Dr. Toon: Revisionism Revisited (Or How to Make Something Out of Nothing)
It has long been purported that the series met its end due to the Reverend Donald Wildmon, a fanatical fundamentalist who accused Mighty Mouse of sniffing cocaine in an episode titled "The Littlest Tramp." Even though Bakshi and company enjoyed tweaking the network as they grew in experience, none of the production crew on this cartoon intended to portray such a thing and adamantly deny that they did to this day. Controversy may have played a role, but what ultimately killed the series was middling ratings and the fact that the life of any Saturday Morning cartoon rarely exceeded a couple of seasons (This is still true of today's cable series, even inventive, high-quality ones. SpongeBobs, Avatars and Ben 10s are a rarity).
This is not to say that Mighty Mouse's short run was a failure. It was in fact, a victory for creator-driven animation, which became even easier and less costly with new digital technology such as Flash. The resurgent mouse launched dozens of brilliant careers and set the tone for the ironic, pop-culture-laden cartoons that followed. Mighty Mouse predated The Simpsons and South Park and influenced them in both subtle and obvious ways. Most of all, Mighty Mouse was a victory for fictional revisionism, a lesson to a generation of young animators. Any property can be revived and improved with the judicious application of talent, imagination and loving irreverence.
It is doubtful that anyone today will invest the effort to rethink a once-popular, now defunct character or meet with the same kind of success. That makes Mighty Mouse: the New Adventures even more unique. Many series being pitched to studios today seem to feature a preponderance of dreary Kung-Fu animals of every stripe. Their creators would do well to review the series manifest of Bakshi's Mighty Mouse to see what can be accomplished with nothing but a stale old property and a fresh creative attitude.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.