrow we'll have an interview with co-creator John Kricfalusi for more insight on this title and some other fun things.