Before SpongeBob SquarePants, before The Family Guy, before South Park, before even The Simpsons, there was Mighty Mouse. This revival of the Terrytoons character was a short-lived, but creatively vital series that ran in 1987-88. It wasn’t an adult show, like many of its spiritual successors would be, but it was something that hadn’t been seen in the world of television animation in a long, long time: it was witty, smart, and expected its audience to be smart, too (and that includes smart kids, at whom the series was ostensibly aimed). However G-rated the show was, it also featured just the kind of manic humour and inventiveness you might expect from a collaboration between the man who brought Fritz the Cat to the screen (Ralph Bakshi) and (among others) the man who would shortly give us Ren and Stimpy (John Kricfalusi). If some of the look of the series is by now familiar (half of the offerings on Nickelodeon share its background design), this is, as Kricfalusi points out on one of the commentary tracks, where that look begins. The show might not have survived long, but creatively it cast a long shadow indeed, and having the entire wonderful series in one spot is a terrific treat. As far as the creative possibilities for TV animation are concerned, Mighty Mouse surely did save the day.
The menu features some pretty ferocious aliasing, which had me worried about the cartoons themselves. Fortunately, that concern was misplaced. The shows looks great, with only the occasional, very minor grain to deal with. The image is very sharp, and the colours equally strong. The series looks as good as, if not better than, it did on the day of its broadcast.
Nothing too special here: the sound is the original mono. An extremely clear and warm mono it is, but it would have been nice to hear the terrifically funny opening theme in stereo. Still, as mono goes, this is about as good as it gets.
Commentary Tracks: There are two, both on Episode 3, with Kricfalusi and Tom Minton talking about “Night of the Bat-Bat” and Minton is joined by fellow creators Mike Kazaleh and Kent Butterworth for “Scrap-Happy.” The talks are as irreverent as they are informative – these are people who love their art and know what they’re talking about.
Original Terrytoons: Three vintage cartoons: “He Dood It Again” (1943), “Gypsy Life” (1945) and “The Mysterious Package” (1960). Nice history, and useful for seeing how the approach differed in the considerably more postmodern TV show.
“Breaking the Mold: The Re-Making of Mighty Mouse”: (30:00) A very solid featurette. All of the principle creators are interviewed, and they take us through the life of the series, from improbable genesis as last-minute, last-ditch idea and on.
I remember what a revelation this was when it first aired. There was even a certain degree of controversy that seems so very quaint now. In any event, this DVD release is a great opportunity for rediscovery.