Mighty Mouse: Cartoon Icons of American TV
Mighty Mouse is an animated superhero mouse created by Terrytoons studio for 20th Century Fox, originally as a parody of Superman.
Created by illustrator and story man Izzy Klein, Mighty Mouse was initially a super-powered cartoon housefly named "Superfly," until studio head Paul Terry changed the character into a mouse instead. First appearing in 1942 in a theatrical animated short titled, The Mouse of Tomorrow, the original name of the character was “Super Mouse,” but was then changed to Mighty Mouse after Terry learned there was a comic book character of the same name.
When Mighty Mouse debuted, he initially wore red trunks and a red cape--ala Superman. But over time, his outfit evolved into a yellow costume with red trunks and a red cape--which proved to be his most popular colors with viewers.
Like other imitations of Superman, Mighty Mouse's super powers include the ability to fly, super strength, and invulnerability, but in at least one episode demonstrated X-ray vision, and in several episodes, used a form of telekinesis that allowed him to command inanimate objects and turn back time (as in the episodes, "The Johnstown Flood" and "Krakatoa"). Other episodes show him leaving a red contrail during flight which he can manipulate at will like a band of solid, flexible matter.
The initial template of each Mighty Mouse story consisted of an elaborate setup of a crisis which would require extraordinary help to resolve, after which Mighty Mouse appears to save the day.
The early “operatic” Mighty Mouse cartoons often portrayed him as a ruthless fighter who would dish out considerable punishment, subduing opponent cats to the point of them giving up their evil plan and just running away. Mighty Mouse, however, would often chase down the escaping cats, continuing to punish them mercilessly, usually hurling or punching them miles away to finish the job. A favorite Mighty Mouse move is to suddenly fly up under a much larger opponent's chin and throw a blinding flurry of punches that leave the troublemaker stunned.
Mighty Mouse's home town is Mouseville, populated mostly by anthropomorphic cartoon mice. Throughout the course of the series, the super mouse had a mouse girlfriend named “Pearl Pureheart” (and another named "Mitzi" in the comics), and his arch-enemy is an evil villain cat named “Oil Can Harry.” (Oil Can Harry was the villain in a brief and now forgotten series of "Mellerdramas" the studio did in the late 1930s.) These characters were created for a series of Mighty Mouse cartoons that spoofed the classic cliffhanger serials of the silent film era, as well as the classic operettas of stage that were still popular during this time. The first opera-style Mighty Mouse cartoon was “Mighty Mouse & the Pirates,” released January 12, 1945.
The cartoon installments, beginning with the episode, "A Fight to the Finish" (1947), always begin with Mighty Mouse and Pearl Pureheart already in a desperate situation, as if they were in the next chapter of the serial--just as old cliffhangers used to do. The characters often sang mock opera songs during these cartoons, with Mighty Mouse singing tenor, Pearl, soprano, and Oil Can Harry, alto/bass. But by and large, Mighty Mouse was most famous for singing, "Here I come to save the day!" when flying into action.
Mighty Mouse (originally voiced by Roy Halee, Sr., and later by Tom Morrison) was not extraordinarily popular in theatrical cartoons, but was still Terrytoons' most popular character--television making him a cultural icon.
In 1955, Paul Terry sold the Terrytoon company to CBS, after which the network began running Mighty Mouse Playhouse in December, 1955, remaining on the air for nearly twelve years. Ultimately, Mighty Mouse cartoons became a staple of children's television programming for a period of over thirty years, from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Despite the character's popularity on TV, Terrytoons produced only three Mighty Mouse theatrical cartoons from 1959–1961. The company evidently believed that the existing library of episodes was enough to keep kids tuning in to CBS indefinitely every Saturday morning.
In 1979, Mighty Mouse returned with new animation when CBS commissioned Filmation (Fat Albert, He-Man) to produce a new Saturday morning series. Mighty Mouse was animated so poorly, however, that the show lost the majority of its viewers after only 16 episodes.
But then in the late '80s, Ralph Bakshi, a former Terrytoons director who had gone on to produce such well-received animated features as Fritz the Cat, came out with yet another Saturday morning Mighty Mouse show. This one developed his personality, gave him a secret identity and a supporting cast, and let "imagination and good writing compensate for low TV budgets." It was this series that was adapted into the most recent Marvel Comics version.
In July of 1988, after months of resisting outside pressure, producer Ralph Bakshi agreed to cut 3 1/2 seconds from one of Mighty Mouse's original CBS TV episodes in order to end the gossip that Mighty Mouse was using cocaine. (No joke!)
The gossip began when a family in Kentucky saw an installment of Might Mouse during which the opera-singing super mouse was seen sniffing petals from a flower, in an episode broadcast in December of 1987. The family interpreted his behavior as cocaine sniffing, and subsequently contacted the American Family Association in Tupelo, MS, which started a campaign to have that scene deleted. ''We can't have the implication that it's okay to use drugs,'' said Allen Wildmon, the Association's associate director. ''They call it crushed petals, but it looked like a powdery white substance to me.'' The group then demanded the removal of Mr. Bakshi, who in the 1970's had won an Action for Children's Television award for the Mighty Mouse series.
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