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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Unbridled Fury That Was Mighty Mouse


Vengeance Is His In Mother Goose's Birthday Party (1950)

The set-up in brief: Old King Cole celebrates Mother Goose on her natal day, but fails to invite the "the wicked old wolf," who attends anyway and has holy hell beaten out of him by needlessly brutal Mighty Mouse. The wolf in this instance seems more sinned against than sinning, being singled out for exclusion and not untoward for trying to blow the castle down, a goal unachievable, but he's punished for it anyway. I sympathized with the wolf all through Birthday Party, his arrival in natty zoot suit a mere gesture toward fitting in with "all of nursery land." Jack and Jill jitterbug as Georgie Porgie chases girls ala Harpo Marx, while Three Little Kittens find mittens to swing enlivenment of this Paul Terry cartoon for 20th Fox release. Mighty Mouse was cooked up in 1940, it's told, and originally called "Supermouse," which DC didn't appreciate (legal action not taken, however). Characters like MM and Captain Marvel were rocks in the shoe of Superman's publisher, but could they suppress any and all that flew or had plus strength?

Yes, The Wolf Fears For His Very Life, But Mighty Mouse Does Not Relent

One thing's sure: Superman never abused his opponents so mercilessly as Mighty Mouse. Even as the wolf tries to flee, he is caught and further ground down. Not sporting on the rodent's part. At least we'd not say Mighty was softened like Mickey, being a most anti-heroic of cartoon mice and foreign to genteel ways at Disney. Paul Terry 40/50's output gets little respect or even buff coverage, and yet TV was inundated after CBS bought his studio in 1955 and made Mighty Mouse a bigger star than was case when Mother Goose's Birthday Party circulated in theatres. Much of renewal came of Mighty Mouse Playhouse (1955-1967) securing immortality with a new-composed theme song that would sum up Saturday mornings for a viewing generation. Perfectly timed was comedian Andy Kaufman's reprise of the tune for premiering episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975, amusement over the clever act plus nostalgia for a childhood icon washing over viewership like a wave.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson considers the Mighty Mouse matter and that of sentiment and "goofball music" in other cartoons:


I always felt Terrytoons in general were more tone deaf than sadistic, much like the Famous / Paramount / Harveytoons. Slapstick would stumble into unfunny pain; today we laugh at the shock of it. There'd be cringe-inducing stabs at sentiment (epitomized by Casper's sniffling self-pity) or romance (accompanied by harmonizing singers in Terrytoons). And even as a kid, you felt they were aimed at much younger children than you.


In the Mighty Mouse cartoons cats would have either culinary or carnal designs on female mice; once in a while it was unsettlingly unclear. Still, it's hard to resist the blend of goofball cartoon music, big band, and mock operetta. Baritone villains, soprano heroines, and robust male choruses of little forest creatures would offer totally sung scenes before Mighty Mouse's heroic tenor, "Here I come to save the day!"

8:28 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

To be fair, the wolf should've gotten the hint when he was strangled and kicked in the butt before even getting in the door.

12:13 PM  

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